Each year following the Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts, there’s always the stories of those who are considered unlucky not to be on AFL lists. With less spots available on rookie lists this year, the number of hard luck stories increases as it becomes harder to get drafted.

With clubs focusing on older recruits, it means a lot of players coming out of the TAC Cup have missed out when they would have previously been given the opportunity.
But for many this isn’t the end of their football journeys, it’s only the start of something bigger.

Clubs are more likely to go through unconventional ways to recruit players than they once did. It used to be you were either drafted through the under-18 system or you missed out. The success stories of Michael Barlow and James Podsiadly, were the start of clubs really starting to look at older recruits.

In this year’s Rookie Draft, in which 40 players were picked, six players were picked from the VFL, only behind the TAC Cup competition for players selected.

For players that missed out, it’s a matter of trying to overlook the disappointment of not being drafted onto an AFL list.

The big story of this year’s draft was the failure of Dayle Garlett to be selected. On talent alone, the Western Australian youngster should have been a top 10 pick but he has been plagued by off-field issues. Essendon decided to give him a chance, allowing him to train with the club in the lead-up to the drafts, but he failed to impress and instead they picked Gippsland Power’s Will Hams.

Reports that Garlett still wasn’t able to curb his off-field behaviour in the lead-up to the Pre-Season Draft indicated that clubs had made the right decision in passing on him. Garlett now needs to think whether he really wants to be an AFL footballer and prove everyone wrong.

Whether it’s in his home state in the WAFL or in the VFL, Garlett needs to stick his head down and let his footy do the talking. If he can do that, he would be certain to join an AFL list in 12 months time.

Garlett wasn’t the only under-18 player to miss out on being selected and left with a decision to make. Some players will give up on their dream and return to their local clubs, but others will continue the push to play AFL.

Many will play senior football in their state leagues with the VFL, WAFL and SANFL the popular choices. Shannon Taylor, another highly-rated youngster to miss out, has committed to playing in the WAFL in a bid to improve his fitness and his chances of getting drafted next year.

This will give many a chance to play senior football at the level below AFL with many playing against current AFL players week in week out.

Another option for those in Victoria is to return to their TAC Cup team and again play in the under-18 competition. Since 2007, clubs have been granted permission to select up to five 19-year-olds on their list. This gives a chance for those slow developers to continue learning the game and the best way to put their names before selectors.

Brent Prismall, Liam Jurrah, Matthew Bate and Josh Toy lead the names of former players to miss out. Prismall, who trained with Essendon, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs, lost out in the battle for the final spot on the Bulldogs’ list. In training with the Bulldogs, he turned his back on offers from Essendon and Port Adelaide.

But it may not be the end for Prismall as he leads the race to take on the player welfare manager role at the Bulldogs which was previously held by Brett Goodes, who beat him for the final spot on the Bulldogs list. This role may also see him play at Williamstown in the VFL.

Jurrah, who trained with Port Adelaide, was told before the Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts that the Power had decided not to take him. Instead, they offered him to play in its SANFL side, offered him a job and offered to assist him with his legal battles.

Toy also had a contact offered to him but the desire to return home was too much. While talented, concerns about heart problems and consistency with his game saw him miss out. He will have a number of VFL clubs wanting his signature.

While for many the disappointment of not being drafted is hard to take, they only need to look at the Rookie Draft to see it’s not over, with Brett Goodes the latest player to be given an opportunity when he would have thought it had past him.