AFL Draft

AFL Draft Preview: Melbourne

List Breakdown by position:

Key Def Gen Def Mid Mid/Fwd Gen Fwd Key Fwd Ruck Total
5 9 7 5 7 4 3 40


Average Age: 24.4

Players In: Jake Lever, Harley Balic

Players Out: Jack Watts

Retired/Delisted: Jack Trengove, Ben Kennedy, Mitch White, Liam Hulett, Colin Garland, Jake Spencer

Draft Picks: 29, 31, 36, 47

What They Got/Lost:

It was a heartbreaking end to the year for the Dees, who narrowly missed out on their first finals series in a decade – on percentage. There’s no doubt that they are a side on the up, and if it wasn’t for injuries and suspensions, there’s a good chance they would have made it.

The trade period summed up where the Demons are at to a T. They were bullish from the start and snagged the first, and perhaps biggest, trade of the whole period when they brought Jake Lever over from the Crows. The gun key defender is one of the best young players in the country, and it was a statement from the Dees that they are side that is ready to take the next step. Lever didn’t come cheap, however, with this year’s pick 10 along with next year’s round one pick being surrendered. They received a second rounder in this year’s draft in return, and added another when they moved former pick one Jack Watts over to the Power.

Watts has always struggled under the weight of the pick one tag, and you feel that his trade drew a line under a testing period for both him and the club. Both should benefit from moving on.

They added some extra midfield and forward talent in the form of wantaway Docker Harley Balic for pocket change, in a move that can only be considered a win. Balic’s AFL career was delayed due to a complicated wrist injury sustained as a junior, but he was considered a top ten talent when he was fit and firing.

What They Need:

Aside from not blowing their trumpet too soon and sending out finals adverts before they’ve made it, the Dees need relatively little. Their side is well balanced after years of being cellar dwellers provided them with plenty of draft currency over the last decade, but it is imperative that they take the next step and play finals footy in 2018.

In Lever, they now have the foundation to build their defence around. With the McDonald brothers and Sam Frost, they have plenty of tall talent down back already, but Lever’s arrival will allow Tom McDonald to perhaps move full time into the forward line – a role he really impressed in last year. This would certainly help fill the gap left by Jack Watts, and with Jesse Hogan and the developing Sam Weideman, they look set for talls in the forward arc.

In terms of transition out of defence they are covered with the likes of Vince, Hibberd, Hunt, Salem and Jetta, and they are a potent force in the forward 50 too with Jeff Garlett, Christian Petracca, and the emergence of the likes of Alex Neal-Bullen and James Harmes.

Their midfield is shaping up very nicely with Viney, Oliver and Tyson offering a huge amount of power through the middle, but it’s very ‘inside’ heavy. Billy Stretch is one who can really develop on the outside, but this is still maybe the one area that the Dees look to strengthen in the Draft.

Perhaps the biggest need is for their key players to stay fit, and more importantly, avoid getting themselves on the wrong side of the MRP.

On the Radar:

Despite spending big on Lever, the demons head to the Draft with a very handy stash of picks in the second round. Picks that should be all they need to patch the minor cracks they have.

With these picks, they could be in a position to land a player with significant upside in the form of Northern Knights’ Jack Petruccelle. The former AIS Academy basketballer is one of the players in this year’s draft that has the potential to be anything. Petruccelle is the fastest of this year’s draft crop over 20m with a time of 2.87, possesses incredible agility in traffic and is a terrific mark and tackler. He’d provide an extra defensive presence in the forward 50, and also some outside dash on the wing.

They could also consider South Australian wingman Charlie Ballard. Despite not offering the speed that the Dees could use, his marking and agility on the wing combined with his size (195cm), make him a very versatile option that would appeal at this range.

They may instead choose to look at players that could slot into a half-back role to release Jayden Hunt up the ground. Eastern Ranges’ Ryley Stoddart and Geelong’s Matt Ling would fit the mould perfectly, and would add plenty of dash themselves.
Late on, or perhaps in the rookie draft, the Dees could look to a mature age prospect to provide an immediate impact. While it would be perhaps a step too far to consider they would take Dom Barry on again, they may look to the VFL and Williamstown’s Brett Bewley. The big bodied midfielder has excelled on the wing for the Seagulls this year, and could play a part straight away.

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