As always, there are players that are selected in the National Draft both earlier and later than most expect them to go. In some cases, players that were on nobody’s radar end up on an AFL list while players that were expected to be selected have to chance their luck during the Rookie Draft.
Whatever the circumstances, there are always a few players whose drafting at a certain selection surprises everyone. Of the players selected, these few players would have surprised plenty of experts.
The biggest bolter in the 2012 National Draft was Jackson Thurlow, a medium-sized defender who was taken by Geelong at pick 16. Whilst The Age’s resident draft expert Emma Quayle had Thurlow being taken by the Cats in her Phantom Draft, it was widely predicted amongst other experts that he would be taken between picks 30 and 50.
In recent years, the Cats have shown themselves to be astute recruiters, rarely drafting a bad player. With a number of other good players still available at pick 16, it’s safe to assume that the Cats see Thurlow as a replacement for the ageing defenders in Joel Corey and Corey Enright.
Another surprising selection was Dean Towers, a 22-year-old midfielder from VFL club North Ballarat. Towers had a fantastic season in the VFL, being consistently amongst North Ballarat’s best players, though he was tipped to be a more speculative pick than the Swans’ first-round pick. However, Towers’ speed and hardness at the contest will nicely complement the Swans’ midfield brigade, and in a team that seems to have no gaping holes in its list, was probably the best choice available to the Swans at that selection.
Western Jets excitement machine Spencer White was also a surprise selection by St Kilda with pick 25. A tall forward with freakish ability, White has been likened to Hawks superstar Lance Franklin. Before the draft, some recruiters saw him as a definite first-round pick, but due to some concern over his ability to remain consistent and impact games, he was seen as a speculative pick and was billed to be drafted with a pick in the third or fouth rounds.
The biggest slider in the draft was unquestionably Gippsland Power forward Tim Membrey. Every draft expert had Membrey being taken as a late first-round or early second-round pick based on the form he displayed playing for the Power and Vic Country this year, where he kicked 54 goals for the season. The Swans have secured an absolute steal; as a second or third tall, Membrey will help take the pressure off young Swans spearhead Sam Reid and will give the reigning premiers another option for goal in 2013. He may just be the biggest winner of the draft if he manages to play in a premiership-winning team in his debut season.
Membrey’s Gippsland Power teammate and 2012 Morrish Medallist Nick Graham was another of the sliders of the draft. Widely tipped to be taken with a pick in the 20s or 30s, Graham slid out to Carlton’s pick 54. The Blues must have been surprised to find him there so late but will be happy to acquire his services. As a hard-nosed midfielder, Graham will add some grunt to the Blues’ on-ball brigade.
Rory Atkins was another tipped to go in the second round, with all reports linking him to Essendon at pick 34. Instead, the Bombers used 34 to recruit defender Jason Ashby, whilst Atkins slid all the way to Adelaide with their last live pick, pick 81. Atkins may have slid so far due to a perceived knock on his defensive running, and his lack of pace may have also counted against him. However, Adelaide will be thrilled to get him, as they perceive he will be an ideal replacement for the ageing forward Jason Porplyzia.
We won’t have a clear indication of whether they will live up to the expectation until a few years down the track but based on these players’ junior careers, these players all jump off the paper as either bolters or sliders.