Whether through injuries, poor form or a lack of opportunity, several top first and second round draft picks did not live up to expectations. When thinking about the worst draft picks of the past 10 years, the obvious ones, such as Richard Tambling or Mitch Thorp immediately spring to mind. But who are the players who are not mentioned as much, when their numbers of AFL games clearly don’t live up to their top 20 pick in the draft? Let’s take a look.
1. John Meesen, ruckman, pick eight to Adelaide, 2004 National Draft
Meesen is lucky Richard Tambling was taken four picks before him to avoid most of the attention. Whilst Meesen had the potential to be a long-serving ruckman for Adelaide, he struggled to break into their side which already consisted of a trio of big men, namely Ben Hudson, Rhett Biglands and Matthew Clarke. It was thought Meesen would play as a back-up ruckman to Hudson in 2007, but an injury setback sent him down the pecking order once again. He had to wait until round 20, 2007 to make his long awaited debut, but was traded to Melbourne after the 2007 season having only played two games with Adelaide. With Melbourne, Meesen would only manage four games from two seasons, but was given one last roll of the dice as a mature-age rookie. Injury was his nemesis once again in 2010, and he finished his six-year career with just six games under his belt.
2. Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls, defender/midfielder, pick eight to Richmond, 2005 National Draft
The trend of a poor pick at eight continued in 2005 with Oakley-Nicholls struggling to live up to expectations. A career hampered with injuries, Oakley-Nicholls managed just 13 games in his four-year stint with the Tigers. He was given a lifeline in 2010 when he was rookie drafted by the Eagles, but a groin injury proved too much for him, eventually being delisted at the end of the 2011 season without adding a game.
3. Marcus Drum, defender, pick 10 to Fremantle, 2005 National Draft
Drum won Fremantle’s award for the best up-and-coming player in 2006, but injuries and poor form saw him in and out of the side over the next two years. He failed to impress when given time in the WAFL for Perth, and was traded to the Cats in 2009. Drum had three separate injuries in 2010, and consequently did not play a senior game for Geelong in 2010. During the middle of the 2011 season, Drum announced his retirement with a total of just 22 AFL games from six and a half seasons.
4. Scott Gumbleton, forward, pick two to Essendon, 2006 National Draft
While Gumbleton has been demoralised with injuries, it was hard to leave him out considering the names that were taken after him: Travis Boak, Joel Selwood and Jack Riewoldt, to name a few. Gumbleton had very high expectations as an imposing figure in the forward 50. However, he had an injury plagued 2007-2009 where he managed just five games, giving Essendon a lot to regret. While Gumbleton improved in 2010, he had more injury worries with broken ribs and a punctured lung. This continued in 2011 and he needed back surgery at the end of the season. He played minimal games in 2012 and 2013 having low impact, and was recruited by Fremantle in late 2013, where he is currently listed. Gumbleton has amassed 35 AFL games after seven years.
5. Chris Egan, forward, pick 10 to Collingwood, 2004 National Draft
Egan was a promising forward when he was drafted to the Magpies, but a total of just 25 games tells a disappointing career. He played more than half of the season in his debut year, but his downfall was 2007 and 2008, when he struggled to get a game in a strong Collingwood outfit. He was delisted at the end of the 2008 season which would be the last of his highly under-achieved three year stint at AFL level.
6. Beau Dowler, forward/defender, pick six to Hawthorn, 2005 National Draft
It may be a harsh call to have Dowler on this list, but at pick six he certainly was not the player Hawthorn were hoping for. He was involved in a car accident towards the end of 2005 and managed just two games in 2006 while recovering from a fractured pelvis. Since then, Dowler could not cement a place in the side with Lance Franklin often forcing him out of the team, and he could only manage 16 games in five years before being delisted at the completion of the 2010 season.
7. Adam Thompson, midfielder, pick 11 to Port Adelaide, 2004 National Draft
Thompson failed to live up to expectations as a first-round draft pick, playing a mild 32 games in his somewhat disappointing career. He was given some time to develop in the SANFL in his opening year. In 2006, it was his time to make sure he got a regular game, but he struggled to do so. When he just started to hit some good form he suffered a season-ending groin injury and it would go downhill from there. Thompson requested a trade at the end of 2008 due to a lack of opportunity. He landed with the Tigers, but could only manage four games with them and was subsequently delisted at the end of 2010.
8. Patrick Veszpremi, midfielder/forward, pick 11 to Sydney, 2007 National Draft
Veszpremi could be seen as a valuable small forward for the Swans. But in a strong Swans line-up, he had to wait until round 18 of 2008 to make his debut. For two seasons he was in and out of the side and whilst showing glimpses every now and then, he struggled for consistency at the top level. He was traded to the Western Bulldogs at the conclusion of 2010 but had a similar career there, failing to make a big impact. He was delisted prior to the 2014 season, playing just 23 games from six years at AFL level.
9. Darren Pfeiffer, midfielder, pick 17 to Adelaide, 2005 National Draft
Pfeiffer makes this list as he was definitely a wasted talent despite stringing some decent games together late in his career. But for a top 20 draft pick, his overall performance at AFL level was a disappointment. Pfeiffer had some injuries in his early days at Adelaide, but his main issue was his lack of application to the high demand the game brings. Consequently, he did not play one senior game for the Crows, but was given a second chance with Carlton in the 2008 pre-season draft. He underwent a shoulder reconstruction in 2009 which put a dint in his season. He only managed seven games for the Blues and was delisted at the end of the 2009 season. He spent some more time developing in the QAFL in 2010, then in the SANFL in 2011. He was given a third and final chance when he was rookie listed by Port Adelaide in 2012. He showed some good signs with the Power but was inconsistent and often struggled to use the ball well. He underwent another shoulder reconstruction in 2012 and at the end of the 2013 season he was delisted, having played 23 games over six seasons.
10. Danny Meyer, midfielder/defender, pick 12 to Richmond, 2004 National Draft
Meyer was rated highly when he was drafted to Richmond with their first-round pick, but he was another one who suffered with injuries and was never able to fulfil his potential. He took some time easing into his first two seasons at Richmond, before injuries hit hard. He required two separate hip surgeries for a very serious injury and was delisted at the end of the 2008 season. Port Adelaide realised if he could stay fit he could become a good player and snapped him up in the 2008 rookie draft. He struggled to develop and spent two years as a rookie listed player, before being elevated in 2011. He was starved of opportunities and announced his retirement at the end of that season, having played 26 games in his seven-year career.