Hindsight is 20/20, but that’s what makes the AFL draft such a fascinating case study in analysing and predicting the development of young talent. This is the first instalment in a series that will take a look back at how drafts in the past ten years occurred and what impact they had on each team’s future. We will also take stock and re-evaluate what could have been a more accurate draft order based on the output of each player in the first round.
Cast your mind back eight years, it was 2007, Geelong were on top of the world after destroying Port Adelaide in that year’s grand final to the tune of 119 points. There was an aura of transition in the league, with the powerhouses that dominated much of the early 21st century beginning to wane both on and off the field. The draft was manipulated by a landmark trade as Chris Judd left West Coast at the height of his powers to join the cellar dwellers Carlton. This massive recruitment saw the Eagles land three picks in the top 20 as they look to develop their squad after a hugely successful period.
As Carlton entered the draft with the number one priority pick, they had a plethora of talent to choose from, with two main frontrunners in their sights. Trent Cotchin and Matthew Kreuzer were good friends who played together at the Northern Knights. It was a difficult decision for the Blues to make as both were superb athletes in their junior careers. Ultimately it was the big ruckman Kreuzer who was chosen first as Richmond quickly swooped in to grab Cotchin at pick two, an excellent investment as he is currently their fearless captain.
West Coast utilised pick three which they received from Carlton on East Fremantle midfielder Chris Masten while also recruiting Brad Ebert and Tony Notte with the other two selections in the top 20. Other notable draftees in the early stages included the future rising star winner Rhys Palmer going to Fremantle, key forward Lachlan Henderson to Brisbane and current Adelaide champion Patrick Dangerfield snapped up at pick 10.
The biggest bargain in 2007 was Hawthorn’s ability to select livewire forward Cyril Rioli at pick 12. His impact on the Hawks, particularly come finals time, has been outstanding and the fact 11 teams overlooked the speed demon is unbelievable.
As the draft exited the first round, the talent pool became quite thin. There were some absolute steals however, most notably Chris Mayne and Jack Steven going picks 40 and 42 respectively. Overall it was a draft that disappointed the further you went down, but with a pick in the first round you had a very good chance of selecting some genuine A-grade talent.
In terms of adjusting the draft eight years later, it’s mainly about swapping some of the early picks around, with some obvious mistakes made by teams like the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and Sydney with their choices. The changes were based on output since being drafted and their value to their team.
The biggest bolters included Callan Ward going from pick 19 in the original draft to pick four in my revision and the Crows tandem in Dangerfield and Walker moving up into the top seven. Adelaide captain Walker was a NSW scholarship player, but if opposition clubs knew what he would become it may have been a different story. A pair of elite key defenders move into the first round with Alex Rance and Cale Hooker moving up quite dramatically. When it comes to sliders, average to poor players like Jarrad Grant, Cale Morton and Patrick Veszpremi all exit the first round and would probably struggle to crack the top 40 drafted in hindsight. One dramatic slide that has forces beyond its control is the movement of Matthew Kreuzer down to the eighth choice. The versatile ruckman has struggled with serious injuries in the past few years which has hampered his ability to repay the Blues for their tremendous investment.
2007 AFL draft: First round in retrospect
1. Trent Cotchin
2. Patrick Dangerfield
3. Harry Taylor
4. Callan Ward
5. Cyril Rioli
6. Alex Rance
7. Taylor Walker
8. Matthew Kreuzer
9. Brad Ebert
10. Cale Hooker
11. Chris Masten
12. Scott Selwood
13. Chris Mayne
14. Rhys Palmer
15. Lachie Henderson
16. Jack Steven
17. Ben McEvoy
18, Levi Greenwood