The majority of the fallout from Essendon’s controversial drugs saga has been well documented by the media. However, what hasn’t been well covered is the impeding impact that it has on Esssendon’s prospective father/son selections.
As part of the accepted sanctions handed down by the AFL, the Bombers were stripped of access to all father/son eligible selections in 2013 and 2014. Many have cited this as unfair to the sons-of-guns who won’t have the same opportunity as their famously fathered peers to continue the legacy at their family club.
Todd Vander Harr, Callum Daniher, Daniel Thomson and Jydon Neagle were always likely to be overlooked in last year’s draft, for reasons inclusive of injury and inconsistency, which meant that the Bombers didn’t really feel the effects of the first of their two-year draft punishment.
But Jake Long, the son of 1993 Norm Smith medalist and dual premiership player Michael, is eligible in 2014. The highly anticipated youngster has been tracked by the football media and Essendon fans from as early as age 14, and now it appears that the waiting game supporters have been subjected to will end unhappily. Unlike the names listed above, you can believe the hype over Long, because he is a beauty. The carry on effect of the punishment into 2014 could now be heartbreaking for one of Essendon’s favourite sons.
At 190cms and just 72 kilograms, Long is a rangy midfielder, blessed with speed, poise and a strong marking ability akin to Scott Pendlebury. Although he still has work to do on his game, the upside is enormous, which is why 17 other clubs will be looking strongly at him. It’s sad when you consider that the only jumper he should be wearing is an Essendon one.
The issue here is that the Bombers can only bid their third-round selection for one of their father/son picks under the sanctions. As such, if another club offered up a second round pick for Long, they would gain exclusive rights to the talented midfielder, meaning the Bombers lose out. Conversely, the Bombers cannot bid for another club’s father/son, should a suitable player take their fancy.
In hindsight, the Bombers are lucky in a sense that none of the eligible father/son selections this year are worth a first round pick. There is no Joe Daniher on the horizon, but that isn’t to say that the young talent on offer for the Bombers’ can’t be developed, and won’t go on to play AFL football.
There is cause to argue that depending on how Long’s season pans out, he will be a suitable second round selection. However, he is not playing TAC Cup Football this year, which makes it harder for recruiters to keep closer tabs on him and assess his development in the country’s best Under 18 system.
Whilst he will feature for the Northern Territory in this year’s National Championships in May, the Northern Territory features in division two of the championships. How he matches up during the crossover rounds, where the division two sides play two sides from division one, will have a big influence on his draft stocks. Long will play for Scotch College in the prodigious APS system, but school football is not considered an accurate measure of a player’s stocks at draft time..
This means that, despite the controversy, the sparse exposure that other clubs will have to Long in his penultimate year of junior development could ultimately favour the Bombers and lead to Long slipping down the draft order.
Further good news is that there is a raft of baby Bombers approaching the 2015 National Draft, with names that would be some of the first cabs off the rank in the 1980’s honour list.
Harvey Daniher, the son of Chris, and Tom Wallis, the son of Dean, both feature on the Calder Cannons’ list in the TAC Cup in 2014. Daniher is 189 cm and 88 kg utility that has plenty of versatility, whilst Wallis is a slight 182 cm, 70 kg wingman who is a long, neat kick of the footy.
Jett Bewick, the son of Eastern Ranges TAC Cup coach Darren Bewick will be eligible next year, as will Matthew Neagle, the son of Merv.
All is not lost, but the fact that Essendon’s budding father/son prospects had to be impacted as part of a saga they had nothing to do with does not sit well with me.
You could rightfully argue that the Bombers deserve all they get for their controversial drug program. But is it right that the sons of yesteryears champions form part of the collateral? I don’t think so.