With the footy season finished and the trade period done and dusted, the AFL now has its sights firmly on the National Draft. While the senior players and coaches enjoy a rare ‘quiet’ spell, it’s the recruiters’ turn to get busy, with recruiting teams around the country ramping up their preparations to welcome in the next wave of talent at the Sydney Showground Exhibition Centre on the 24th of November. The work doesn’t stop at Footy Prophet either, as our team looks to bring you all the latest Draft content all the way to Draft night itself, with interviews, profiles and previews.
In this guide we’ll give you everything you need to know about the big night in November.
THE BIDDING SYSTEM
Introduced two years ago, the bidding system for Academy and Father/Son prospects has perhaps been the draft’s most confusing, and controversial, element. At the core of the bidding system are the points that the AFL have assigned to each pick. These points give each draft pick a numerical value, and when a bid is placed on a player, it determines what picks will be needed to counter that bid, after a deduction of 20%. The value of the picks are as follows:
The one change which the AFL has introduced since its inception was the removal of hidden picks to discourage teams from ‘trading down’ the draft order. These hidden picks were activated when multiple draft picks were used to acquire players, and subsequently shifted any other picks after them down the order. This rule means that clubs can only enter the draft with as many picks as they have room for on their list, and if they use multiple picks to bid on a player then the replacement picks will be added at the end of the draft.
WHO HAS WHAT PICK?
With the trade period over, we now have a good understanding of where each team’s picks are. Until the final squad lists are announced, however, we won’t know every pick. Here is where we stand currently:
WHO ARE THE ACADEMY AND FATHER/SON PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR THIS YEAR ?
One of the biggest stories this year revolved around the much-maligned GWS Academy, who lost a huge catchment area along the NSW/Vic border. This meant that they were not given priority access to highly regarded players such as Jarrod Brander and Charlie Spargo, with Brander a big loss in particular given he is touted as a likely top 10 pick. The Giants do still have some talent available at their disposal, however, with the likes of midfielders Jack Powell and Nick Shipley.
Their neighbours to the east though, look like they’ll be quiet once more this year after back to back success stories in Heeney and Mills in 2014/15. James Bell certainly showed some impressive signs in the U18 Championships though, and could be one to watch develop.
The Suns have some interesting prospects in the form of Harry Simmington and North Queensland product Kwaby Boakye, but their best talent lies in ruckman Brayden Crossley. The big man made his senior NEAFL debut as a 16 year old and impressed in his 13 games for the Suns NEAFL side in 2017.
It’s the Lions that no doubt have the pick of the academy talent now that the Giants’ reach has been reduced, with Connor Ballenden. Whilst the key position talent hasn’t progressed in his senior year as well as many hoped, there are not many 198cm players that can move and kick like him. His switch from forward to back has proven a success this year, and there is no doubt he has plenty of upside.
For father/son nominations, they are few and far between this year. Patrick Naish is certainly the standout, with Richmond no doubt hoping that they can avoid having to use their first pick on him. The winger, who can also play from half-back, can really make things happen with his outside run and big right boot, and looks likely to attract a first round bid.
Tyler Brown will likely join his brother Callum at the Magpies after a solid year for Eastern Ranges. Despite not quite matching his brother in terms of ballwinning or contested footy, Tyler looks to be more effective by foot, and being nearly 10cm taller, he has plenty of scope for development.
Perhaps the only other father/son pick likely to get snapped up in the National Draft is Jackson Edwards, son of Adelaide 300 gamer Tyson. The balanced midfielder is incredibly calm and composed in congestion and efficient on either side of his body. He lacks the acceleration that would set him apart, but he’ll certainly be on the Crows’ radar.
HOW IS THIS YEAR’S DRAFT SHAPING UP?
The 2017 Draft certainly looks like it’s sandwiched between two potential ‘superdrafts’. We all know of the talent that came out of 2016, with 26 out of the top 30 making their AFL debut this year. It’s also well understood that next year is also shaping as a Draft chock full of talent. Just a quick look at the trade period will tell you as such, with over 25 future picks traded as clubs jostle for a prime spot in the draft order.
That’s certainly not to say there isn’t any talent this year, as although it is considered a shallow draft, there are plenty of players with a big future ahead of them.
The Top 5
The top ten, and particularly the top four or five have set themselves apart this year, and yet again it is midfielder, and Victorian, heavy. Cameron Rayner has been long held as the favourite to be the first name called in November, and it’s easy to see why. The powerful half forward/midfielder has been one of a few to build on their promising bottom age year, and he has excelled when it counted in some huge games for Vic Metro and the Academy. He’s joined at the top by speedy inside midfielder Paddy Dow, the explosive Luke Davies-Uniacke and the classy Adam Cerra. Recruiters’ lists are a closely guarded secret, especially at the top end, but these are the names well believed to be the first four off the board.
There’s plenty of talent in and around the top 5 mark, however. Eastern Ranges star Jaidyn Stephenson has been looked at as a potential number one since he blew apart the TAC Cup final 2 years ago as 16 year old. Primarily a mid-sized forward, he’s worked on his midfield craft, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he turned out to be the best of this year’s draft – he has X-Factor in spades.
The same could be said for South Australia’s big bodied midfielder/forward Darcy Fogarty. A disappointing season, hindered by injury, has many seeing him slide out of the top ten, but prior to the start of 2017, he was well in the pick one mix. Adelaide will surely be hoping they can snap him up at 12, but he is a bona fide top 5 on talent.
I’ve been big on Western Australia’s key defender Aaron Naughton all year, and I firmly believe he should be the first tall off the board. With Fremantle now owning picks 2 and 5, they may be tempted to make a reach for the player that has been outplaying some of their listed players for Peel in the WAFL. An outstanding intercept defender, with elite agility and an impressive tank, he ticks plenty of boxes.
Who are the value picks?
Two ACL surgeries meant Aiden Bonar missed the majority of his junior footy, but some fine performances at the end of the year along with a superb combine performance give the impression he is well over those troubles. Despite rocketing up the ranks into first round contention there is no doubt the powerful forward/inside mid is still very undervalued on potential heading into the draft.
Another likely first rounder who seems to be sliding down the rankings is Morrish Medal winner Jack Higgins. A lot of pundits have him in the 10-20 range but he is another that could well be considered in the top 5. A natural footballer, the small forward/midfielder has the ability to win a game off his own back, and is so determined to be the best, that I wouldn’t want to bet against him becoming it.
Value could also be found in ex-basketballer Jack Petruccelle and ex-cricketer Nathan Murphy. Both have had limited exposure to footy, with Murphy only making the decision to focus on footy late in the year and Petruccelle making the switch in 2016. Murphy can play as a mid-sized forward or defender, and has been impressing more and more as the year has progressed, especially considering his scope for improvement. The super quick and agile winger Petruccelle has had an inconsistent year, but when he’s been ‘on’, he’s looked as good as anyone in this draft. Great overhead, incredible agility and quick hands.
Perhaps the biggest value of all will be this from year’s Western Australian cohort, who were given little fanfare heading into the season. After a string of stunning performances in the U18 Championships, the likes of Larke Medalist Oscar Allen and Brayden Ainsworth put themselves well in the recruiters’ eyes, and after eyecatching performances in the combines from Ben Miller, Kyron Hayden and Brandon Starcevich, they could well gatecrash Draft night – read more on the WA contingent here.
There are plenty of other potential rough diamonds in this year’s draft that could prove to be anything. We’ll be profiling and interviewing as many as we can over the next four weeks, and if you have any questions, hit up our team on twitter.