The best young, emerging talent found new AFL homes this week.
The two WA clubs, as well as Geelong, went “local”, while Hawthorn brought in a great balance of recruits and Richmond picked a key defender it could turn into a key forward.
Fox Footy draft experts Leigh Montagna, Kevin Sheehan and Mick Ablett help foxfooty.com.au run the rule over every AFL club’s 2021 draft haul.
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Selections: Josh Rachele (6), Jake Soligo (37), Zac Taylor (44)
Foxfooty.com.au says: Rachele looks set to bring some considerable spark to the Crows as a forward-midfielder hybrid and could be an x-factor for them heading into 2022 and beyond. There’s no reason why Rachele couldn’t make a play for Round 1 in this developing side. While Soligo registers at 179cm and 80kg, he looms as a gritty onballer who can help transfer the ball out of traffic to the likes of Rachele. Add to that the acquisition of Zac Taylor as a genuine slider at Pick 44 and the Crows made some savvy moves at the draft table, bolstering both their run and ability to move the ball by foot.
Selections: Darcy Wilmot (16), Kai Lohmann (20), James Tunstill (41)
Foxfooty.com.au says: It’s a steady list at the moment for the Lions, but they still managed to bring in three exciting prospects. The recruitment of Wilmot at Pick 16 (aside from offering up a golden reaction) seems like a move with the future of the half-back line in mind, while Lohmann becomes the latest Ballarat gun to head to the Lions, joining Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry. Rival clubs were big on Lohman, underlining the ripper the Lions could have on their hands as a damaging forward. Tunstill is another great pick up for Pick 41 as a player who can perform both on the inside and outside. He’ll have no shortage of talent to learn from in Dayne Zorko, Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons.
Selections: Jesse Motlop (27)
Foxfooty.com.au says: It was a quiet draft for the Blues with just the one pick (27), but Jesse Motlop could be more than enough to satiate fans judging by his highlights reel. The Blues were thin in the small forward brigade after the departure of Eddie Betts and Michael Gibbons, so they targeted Motlop — an evasive, smart, much-improved goalsneak that applies great pressure and has the potential to play AFL footy early in 2022. He also has the ability to push up the ground and play as a high half-forward. It was a quiet draft for the Blues, but they seem to have made their one pick count.
Selections: Nick Daicos (4), Arlo Draper (45), Cooper Murley (49), Harvey Harrison (52)
Foxfooty.com.au says: The sun rose and set with Daicos for the Pies heading into this draft, so to ‘only’ have to match a bid at Pick 4 was a great result considering many recruiters believe he was the best player in this year’s draft class. His footy smarts are brilliant, with the damage he can do only multiplied by the large amount of footy he wins. He looms as a genuine future AFL star and could even be tagged in his first season, perhaps coming onto the scene in as blistering a fashion as Sam Walsh has so far at Carlton. The Pies then stole two draft sliders on the second night in South Australian duo Draper and Murley. Draper is dangerous in the air and possesses line-breaking speed and agility, while AFL draft guru Kevin Sheehan said Draper had “some exciting attributes and mercurial type of ability”. Murley was a bargain pick-up for the Pies after a frustrating 2021 campaign that was hampered by ankle and collarbone injuries. An encouraging start to life under new head coach Craig McRae.
Selections: Ben Hobbs (13), Alastair Lord (49), Garrett McDonagh (50)
Foxfooty.com.au says: One of the sliders of the first round was Ben Hobbs and it was the Bombers who capitalised, picking the inside midfielder up with Pick 13. Still, while Adrian Dodoro insists the club always planned to take Hobbs before Josh Sinn, he would’ve been a bit annoyed the Power got to him first. The rebounding defender slot was filled by Lord in the third round, while the biggest left-field move from them came with Pick 50, selecting McDonagh who worked his way into draft contention through some admirable persistence in the VFL, now joining an AFL club seven years after his initial draft year.
Selections: Jye Amiss (8), Neil Erasmus (10), Matthew Johnson (21), Eric Benning (54)
Leigh Montagna says: “They’ll be absolutely stoked with four West Australians. Amiss, Erasmus and Johnson were ranked in people’s sort of top 10 to 12, so to walk away with three of them and to go with a group they’ve already got and built in recent years, they tick some areas off with midfield depth. Versatility they’ve got Johnson as an inside / outside player, Erasmus can be midfielder / forward, they get their key forward they can develop along with a young ruck.”
Kevin Sheehan says: “They’ve capitalised on the great form of kids in the under 19 level and to keep four of them is a pretty good hand.”
Mick Ablett says: “I think both West Australian clubs have had a fantastic couple of days. It’s really pleasing to see them invest in their own backyard.”
Selections: Toby Conway (24), Mitch Knevitt (25), James Willis (32), Flynn Kroeger (48), Cooper Whyte (64)
Kevin Sheehan says: “They went local with three of the boys. Probably the absolute diamond in the rough is Flynn Kroeger, the boy that only played a few games mid-year, looked to be a Vic Metro player early in the year but then got injured. It’s a great group, an athletic group and plenty of talent there.”
GOLD COAST SUNS
Selections: Mac Andrew (5), Charlie Constable (63)
Foxfooty.com.au says: The Giants beat them to Finn Callaghan, but the Suns would be more than satisfied with picking up Mac Andrew, who could genuinely be anything if he‘s able to fully realise his potential and phenomenal attributes. We saw how desperate the Suns became for ruck options once Jarrod Witts went down this year and Andrew, while taking time, could be the perfect tonic for a ruck / utility need the club has. Charlie Constable has all the makings of a player who could make Cats officials and fans bemoan letting him go for nothing, but it’s up to him to make that happen at the Suns. He’s not a straight swap for a player the calibre of Hugh Greenwood, but he has the capabilities to be if he can develop into the player he has promised to become at stages.
Selections: Finn Callaghan (3), Leek Aleer (15), Josh Fahey (42)
Leigh Montagna says: “Leek Aleer has got some upside, the potential on him is through the roof. Some of his highlights of his intercept marking are as good as you’ll see. The Giants will be happy with what they’ve done and being able to keep the home-grown talent in Fahey as well.”
Kevin Sheehan says: “That vertical leap was sensational from Aleer and that was how he stamped himself at the combine with a 107cm running vertical jump that we all talked about. Once the Giants set their minds on him it didn’t matter what pick it was going to be, they wanted a centre half back who’s going to be there for the long-term and so they upgraded and good on them.”
Selections: Josh Ward (7), Sam Butler (23), Connor Macdonald (26), Jai Serong (53)
Leigh Montagna says: “I think it’s a really nice balance. They’ve got their star midfielder in Ward, they’ve got that other sort of mid-forward in Sam Butler who has that explosiveness to get in and out of traffic, Connor MacDonald is your more old-fashioned big bodied accumulator and then they’ve speculated with an athletic sort of third tall forward at 193 centimetres in Serong who has got some upside. I think Mark McKenzie and the Hawks would be really pleased with what they’ve done.”
Kevin Sheehan says: “They talked about midfielders and wanting people to come through there, that’s a great group of three and Serong is a great investment for the future.”
Selections: Jacob Van Rooyen (19), Blake Howes (39), Taj Woewodin (65)
Foxfooty.com.au says: Melbourne continue to pile on the wins in 2021 – this time at the draft table. Jacob Van Rooyen has plenty of versatility about him, which perfectly suits a side that doesn‘t have any glaring positional needs. Working in the Dees’ favour is the fact they’ll be able to take their time with Van Rooyen to figure out where he’s best suited once he’s deployed at senior level. Blake Howes shocked a fair few given he went with Pick 39 after being linked to the club’s first-round pick and once again offers some real versatility to the Dees moving forward, likened to Jack Gunston. A lovely story to finish the night as the Dees picked Shane Woewodin’s son Taj, who had a terrific back-end to his 2021 campaign.
Selections: Jason Horne-Francis (1), Josh Goater (22), Paul Curtis (35), Miller Bergman (38), Jackson Archer (59)
Leigh Montagna says: “We know they’ve got the best kid in the country and he’s going to make an immediate impact. Then they were able to build around the periphery with Goater and Bergman, some of that outside sort of talent and athleticism that they needed to add. They’re pretty well off at the moment in that inside midfield brigade getting Greenwood and Horne-Francis, so they’re continuing to build nicely.”
Selections: Josh Sinn (12), Hugh Jackson (55), Dante Visentini (56), Jase Burgoyne (60)
Leigh Montagna says: “They got Joshua Sinn who they wanted and traded up for, he’s that running, dashing sort of half-back and winger who’s a beautiful user, think of Josh Kelly at the Giants. Then they’ve got some other speed with Jase Burgoyne who’s going to play on the wing and then ‘Two Metre Dante’ and of course Hugh Jackson who is probably outside but can play inside too and be a prolific ball winner.”
Selections: Josh Gibcus (9), Tom Brown (17), Tyler Sonsie (28), Sam Banks (29), Judson Clarke (30)
Leigh Montagna says: “There’s a little birdie saying maybe Richmond are flirting with Gibcus as a forward. We know they didn’t take a tall forward in this draft and we know Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt are closer to the end than the start of their careers and they’ve lost Coleman-Jones and Mabior Chol. Maybe keep an eye over the pre-season on whether Gibcus trains with the forwards. We know he can be an elite intercept defender if need be and can always go back in time, but they’ve got Noah Balta and while they’ve still got Grimes and a few others maybe they can experiment with him forward. Tom Brown is that intercepting defender and then the three midfielders that have all got a bit of different variety about them but they’re needed to replenish their midfield because of those ageing stars in Cotchin, Edwards and Lambert et cetera.”
Kevin Sheehan says: “I haven’t seen Gibcus forward but he’s a wonderful athlete and a coachable athlete. We’ve seen so much of that over time where we think they’re such and such but they change as they get into the professional era with the clubs.”
Selections: Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (11), Mitchito Owens (33), Marcus Windhager (47), Oscar Adams (51)
Foxfooty.com.au says: The Saints couldn’t have asked for much more having picked up a first-round jet, securing their top two NGA prospects and snaring a late bonus third-round pick to fill a list need. Wanganeen-Milera, who’s arguably the best kick in the draft pool, will give Brett Ratten’s side some genuine class on the outside and help them improve their efficiency from clearances. He’s the son of Terry Milera, who played 30 games for the Saints between 2012 and 2014. It was a cruisy night for the Saints as far as their Next Generation Academy was concerned, with later-than-expected bids on Owens — a much-improved 190cm prospect that’s a great threat at stoppages and developed strong overhead marking skills — and Windhager — a powerful, explosive midfielder that has the invaluable knack of making his disposals count. And after the departures of Jake Carlisle, Oscar Clavarino, James Frawley and Dylan Roberton, the Saints drafted a key defender in Adams at 198cm.
Selections: Angus Sheldrick (18), Matthew Roberts (34), Corey Warner (40), Lachlan Rankin (58)
Leigh Montagna says: “Angus Sheldrick is that hard, tough player with plenty of ability to win the football on the inside. He’s going to be the replacement for Josh Kennedy who has been so good and Luke Parker. He’s one who can go into that midfield and be that big bull in there. We know Matthew Roberts is that natural footballer who’s got some class with his left leg and can play in a number of positions – we thought he was more of an outside player but then Kinnear Beatson said he’s got that ability to play inside and outside as that sort of hybrid midfielder we know is the prototype of modern footballers.”
WEST COAST EAGLES
Selections: Campbell Chesser (14), Brady Hough (31), Rhett Bazzo (37), Jack Williams (57), Greg Clark (62)
Leigh Montagna says: “I look at it and I see them replacing the stars they’ve had. Chesser might be that replacement across half-back for a Shannon Hurn or Brad Sheppard. They’ve got some key forwards that can replace the star they’ve had for so long in Josh Kennedy, they’ve got an intercept marker in Rhett Bazzo that might be able to replace Jeremy McGovern as he gets on a bit and Greg Clark is one of the stories of the draft night, the 24-year-old who has been playing WAFL and now gets his opportunity at AFL level.”
Mick Ablett says: “Both (WA) clubs should be very happy with their draft hand, especially once the Eagles manage to get Chesser over from Victoria after Christmas, I’m sure he’ll slot in nicely.”
Selections: Sam Darcy (2), Arthur Jones (43), Luke Cleary (61)
Leigh Montagna says: “Obviosuly Sam Darcy is going to be an absolute beauty and how lucky they’ve been in the last couple of years with the father-son and academy picks. They got what they wanted. They don’t need much for their list at the moment, they’re in a pretty good spot, so anything they get is a bonus.”
Kevin Sheehan says: “It’s the talls and the smalls – the 178cm in Jones and the 205cm in Sam Darcy and Cleary at 190cm.”