We’re exactly one month away from the big night in Sydney, where we get to see where the next generation of AFL players will begin their journey to potential superstardom. In the first of our Phantom Drafts, we take a look at the first round, and try to figure out how the night will play out. Who does your team take?
1 | Brisbane Lions | Luke Davies-Uniacke
Inside Midfielder | Dandenong Stingrays | 187cm | 85kg
While Cam Rayner may well be ranked number one, the Lions may decide to continue their trend of picking up Country talent. In Davies-Uniacke the Lions get an explosive inside mid with potentially the highest ceiling in the draft. He’s ready to go physically, and would provide strength and midfield depth after losing the likes of Tom Rockliff.
2 | Fremantle | Cam Rayner
Half Forward/Midfield | Western Jets | 187cm | 88kg
Although not at the top of the Dockers’ ‘needs’, they’ll go best available at two, and if Rayner isn’t taken at pick one then they’ll snap him up. With Crozier gone and a question mark still over Bennell, Rayner can provide some spark inside 50 before developing into a full-time midfielder. Quick, Powerful, strong at the contest and a great mark, they can’t go wrong.
3 | Carlton | Paddy Dow
Inside Midfielder | Bendigo Pioneers | 184cm | 78kg
The Blues are crying out for contested ballwinners, and although they may consider Adam Cerra here, the acceleration of Paddy Dow would appeal as an ideal partner for Patrick Cripps in the centre. Dow was at the centre of almost all effective forays forward for Vic Country at the U18 Champs, and with Carlton’s struggles moving it offensively, he’d be straight in their best.
4 | North Melbourne | Adam Cerra
Balanced Midfielder | Eastern Ranges | 186cm | 85kg
The Kangaroos are seriously lacking that something ‘special’, particularly through the centre. While there’s a chance they plump for some X-Factor in Jaidyn Stephenson, the class of Adam Cerra would be hard to resist. Super smooth and a great user of the ball by hand and foot, Cerra looks every bit the potential A-Grader.
5 | Fremantle | Aaron Naughton
Key Defender | Peel Thunder | 194cm | 84kg
The Dockers made sure that they had two picks in the top five, and I can’t help but think the reason was that they could snap up their boy Naughton. The mobile rebounding, intercepting defender is an ideal fit, and having played alongside Freo listed players in the Peel seniors this year, he would take little adjusting.
6 | Collingwood | Jarrod Brander
Key Position | Bendigo Pioneers | 195cm | 90kg
If Freo don’t opt for Naughton, I’d expect the Magpies to take a good look at him here. Even so, they may just be swayed by Brander, who would be a perfect fit. The mobile tall, who was a strong consideration for pick 1 earlier in the year, could slot in either in Collingwood’s undersized defence, or act as a perfect partner for Darcy Moore in attack.
7 | St Kilda | Jaidyn Stephenson
Forward/Midfield | Eastern Ranges | 189cm | 76kg
While not exactly what they are after, but back-to-back picks it would make it difficult for the Saints to turn down Stephenson here. An incredibly difficult match-up inside 50 due to his size and lightning speed, Stephenson has moved into the midfield this year and developed into a quality ballwinner. An exciting prospect who could be anything.
8 | St Kilda | Charlie Constable
Inside Midfielder | Sandringham Dragons | 190cm | 83kg
The Saints are very undersized when it comes to their midfield, and while they will certainly be interested in someone like Andrew Brayshaw, they may be tempted by his Sandy team-mate Constable. The big bodied inside midfielder is a superb extractor of the ball, and is incredibly smart and quick by hand at the contest, whilst also showing plenty at either end. A potential Patrick Cripps MkII.
9 | Western Bulldogs | Nick Coffield
Gen Defender/Midfield | Northern Knights | 190cm | 83kg
With the loss of Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd, Nick Coffield would be a perfect pick up by the Doggies at 9. A natural leader, Coffield would slot seamlessly into the Bulldogs’ backline where they would benefit from his superb decision making and delivery out of the back half. An elite turn of pace, and agility in traffic is also an ideal fit for their quick attacking style.
10 | Carlton | Sam Hayes
Forward/Ruck | Eastern Ranges | 203cm | 93kg
While taking Ruck/Forwards at this stage of the draft is certainly bucking recent trends, the extra top ten pick gives the Blues a chance to take a player that, on ability, deserves to be there. Still raw, but with huge upside, Hayes would be an ideal successor to Kreuzer. Although every inch the modern, agile ruck, he was an U18 All-Australian as a bottom ager playing largely as a key forward.
11 | GWS | Jack Higgins
Small Forward / Midfielder | Oakleigh Chargers | 178cm | 76kg
For a team with Premiership hopes over the next couple of years, Morrish Medalist Jack Higgins would be a smart selection. Higgins has the physical and mental development to impact at AFL immediately, and with the loss of Devon Smith and Stevie J, there is a gap in the forward line ready for him. One of the largest footy IQ’s in the draft with an unrivalled work ethic.
12 | Adelaide | Darcy Fogarty
Half Forward / Midfield | Glenelg | 192cm | 92kg
One of the biggest sliders of this year’s draft after being many pundits’ number one at the start of the season, Darcy Fogarty could prove an absolute steal at pick 12 – and with the Crows giving up pick 10, the assumption is they are confident they can get him. Dominated at half forward last year, but it’s in the guts where he could well end up. Slight knee issues this year, but is a ready to go type.
13 | West Coast | Andrew Brayshaw
Balanced Midfielder | Sandringham Dragons | 183cm | 80kg
He may very well get taken before now, but if Andrew Brayshaw is here, the Eagles would gladly snap him up. With a real lack of contested players in the middle of the ground after Priddis and Mitchell have gone, Brayshaw would be an ideal get. A similar player to current Eagle Shuey, a player their fans would gladly have two of.
14 | Sydney | Aiden Bonar
Half Forward / Midfielder | Dandenong Stingrays | 190cm | 89kg
With a team that lacks the explosion and pace of other top tier teams, the Swans would gladly take draft bolter Aiden Bonar. Bonar has rocketed up the draft boards with some stunning performances at the end end of the year, none more so than in the U18 All Star game on Grand Final day, where he relished the open spaces of the ‘G. He’ll likely end up an explosive inside midfielder, but can play as a strong forward target immediately.
15 | Brisbane | Hunter Clark
General Defender / Inside Midfielder | Dandenong Stingrays | 186cm | 79kg
After taking LDU at pick one, the Lions may look to bring in his ‘Rays team mate Clark at 15. Starting as a playmaking half back as a bottom ager, Clark has been moulded into a quality inside midfielder this year. He is effective by foot on either side of his body, and there are few players this year that read the ball at the contest better than him. Smooth in traffic and dangerous with his ball use.
16 | Western Bulldogs | Noah Balta
Tall Utility | Calder Cannons | 194cm | 92kg
It starts to get a bit tricky at this stage, with a number of players around this mark. The Dogs may decide to take a punt on athletic beast Noah Balta. The jury is still out on where his best position is, although it looks likely that he will be used initially behind the ball. Some of his best work has actually been through the ruck, and it is this versatility along with superb athletic attributes and a booming kick that could pique the Dogs’ interest.
17 | Richmond | Nathan Murphy
Gen Forward / Defender | Sandringham Dragons | 188cm | 84kg
The reigning Premiers will unlikely need to use their first pick on father/son option Patrick Naish, and will have the luxury of taking ‘best available’. With a squad that is well balanced and with few deficiencies, they may opt for a player with plenty of scope. Nathan Murphy made the choice of footy over cricket this season, and turned in a series of impressive performances at both ends of the ground. Could be anything.
18 | Brisbane | Lochie O’Brien
Outside Midfielder | Bendigo Pioneers | 184cm | 75kg
A bit of a forgotten man this year, O’Brien stormed back into the Draft spotlight with a strong second half of the year. Suited best at half-back or on a wing, he perhaps isn’t top of the Lion requirements, but O’Brien possesses what any club would be after – an elite, penetrating kick that can pick out targets with laser precision. With the Lions finishing with the least inside 50s per game, his delivery would be very appealing.
19 | Gold Coast | Ed Richards
General Defender | Oakleigh Chargers | 184cm | 77kg
Another difficult one to pick, but the Suns can’t go far wrong with Richards. After some injury issues early in the year, Richards came home with a wet sail as he picked up where he left off pre-season. A quick, smart defender who loves to attack, playing one-twos and looking to overlap, Richards ticks a number of boxes of the modern defender. It’s his ability at stoppages, and in particular his evasiveness and work in tight that has seen him rise the ranks, however. Plenty of upside.