The jostling for draft position heading into the second night of the AFL draft is set to be a point of significant interest, with midfielder Matthew Johnson just one alluring prospect of many.
Johnson was one of the notable absentees from the first-round draft class on Wednesday night, with the WA prospect tipped by WAFC Talent Manager Adam Jones to go as high as Pick 5.
Fremantle currently has first access to Johnson – along with a stack of other talent – as holders of Pick 21, the first pick of night two and one that will be highly sought after.
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“I’m fascinated by the jockeying for position. Remember back to trade period when everyone was trying to get their hands on Fremantle’s Pick 21, because it’s the first pick of night two of the draft,” Fox Footy analyst David King said at the conclusion of Wednesday night’s proceedings.
“There’s half a dozen players on that list of next available players that we thought would go in the top 15 tonight. They’re still there.
“You can just imagine what Fremantle are thinking – ‘Do we just hold out? What do we get for that pick? Do we slide back half a dozen picks and get a future second rounder and is that worth more?’
“This will be a late night for these guys. Those next half a dozen picks are absolute bargains because of the bolters we saw tonight. We saw half a dozen bolters, we haven’t seen that before in the top 20 on night one of the draft.”
Johnson’s availability could tempt several clubs to lodge trade bids to the Dockers and for good reason; he surged into top-10 calculations after a brilliant finish to his 2021 campaign that saw him deemed best on ground in an AFL Grand Final day curtain-raiser.
His omission from the first round of the draft was of significant surprise to talent guru Mick Ablett.
“It certainly was (the biggest surprise),” he said on Fox Footy.
“I think back to Deven Robertson who was in a very, very similar position 12 months ago, he missed out on the first round and would’ve had a long and more than likely sleepless night. What it can do is build resilience.
“We saw Deven Robertson get called out with the first pick on the second day and it didn’t stop him playing for the Brisbane Lions early in the year. He had a fantastic year in a very, very good side.
“Matt Johnson will get his chance, there’s no doubt about that and at the end of the day, and it’s the same for the other boys, it’s a number. Once you’re on an AFL list, you’re every bit as much a chance of playing as the person who went Pick 1.”
Western Bulldogs legend Brad Johnson agreed, adding, “There’s no question Matt Johnson gets picked up. Unfortunately he’s the one sitting there tonight that didn’t get his name called out after all the excitement and the buildup. His name will get called out, he’ll get to work and away he’ll go, it’s totally forgotten about.”
BEST REMAINING PLAYERS (Fox Lab overall rank)
13. Matt Johnson (midfielder)
14. Josh Goater (midfielder)
16. Mitch Knevitt (midfielder)
17. Tyler Sonsie (mid-forward)
18. Sam Butler (mid-forward)
20. Zac Taylor (midfielder)
24. Josh Fahey (defender)
25. Mitch Owens (mid-forward)
26. Jesse Motlop (mid-forward)
27. Blake Howes (wing)