There is no greater joy for a child to wake up on Christmas morning, and discover a plethora of gifts just waiting to be opened. Naturally the child will go to the biggest and brightest present on offer, and will want to open it first.

Just imagine their disappointment, when they discover that the giant box contains not the best gift of all, but rather an incorrectly-labelled washing basket intended instead for their mother.

This is the feeling Melbourne must have now with their drafting, and subsequent jettisoning, of the precocious talent that was Cale Morton.

Cale played his junior football in Western Australia and was a talented, versatile player at the underage level at the Dalkeith Junior Football Club before moving up in grade to Claremont in the WAFL.

As a 17-year-old, Morton even managed to break into the senior team, booting three goals in his only appearance before being selected to represent Western Australia in the 2007 Under-18 National Championships.

It was at this time his talent and potential really shone through, as his impressive form was rewarded with the Larke Medal for the best player in Division One at these Championships.

Based on these performances, and his impressive reputation, Melbourne used its first selection in the 2007 National Draft to claim Morton with the gilt-edged pick 4.

Morton’s debut season in 2008 with the Demons was certainly impressive as he played 19 matches, collected four Brownlow votes and even was rewarded with a Rising Star nomination in Round 20 for his performance against the West Coast Eagles, collecting an impressive 30 disposals.

In 2009, his second season, Morton’s progression at AFL level continued as he impressed in a struggling Demons side, averaging 22.7 disposals and playing 21 out of a possible 22 games.

His ball skills and accumulation of the football were increasingly present as he enjoyed three matches where he attracted more than 30 possessions, including a career-high total of 37 against the Bulldogs in Round 8.

However, the 2010 season for Morton was one that was delayed and hampered by injury, but he still managed to average a handy 20.9 disposals in his 10 games as the Demons moved from the bottom of the ladder, recording eight wins and a draw.

Sadly for him and the Demons, Morton’s disposal numbers and his form have deteriorated in the last two seasons, at a time where most observers and the club expected him to progress to the next level in his development.

In his 23 games over the course of 2011 and 2012, Morton failed to record more than 22 disposals in a game, a direct contrast to his first three seasons in the AFL where he managed this feat 18 times in his first 50 matches.
As a consequence, his disposal average in this period has fallen to just 16.2 per game, as well as kicking a measly seven goals, compared to his figured between 2008 and 2010 where he managed a total of 26 goals and averaged 20.7 disposals per game.

Specifically, Cale Morton’s 2012 season for the Demons barely got out of second gear as he managed just nine senior appearances averaging just 16.4 disposals per game, including just one senior berth in the second half of the season.

As he struggled to maintain form and consistency, the Melbourne selection committee decided to send him back to the VFL for an extended stint with the Casey Scorpions where he played in seven games, averaging 21 disposals and regained some much-needed confidence and form.

He was rewarded with a senior recall for the Round 19 match against Gold Coast. However, during the Demons’ win over the Suns which would be his last game with Melbourne, a shoulder injury suffered in the encounter prematurely ended Morton’s season.

Now, at the conclusion of the AFL trade period, Cale Morton has been traded back home to Perth where he will join the West Coast Eagles for the princely return of pick 88 in the upcoming National Draft.

Given Morton’s tenure at the Demons yielded a grand total of 73 games in five seasons, and a drop of 84 places in the draft from his original selection of a number 4 pick to that of pick number 88, it would be a fair assessment to label him as an underachiever that has not performed up to his early potential.

The question now is whether the Eagles can get the best out of Cale Morton. His brother Mitch’s move from Richmond to the Sydney Swans yielded precious few senior matches in 2012, but ultimately saw him become a premiership player, booting two crucial goals in the premiership decider. If Cale can emulate what his brother has done, it will go a long way to reinvigorating his career.

This is what coach John Worsfold will be hoping for, as at the age of 23 entering the 2013 season, Morton still has time to emerge as a bona fide senior player. Along with fellow recruit Sharrod Wellingham, Morton can provide the Eagles with the much-needed depth they were lacking at times in 2012 when injury took its toll.

Whether this move back to Perth is enough for Cale to break into and make an impact at the Eagles remains to be seen. What appears certain is if he cannot produce his best football now, given the gift the Eagles have presented him with as a second chance at AFL level, then his time in 2013 will be mainly spent in the WAFL.

If he cannot rise to the challenge, and his AFL career peters out, then Cale Morton will be remembered as a player that wasted his opportunity and was one of the great draft blunders of all time.