The Lions traded out of the first round in a deal with Port Adelaide but ended up becoming heavily involved on Thursday. They traded in the afternoon, again with the Power, and managed to swoop on Larke medallist Deven Robertson (22) who had been invited on Wednesday night but overlooked. The Lions then took Gippsland tough nut Brock Smith (33) before matching a bid from Essendon on Keidean Coleman (37), having traded with the Swans to manoeuvre points. But the Lions weren’t willing to match bids from Richmond on fellow academy players Will Martyn and Noah Cumberland. West Australian defender Jaxon Prior (59) rounded out the Lions’ night, although father-son Lachie Johnson, who was tied to the Lions as a rookie, was snapped up by Essendon.
Recruiting manager Stephen Conole: “It was always a chance with Lachie. We would have loved to have him on our list. He’s a fantastic young boy and we certainly wish him the best.”
This looms as Stephen Silvagni’s swansong from Carlton, and he went out with style. The Blues ended up shaping the top 10, bidding for academy players Liam Henry (Fremantle) and Tom Green (Greater Western Sydney). The Blues discussed a trade with the Crows, a plan which was ultimately aborted. Carlton weren’t done wheeling and dealing on Wednesday night though. They traded down with Gold Coast, selecting ACL victim Brodie Kemp (17) who could play at either end, as well as through the midfield. The Blues, knowing Richmond were interested in the polarising Sam Philp (20) traded with Port Adelaide to get ahead of the Tigers. Thursday night was quieter for the Blues, taking only midfielder Sam Ramsay (47). However with Gold Coast filling their list on Thursday night, Jack Martin will become a Blues player on Friday via the pre-season draft.
List chief Stephen Silvagni: “It’s not about me tonight. We’ve picked a young boy in Sam Ramsay, and I certainly don’t want to take the spotlight away from him.”
The Pies shuffled way back in the draft order but could still be well pleased with their haul. Exceptional gut-runner Jay Rantall (40) who played alongside Luka Jackson in underage basketball for Australia slipped further than many had tipped, while Oakleigh Chargers captain Trent Bianco (45) was still on the board despite being tipped to go as early as late in the first round. Bianco is a mad Pies fan and a strong ball user in defence. Tall West Australian defender Trey Ruscoe (55) also became a Magpie.
Recruiting manager Derek Hine: “[Bianco] is probably a better kick than Steele [Sidebottom] to be honest. Clearly he’d be in the top three or four users by foot in this year’s draft.”
Things are rarely dull with Essendon, and so it proved again. The Bombers traded up to land raw key forward Harrison Jones (30), a Bombers supporter. They then kept the Brisbane Lions honest by bidding on Keidean Coleman, with the Lions trading with Sydney before matching the bid for their academy product. Ruckman Nick Bryan (38) also became a Bomber, as did small forward Ned Cahill (56), before the Dons took Lachie Johnson (63), who had fallen into their next generation zone but would have been tied to the Lions as a rookie had he made it through Thursday night.
List and recruiting chief Adrian Dodoro: “Considering we didn’t have a first-round draft pick and we didn’t have any NGA players, it makes it tough to be honest. But we had Harry Jones in the first round.”
The Dockers did their main body of work on Wednesday night, ending up with three top-10 selections. The beautiful-kicking Hayden Young (seven) was rated in some circles as the second-best player in the draft, so the Dockers arguably got a bargain. Caleb Serong (eight) is explosive from the contest and strong overhead, while the decision to trade up from pick 10 was vindicated as they matched a bid on Next Generation Academy star Liam Henry (nine). South Australian Michael Frederick (61) was plucked deep.
Football manager Peter Bell: “We had an inkling that Carlton rated Liam quite highly. So obviously when the bid came, we did the best we could in that situation.”
The Cats had a healthy draft bounty by virtue of the trade which sent Tim Kelly to West Coast. Geelong look to have made the most of it. Local product Cooper Stephens (16) missed most of the year with a broken leg but is back to full fitness. Tall defender Sam De Koning (19) has some filling out to do but looks a key position player of the future. The Cats then traded pick 27 to Gold Coast in a deal which will net them a mid first-round pick next year, before landing smokey forward Francis Evans (41) who was playing footy in the amateurs this year and South Australian left-footer Cameron Taheny (50).
List and recruiting chief Stephen Wells: “We had discussions with Gold Coast during the day today about the possibility of it happening. It was subject to the possibility of the player Gold Coast really wanted coming through to them.”
The Suns pitched for a suite of concessions, and the piece de resistance was showcased on Wednesday night as Matt Rowell (one) and Noah Anderson (two) took their friendship from Carey Grammar to Carrara. Gold Coast then traded with Carlton, ending up with explosive midfielder/forward Sam Flanders, who had been in top five calculations heading into the night. The Suns must rate Jeremy Sharp (27) highly because they traded away their future middle-of-the-first-round pick to Geelong to acquire the West Australian. Mature-age South Australian Jy Farrar (60) was taken late, filling the Suns’ list and meaning Jack Martin won’t be coming back.
List manager Craig Cameron: “It’s really important for our footy club to move forward and bring through guys that want to take the footy club forward.”
Greater Western Sydney
Having traded up to avoid a bid coming ahead of their first pick, the Giants selected smooth half-back Lachlan Ash (four) but ultimately waited until the edge of the top 10 before needing to match a bid for academy midfielder Tom Green (10). GWS then had a long wait until their next pick but traded to get emerging forward Jake Riccardi (51) from the VFL. Mature-ager Tom Hutchesson (65) was then selected from Adelaide’s SANFL team.
Recruiting manager Adrian Caruso: “We always wanted to get above the bid. We never knew where it was going to come.”
The Hawks should be well-pleased with their week’s work. With a rare early pick they grabbed classy defender Will Day (13), the grandson of premiership defender Robert Day. It wouldn’t have been a shock if a bid for father-son midfielder Finn Maginness (29) came any time from late in the first round. So the Hawks could be well pleased that it only arrived midway through the second round. Hawthorn then plucked forward Josh Morris (57) from South Australia and are poised to take ex-Essendon defender Michael Hartley in the pre-season draft.
Recruiting manager Mark McKenzie: “It’s been a long process. Finn’s a great character. His family’s great. We’re very happy to get him into the football club.”
The Dees did as expected, landing athletic big man Luke Jackson (three) before nabbing pressure forward Kozzy Pickett (12) and slider Trent Rivers (33). Melbourne fans might question why the club went for a ruckman when they already have a three-time All-Australian ruckman in Max Gawn, but the Dees are adamant that the pair can coexist, with Jackson capable of playing as a forward, and perhaps even as a midfielder. Other clubs had Pickett much lower down in their order but his pressure is elite and the Dees see something special in the South Australian.
Recruiting manager Jason Taylor: “[Jackson’s] improvement over such a short period of time has been so significant, that you project forward, there’s just enormous growth to come.”
The Kangaroos had traded out of the first round. They entered the draft by keeping Hawthorn honest in bidding on father-son selection Finn Maginness in the late 20s. Forward/ruck Charlie Comben (31), small forward midfielder Jack Mahony (34) and Flynn Perez (35), who missed the year because of an ACL tear, shape as a handy trio, even if North haven’t taken any of the premium talent in the draft pool.
Recruiting manager Mark Finnegan: “We felt the draft was really even, and it gave us a great opportunity to pick a few different types.”
Port Adelaide traded heavily into the first round, then traded out slightly but still ended up with four picks in the top 25. Midfielder/forward Miles Bergman (14) has overcome foot issues and has plenty of power. Mitch Georgiades (18) is a similar case, with the key forward having missed the year because of a quad injury. Dylan Williams (23) had been rated as a top-five pick 12 months ago, while a bid was matched on father-son midfielder Jackson Mead (25). Having taken three first-round stars last year, Port look to be building an exciting young core, while father-son player Trent Burgoyne will join as a rookie on Friday.
Recruiting manager Geoff Parker: “We expected a bid to come somewhere around there. Where it was going to be we weren’t sure.”
The Tigers turned out to be the bad guys of the draft, preventing three players from joining the clubs to which they were tied. Midfielder Thomson Dow (21), the younger brother of Carlton’s Paddy, was the final pick of the first night. Richmond then doubled up from the Lions’ academy, nabbing forward Noah Cumberland (43) and midfielder Will Martyn (44). The raw but exciting Hugo Ralphsmith (46) slipped further than some had predicted before the supremely athletic Bigoa Nyuon (54) was plucked from St Kilda’s grasp, with the Saints opting not to match a bid for their academy player.
Recruiting manager Matthew Clarke: “We never sit at the start of the night just to plan to bid on a player. We just have a ranking and an order. So if they come up at our picks and are still available, we’re paid to pick the best players for the Richmond footy club.”
It was always going to be a quiet night for the Saints after their heavy trade period involvement left them with minimal picks. Midfielder Ryan Byrnes (52) was taken after a stellar year for the Sandringham Dragons before Leo Connolly (64) also became a Saint late in the piece. St Kilda opted not to match Richmond’s bid on academy player Bigoa Nyuon.
Recruiting manager Chris Liberatore: “We probably thought there was a reasonable chance that someone would bid towards the back end of the draft. In the end we had to weigh up the decision between matching the bid and what else might be there at our next pick. It was a pretty difficult decision.”
It was an early involvement for the Swans, who created a minor stir when they took South Australian Dylan Stephens (five) ahead of Sam Flanders, while opting not to bid for Tom Green. Big-framed defender Will Gould (26) looks like the type of player ready to play senior football while Elijah Taylor (36) has an enormous ceiling after an at-times turbulent upbringing. Chad Warner (39) is a bolter.
List manager Kinnear Beatson: “The earlier the picks are, quite often the more difficult they are because you’re spoilt for choice at times.”
While it became a busy couple of nights for the Cats after the Kelly deal, the flipside was the Eagles, whose involvement was minimal. West Coast opted for a couple of home-grown youngsters, taking tall Callum Jamieson (49) and speedy defender Ben Johnson (58).
Recruiting manager Rohan O’Brien: “It’s always good to bring a couple of local boys to the football club. It’s a big focus of ours to have as many West Australians on the list as possible.”
The Dogs stuck to their guns during trade period, hanging on to their first-round pick despite the demands of St Kilda and Adelaide in deals for Josh Bruce and Alex Keath respectively. The Dogs’ prize for their determinedness is small forward Cody Weightman (15), who could be the most diligent player in the draft. Defender Louis Butler (53) and small West Australian midfielder Riley Garcia (62) are also headed to Whitten Oval.
List manager Sam Power: “We’re really pleased. [Cody] addresses a need. We were looking to bring a small forward in so rapt with that.”
Daniel is an Age sports reporter