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  • Writer's pictureWayne Phillips

AFL clubs secure the best talent in the country


The AFL first round draftees at Harbour Esplanade, Melbourne on 29 November

The AFL draft was completed Tuesday night with 59 players finding their way to an AFL club and nearly half of these came from regional areas. Flow FM country football specialist Wayne “Flowman” Phillips takes a look at the conundrums that the draft threw up.


Geelong Cats love affair with the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia

Since the early 1990’s Steven Wells has been the brains behind an era of successful recruiting unrivalled at any other AFL club. His ability to find the draft value from number 50 and beyond with players like Kimba’s Corey Enright (1999, 47) and Jesse Stringer from Central Eyre (2010, 61) are good examples. This year, Phoenix Foster from Wudinna / Central Eyre United was picked up by Geelong at pick 52 to validate the point. Interestingly, Phoenix is the nephew of Daniel Foster who played 17 games for Geelong in the early 2000’s.


Other Eyre Peninsula boys to be drafted by the Cats include Ben Jarvis who played one AFL game (drafted 2017, pick 48, Lincoln South), Jacob Kennerley (2018, pick 50, Cummins Ramblers) and Cam Taheny (2019, pick 50, Cleve /Eastern Ranges). Geelong has seen SA’s Eyre Peninsula as a good place to pick up a late draft bargains. Interestingly, they have liked other South Australian regional players like Grant Tanner (Jervois), Jordan Murdoch (Port MacDonnell), Brad Hartman (Murray Bridge Ramblers / Tailem Bend) and now Brisbane star Lincoln McCarthy from Bordertown.


Hawthorn a happy team of home recruits

Most AFL clubs scan the nation for the best talent with many players coming from interstate or the regions to join their first AFL club. In recent years - particularly with the COVID 2020 season and the playing and travelling arrangements that this elicited - along with the ‘player returning home syndrome’ as evidenced by Patrick Dangerfield, some club recruiters are opting for local talent in their draft picks. In the 2022 draft the Hawthorn Hawks, based out of South Eastern Melbourne's Waverley Park claimed all 5 of their picks from nearby Vic Under 18 teams. Not one of their picks was from distant Vic Country areas or interstate. Cam McKenzie (pick 7, Sandringham), Josh Weddle (pick 18, Oakleigh), Henry Hustwaite (pick 37, Dandenong), Jack O’Sullivan (pick 46, Oakleigh) and Baily McDonald (pick 51, Oakleigh). What is interesting is that Hawthorn’s Waverley Park training ground is a 10-minute drive from the young players' three origin clubs. The theory that they are ‘a happy team at Hawthorn’ could be in the recruiting of local players and avoiding recurrent travel away from family connection to play their football.


Essendon looking for Twin Success

Like Hawthorn, Essendon recruited 4 players from localised Vic Metro clubs including the Father and Son two for two offer in Alwyn and Jayden Davey, the twin brothers of Essendon goal sneak Alwyn Davey Senior. This would be the first father and son twins ever drafted in the AFL. Other twins drafted in recent memory are the now coaches the Scott twins Brad and Chris, Ben and Harry McKay (North and Carlton), Max and Ben King (Saints and Gold Coast), Melbourne's Febey brothers, Adam and Troy Selwood, the Kolodjashnij and Wakelin brothers also but again to different clubs.


Collingwood and Richmond draw recruits from far afield

If Hawthorn recruit the locals, the antithesis are Collingwood and Richmond. The mighty Magpies might only have made three picks, but these selections will be travelling a long way to join the club. From Claremont in Western Australia at pick 19 is Edward Allan while Glenelg and South Australian young ruckman Jakob Ryan is set to replace ruckman Brodie Grundy on the Collingwood list who also came from Adelaide from Sturt nearby to Glenelg. Ryan slipped to pick 28 so a bargain for the Woods. The third player joining the Black and White is Wangaratta’s Joe Richards who is a mature age selection.


Meanwhile Richmond recruited two West Australian players in Kaleb Smith at 49 and Steely Green at 55. Perhaps both traditional Victorian ‘super clubs’ believe their brands are big enough to ward off home sickness.


Brisbane ‘only interested if your Dad played for us’

Brisbane made just two selections at the 2022 draft. They were number 2 Will Ashcroft, whose dad Marcus was a Brisbane 3 time premiership player and Jasper Fletcher at position 12 whose dad played at the inaugural Brisbane Bears. Both were selected under Father and Son rules.


Country Travellers

The big movers in terms of distance will be Noah Long from Echuca in Victoria who was taken at pick 58 by the West Coast. Fremantle have landed South Australian Sturt player Tom Emmett at 41, while Gold Coast have recruited Gippsland star player Bailey Humphrey at pick number 6. Swan District lad Darcy Jones heads to GWS at pick 21. West Adelaide tall Harry Barnett who was expected to go in the top 20 dropped to 23 and was picked up by the West Coast.


A Little Town has an AFL draftee

North Melbourne picked Girgarre player Brayden George at pick 26. So where is Girgarre? With a population of 561, located near Shepparton and playing in the Kyabram District Football League, Brayden is not even changing colours as Girgarre are the local Kangaroos!


Other country places with an player recruited in this draft include Kyle Marshall who is joining Port Adelaide at pick 40 from the McLaren Eagles south of Adelaide, while Isaac Keeler pick 44, a ruckman from South Augusta (Port Augusta in SA’s North) heads to Saint Kilda. Add Wudinna player Phoenix Foster going to Geelong, Lachlan Cowan from Devonport in Tasmania going to Carlton, Caleb Mitchell from Yarrawonga (pick 40) heading to Sydney and Harry Rowston (pick 16) from Griffith finding a home at GWS after Sydney attempted a cross State heist! The number 8 pick from Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula near Geelong was Jye Clark and of course the number one pick Aaron Cadman heads to GWS from his home club Darley near Bacchus Marsh.


Who is the most successful State Junior Club ?

Geelong Falcons used to have the Under 18 footy factory but not any more. The Oakleigh Chargers in South Eastern Melbourne have 9 representatives selected by an AFL club in the draft. That’s nearly half their team. Strangely, the Chargers came 5th in the home and away season of NAB Cup Under 19’s and did not contest the final, which was won by Sandringham.


Country boys that missed out

A few of notable omissions at the draft selection table were Nick Madden from Osborne in the Hume Football League of NSW, Jaidon Magor from Myponga Sellicks in the SA Great Southern league and Jason Gilbee from Balranald in the NSW part of the Central Murray League. The next opportunity will be the Rookie Draft for recycled players and young guns having another shot at the big time.

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