This whole year I’ve said any side who has a pick in the mid to late teens is really going to have to make a tough call.
No clubs should want to trade down the order this year. But having said that, against my better judgement, the Bombers might have to do so to capitalise on this draft. At this stage, they have pick four, but they could slide out to pick five or six.
At the moment, the first handful of picks look like this:
1. Brisbane – Josh Schache
2. Gold Coast – Jacob Weitering
3. Carlton – Aaron Francis
4. Essendon – Darcy Parish
5. Melbourne – Rhys Mathieson
6. St Kilda – One of Kieran Collins, Harley Balic or Charlie Curnow
The Bombers desperately need a skilful outside midfielder. There’s three of those in the top 15 range: Darcy Parish, Darcy Tucker and Cal Ah Chee. Parish is the best of that lot, but not by as much as the pick gap suggests.
Carlton, Gold Coast and the Demons will greatly shake the top 10, depending on positioning.
The Blues are most invested in Weitering, and although Francis is similar in some ways, they could elect to go for Parish instead if they miss out on Weitering. If Gold Coast don’t get Weitering, who knows what they will do? Parish would be an ideal like-for-like replacement for Harley Bennell if he leaves. And as for the Demons, we’ve seen how creative they can be at the trade table.
The biggest issue for Essendon is, if Parish isn’t there at their pick, they are in trouble. Neither Mathieson or Balic are as classy as the Bombers would like, and Ah Chee and Tucker could still be around at pick 12-15.
They’ve got three options, all of which are extraordinarily risky.
The Bombers must consider putting pick four or five on the trade table and trying to get two picks between 10 and 18.
It’s going to be difficult, but it can be done. Now that future picks can be traded, the Bombers have some trade chips.
If that happens, there is a real chance they can land one of Ah Chee or Tucker as their outside distributors and get a key forward in Harry McKay, Sam Weideman or Ryan Burton.
Settle for best available
I’m a big fan of Mathieson, Balic and Francis. All will be excellent players and by no means poor picks.
Mathieson in particular would be a great get, as he’s got a fairly solid outside running game too. He’s in the Jordan Lewis mould, but his game is a bit more well-rounded than Lewis’ at the same age.
Go tall and hope for the best
This is potentially the most risky option of them all. There’s three tall forwards in the first round mix, aside from Schache.
Weideman is in that Travis Cloke kind of mould in terms of game style. He’s in the top three or four of this draft in terms of marking. He’s great on the lead, and overhead he’s incredible. However, his goal kicking, and kicking in general, isn’t too great. He’s probably the most proven of the trio at this stage, but pairing him with Joe Daniher might be a bad idea.
Burton is an interesting one. He was a definite top 10 pick before he broke his leg. He’s an excellent mark, fairly agile and a good kick for goal. The issue with Burton is he’s a bit undersized at 192 cm and obviously the injury is a concern. But we saw how well Troy Menzel and Jake Stringer went after breaking their leg, so he should be a good pick.
McKay is an intriguing prospect. He’s a 200 cm forward who has the speed and agility of a midfielder. He’s not the type to kick bags, but he’s got some great physical talents and he’s a very late bloomer. He’s born on the 24th of December, so he’ll be the youngest of the draft crop, alongside his twin Ben.
If they go tall early, they could potentially land Ryan Clarke, Wayne Milera or Luke Partington if they’re lucky at their second pick.