The rookie list has recently been cut from six rookie selections to four, but with the AFL cracking down on list management and with clubs looking to cut spending and in return save money that could otherwise be spent on other parts of their football club, the success of the rookie list is about to take a whack.
In 2010, Collingwood set a record with a total of six players in its premiership side to have originally come off the club’s rookie list, seven rookies in total if you include Darren Jolly, demonstrating the worth and perks of the supplementary top-up system which is the rookie list.
Over 50 previously rookie-listed players have gone on to not only play over 100 league games, but also win premierships among an array of other individual honours.
Brett Kirk is regarded as a living legend of the Sydney Football Club and his rise to fame and stardom status is what makes him the most successful player to come off a rookie list, having been selected with pick 40 in the 1999 Rookie Draft. In his early days with the new look swans, Kirk struggled to cement his place in the senior line-up under Rodney Eade, who famously delisted him from the side not once but twice throughout his reign as coach of the Swans.
It wasn’t until when Paul Roos took over at the helm that Kirk’s playing career started to blossom. He quickly established himself as one of the most fearless yet lovable players in the AFL, and led the bloods to their famous drought-breaking premiership in 2005.
Kirk has a long list of team and individual honours, including captaining the Swans for four years, a club best and fairest award in the clubs premiership year, All-Australian honours and a AFLPA Robert Rose award for being the most courageous player, all whilst playing over 240 games for the Swans.
As a fearless and chief ball winner for the Western Bulldogs, Matthew Boyd’s captaincy has been vindicated with his supreme talent and hard work ethic both on and off the field. Originally selected as pick 23 in the 2002 Rookie Draft, Boyd didn’t take long to establish himself in the Bulldogs’ senior line-up and slotted in with ease during the 2003 season. He is a three-time Charles Sutton Medallist, an All-Australian and has currently played over 200 games with the Western Bulldogs.
Love him or hate him, Stephen Milne is one of the best small forwards to have ever played the game. Despite being small in stature, Milne is a prolific goal kicker for the Saints, and in 2012 become one of the top 50 all-time goal kickers in the league’s history having kicked over 500 goals for St Kilda throughout his 250 games for the Saints, all after being pick 23 in the 2000 Rookie Draft. Milne is also a dual All-Australian player and currently holds the record for the most goals kicked at Etihad Stadium which is over 300. Milne is only the fifth non-key position forward to have kicked over 500 goals in history.
It’s hard to argue that Mal Michael isn’t one of the best players ever to have started his career on a rookie list after a career spanning over 200 games with three separate clubs, one of which he is famous for. Originally drafted to Collingwood with pick 6 in the 1996 Rookie Draft, Michael was later traded to Brisbane after 61 games with the Magpies and went on to be a fearsome full-back in Leigh Matthews’ three-time premiership-winning team. After 140 games with the modern era’s greatest team, Michael was traded to Essendon where he played 37 games and eventually retired from football. It’s good to note that Mal Michael was the first ever player to be elevated off a rookie list in the AFL.
Dean Cox has been one of the most consistent and revered ruckmen in the league since his drafting. After originally being selected in the 2001 Rookie Draft at pick 28, there were worries that Cox was somewhat uncoordinated and struggled to adapt to the demands of senior football. Nonetheless, Cox has now gone on to be an astonishing six-time All-Australian player throughout his 250-game career with the Eagles thus far. In 2006, Cox was dominant in West Coast’s premiership-winning side and also has won West Coast’s best and fairest in 2008, as well as best clubmen in 2006.
As the tallest player currently in the league, Aaron Sandilands is an imposing figure to all, measuring at 211cms and considered to be one of the best ruckmen in the competition. Sandilands was originally drafted by Fremantle with pick 33 in the 2002 Rookie Draft. Despite playing predominately as a ruckman, a position he has dominated for nearly a decade, Sandilands has proven to be quite the goal kicker of the years. Sandilands has been named in the All-Australian side for three consecutive years from 2008-2010 and also took home the Doig Medal in 2009 for being Fremantle’s best and fairest player. He has currently played over 180 games for Fremantle since being elevated to the senior list at the end of 2002.
Darren Jolly is proof that ruckmen get better with age, having currently played over 200 career games which have seen him win two premierships, one each with Sydney and Collingwood. Originally drafted to Melbourne as an understudy to Jeff White, Jolly was traded to Sydney where he flourished and rose to prominence as one of the best agile ruckmen in the competition. Jolly was a key member in Sydney’s drought-breaking premiership in 2005, also playing in over 100 games. When traded to Collingwood at the end of 2009, Jolly become Collingwood’s number one ruckman and was a vital cog in Collingwood’s 2010 premiership side.
Although not everyone can fit in, some honourable mentions must be made to James McDonald, Mark Johnson, Nick Maxwell, Brad Sewell, Quinten Lynch, Michael Osborne, Jason Porplyzia, Dale Morris, Nathan Bock and Russell Robertson.
There’s plenty of hope for the footballers hoping to be draft in the upcoming Rookie Draft, as a number of players before them have gone on to forge incredible careers.