Published by Ben Waterworth & Sarah Olle on foxsports.com.au
No club approached the annual national AFL draft under no pressure.
But every year, undoubtedly, some clubs are under more pressure than others to deliver on draft night and avoid any major slip-ups. And that’s particularly the case for five clubs this week.
From one to 18, we rank and assess every club in our AFL draft pressure gauge ladder.
1. GOLD COAST SUNS
Draft picks: 2, 3, 6, 24, 29, 80
A clear No. 1 — and probably daylight to the next. After losing an array of key players during the off-season — including co-captains Tom Lynch and Steven May — the Suns will enter 2019 with a new, start-from-scratch look and list. The glass half-full approach is they enter this week’s draft with arguably a better hand than any other AFL team. But if they don’t make the most of the array of early picks, the clamps will tighten — and they’re already very tight.
2. PORT ADELAIDE
Draft picks: 5, 10, 15, 85
The Power are heavily involved in the first round of the draft for the first time in six years. That predominantly came about after losing the likes of Chad Wingard and Jared Polec — two of their best players in 2018. With the Power in danger of missing their premiership, despite stocking up on established AFL players 12 months ago, it’s vital they nail their early selections this week, especially with so many top South Australian talent available.
3. GWS GIANTS
Draft picks: 9, 11, 19, 25, 52, 89
Perhaps this slightly harsh, considering the Giants have made the past three consecutive finals series. But when you look at the talent that walked out of the club last month — Dylan Shiel (Essendon), Rory Lobb (Fremantle), Tom Scully (Hawthorn) and Will Setterfield (Carlton) — it’s imperative the Giants make the most of the compensation they’ve been given. Though the Giants have proved in the past they have an excellent strike rate when it comes to first-round draft picks.
4. ST KILDA
Draft picks: 4, 36, 46, 67, 79
Unlike the three previous clubs discussed, the Saints don’t hold as much draft capital. But after an underwhelming and bitterly disappointing 2018 campaign with a list many thought could push finals, it’s important they nail their choice at Pick 4 — or whatever their first selection is, as there’s a chance that could change hands on draft night. They’ve been heavily linked to gun key forward Max King, but do they need another big man with Josh Bruce, Tim Membrey, Paddy McCartin and Josh Battle at the club? They do desperately need a star midfielder and Bailey Smith, who the Saints do like, could be the answer.
Draft picks: 8, 13, 16, 21, 73, 83
Like the Power, the Crows have an excellent hand and need a strong draft with so many local stars available. But the reason they’re not under the pump as Port is because it appears Adelaide’s 2018 campaign was almost an outlier and the club appears much closer to a flag than its arch-rival. The Crows also loom as a big player across both draft days, with ample speculation they could launch early bids on the likes Nick Blakey (Sydney), Tarryn Thomas (North Melbourne), Isaac Quaynor and Will Kelly (both Collingwood). They could spoil a few rival clubs’ draft plans.
Draft picks: 14, 31, 43, 65, 81
Prior to the trade period, the Dockers would’ve been higher up this list. But after landing Jesse Hogan, Rory Lobb and Travis Colyer last month, the clamps have loosened on Fremantle — albeit not much — ahead of this week’s draft. Still, the Dockers are well down the premiership window ladder as they’re in the midst of a rebuild — or a regeneration or replumb, whatever the coach feels like dubbing it on any given day. Gun WA prospect Ian Hill, the second cousin of Bradley and Stephen Hill, could be available at their first selection.
Draft picks: 12, 50, 51, 87
The Cats head into this week’s with just their fifth top-20 selection this decade — and three of the players they took with those picks (Billie Smedts, Darcy Lang and Jackson Thurlow) were traded to rival clubs. With one of the oldest core group of senior players in the competition, it’s vital the Cats continue to develop — even fast-track — their younger brigade, which will include the player they take with Pick 12 on Thursday night. They are well placed, however, to match a rival bid for
Draft picks: 1, 69, 71, 77
Really, the Blues deserve to be higher up this list, considering the 2018 campaign they just produced. But after Pick 1 — which they’ll use to secure a ready-made young gun — their next selection won’t be until Pick 69. Surely that’s too late for a club in Carlton’s position? Nonetheless, they’ve already done most of their off-season work at the trade table, while some of the young players they’ve drafted in recent years — Charlie Curnow, Paddy Dow, Harry McKay and Zac Fisher — are starting to show promising signs at the top level.
9. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Draft picks: 7, 27, 32, 45, 63, 75, 82
The Bulldogs have the opportunity to snare a genuine star with their first selection at the draft, Pick 7. It could be midfielder Bailey Smith or potentially versatile tall Ben King — both of whom look likely types. The club has another six darts to throw at the board and could land some gems with Pick 27 and Pick 32. While Luke Beveridge’s young side is on the improve there are still some concerns around the complexion of the Bulldogs’ forward line. Will the likes of Sam Sturt still be available in the second round?
10. SYDNEY SWANS
Draft picks: 26, 33, 38, 39, 40, 70, 88
The Swans have known for a while now that they’ll be using most of their later picks to match an early bid — likely in the top 10 — for top academy prospect Nick Blakey. And they won’t hesitate matching that bid, as Blakey is an emerging star at 194cm with the ability to play almost anywhere on a footy field. But with an ageing list and the likes of Dan Hannebery and Gary Rohan departing last month, Swans fans will be hoping their club’s recruiting can nail a gems — like they did with Luke Parker in 2010 — late in the draft.
11. BRISBANE LIONS
Draft picks: 18, 30, 35, 56, 78
For the first time in a very long time, less is at stake for the Lions at this year’s draft. The club has nailed its recent picks — including Cam Rayner, Eric Hipwood and Hugh McCluggage — and is destined to play finals in the next couple of years, if not 2019. Expect the Lions’ best Academy prospect, Connor McFadyen, to be snapped up. The club should match a bid for the talented teen.
Draft picks: 41, 44, 57, 59, 60, 93
The 2018 runners-up are well placed to launch another attack on a premiership in 2019. But they’ll still be a big feature at this week’s draft, mainly because they have two promising defenders in Isaac Quaynor and Will Kelly already attached to them. Quaynor, a Pies Next Generation Academy prospect, could attract a bid within the top 10, which the Pies will automatically match. However they could be faced with a conundrum around Kelly — the song of premiership Pie Craig Kelly — if a bid on him comes either in the first round or early in the second round. There’s a strong chance Collingwood might have to go into draft debt to accommodate both players.
13. NORTH MELBOURNE
Draft picks: 42, 47, 48, 49, 55, 58, 86
North fans already know their club’s targets for the upcoming draft: Tarryn Thomas (academy), Bailey Scott (father-son) and Joel Crocker (father-son). Thomas is one of the most exciting midfield prospects in the draft, while Scott looms as a beauty as a second-round pick. The Roos are well stocked to match those two early bids, while they’re hopeful Crocker will be their last pick in the draft. Following a productive trade period as well, North should be well placed to push for finals in 2019.
Draft picks: 53, 90
The Hawks may as well sit night one of the draft out, with the club’s first look at the draft coming as late as Pick 53. But with Alastair Clarkson securing Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide), Tom Scully (GWS) and to a lesser extent Jack Scrimshaw (Gold Coast) in the trade period, the club’s list management work is all but done for this year. Having said that, expect the Hawks to nail that first pick. James Worpel was selected with Pick 45 last year and went on to play 11 games in his debut AFL season.
Draft picks: 17, 37, 64, 68, 75, 92
The Tigers landed the biggest fish of the trade period when Tom Lynch announced his intention to move from the Gold Coast to Punt Road. And with Lynch four years Jack Riewoldt’s junior, the club has successfully found its heir apparent for the three-time Coleman Medal winner. Richmond did spend big, however, to land Lynch, resulting in a number of depth players — Anthony Miles, Reece Conca and Corey Ellis — going elsewhere. Damien Hardwick may be looking for another midfielder with the club’s first shot at the draft at Pick 17. Can they find another gem like Jack Higgins?
Draft picks: 34, 66, 84
In recruiting GWS star Dylan Shiel, Essendon arrested its biggest concern: midfield depth. The Bombers gave up two first-round picks in order to secure the 25-year-old — a big price, but one that was more than justified given Shiel is a bona fide ball winner. Consequently, John Worsfold’s side won’t feature until Friday’s section of the draft, with the club’s first selection coming at Pick 34. The Bombers also hold Pick 66 and Pick 84.
Draft picks: 23, 28, 54, 62, 91
The Demons’ list is arguably one of the strongest in the league, boasting a star studded midfield and strong pillars at both ends of the ground — even more so after landing Steven May. But Simon Goodwin’s side could still improve via some well thought out selections in the second-round. The Demons hold Pick 23 and Pick 28 and are well placed to find the next Bayley Fritsch and Charlie Spargo with those selections. Finding a forward could be a priority after Jesse Hogan departed to Fremantle.
18. WEST COAST EAGLES
Draft picks: 20, 22, 61, 72, 76, 94
Look, when you’ve just won the flag without two of your best players it’s pretty clear the list doesn’t need much tinkering. Yet it looks like West Coast could improve on its 2018 form, with the club poised to pluck more talent with Pick 20 and Pick 22. And if you look at the Eagles’ draft haul from last year the form line is strong. Premiership forward Liam Ryan was recruited with Pick 26. Talk about laughing!