After a busy trade period, the Lions entered the draft at pick 24, when Collingwood placed a bid on Brisbane academy graduate Blake Coleman (24), the younger brother of Keidean. He is a quick, small forward who will provide excitement. They chose the athletic Caulfield Grammar product Harry Sharp (43) then grabbed a project player as a ruckman in South Australian Henry Smith (48) who has been compared to No.1 ruckman Oscar McInerney.
Another club that did most of its work in the trade period but used its first selection on a small forward, Corey Durdin (37). From South Australia, he is tough over the ball and won the Kevin Sheehan Medal in 2018 for his performance in the under-16s national carnival. Seen to have gained a steal when they nabbed Jack Carroll (41). With the Western Australian yet to turn 18 he will need time but he has class and is a good decision-maker.
The Magpies rebounded from a controversial trade period, entering the draft with a bid on Port Adelaide NGA player Lachie Jones then nabbing quality midfielders Ollie Henry (17), brother of Geelong’s Jack, and Finlay Macrae (19), brother of the Western Bulldogs’ Jackson. They then match a bid for their academy graduate Reef McInnes (23), with the tall, hyped midfielder attracting a bid from the Giants. The Magpies were working hard to position themselves, making five of the first eight pick swaps for the night to select tall midfielder Caleb Poulter (30) and key forward Liam McMahon (31) after trading their future first to the Giants for two top-20 picks. They then surprised, picking South Australian smokey and rugged midfielder Beau McCreery (44). Their pick swaps gained them future picks to use on father-son prospect Nick Daicos.
With picks eight, nine and 10 Essendon chose two 202-centimetre talls in Nik Cox (8) and Zach Reid (10) and a creative midfielder in Archie Perkins (9) in a draft they hope will lay a foundation for their next premiership. In Cox and Reid they have mobile talls who can play at either end, eradicating their key position gap in one draft, while Perkins is a big-bodied midfielder with skill. They then matched Richmond’s bid on versatile tall Josh Eyre (39) and the Bulldogs’ bid on lockdown defender Cody Brand (53) to grab the NGA graduates, having also placed a bid on new Tiger Maurice Rioli jnr.
The Dockers chose four Western Australians beginning with Heath Chapman (14), a rebounding defender who will slot in nicely next to last year’s top-10 pick Hayden Young. They then did a pick swap with Collingwood to move to pick 27 where they selected tough midfielder Nathan O’Driscoll (27) to join his sister Emma, who is on the Dockers’ AFLW list, at the club. The Dockers finalised their night matching bids for NGA graduates in pacy defender Brandon Walker (50) and exciting mid-forward Joel Western (54).
After landing key forward Jeremy Cameron in the trade period, the Cats traded their way back into pick 20 to secure a genuine speedster in Max Holmes (20). The Melbourne Grammar student won the Australian under-18s 400 metres hurdles but has not played much football due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year and a broken arm in 2019. The Cats placed a bid on Sydney academy player Errol Gulden at pick 32 before selecting project ruckman Shannon Neale (33) and running defender from Geelong Grammar Nicholas Stevens (47).
Spent their one pick wisely, on Elijah Hollands (7). Touted as a No.1 pick at one stage in his junior career, he has overcome an ACL injury to join the Suns, who also added highly rated academy graduates Alex Davies from Queensland and Joel Jeffrey from Northern Territory, both midfielders, without having to use a draft pick under AFL concessions.
Greater Western Sydney
Grabbed the talented Tanner Bruhn (12) who grew up in Geelong and starred in the under-16 championships before hurting his knee, meaning he hasn’t played for two seasons. But he has skill and the Cats were impressed with him when he trained with them in the pre-season. Conor Stone (15) is versatile enough to play at either end of the ground. They grabbed left-footed defender Ryan Angwin (18) then traded in Collingwood’s future first-round pick for picks in the 20s before finishing their night drafting intercept defender Cameron Fleeton (58) from Geelong’s St Joseph’s College.
Draft night has not traditionally been a major feature of the Hawks’ calendar but they had a big night this time around and it looks to have been pretty successful. Denver Grainger-Barras (6) is a ready-made tall defender who could well have gone a couple of picks earlier and will help bolster a backline that has lost James Frawley and Ben Stratton and will be without James Sicily. Hawthorn managed to snare speedster Seamus Mitchell (29) before North Melbourne’s bid on wingman Connor Downie (35), an academy player with plenty of leadership capacity. The Hawks then plucked WA goalsneak Tyler Brockman (46) late from West Coast’s grasp.
The Demons had a couple of late first-round selections and look to have used them wisely. Melbourne certainly went small early, taking the 175-centimetre Jake Bowey (21) and 179-centimetre Bailey Laurie (22). Both are creative and could help the Dees immediately. The rangy Fraser Rosman (34) is a left-footer who could help with Melbourne’s lack of outside run after they missed out on Isaac Smith, a player to whom Rosman has been likened. The Dees had been linked to a bid on Gulden but that didn’t eventuate.
The Kangaroos had a host of list spots to fill so it was always going to be a pretty big night for them. While their key position stocks are questionable, they took a midfield-heavy approach with their early picks. Will Phillips (3) looks as safe a bet as any player in the draft while South Australian onballer Tom Powell (13) is ready-made and impressed plenty this year. Geelong product Charlie Lazzarro (36) helps in that midfield bracket too, while the Roos also pounced on South Australian small forward Phoenix Spicer (42) and medium forward Eddie Ford (56) from the Western Jets.
It was never likely to be a huge night for Port Adelaide, who entered this draft with a settled list on the back of a strong campaign. The Power were hoping a bid for defender Lachie Jones (16) would come as late as possible and the fact it took until Collingwood’s first selection was a good result for the Power and list chief Jason Cripps. Jones is a sturdy backman who can have an immediate impact at AFL level. The Power’s next involvement didn’t come until late in the piece, and they boosted their young tall forward stocks by taking raw Geelong Grammar product Ollie Lord (49), the grandson of Brownlowmedallist Alastair Lord.
When you’ve won three of the last four premierships, you shouldn’t be overly involved in the draft, and so it proved for the Tigers. As repeatedly flagged, Richmond had been open to trading away their first pick and did so in a deal which gained them a future first-rounder from Geelong. The Tigers continued their recent trend of looking to Queensland for recruits, choosing ruckman Samson Ryan (40). The piece de resistance though was father-son selection Maurice Rioli jnr (51) who followed his famous late father to Punt Road after the Tigers matched a bid from Essendon. The Tigers had earlier forced the Dons’ hand on Eyre.
The Saints were another club for whom this never loomed as an enormous night following their recent trade and free agency sprees. Having taken Shaun McKernan and James Frawley as key position depth at either end, St Kilda continued the tall theme by selecting Matt Allison (26) from the Calder Cannons. He looms as a player who can provide support long-term to Max King. The Saints haven’t been afraid to take untried mature-age talent in recent years and continued that run by selecting 22-year-old Tom Highmore (45), a tall defender who was once part of the Giants’ academy but has thrived with South Adelaide in the SANFL.
After a couple of disappointing seasons, this loomed as an important draft for the Swans, and at this stage it looks like a good night out. Adelaide’s decision to opt for Riley Thilthorpe meant Logan McDonald (4) was available for Sydney and the West Australian could be a pillar of the Swans’ forward line for years to come. Hawthorn, as flagged, bid early on Braeden Campbell (5), a classy forward/midfielder. There had been concerns that the Swans might need to let Errol Gulden (32) slide but a bid for him didn’t come until well into the second round, allowing the Swans to snap up the diminutive playmaker and complete a strong night’s work.
The Eagles had been open to trying to get into the draft earlier but in the end had to wait until late in the piece to make their entrance. When they did it came with a bit of a splash, with West Coast pouncing on South Australian medium defender Luke Edwards (52), the son of former Crows star Tyson Edwards, whom Adelaide decided to overlook as a father-son player. The Eagles then nabbed local small Isiah Winder (57), potentially helping fill the small forward holes left by the uncertain futures of Willie Rioli and Dan Venables.
This was a landmark night for the Bulldogs, who should be laughing all the way to the bank after nabbing Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (1) following Adelaide’s historic bid with the draft’s opening salvo. History could view this selection as one of the great steals given that next generation academy concessions will be stripped back from next year, denying clubs the chance to take talents such as the star Indigenous forward so early. The Bulldogs then waited until deep in the draft, keeping Essendon and Fremantle honest with bids on Cody Brand and Joel Western respectively before picking the versatile Dominic Bedendo (55).
Daniel is an Age sports reporter
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.