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2020 AFL draft: Club-by-club review, my take on every team

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9th December, 2020
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After what at times felt like an eternity on Wednesday night, the 2020 AFL Draft has come to a close and 59 new AFL players have arrived at their clubs.

The rookie draft is still to come, but today we’ll take a look at those players who went in the national draft, breaking it down club-by-club, and I’ll give you my take on each of the 18.

Adelaide Crows

2 – Riley Thilthorpe
11 – Luke Pedlar
23 – Brayden Cook
25 – Sam Berry
38 – James Rowe

The Crows made a few interesting moves – making history by bidding on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan at pick 1, going on early on a bolter in Luke Pedlar, and trading up the order to get Brayden Cook.

Altogether it’s hard not to like what they’ve done. Thilthorpe as a really athletic tall forward/ruckman could be their next big thing, and Cook has untapped potential.

Given they’ve also got Jackson Hately arriving in the pre-season draft I’m not sure they needed two more ball-winning midfielders in Pedlar and Berry, but it never hurts to have depth.

Riley Thilthorpe of team Brown handballs during the NAB League 2019 All Stars match between Team Dal Santo and Team Brown at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 28, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Riley Thilthorpe has gone to the Crows. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Brisbane Lions

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24 – Blake Coleman
43 – Harry Sharp
44 – Henry Smith

It was probably a minor disappointment for the Lions that a bid for Blake Coleman came before their first selection, meaning they had little option but to match him and take some later picks.

In addition to small forward Coleman they got some outside speed in Harry Sharp and a developing ruckman in Henry Smith. No big names but some nice additions to complement their list.

Carlton Blues

37 – Corey Durdin
41 – Jack Carroll

Given the Blues only had two picks and late in the piece, fans would have to be pretty happy with what they did.

Durdin fills a need the Blues have identified as a small forward, while Carroll is a classy midfielder who many thought would go in the first-round, so potentially a good value pick.

Collingwood Magpies

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17 – Oliver Henry
19 – Finlay Macrae
23 – Reef McInnes
30 – Caleb Poulter
31 – Liam McMahon
44 – Beau McCreery

The Pies were the most active club on the night both in terms of picks taken and trades made, sending their first-rounder to GWS in order to get some more selections in this year.

The bid for Reef McInnes sliding past their first two selections was a godsend and allowed them to get a really highly-rated trio of players with their first three selections.

Macrae, McInnes and Poulter in particular give them plenty of midfield talent for the future while Henry is an exciting, athletic talent whose future role isn’t yet clear.

I would’ve liked to see them address their need for some talls but, realistically, they didn’t have picks in the right place to do it.

We don’t tend to see many key forward success stories from draft picks outside the top 30, but perhaps Liam McMahon can buck the trend.

Essendon Bombers

8 – Nik Cox
9 – Archie Perkins
10 – Zach Reid
39 – Josh Eyre
53 – Cody Brand

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The Bombers were widely expected to take one of Nik Cox or Zach Reid with their three top-ten picks, and instead they gave us a bit of a twist by taking both.

It set something of an agenda for the rest of the night as they followed up by matching bids on two more key-position players in Josh Eyre and Cody Brand.

That makes Archie Perkins the only non-tall they drafted this year, the player who infamously drew ire early in the day for his admission that he had told interstate clubs he didn’t feel he was ready to move away from his home of Victoria.

Taking talls makes sense for the Bombers – Joe Daniher is gone, and the Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker era down back is in its last days.

There may not be much in the way of early impact from this crop, but I like what they’ve done. It could set the club up for years to come.

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Fremantle Dockers

14 – Heath Chapman
27 – Nathan O’Driscoll
50 – Brandon Walker
54 – Joel Western

The Dockers, who’ve shown no fear in the past when it comes to selecting players from interstate, were something of a surprise on draft night by select four players from Western Australia – the latter two both via their academy.

Chapman is a third-tall rebounding defender, O’Driscoll a big-bodied midfielder – probably not positions that are glaring needs for Fremantle, but they are both really promising talents.

It was a win for the Dockers too that bids on Walker and Western didn’t come until well after their second pick. I really like both, they have a bit of x-factor.

Didn’t find the key forward many feel their list needs, but they weren’t really in a position too. I rate the talent they’ve got here.

Geelong Cats

20 – Max Holmes
33 – Shannon Neale
47 – Nick Stevens

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Made one of the more daring moves of the night, giving up their 2021 first-rounder to Richmond in order to swoop in on a draft bolter in Max Holmes.

They followed that up by addressing their long-standing need for a ruckman with Shannon Neale and a medium defender in Nick Stevens.

All three are relatively little-known talents in this year’s pool, and giving up the future first is a big call.

But, Stephen Wells has snapped up outstanding players out of left field before, and perhaps he’s done it again here.

Gold Coast Suns

7 – Elijah Hollands

The Suns were linked heavily to Will Phillips in the lead-up to the draft, but after North selected him at pick 3 it was Elijah Hollands who snuck through instead.

They would be just as if not more excited with that. Hollands is the more versatile of the two and will probably fit in better alongside the talent Gold Coast already posses.

It was their only pick of the draft and he may not feature until late next year as he recovers from an ACL injury, still, it’s a good get especially at pick 7.

GWS Giants

12 – Tanner Bruhn
15 – Connor Stone
18 – Ryan Angwin
58 – Cameron Fleeton
59 – Jacob Wehr

In Bruhn GWS have a midfield prospect who might have gone far earlier this year if not for the fact he missed his 17-year-old season with injury and of course this year due to COVID-19.

While Bruhn may prove a slider, Stone and Angwin were definitely bolters, with Angwin in particular standing out as one of the more surprising top 20 picks.

The big question for GWS is, as it always is: will they stay? And that’s likely dependant on whether or not they can find a role in the team inside the next two years.

Each has some versatility, so I think that’s possible. But I would also say that trading out their picks in the 20s for Collingwood’s future first was their best move of the night.

Hawthorn Hawks

6 – Denver Grainger-Barrass
29 – Seamus Mitchell
35 – Connor Downie
46 – Tyler Brockman

The Hawks were linked to a move up to North Melbourne’s pick as recently as yesterday morning, and it would be interesting to get the inside word on why that fell apart.

They were reportedly keen to move up and draft Logan McDonald, but instead were left to hope he’d fall through to their first selection – and he did not.

Still, they could hardly complain with Denver Grainger-Barrass, who some clubs reportedly viewed as the best player in the draft.

A gun intercepting key defender, there’s definitely a spot for him at Hawthorn. He’s a player they can build their future backline around.

They didn’t do too much of interest thereafter beyond matching a bid for academy wingman Connor Downie and drafting another S Mitchell to the club.

Melbourne Demons

21 – Jake Bowey
22 – Bailey Laurie
34 – Fraser Rosman

The Dees scooped up two small forward/midfielders as something of a surprise with their back-to-back picks in the late stages of the first round, a move that might be the making of a mosquito fleet.

They’ve already got the likes of Kysaiah Pickett, Toby Bedford and Charlie Spargo to play that sort of role and will now have a real variety of options to choose from as small goalkickers.

Rosman too is an interesting prospect. Not one of this years top-rated prospects, but a tall player with some speed and X-factor.

I like what the Dees have done. There’s some risk factor to each of their picks, but they all bring attributes that Melbourne needs more of.

North Melbourne Kangaroos

3 – Will Phillips
13 – Tom Powell
36 – Charlie Lazzaro
42 – Phoenix Spicer
56 – Eddie Ford

North threw the first curveball of the draft by taking Will Phillips at pick 3, a small and speedy inside midfielder who has been praised for his leadership and good character.

They backed that up with probably the most prolific ball magnet of the draft in Tom Powell at pick 13, and another contested ball-winner in Charlie Lazzaro with their third selection.

Small forward/midfielder Phoenix Spicer has the best name of the draft (and some talent), while Eddie Ford is a tall, raw, athletic prospect with some promise.

I’m not sold on the idea that North’s biggest need at this draft was another inside midfielder – let alone two, let alone three.

But both Phillips and Powell have some nice speed which could make them a point of difference to the talent North already has, and their later picks have some good upside too.

Will Phillips of the Oakleigh Chargers

Will Phillips has gone to the Kangaroos. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Port Adelaide Power

16 – Lachie Jones
49 – Ollie Lord

No big surprises for Port Adelaide here who matched a bid for NGA half-back Lachie Jones as we knew they would, then took a speculative key forward in Ollie Lord.

Richmond Tigers

40 – Samson Ryan
51 – Maurice Rioli junior

Likely Richmond’s most consequential move of the draft wasn’t either of the picks they made but the one they traded to Geelong, netting the Cats’ 2021 first-rounder in three process.

That could, in fact almost certainly will, prove a good deal. Even if the Cats win the premiership it should be an earlier pick in a better draft than what the Tigers have given up.

Outside of that they added to their ruck depth with Ryan, and matched a bid from Essendon to bring Maurice Rioli junior – cousin of Daniel – to the list.

St Kilda Saints

26 – Matthew McLeod-Allison
45 – Tom Highmore

Some interesting stuff here from the Saints who took a key forward with some upside to develop at their first pick, and then a mature tall defender with the next.

The latter is definitely something they needed, albeit a name straight out of left field. Still, kudos for addressing what was clearly their biggest need.

Sydney Swans

4 – Logan McDonald
5 – Braeden Campbell
32 – Errol Gulden

Hard to think this draft could’ve gone more perfectly. They got the player many feel is the best in the pool at No.1, and then were able to match bids for Campbell and Gulden without going into deficit.

They’ve been pumping young talent into their list for a few years and this might be one of the best crops yet. They’re building a really great foundation for the future.

West Coast Eagles

52 – Luke Edwards
57 – Isiah Winder

For a club with basically no meaningful picks to speak of, I like what they did. It’s nice to see Edwards get an opportunity after being passed on by the Crows, while Winder is a really exciting player that could be one to watch.

Western Bulldogs

1 – Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
55 – Dominic Bedendo

They pulled off perhaps the all-time greatest draft rort by scooping up the clear No.1 pick for a bunch of nothing picks in the 30s, 40s and 50s, and then drafted a guy with a funny name. Could life be any better? I don’t think it could.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan of Oakleigh

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. (Photo by Martin Keep/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

What’s next?

We might not see a lot of new names given a chance in today’s rookie draft, but Zane Trew, Zavier Maher and Henry Walsh are probably the three most notable players to look out for.

Each was considered a likely candidate for the national draft and, having missed out, it’ll be interesting to see if they get a rookie opportunity instead.

Of course, even if not, there’s still the pre-season SSP signings to come, and then 2021’s mid-season draft as well. I have no doubt some great talents will emerge from the players who get an opportunity via those mechanisms in 2021.

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But as for me, this is my final piece of the year, and my last piece on The Roar for the forseeable future, as I’ve decided to take some time away from AFL writing in 2021.

It started with live blogging a three-goal Gold Coast win over Richmond in Round 1 2014 (remember when the Tigers sucked? Good times) and together we’ve ridden the highs and lows of the last seven AFL seasons.

Those years have left me with a mountain of fond memories and to everyone who’s ever clicked a link, read an article, and left a comment – thank you.

This is by no means a permanent farewell and I look forward to the day when I grace the by-lines of The Roar once again.

But until then – all the best, merry Christmas, and may your teams be mercilessly crushed by the resurgent ‘Roos in 2021.

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