The deadline for lodgement of inactive lists has come and gone, with the mid-season rookie draft order now set in cement.
However, it is wet cement and things can change by Wednesday night as clubs move into their final war room strategy period.
Jacob Edwards has shot into favouritism to be picked with the first pick, while Ned Moyle and Jackson Callow are also getting heavy support.
Ash Johnson and Alex Mirkov shape as the early bolters, each practically unknown just weeks ago but now written about in increasingly glowing terms.
Meanwhile, AFL washouts Riley Knight and Wylie Buzza are getting interviewed by multiple clubs as Nathan Freeman’s late entry has become appealing.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no love for Paddy McCartin, although he has nominated and Sydney do pick well after the best talent has gone out of the pool so there remains hope.
There was one NAB League under-19s fixture actually played on the weekend, with the Suns and Lions academies clashing. As best on ground in a losing team, Brisbane’s Saxon Crozier made the most of his final audition, whereas Max Pescud led the Gold Coast to victory with three goals following two impressive VFL performances.
In the WAFL, two-time Sandover Medallist Jye Bolton showed he is still the best player in the west, while Peel Thunder’s Tyrone Thorne continues to bely his diminutive stature with a standout season. Greg Clark is playing outstanding footy, yet he has not nominated for this draft so watch out for the big-bodied midfielder in the national draft later in the year.
In the SANFL, West Coast rookie dropout Mitch O’Neill continues to put his case forward in a good South Adelaide side, as Oliver Davis mixed it up again with the Crows reserves.
Yet with the VFL and NAB League postponed, the mock draft order changes are almost as speculative with regards to those players as the national draft was back in December, so small is the sample size.
Nevertheless, without the resources of club recruitment departments, the third and final mock comes down to mix of rumour, exposed form, reported sightings and pure guesswork.
Pick 1 North Melbourne – Jackson Callow, 195 centimetres, 96 kilos, key forward, Norwood SANFL
This is a gut-feel pick as the Tasmanian has all the attributes of the kind of player North need right now as a plug-and-play key forward. He would pull crowds at Hobart games and fills a key niche in the list as a proven player at senior level.
Pick 2 Hawthorn – Ned Moyle, 205 centimetres, 87 kilos, ruck, Oakleigh Chargers
The AFL academy ruckman is clearly the standout ruckman in the junior system and the Hawks need to hit a home run with this selection. He is a local boy too so he can slot straight into Box Hill’s VFL outfit.
Pick 3 Collingwood – Jacob Edwards, 202 centimetres, 83 kilos, ruck/forward, Sandringham Dragons
The hyped favourite slides to the Pies where they have years to develop him into the player he has the potential to become. The fact is he is not the best ruck available and not the best key forward.
Pick 4 Adelaide – Ash Johnson, 193 centimetres, 85 kilos, forward, Sturt SANFL
The Crows pounce here on a hot prospect from Halls Creek, where he will join his sibling Shane McAdam as a ready-to-play dynamic forward in a rebuilding side. He is the best of the rest outside of the clear top-three players, having interviewed with several clubs owning top-five selections.
Pick 5 Gold Coast – Alex Mirkov, 210 centimetres, 105 kilos, ruck, Carlton VFL
The real bolter of this draft, this volleyball convert has arrived at VFL level in a big way and has shot into the forefront of recruiters’ planning. He has more potential than exposed form, but is ready for senior level footy and fits a clear need with the Suns.
Pick 6 Carlton – Zavier Maher, 183 centimetres, 82 kilos, midfielder, Murray Bushrangers
The Blues may well have a best-player-available strategy, but those players will be gone by this pick. He played an outstanding game last start in the NAB League and has trained at Princes Park all year.
Pick 7 St Kilda – Max Heath, 204 centimetres, 96 kilos, ruck, Sandringham Dragons
Arguably the best ruckman in the NAB League, he falls to the Saints as a local product who will slot straight into the Zebras’ ruck division at Trevor Barker Beach Oval where his shock of blonde hair will bring back memories for Saints fans. He may have missed being drafted due to a late birthday.
Pick 8 Greater Western Sydney – Josh Green, 192 centimetres, 87 kilos, utility, GWS academy/VFL
The younger brother of Tom Green has taken the step into the midfield at senior level in the Giants’ VFL side and proven that he is a legitimate prospect with the versatility to play anywhere. GWS have an opportunity here to develop a genuine talent or else face losing him to a rival.
Pick 9 Essendon – Angus Baker, 191 centimetres, 86 kilos, defender, Essendon VFL
The first mature ager to come off the board, the Swans academy graduate and 2019 NEAFL Rising Star has overcome the adversity of injury during his draft year to show that he can play at the standard required for senior footy. He fills a major list need for the Bombers with seamless transition.
Pick 10 Richmond – Sam Durham, 190 centimetres, 82 kilos, utility, Richmond VFL
This is a sensible selection for the Tigers in the mould of their ageing brigade of jobbers who take on the Richmond game style and personify it. He is already showing he can do it at VFL level in yellow and black. This is another stay-at-home pick.
Pick 11 West Coast – Jye Bolton, 187 centimetres, 84 kilos, midfielder, Claremont WAFL
The ageing Eagles will do well to emulate the Cats and Tigers in recruiting an older player with proven WAFL success for short-term gain. The former Collingwood-listed player has dominated the WAFL for the past five years and could slot straight into the AFL with ease.
Pick 12 Sydney – Will Papley, 178 centimetres, 78 kilos, small forward, Gippsland Power
He is the younger brother of Tom and the resemblance is uncanny. The temptation of having two of them should be enough for the Swans to go back to the well.
Pick 13 Port Adelaide – Oliver Davis, 182 centimetres, 75 kilos, midfielder, Adelaide Crows SANFL
The Tasmanian has been impressive turning out for the Crows reserves over the past fortnight, peaking at the right time. This is why Port will strike to bring him into their young brigade of players who are developing at senior level in preparation for generational succession.
Pick 14 Brisbane – Saxon Crozier, 190 centimetres, 80 kilos, midfielder, Lions academy
Long considered to be the next big thing to come out of Brisbane’s academy, Crozier missed the 2020 draft, which wasn’t the plan anyone saw coming. Yet this is his best chance at progressing with the Lions onto their rookie list. Too many of their academy players have been lost to rival clubs.
Pick 15 Melbourne – Nathan Freeman, 183 centimetres, 88 kilos, midfielder, Frankston VFL
The Demons do not need this player right now, but they could certainly use him as a depth player in the second half of the season. He doesn’t make them better, but with him they bat deeper.
Pick 16 North Melbourne – Noah Gribble, 180 centimetres, 79 kilos, Geelong Falcons
The Kangas’ second selection fits with their rebuild and list strategy, as the club looks to build a young midfield around Will Phillips and Tom Powell as they transition away from the older players who will soon be phased out.
Pick 17 Hawthorn – Jai Newcombe, 186 centimetres, 85 kilos
This story is too good for Hawthorn to allow to fail, which appears to be the reason they opened a second list spot. He is turning his game around under Sam Mitchell’s tutelage at Box Hill. This is reward for hard work and another win for the Hawks’ internal footy factory.
Pick 18 Collingwood – Cody Raak, 192 centimetres, 80 kilos, swing man, Western Jets
After the Pies’ salary cap fire sale in 2020, this draft is important to get right and taking the Bulldogs-tied next generation academy prospect when they cannot match a bid might make it seem worth paying $300,000 a year towards their erstwhile star’s salary. He fills a need and comes dirt cheap.
Pick 19 Gold Coast – Wylie Buzza, 197 centimetres, 102 kilos, ruck/forward, Werribee VFL
The Suns go into this draft with a clear brief: to get a ruck and a key forward. The mature Lions academy graduate ticks both of those boxes and comes with the experience of having been on two AFL lists. He is the ideal foil for Ben King.
Pick 20 Carlton – Toby Wooller, 195 centimetres, 88 kilos, key forward, Carlton VFL
The Blues need to build depth at the key forward position and need look no further than their own VFL squad for the answer. The former Lions NEAFL premiership captain has the talent and character to become an important depth player at the club on a short prove-it deal.
Pick 21 St Kilda – Luke Cleary, 189 centimetres, 80 kilos, half back, Sandringham Dragons
The Saints have plenty of locally grown players to choose from and this one is rolled gold. Taking a ready-to-go rebounding defender down the road to the Zebras for a couple of years will pay off big time.
Pick 22 Essendon – Riley Knight, 181 centimetres, 78 kilos, small forward, Woodville-West Torrens SANFL
The 55-game former Crow gets a lifeline from a club in need of some maturity as they venture into the second half of the season looking to mount a finals challenge. Clearly among the best performers in the SANFL, he should get a year-and-a-half contract to prove it with the baby Bombers 2.0.
Pick 23 West Coast – Tyson Stengle, 172 centimetres, 73 kilos, small forward, ex-Adelaide Crows
The Eagles opened two spots on the list at the last minute for good reason: they need an injection of talent to get them back to September. The unlikely return of Willie Rioli means they need to load up at small forward and there isn’t a better option in this draft.
Pick 24 Melbourne – Kye Declase, 195 centimetres, 85 kilos, key defender, Werribee VFL
The Demons are riding a wave of fortune and having the luxury to bank quality players at this draft is the envy of the competition. He won’t walk into their team, but will provide depth and options during the homeward campaign.
Pick 25 Carlton – Mitch O’Neill, 178 centimetres, 73 kilos, midfielder, South Adelaide SANFL
There may come a day when every club rues the wasted opportunities they all had to recruit this double All Australian under-18 representative who was cruelly delisted by West Coast after his COVID-destroyed rookie year. He is a tackling machine with a heart like Phar Lap.