Leading up to Wednesday, June 2 all 18 AFL clubs will be frantically preparing for the opportunity to bring new talent onto their lists from the VFL, SANFL and WAFL.
Of course, there are several clubs that planned for this eventuality by leaving rookie spots open on their lists, while other clubs have had players go onto the long-term injury list having been determined to be unfit to return in 2021.
Retirements and disciplinary delistings have also opened space for clubs, with the reduced list sizes leaving several clubs with lengthening injury issues if patterns continue to deteriorate.
At this stage, the ladder-leading Western Bulldogs, reigning premiers Richmond, losing grand finalists Geelong, eighth-placed West Coast, ninth-placed Fremantle and 11th-placed GWS have no list spots available.
However, Fremantle have five injured players who may yet be added to their long-term injury list and the Giants certainly have enough injury worries that they may yet enter the draft.
Richmond estimate that Ivan Soldo will return from injury in three months, however, should that timeline grow complicated they could rule him out for 2021 and hit the mid-season draft, while West Coast may yet act on Daniel Venables, who continues to suffer concussion symptoms.
The Bulldogs at this stage enjoy fairly good list health, with none of their injuries considered season-ending even if most players in Josh Dunkley’s situation would be out for the year. He’s had the same operation on his opposite shoulder and come back in three months so he’s unlikely to be ruled out.
One important difference to the national draft is that players must agree to terms ahead of being drafted, particularly if there is an interstate club interested or that player decides not to nominate in this draft because they stand a better chance of earning a primary list spot and better starting salary by entering the main end of season draft pool.
Thus, with six clubs at this stage non-starters, the remaining 12 have pretty much established a pecking order after seven rounds of footy. So with the help of the ladder predictor tipping home teams to win for the next four rounds, this is a rough starting order based on likely ladder position after Round 11.
Note, at the time of writing, there are six teams ineligible for the mid-season draft, although by Round 11, all 18 teams could well be picking. The draft order could be quite different and the number of picks each club takes could vary on the day.
Pick 1: North Melbourne
Pick 2: Collingwood
Pick 3: Hawthorn
Pick 4: Adelaide
Pick 5: Carlton
Pick 6: Essendon
Pick 7: St Kilda
Pick 8: Gold Coast
Pick 9: Sydney
Pick 10: Brisbane
Pick 11: Port Adelaide
Pick 12: Melbourne
Pick 13: North Melbourne
Pick 14: Collingwood
Pick 15: Adelaide
Pick 16: St Kilda
Pick 17: Gold Coast
Pick 18: Melbourne
Pick 19: Adelaide
Pick 20: St Kilda
Pick 21: Gold Coast
Pick 22: St Kilda
Pick 23: Gold Coast
Who could your club target?
The Crows have three possible selections and will be looking in their own backyard in the SANFL for talent, as they did at last year’s draft, with an impressive Glenelg pair. Ex-Roo Lachie Hosie topped the goal kickers as a medium-sized forward and ex-Richmond tall Liam McBean matched him goal for goal in the same forward line.
The Lions have a place available on their list and could look to bolster their ruck division, although some bright performances from their own un-drafted academy players could see a surprise elevation, such as Saxon Crozier or Bruce Reville, or they could bring back in Corey Lyons, brother of Jarryd.
The Blues have ongoing big-man problems, so a swingman or ruck forward could be their ideal replacement. Although they may well decide to put more players on the long-term injury list. Could Carlton throw Ben Crocker a bone? He is already training at the club and playing VFL. He kicked seven goals last week.
The Pies will look to use their two picks with an eye to the future, with obvious needs all over the park, but may reconsider un-drafted Lions academy key defender Jack Briskey after he trained with them for two months over the summer, or promote their VFL in-form mid Connor Stackelberg, who is also a Lions academy graduate.
The Bombers have an opportunity to fill their remaining list spot with one of their VFL top-up players, with Nick O’Kearney totting up 36 disposals against Carlton. Delisted Power player Joe Atley is quietly impressing for their reserves too.
The Suns have four places to fill, with ruck, forward and defence in need of bolstering. Brayden Crossley shapes as a player with AFL experience who can cover two of those needs, while his ruck partner at Southport, former Bomber Fraser Thurlow, has had a very impressive VFL season.
Another Queensland pair who could be a chance are Wylie Buzza, playing for Williamstown, and Aspley’s Matt Hammelmann, who is leading the VFL goal kicking after being the best in the NEAFL for years.
The Hawks will pick early and could well pick up a player they’ve already signed to Box Hill in Josh Deluca, who in his first five seasons won an incredible four WAFL premierships. In 2019 he was taken with the top pick in the mid-season draft after being previously listed by Fremantle.
The Demons now have three players gone for the season, so getting some ready-to-play veterans could be their best option. Ex-Swan Zac Foot is playing well for Casey and ex-Saint and Magpie Nathan Freeman is averaging 39 possessions for Frankston in the VFL.
The Kangaroos need to take the youth path here, with Tasmanian kids Jackson Callow and double under-18 All Australian Mitch O’Neill. No questions asked. Just go and do it, Scott Clayton, if you haven’t already.
The Power could do worse than pick up an ex-Crow, with Riley Knight leading the SANFL for disposals at Woodville-West Torrens and posting impressive numbers. They might even think about giving a lifeline to Cam Sutcliffe, who has led Port Magpies this year and is training at the club.
The Saints need to infuse their list with a player who will force his way into selection calculations and the name from their neighbourhood that stands out is Josh Newman from Frankston. He can get hold of the ball and find the goals. He is the brother of Blues player Nic Newman.
The Swans might never get a better opportunity to sign a GWS academy gun in Josh Green, brother of Tom Green. He went un-drafted in the 2020 draft then trained for his premiership-winning grandfather’s old team Richmond, before returning to the GWS academy.