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Collingwood: The missing years

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Roar Guru
27th April, 2021
13

History matters. Past decisions impact current and future outcomes.

As Collingwood’s season lurches from bad to worse, it could be useful to look at the team’s drafting history since 2011, the first draft that impacted Nathan Buckley as coach, and compare it to other sides.

Drafting decisions are key to replenishing and revitalising lists and providing the pipeline for success. This is not to deny the importance of trading, free agency and a plethora of factors that make clubs successful, but this article focuses on drafting in all its forms – national, rookie and midseason – drawing on extensive data from AFL FootyWire.

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I have looked at two draft periods: 2011-16 and 2017-19. The former represents players who should be established and/or reaching veteran stage today, while the latter encompasses emerging talents. I have considered the players from those draft periods who are still at the club at the time of writing.

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Still at club 2011-16 2017-19
Collingwood 18.9 per cent 60 per cent
Richmond 26.7 per cent 78.9 per cent
Geelong 24.4 per cent 70 per cent
West Coast 23.9 per cent 61.9 per cent
Western Bulldogs 31.9 per cent 87.5 per cent
Hawthorn 25.6 per cent 52.9 per cent

First of all, AFL is a brutal game with high attrition. As can be seen, Collingwood has had the weakest performance in player retention taken in drafts between 2011-16, with less than a fifth of players brought in at the club still there. The core group of players who should be established is simply not as strong as it is at the other clubs.

What is evident is the stronger showing by Western Bulldogs, Richmond and Hawthorn. This drafting position explains at least in part the successful eras of Richmond and previously Hawthorn, but it also demonstrates how well placed the Bulldogs are in 2021. The Bulldogs have steadily built a strong foundation for the future, encompassing both veterans and experience but with sufficient underlying youth.

A closer look at Collingwood beyond these stats shows an even bleaker bleak picture. Collingwood has only one player, Brodie Grundy, from the 12 taken in 2012 still on its list, none from the 2013 group of seven, two out from the nine taken in 2015 and only three from the eight of 2016.

THe 2014 draft, which included the likes of Brayden Maynard, Darcy Moore, and Jordan De Goey, was a better year, with four out of eight still at the club. In no year prior to 2020 has there been more than 50 per cent of players drafted still at the Collingwood Football Club today.

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While bad luck has to some extent played a role in this, notably the injuries to Matthew Scharenberg and Nathan Freeman, the attrition rate is nonetheless extremely high, particularly when you consider that in a number of these years Collingwood was no powerhouse and thus had reasonable draft picks, including father-son picks.

All of this raises many questions about the overall recruitment approach of the club. Why have drafted players suffered chronic injuries? Why has player development not occurred to the same extent as other clubs? Has the recruitment really been targeting genuine need? What resourcing is put into drafting compared to other areas of the club? What criteria is the club using to recruit players?

Nathan Buckley, coach of the Magpies, looks dejected

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

As with other clubs and as is to be expected, there is a higher retention emerging rate among the 2017-19 group. With the exception of Hawthorn, whose recent drafting is questionable, Collingwood is second-last on the percentage of players still at the club who were drafted in 2017-19. Collingwood really needs to hope that its 2020 crop of draftees can in years ahead provide the basis for success.

However, simply being at a club is not enough. One must also look at the number of games played.

Average draftee games 2011-16
Collingwood 28.7
Richmond 34.5
Geelong 27.6
West Coast 22.0
Western Bulldogs 44.1
Hawthorn 29.0

These figures represent the average number of games played for the club by draftees between 2011 and 2016. It includes only games played at the particular club, not games played at other clubs if there were player movements. On this score Collingwood sits in the middle of the pack, with the Bulldogs again a stand-out. However, this is masking the fact that the Collingwood game averages are inflated by a few players like Brodie Grundy (157 games), Jordan De Goey (103 games), Brayden Maynard (122 games) and Darcy Moore (95 games).

As mentioned, there are a number of factors that make for successful clubs. All parts of a club must be synchronous, and luck does play a part. So too does sound recruitment. When an inevitable review comes up, the issue of drafting at Collingwood must be included.

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Simply put, the Magpies lack the fundamental demographics of success: a strong core of established players.

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