With the trade period behind them, AFL clubs have now turned their attention to this year’s national draft – and some will be utilising it more than others.
In the coming weeks, clubs will have two windows — November 3 to November 9 then November 11 to November 15 – to sign players as delisted free agents. However, between three and six players over the past six years have only been signed as delisted free agents, indicating how important November’s national draft — which will be held across two nights on Wednesday November 24 and Wednesday November 25 — will be this season.
While clubs must use at least three picks at this year’s national draft, some will be upgrading rookies to their senior list, which will help them form part of their count. Others, though, will throw lots at the draft.
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As reported by AFL Media on Tuesday, North Melbourne, Hawthorn, Richmond, St Kilda and Geelong could all use up to five picks at the draft, while Fremantle and Essendon are set to use four selections.
The Kangaroos’ high list turnover – eight players have been delisted so far and Robbie Tarrant has been traded to Richmond – is a clear indication they plan to attack the draft to continue their rebuild.
It’s a similar situation at the Hawks, who’ve delisted six players, while three retired – Shaun Burgoyne, Tom Scully and Jon Patton – and two moved to rival clubs during the exchange period: Jonathon Ceglar (trade, Geelong) and Tim O’Brien (free agent, Western Bulldogs).
Jason Horne-Francis is set to be taken with Pick 1. Picture: SANFLSource: Supplied
The Tigers, who’ve farewelled seven players since the end of their 2021 campaign, have a stacked draft hand, which was helped by a pick swap with Collingwood orchestrated this week. According to the draft value index, no club holds more points than Richmond ahead of November’s draft.
The Cats, who’ve had 10 players depart the club since their preliminary final loss, hold four second-round selections and a mid-third-round pick. Tyson Stengle will sign with the Cats as a delisted free agent, but they’ve still got ample room on their list they can fill.
After St Kilda’s natural first-round selection, it has three fourth-round picks that equate to 272 draft points. How many of those points it’ll be required to cough up to match a bid on two of its Next Generation Academy prospects remains to be seen.
Fremantle holds two top-10 picks and the highly sought-after first selection of the second round. It could then use one more selection to firm up its list, which has seen eight players leave since Round 23 but Will Brodie and Jordan Clark added during the trade period.
The Bombers, who’ve farewelled seven players since their elimination final loss, hold three selections across the first three rounds, but could add another to their arsenal either prior to, or on, draft night to make it four picks. They still have six list spots to fill.
With the help of Champion Data, these are the list needs of all seven clubs – and the young guns they can target at the draft to fill them.
Jesse Motlop of Western Australia. Picture: Mark BrakeSource: Getty Images
Draft picks (as of October 21): 1, 20, 42, 47, 72
The list needs they must address: The Roos will go for best available talent at Pick 1. Beyond that, there’s a need for an intercept defender and a small forward. North ranked 17th for intercept marks this year and conceded a score from 48 per cent of their opposition’s forward entries – ranked 18th. At the other end of the field, they scored from just 39 per cent of their entries – ranked 18th – while they kicked the second-fewest goals from general play and the fewest from snap shot attempts. In Nick Larkey, Callum Coleman-Jones and Cam Zurhaar, North is well stocked with key-position goalkicker options, but lacks a smaller type that can provide some spark inside 50.
The ideal draft prospects: Even though the Kangaroos have strong young on-ball stocks, there’s no way they’re letting Jason Horne-Francis slip to another club. The young midfielder had an outstanding 20-game SANFL season – including an epic preliminary final against Glenelg with 3.3 from 24 disposals and 11 clearances – to soar into Pick 1 contention. Horne-Francis has become so highly coveted that North Melbourne knocked back two mammoth rival-club offers from Adelaide then Richmond for its Pick 1. Roos coach David Noble told 3AW’s Sportsday this week would “love to consider him (Horne-Francis) I think at the top end of the draft”. As for intercept defenders, Central District’s Leek Alleer and Swan Districts’ Rhett Bazzo loom as second-round options, but Pick 20 might be too early. Could North select Claremont’s Jacob Van Rooyen, who starred at WAFL colts level as a forward but showed off his versatility by performing well at nationals level as a defender? As for small forwards, it’d be romantic to take a punt on a player like Jesse Motlop. He’s the son of former North Melbourne and Port Adelaide forward Daniel Motlop, but isn’t eligible under the father-son rule as Daniel didn’t register 100 games at either club. Motlop is instead tied to Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy – but the Dockers can’t match a bid on him inside the top 40 picks as he’s metro-based. An exciting, speedy skilful small forward with great goal nous and WAFL league experience, could Motlop get to the Roos after all? Forward-mid Sam Butler, the brother of premiership Tiger and Saints forward Dan Butler, would also be in the mix for the Roos.
Draft picks (as of October 21): 5, 21, 24, 59, 65
The list needs they must address: Midfielders. The Hawks ranked 15th for clearance differential and 17th for scoring from stoppages differential in 2021 – metrics that didn’t improve from 2020 where they ranked 17th in both categories. Ideally they’d like some classy movers to complement inside ball-winners James Worpel and Tom Mitchell. Hawthorn might also look for a small defender, considering they conceded the second-most goals to small forwards in 2021 and Shaun Burgoyne has now retired.
The ideal draft prospects: The good news is there’ll be ample top midfield prospects available at their first selection. In an ideal world, Sandringham’s Finn Callaghan slips through the cracks, but that seems highly unlikely considering many clubs picking before Hawthorn have been linked to him. Hard-working Northern Knights on-baller Josh Ward, who recorded the fastest 2km Strava time among Vic Metro and NSW/ACT prospects, would appeal to the Hawks after an excellent NAB League campaign that saw him average 30.2 disposals for the season, including hauls of 33-plus touches in his last three matches. GWV Rebel Ben Hobbs would also be strongly considered. Midfielders that could be available for the Hawks in the second round include South Adelaide’s Matthew Roberts, GWV Rebel Sam Butler, Calder’s Zac Taylor and Geelong Falcons best and fairest winner Mitch Knevitt. As for a smaller backman, Murray Bushrangers defender Tom Brown – the son of former Cat Paul Brown, but ineligible as a Geelong father-son pick – would be in the mix at either Pick 21 or 24. He’s physical one-on-one, but also exciting with ball in hand coming out of defence. Northern Knights’ Darcy Wilmot would also be an option, but is more of an attacking-minded defender.
Josh Ward is set to be taken in the top 10. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia
Draft picks (as of October 21): 7, 15, 26, 27, 28
The list needs they must address: Lots of picks to fill a few chasms. The most pressing is probably in the midfield, with the Tigers ranking 16th for contested possession differential and 18th for clearance differential in 2021. When you consider Shane Edwards, Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Kane Lambert will all be over 30 by Round 1 next season, on-ball stocks is clearly something that requires addressing. And even though they acquired Robbie Tarrant from the Roos, the Tigers lack some key defensive depth after losing David Astbury and Bachar Houli to retirement and delisting Ryan Garthwaite. The Tigers conceded a score from 44 per cent of their opposition’s entries this year – ranked 13th in the league.
The ideal draft prospects: If they want an on-baller early, gun inside midfielder Ben Hobbs, who averaged 29.2 disposals and 6.2 clearances from his five full NAB League games this year, would be an ideal pick-up but mightn’t last that long on the open draft board. Knights on-baller Josh Ward could be a chance to slip through to the Tigers’ first pick, while Subiaco’s Neil Erasmus would likely be available. Pick 15 is where the likes of Eastern Ranges’ Tyler Sonsie, Subiaco’s Matthew Johnson, Calder’s Josh Goater and South Adelaide duo Arlo Draper and Matthew Roberts would be in the mix. The Tigers then have three consecutive second-round picks to fill their list. Midfielders like Calder’s Zac Taylor, Falcon Mitchell Knevitt and Sandringham’s Blake Howes would be in the mix, while Swan Districts’ Rhett Bazzo or Central District’s Leek Alleer would be key defender options. Running half-backs to fill the Houli hole that might slip through include Sandringham Dragons’ Campbell Chesser, Northern Knights’ Darcy Wilmot and Murray Bushrangers’ Tom Brown.
Draft picks (as of October 21): 9, 62, 66, 67
The list needs they must address: Another club that’ll benefit from a midfield-heavy draft. While St Kilda was slightly better than mid-table for clearance differential this season, it was ranked last for clearance efficiency. The Saints are well stocked for rounded on-ballers, but they’re missing one with flair and class – a player that not only bursts away from stoppages, but also has polish. And following the departures of Jake Carlisle, Oscar Clavarino, James Frawley and Dylan Roberton, the Saints need a key defender, especially after conceding the second-most goals to key forwards in 2021.
The ideal draft prospects: What the Saints do with their first pick will be fascinating. If Josh Gibcus – the Jake Lever of this year’s draft as the quintessential modern-day defender at 195cm – is still on the board, he’d be hard to ignore. Otherwise, they’ll be looking for a classy on-baller, with Tyler Sonsie – a midfielder with a high footy IQ, strength at the contest and polish on the outside – sure to be in the mix. Subiaco’s Neil Erasmus, South Adelaide’s Arlo Draper and Murray’s Josh Rachele would bring great spark and an ability to push forward, while first-round bolter Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera is the definition of outside class but more of a wingman than midfielder. The Saints will ideally keep their first-round pick then be able to match bids outside the top 20 on two Next Generation Academy prospects in powerful on-baller Marcus Windhager and running midfielder Mitchito Owens.
Tyler Sonsie looms as a first-round prospect. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia
Draft picks (as of October 21): 22, 30, 32, 34, 50
The list needs they must address: The Cats may have an experienced list, but there’s a few holes to plug. A midfielder that specialises at stoppages for the long term would be handy, considering five of the Cats’ top six clearance winners this year were Patrick Dangerfield (31 years old), Joel Selwood (33), Cam Guthrie (29), Mitch Duncan (30) and Sam Menegola (29). The retirement of Lachie Henderson, departure of Nathan Kreuger to Collingwood and inability to land Daniel Talia has also left the Cats thin in the key defensive stocks, especially after they ranked 16th for intercept marks this year. The Cats could also do with a pressure forward – they ranked 14th in the all-important stat of forward-half intercepts this year – but that doesn’t seem as pressing a need as 2020 draftees Francis Evans and Max Holmes could fill that chasm.
The ideal draft prospects: There’s a slight chance South Adelaide midfielder Matthew Roberts, who played several SANFL league games this year, slips to Geelong’s first selection. But the pick could also line up with where Sam Butler sits on draft boards. A shrewd player with great strength at the contest, Butler — the brother of premiership Tiger and Saints forward Dan Butler — ranked first for contested possessions (9.2), tackles (4.8) and goals (0.8) among mid-forwards in the NAB League. Not only could he address the Cats’ pressure issue, he could also provide some grunt around stoppages. Midfielders that might be available later in the second round include Calder Cannons gun Zac Taylor, East Fremantle ball magnet Josh Browne, who won this year’s Jack Clarke Medal for WAFL colts best and fairest player, and East Fremantle’s Corey Warner. The romantic selection would be Mitch Knevitt, who won the Geelong Falcons’ best and fairest this year after averaging 24.3 touches. As for intercept defenders, Central District mature-age gun Leek Alleer and Swan Districts big man Rhett Bazzo would be around the mark.
Draft picks (as of October 21): 11, 51, 56
The list needs they must address: The Bombers are clearly after a key forward — they were among the bottom-ranked clubs for contested marks inside 50 this year. But the issue is this year’s draft isn’t loaded with tall goalkickers, with more options to be available in 12 months – both via the draft and free agency/trade. It might be more appropriate this year to select a big-bodied midfielder or a pressure forward, considering the Bombers had the worst hardball get differential in the league in 2021 and ranked 13th for forward 50 pressure.
The ideal draft prospects: If the Bombers want to address their key forward chasm at this year’s draft, arguably the best young gun available is East Perth’s Jye Amiss, who booted 51 goals in the WAFL colts this season. He also ranked second in the competition for contested marks (3.0) and first for marks inside 50 (3.5). If Amiss is off the board by Pick 11, the Bombers could look to two other WA-based prospects in Claremont’s Jacob Van Rooyen or East Fremantle’s Jack Williams, but that selection might be too early for those players. If they opt for a midfielder, Calder Cannons’ Josh Goater would have to be in the mix, especially after he played a VFL game for the Bombers where he kicked one goal. An athletic and powerful 190cm on-baller with explosiveness and clean hands, Goater is strong at the contest yet just as capable on the outside, highlighted by his strong finish to the NAB League season where he starred as an intercept defender. Neil Erasmus, Arlo Draper and Matthew Johnson could also be midfield options for the Bombers. Draper could also help address Essendon’s forward-of-centre pressure issue, too.
Bombers will be aggressive in draft | 00:52
Draft picks (as of October 21): 6, 8, 19, 61, 69
The list needs they must address: The Dockers have been looking to fill a key forward chasm for a while. Rory Lobb is still on the list, Matt Taberner has improved in recent years and rookie Josh Treacy has shown glimpses, but the Dockers really do need a strong key forward to help them take the next step. Freo was also one of the worst pressure teams in the comp this season, ranking 17th for overall pressure and 18th for forward 50 pressure. And when you consider the Dockers conceded the fourth-most points from turnovers and a score from 45 per cent of their opposition’s entries (ranked 16th) this year, maybe that defence still needs to be strengthened.
The ideal draft prospects: Dockers footy boss Peter Bell indicated his club would prioritise “best available” talent. At Pick 6, that’s likely to be a Victorian-based midfielder, such as GWV Rebel Ben Hobbs or Northern Knight Josh Ward, with Hobbs more of an inside ball-winner. Both averaged around 30 touches per NAB League game in 2021. But Subiaco’s Neil Erasmus, the second-highest ranked player in the WAFL colts this year according to Champion Data, will be hard to ignore at either Pick 6 or 8. There’s several key forwards available too – and some of the best ones are from WA. East Perth’s 195cm goalkicker Jye Amiss, who booted 51.14 from 13 home and away WAFL colts matches this year, would be in the mix at Picks 6 or 8. Or the Dockers could use their second-round selections on Claremont’s Jacob Van Rooyen, who averaged nearly four goals per WAFL colts game, or versatile 196cm East Fremantle prospect Jack Williams, who kicked 40.24 in the WAFL colts but also played both as a key defender and pinch-hit ruckman throughout the season. The Dockers also have an interest in Murray Bushrangers forward Josh Rachele – a maximum impact player in that most of his disposals lead to scores for his team that can apply good forward pressure – but he could be gone before Pick 6.