West Coast Eagles forward Jack Darling has been barred from training with the club, having failed to meet the AFL’s requirement that all players be vaccinated against COVID-19.
With the 2021 AFL season officially over, and the trade window slammed shut, the AFL world’s attention has turned to draft week.
In the lead-up to the big night on Wednesday, I have been looking back at past drafts wondering what could have been for some clubs, or some of the late selections that they nailed.
So, I thought it’d be fun to hop in the time machine and travel into the past to re-draft the top 15 players of the 2011 AFL draft, as it is the tenth anniversary of the event.
I’ve opted to stick to the national draft only, excluding the pre-season and rookie drafts. I’ve also avoided players who were re-drafted and players who were promoted from the rookie list.
Adam Tomlinson (pick nine – GWS)
Tomlinson was a mainstay in Greater Western Sydney’s team for many years. It was unfortunate for Tomlinson that an ACL injury forced him to sit out early in Melbourne’s premiership season. He seems to be well into his prime, and hopefully he can rediscover some form upon returning.
Jed Bews (pick 86 – Geelong)
For opposing fans, Bews’ efforts probably fly under the radar. But at least when I’ve watched Geelong, he almost always does his job for the Cats in a side that has remained a strong contender for the last few years. For that he’s well worth a mention.
Tory Dickson (pick 57 – Western Bulldogs)
Kicking 90 goals over two seasons for the Western Bulldogs in 2015 and 2016, and finishing the latter year with a premiership cup, Dickson should be proud of his accomplishments. His role in that premiership team will surely not go unnoticed, especially for Dogs fans.
Lincoln McCarthy (pick 66 – Geelong)
He never quite set the world on fire at Geelong, but McCarthy has become quite a consistent contributor in his first three seasons at the Brisbane Lions. He recently posted a career high for goals in a season with 36 goals in 2021.
Jack Newnes (pick 37 – St Kilda)
Newnes had a few very consistent years at St Kilda and has been a decent player in his two years at Carlton as well. Not to mention that goal against Fremantle. It is one that will be remembered by Blues fans forever.
So, without further ado, here is my re-ranked top 15 from the 2011 AFL draft.
15. Will Hoskin-Elliott (originally selected at pick four by GWS)
While he hasn’t exactly lived up to the standards that may have been imagined when he was selected at pick four in the draft, Will Hoskin-Elliott has still been a very serviceable player, particularly for Collingwood after being traded there in 2016.
He never really managed to cement a place in the best 22 at the Giants, aside from the 2014 season when he kicked 26 goals across 20 games. At the Pies however, Hoskin-Elliott has become an important part of their forward line.
The 2018 season when Collingwood made the grand final was an especially brilliant one for him, kicking 42 goals in 26 games. While his goal contributions haven’t hit those heights since, Hoskin-Elliott is still ever present for the Pies.
Even if he doesn’t land where he was originally selected, his place in this list is still well warranted.
14. Devon Smith (originally selected at pick 14 by GWS)
The only player who lands in the exact spot he was originally selected, Devon Smith has been a very solid contributor to his team since the beginning of his career.
With 143 goals in 174 games across two clubs, he usually finds a way to impact the game. Smith has long been known as one of the best tacklers in the league and the 2018 season, his first at the Bombers after moving from GWS, saw him average over eight tackles a game.
In turn, Smith was awarded with Essendon’s best and fairest for 2018. His hard-nut approach has made him a fan favourite at Tullamarine and he remains an important player at the club.
13. Sebastian Ross (originally selected at pick 25 by St Kilda)
At pick 25, Seb Ross ended up being quite a solid selection for St Kilda. He’s won their best and fairest award twice (2016 and 2019) and has had a few very good seasons for the Saints.
Between 2016 and 2019 he averaged over 26 possessions for the club, becoming the focal point of their midfield. In those years, he netted 42 Brownlow votes in total.
His current form hasn’t exactly been hitting the heights of the years prior, but as the club’s vice-captain since 2018, Ross remains an important part of the club in helping young players learn the ropes, and he still has his fair share of decent performances as well.
12. Jarrod Witts (originally selected at pick 67 by Collingwood)
Alongside one pick from the 50s that will be mentioned later on, Jarrod Witts at pick 67 would have to be one of the steals of the draft.
Drafted by Collingwood, but now playing in the ruck for the Gold Coast Suns, Witts is one of the league’s best ruckmen. He’s averaged over 28 hitouts in each of his five seasons at the Suns and is also a very good ball winner for a ruck, averaging over 13 possessions in four of those five years. He also has one club best and fairest to his name.
An ACL tear put an end to his 2021 season after three games, but hopefully the club’s co-captain can come back as strong as ever and join his young Suns teammates who are fighting to push up the ladder.
11. Brandon Ellis (originally selected at pick 15 by Richmond)
The Richmond dynasty is filled with brilliant memories and unforgettable players. Brandon Ellis may not be the first name you think of, but he was a very important part of those first two premiership victories for the Tigers.
Ellis is one of the more unassuming players from those teams, but he was a permanent fixture in the side from the very beginning of his career. He was there for the entirety of Richmond’s rise to the top and was quite the contributor in the process, averaging over 22 disposals each year between 2014 and 2017 in the lead-up to their drought-breaking grand final win over the Adelaide Crows.
Now playing with Witts at the Suns, Ellis is still putting up good performances each week, and depending on how the team develops we may not have seen the last of him in finals footy.
10. Bradley Hill (originally selected at pick 33 by Hawthorn)
Speaking of premiership pedigree, Bradley Hill is another man who played a big part in a premiership dynasty, winning three flags with Hawthorn between 2013 and 2015. His selection at pick 33 was well worth it.
He cemented his spot in the Hawks’ best 22 in the first of those three premiership years and made his presence known with his skilful and quick style of play. He continued his great form in the west, moving to Fremantle in 2017 and winning the club best and fairest in his first year.
Now at his third club, St Kilda, Hill hasn’t managed to recreate the brilliance that we have seen in the past. However, he has shown glimpses of his best, and we all hope to see that in full force once again.
9. Nick Haynes (originally selected at pick seven by GWS)
It took Nick Haynes a few years to really cement a spot in the Giants’ best 22, but he now gets the credit he deserves. Drafted as a midfielder/forward, Haynes has now proven himself to be one of the best intercepting defenders in the league.
He’s had a few brilliant seasons in the Giants’ back line, particularly the 2020 season when he took home a club best and fairest, as well as an All Australian selection.
For a player who was never seen as a defender when selected in this draft, the Giants would be pleased that they have him down there now.
8. Chad Wingard (originally selected at pick six by Port Adelaide)
If this list were made five or six years ago, Chad Wingard probably would’ve ended up at number one. That doesn’t mean he’s bad now, not by any stretch. But some of the footy he played at the Power was just brilliant.
Between 2013 and 2016, Wingard kicked a whopping 177 goals. The 2015 season especially, when he contributed 53 of those, was arguably his best. With two All Australian selections to his name, Wingard made his mark on the competition.
Unfortunately, his form at the end of his Port Adelaide run, and throughout his current Hawthorn tenure, which is entering its fourth season in 2022, hasn’t been as good as what he showcased early in his career.
Everybody loves Chad Wingard at his best, and while he is still quite good, it’s safe to say we would all love to see him back there once again.
7. Sam Docherty (originally selected at pick 12 by Brisbane)
After a somewhat slow start to his career at Brisbane, Carlton’s pick-up of Docherty proved to be a brilliant move.
The current co-captain of the club alongside Patrick Cripps, Docherty is a one-time All Australian defender and one-time club best and fairest. These achievements may have been multiplied if not for the two ACL injuries he suffered in 2018 and 2019.
His form in the last two seasons hasn’t necessarily been as consistent as that of the seasons prior to his injury, but he has shown bursts of the brilliant footy that Carlton fans have come to adore.
At 28, here’s hoping that Docherty can reprise some of the brilliant play from 2016 and 2017 in the next few years.
6. Elliot Yeo (originally selected at pick 30 by Brisbane)
One of only three premiership players in my top 15, Elliot Yeo has been a pivotal part of the Eagles’ midfield for many years now.
He showed great potential in his early days at the Brisbane Lions and, upon moving west, now has two best and fairest awards, two All Australian blazers and a flag to his name.
He’s had inconsistent game time over the last couple of seasons due to injury, but Yeo is still a fan favourite at the Eagles and that won’t change any time soon.
When he’s at his best, Yeo often stands out in an Eagles midfield that has been filled with stars over recent years. That’s a tough task, and he deserves all the praise in the world for it.
5. Stephen Coniglio (originally selected at pick two by GWS)
He’s taken a slide from his original draft position, but Stephen Coniglio is still one of the best this draft has to offer. Don’t let his recent form fool you, because the current captain of the Giants was playing some elite footy for several years.
His form has slowly tailed off in the last couple of years, however Coniglio’s footy prior to this showcases the talent he truly has.
From his early days, Coniglio developed to become quite the ball magnet and his courageous midfield play, which saw him average five tackles a game between the 2015 and 2018 season, is what Giants fans came to love about him.
With a recent return to finals, the Giants seem to be on the up again, and hopefully ‘Cogs’ can follow suit, after a poor season by his standards.
4. Taylor Adams (originally selected at pick 13 by GWS)
While he’s spent many of his best years for Collingwood in a midfield that also included names like Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom and Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams now has a case for being the best of the lot.
He has arguably become Collingwood’s most important midfielder, averaging over 27 disposals in five of his last seven seasons at the Pies, and having a best and fairest and All Australian selection to his name.
After losing Adam Treloar to the Bulldogs, and with captain Scott Pendlebury in the twilight of his career, Adams is now the key man in the Pies’ midfield.
He’s very difficult for opposing midfielders to shut down, and Collingwood would see him as a crucial part of a team that needs some work over the next couple of seasons. Rightly so considering what he brings to them when he’s at the peak of his powers.
3. Toby Greene (originally selected at pick 11 by GWS)
Plenty of people don’t like Toby Greene, but most of them hate him because of how good he really is.
He’s a controversial figure in the AFL world with some of his on-field antics, but it’s safe to say the Giants got it right taking Greene at pick 11. He is the definition of ‘x-factor’ when he has the footy in his hands.
He always gets it and does something with it. A two-time All Australian, and one-time club best and fairest, Greene is an extremely versatile player with brilliant ball-winning ability and a superb eye for goal, kicking 228 goals in his 176-game career.
Even though the Giants held many of the initial picks in this draft, they definitely got it right with this one.
2. Tom Mitchell (originally selected at pick 21 by Sydney)
Wherever the footy is, Tom Mitchell is never far from it. He’s a serial ball winner, averaging over 34 disposals in three of his last four seasons (not including the 2019 season that he sat out with an injury).
He also holds several disposal records, including the most disposals in an AFL/VFL game (54), the most disposals in an AFL/VFL season (848) and becoming the first player to have multiple 50-plus possession games in a season.
All of this is in addition to his one Brownlow medal, two All Australian selections and three Hawthorn best and fairest awards, and Mitchell’s position on this list is more than validated.
1. Lachie Neale (originally selected at pick 58 by Fremantle)
While he is no longer at the club, Fremantle nabbed the pick of the bunch at pick 58, deep in the third round of the draft.
Now playing for the Brisbane Lions, Neale is in his prime and is clearly one of the best players in the competition.
With one Brownlow medal, two All Australian appearances and four best and fairest awards across two clubs, he’s had a brilliant career thus far.
On his best day Neale is unplayable in the midfield, averaging no less than 26 disposals in every season since 2015, and he always knows what to do with the footy.
A few clubs might be kicking themselves that they let him slide so far in this draft, and he’s well deserving of the number one spot.