Stars, smokeys and who your club should pick

The 2021 AFL draft is upon us, with the latest crop of the country’s best and brightest talents to begin their AFL journeys across two nights of picks.

Whether you support a team like Melbourne or the Western Bulldogs looking to add yet more talent to already excellent lists, or your heart lies with a North Melbourne or an Adelaide keen to restock for the future, nailing your picks is arguably the most crucial job for a club to nail.

Here is The Roar’s ultimate guide to which draftee is perfect for your team, as well as the late-draft smokeys who could well prove to be just as brilliant as the big names in the years to come.

>> Find out which picks your club is taking into the AFL draft

Adelaide Crows

Picks: 4, 33, 74, 76, 87

Best fit
The Crows’ list is shaping up nicely after a wooden spoon year in 2021, but their midfield remains a work in progress as captain Rory Sloane enters the twilight of his career. That’s why Ben Hobbs looms as the perfect fit at West Lakes.

A ball magnet and contested possession beast, Hobbs averaged 25 disposals a game in six NAB League matches, and was injured early in one of them. As a Vic Country product, the Crows might also see him as a safer long-term bet to stay at the club, having lost a few ‘city slickers’ such as Jake Lever back to Victoria in recent years.

He should still be available for the Crows’ pick, despite looming bids on Nick Daicos and Sam Darcy looking likely to push it from four down to six.

Backup plan
If not Hobbs, then the Crows may turn to a local product, and they don’t come much more exciting than Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera.

With X-factor to spare, elite speed and outstanding foot skills, the nephew of Brownlow Medallist Gavin Wanganeen could be absolutely anything at AFL level. However, if the Crows don’t go early on him, he almost certainly won’t be sliding to pick 33.

The smokey
With Taylor Walker’s return to the club following last year’s racism scandal uncertain, and with the key forward in the twilight of his career anyway, SA prospect Jordan Lukac could be an option for a late pick.

The 196cm forward finished third in the 20m sprint in SA’s draft combine, and booted five goals in a SANFL U18 preliminary final. Using a late pick on him would continue the Crows’ recent trend of gunning for home-grown talent, rather than risking bringing in players from interstate.

Brisbane Lions

Picks: 14, 18, 41

Best fit
If Josh Goater is still available at pick 14 – he’s been seen as a top-10 chance for much of the year – than the Lions should pounce. At 190cm, the inside midfielder uses his size to his advantage in the manner of a Marcus Bontempelli or Elliot Yeo, but some elite intercept stats from the NAB League could see him slot across a half-back line too.

With question marks over Lachie Neale’s long-term future at the Lions after considering a return to Perth, and Jarryd Lyons not getting any younger, Goater could form a formidable combination with the likes of Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry in the Brisbane engine room for years to come.

Backup plan
With two picks inside the top 20, the Lions could well opt to play it safe with one, and punt on a long-term option with another. That’s when Toby Conway becomes an option. The best pure ruckman in the draft, the 204cm Geelong Falcon is a promising overhead mark in addition to leading the NAB League for hitouts and clearances among his fellow big men.

With Oscar McInerney the only established ruckman on Brisbane’s list, bringing Conway in would go some way toward preventing needing to use the undersized Tom Fullarton as a backup, who was towelled up by Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy in Round 3.

The smokey
The Lions have reportedly shown plenty of interest in SA forward-midfielder Hugh Stagg, and with good reason. Five goals in two reserves appearances for Glenelg, along with 24 goals in the U18 competition, show he knows his way around the big sticks in addition to being solid in the guts.

With their last pick of the night at 41, though, there is bound to be a top-30 slider that the Lions might see as a safer bet than the enigmatic South Australian.

Carlton Blues

Picks: 25, 63, 78

Best fit
The Blues don’t have the option of adding to their five number one draft picks this year, with their first selection all the way down at 25 due to their trade for Adam Cerra. They’ll be after a slider, and Connor MacDonald fits the bill.

Having split his time between the NAB League and school commitments, just four games from MacDonald might leave other teams wary of using a top-20 pick on him; but averaging nearly 30 disposals a game, showing good goal nous and impressing with his leadership skills are all attributes the Blues badly need.

Backup plan
With Liam Jones retired and new recruit Lewis Young not exactly a like-for-like replacement, the Blues could do worse than shoring up their key defensive stocks with Rhett Bazzo. The Western Australian is an elite intercept marker, and showed a knack for stopping the opposition’s most dangerous forwards in the U18 Championships.

Booting an inaccurate 4.6 for Swan Districts across the first two rounds, Bazzo has some forward nous too, which could prove handy should more injuries strike Charlie Curnow.

The smokey
The Blues aren’t exactly in need of more tall options, but the romance of adding Josh Cripps to the list is undeniable. The younger brother of captain Patrick, the Western Australian tall was dominant in the WAFL Colts and impressed at WA’s combine with his agility, belying his 199cm frame.

Tom De Koning isn’t the finished article as a ruckman yet, and while Cripps the younger will undoubtedly need time, that pair could prove to be a lethal combination both in the ruck and up forward.

Collingwood Magpies

Picks: 36, 38, 40, 46, 48, 58

Best fit
It’s a foregone conclusion that Magpies’ father-son gun Nick Daicos will be wearing black and white in 2022.

Silkily skilled, superb around goal and with an elite engine already, Daicos has already been tied to the Pies on a four-year deal, and might be the most famous yet-to-be draftee in AFL history. The hype around the 18-year old, not just from Collingwood fans, has been intense.

There’s every chance the Magpies will need to match a bid on Daicos with the very first pick of the night, as North Melbourne weighs up whether to make their rivals pay full price, or cut out the middle man and get straight to Jason Horne-Francis.

Either way, the son of Peter will be wearing his old man’s famous number 35 next year.

Will Bravo of the Dandenong Stingrays, Josh Sinn of the Sandringham Dragons, Nick Daicos of the Oakleigh Chargers and Zavier Maher of the Murray Bushrangers.

Will Bravo of the Dandenong Stingrays, Josh Sinn of the Sandringham Dragons, Nick Daicos of the Oakleigh Chargers and Zavier Maher of the Murray Bushrangers.. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Backup plan
After they do the formalities with Daicos, the Pies will likely still have a pick or two in their arsenal to fortify their list. They could do worse with one of them than go for the dynamic Paul Curtis.

A goalsneak who is strong overhead, the Keilor product averaged two goals a game in the NAB League earlier this year, and would perfectly suit a team that often struggles to put on a winning score. With Jordan De Goey’s future still uncertain, Curtis wouldn’t be a like-for-like replacement, but he’d go some way towards filling the whole should the Pies decide to cut ties with their perpetually troublesome game-breaker.

The smokey
Mobile tall Anthony Caminiti is as raw as they come, but a five-goal haul on his NAB League debut for Northern Knights was a sign of his undoubted talent.

The Pies’ key forward stocks are concerningly thin, with 28-year old Brody Mihocek, 30-year old Mason Cox and the still developing Will Kelly about all they can call on. Spending a late or even rookie pick on Caminiti could be a sound option for a side with a history of finding diamonds in the rough.

Essendon Bombers

Picks: 11, 51, 56, 83, 88, 91

Best fit
While in a similar mould to speedy Bombers half-back Nick Hind, the Bombers have had their eyes on Josh Sinn for a while. Boasting electric pace, Sinn spent most of his NAB League campaign for Sandringham in defence, but could well make the leap to a full-time midfield role given time.

The Bombers certainly don’t lack for game-breaking pace, but Sinn looms as one of the most interesting picks in the draft. Will teams be scared away by his lack of big ball-winning numbers at junior level, or embrace the upside?

Backup plan
Another half-back in Alastair Lord could well be on the cards for the Bombers with their twin picks in the 50s. While he’s far from a certainty to fall that far down the order, Lord, like Sinn, boasts elite leg speed of the half-back line, and is regarded as an excellent kick.

The Bombers’ foot skills let them down badly in their elimination final defeat to the Western Bulldogs; Lord could go some way towards fixing that.

The smokey
While not nominated as a father-son selection, Tex Wanganeen, son of club great Gavin, will train with the Bombers over summer. He’s unlikely to be taken by the Bombers on draft night, but if he slides through, he’s well placed to be put on the club’s supplementary list… if the Dons choose to give him a chance.

Essendon have a proud history of procuring and developing Indigenous talent, and there is likely no better home for Wanganeen than at Windy Hill.

Fremantle Dockers

Picks: 6, 8, 19, 60, 68, 80

Best fit
After Sam Darcy, the best tall in the draft crop just happens to be Western Australian, ideal for the Dockers. Jye Amiss dominated the WAFL Colts competition, booting 51 goals in 15 matches and providing a dead-eye in front of goals.

Both those attributes would be supremely handy for Freo, the most inaccurate team in the AFL for 2021. With Matt Taberner and Josh Treacy their chosen key forward pairing for much of the season, Amiss is well and truly worth the investment for what he can produce in the years to come.

Backup plan
Big-bodied local product Matt Johnson has been on the Dockers’ radar for a while, and for good reason. Boasting elite pace and with an outstanding vertical leap, the Western Australian was best afield in the AFL grand final curtain-raser.

With two picks currently in the top 10, the Dockers will likely be able to select both Johnson and Amiss, an ideal scenario for a team on the rise.

The smokey
Continuing the trend of local talent, mature-aged midfielder Greg Clark has all the tools to make an immediate impact at AFL level, just as Michael Barlow did for the Dockers back in 2010.

Winning the Simpson Medal for best afield in the WAFL grand final, the 24-year old oozes leadership qualities (he was WA’s U18 captain in 2015), but didn’t nominate for the 2021 mid-season rookie draft due to a perceived lack of interest from AFL clubs.

There is plenty of recent history that suggests undiscovered, mature-age WAFL talent can blossom into stardom (hello, Tim Kelly), and with the Dockers needing a ready-made midfielder with Adam Cerra gone and Nat Fyfe’s shoulder in danger of cutting short his glittering career, Clark fits the bill perfectly.

Greg Clark of Subiaco.

Greg Clark of Subiaco looks to handball. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Geelong Cats

Picks: 22, 30, 32, 34, 50

Best fit
The Cats need young talent and they need it fast, boasting the oldest list in the AFL in 2021; and local lad Mitch Knevitt could be just the ticket to provide it.

An inside midfielder by trade, the Geelong Falcon tore up the 20m sprint at the draft combine with a time of 2.976 seconds, while he also showed strong overhead marking ability in stints up forward at junior level.

Averaging over 30 disposals a game in his final three NAB League matches, Knevitt could be a long-term replacement for the likes of Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield in the Cats’ battle-hardened midfield.

Backup plan
A terrific end to the NAB League has seen Zac Taylor shoot up the draft rankings to be a bolter for the first round; should he slide into the second round, the Cats should closely consider the ball-winning midfielder.

Taylor averaged 34 disposals for Calder Cannons in his final three games of the junior competition, and is regarded as an elite kick inside 50; the Cats’ high emphasis on retaining possession makes him a great fit.

The smokey
The Cats sorely missed star Tom Stewart in their backline through the finals, while Zach Tuohy isn’t getting any younger either; because of that, Sam Banks could well be an ideal fit with one of their three picks in the 30s.

The Tasmanian is a smart ball user, is an outstanding endurance athlete and has plenty of upside, all of which would be welcome as the Cats try and squeeze every last ounce out of their ageing list. He’s endured a difficult last two years through the COVID-19 pandemic, which could see him slide in the draft, perhaps even all the way to 50, for the Cats to pounce.

Gold Coast Suns

Picks: 3, 86, 90

Best fit
The loss of co-captain Jarrod Witts early in 2021 left the Suns with a major ruck crisis, so using their pick 3 on Mac Andrew is an obvious choice.

The 201cm agile ruckman with South Sudanese heritage has been likened to Melbourne’s reigning Rising Star winner Luke Jackson, with his around-the-ground athleticism and pack marking giving him plenty of upside. At just 79kg, he’s got plenty of bulking up to do and would be a project player, but could be used in a number of roles, most likely up forward, as he is groomed to replace Witts as the number one ruck in a few years’ time.

Andrew is tied to Melbourne via their Next Generation Academy, but new AFL rules preventing Academy players from being tied to their clubs if bid on early enough in the draft means the Dees almost certainly won’t be getting him.

Backup plan
The Suns have traded away a slew of draft picks for selections in next year’s draft, giving them an 83-pick wait for their second choice. They’ll have to bank on their Academy products to fill the holes on their list, and the most exciting is probably Austin Harris.

A dashing defender, Harris has featured for the Suns’ VFL team this year, but has been trialled in a number of other positions, including off a wing. His foot skills would be a great fit in a developing Suns team, perhaps in the role of retired mentor Jarrod Harbrow; and he’s all but certain not to attract a bid in the top 20, allowing the Suns to match should any side want him before their second pick.

The smokey
Another talented Suns Academy product to watch – and who will likely be wearing red, gold and blue in 2022 – is Bodhi Uwland. Gold Coast’s reigning Academy player of the year boasts a booming kick, has an intercept-marking pedigree, and won senior experience with QAFL club Broadbeach during the season.

While very much a project player, the Suns aren’t exactly expected to be challenging for a flag anytime soon, and Uwland’s upside should he continue to develop makes him worth the punt.

GWS Giants

Picks: 2, 13, 53, 54, 70

Best fit
With pick 2 in the draft, the Giants are expected to bid on at least one of Nick Daicos and Sam Darcy; but after that, it would be a major shock if they didn’t opt for Finn Callaghan.

The 191cm midfielder has an elite left foot, runs hard all day and is versatile enough to make a home in virtually any position. Given the Giants already have more midfielders than they know what to do with, it could be up forward where Callaghan begins his AFL journey.

The Sandringham Dragons product is in demand; many Victorian clubs, most notably Richmond, have been trying to push their way up the draft order to get him. But barring a draft night twist, he’ll be a Giant in 2022.

Backup plan
The Giants will need to match a bid for him, but Academy product Josh Fahey has already been all but signed by the club. A line-breaking half-back with excellent foot skills, Fahey’s strengths will aid the Giants’ famous ‘Orange Tsunami’, which has begun to peter out in recent years.

The Giants will be hoping any bid for Fahey comes after 20, where they will be able to match a bid; which seems more likely than not.

The smokey
Goalkicking midfielders are always worth a look in the draft; and should he be passed over by every other team, the Giants would do well to consider a rookie spot for Brady Hough.

The Western Australian averaged 20 disposals across his first six games for WAFL Colts, and impressed with his eye-catching leading patterns as well as his ability to win the ball. The Giants are expected to use their first two draft picks and then use the rest to match a bid for Josh Fahey, however; hoping Hough slides all the way down to the rookie list looks like their only chance to nab him.

Hawthorn Hawks

Picks: 5, 21, 24, 59, 64, 77

Best fit
In recent years, Hawthorn have badly struggled to put winning scores on the board; with Luke Breust entering the final years of his career, Josh Rachele looms as a long-term replacement.

The country Victorian lad with an eye for the goals, a strong overhead mark and a love of the big occasion, Rachele has been strongly linked with Adelaide in the last few months, who hold the pick before the Hawks. But if they pass on him, there’s every chance he could develop at the Hawks into the AFL’s next serial pest.

Backup plan
Shaun Burgoyne’s retirement should leave the Hawks looking for some genuine class, and with two picks in the 20s, they’re in an excellent position to be able to secure Arlo Draper for just that.

Classy, composed and capable of playing across the half-back line as well as developing into an out-and-out midfielder, Draper’s limited engine at this stage will likely see him slide to the second round. But what he can do is more than enough for the Hawks to snap him up.

The smokey
With three picks in the top 25 – before father-son bidding – the Hawks are well placed to have their pick of the best talent in the land. While a riskier option than Rachele or Draper, Campbell Chesser possesses attributes that would give the brown and gold some badly needed outside run.

Having lost veteran wingman Isaac Smith to Geelong a year ago, Chesser’s outstanding junior sprinting record and thumping right boot could see him start at half-back and develop into the hard-running winger in the ilk of their triple-premiership hero.

Melbourne Demons

Picks: 17, 37, 49, 57

Best fit
The Dees have played in smart in decent drafts, using their high picks to fill their most pressing needs – Luke Jackson as a secondary ruck, Kysaiah Pickett as a crumbing forward and Trent Rivers as a composed half-back to name a few. And if given the chance at pick 17, Darcy Wilmot suits them perfectly.

A half-back who is just as proficient as a defensive stopper as he is at winning his own ball, the Northern Knight has piqued the Dees’ interest with his intercept marking and leg speed. Jayden Hunt’s injury woes left the Dees without a dashing half-back in the finals series; while that didn’t prove to matter, Wilmot ticks that box.

Backup plan
As the reigning premiers, the Dees can afford to take a risk or two this draft period; and should it pay off, Judson Clarke offers more pay-off than most. A mercurial small forward, Clarke is pure match-winner, with a five-goal haul for Vic Country against Vic Metro his main claim to fame.

The Dees’ forward line is their one work in progress in the best list in the game; imagine having Clarke and Pickett nipping around the heels of Ben Brown?

The smokey
He’s hardly a smokey in the usual sense, but father-son recruit Taj Woewodin is every chance of living up to his famous name.

The son of 2000 Brownlow Medallist Shane, Woewodin recorded a lightning 2.89-second time trial to lead the way at the WA draft combine. He’s not expected to be called before pick 57, so in all likelihood the Dees can sit back, relax, and take him with their final pick.

North Melbourne Kangaroos

Picks: 1, 20, 42, 47, 71, 75

Best fit
Whether it’s at pick one, pick two or maybe even pick three, the Kangaroos have all but confirmed Jason Horne-Francis is their man.

Vying with Nick Daicos all season long for ‘best player in the draft’ status, the South Australian was able to enhance his reputation while Victorian went into another COVID lockdown. After dominating at junior level, Horne-Francis proved he’s a readymade AFL player as well with some stunning performances for South Adelaide in their SANFL finals.

Strong in close, explosive when set free and with elite foot skills, Horne-Francis quite simply has the lot. He’s so good, in fact, that many Kangaroos fans don’t even want their club to make rivals Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs pay full price for father-sons Daicos and Sam Darcy.

From what we’ve seen so far, we can’t blame them for wanting to get him on the books, as the Roos’ first ever number one pick, as fast as humanly possible.

Jason Horne-Francis of South Australia

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Backup plan
Thanks to a technicality in the Academy bidding system, the Fremantle-linked Jesse Motlop can’t be retained by the Dockers if he’s bid on in the first 40 picks – and that’s where the Roos are expected to pounce.

The son of mercurial North and Port Adelaide forward Daniel, Motlop’s defensive pressure and goal nous saw him become a regular with South Fremantle in the WAFL. North’s desire for a small forward makes Motlop the best fit for their second pick, and would almost certainly become a fan favourite at Arden Street.

The smokey
With Horne-Francis already all but theirs, North might be looking for more needs-based drafting with their remaining picks, and along with Motlop, Western Victoria product Kai Lohmann has plenty of potential as a small forward.

While he doesn’t have the runs on the board that many of his fellow juniors do, Lohmann has undoubted game-breaking capabilities, with a springy vertical leap and an outstanding sprint time of 2.986 seconds over 20 metres.

By all accounts, the youngster is a great character, and interest in him has been high. If they can, using one of their twin picks in the 40s on Lohmann would be a sound choice for the Roos.

Port Adelaide Power

Picks: 12, 62, 72, 73, 85

Best fit
The younger brother of Richmond and St Kilda goalsneak Dan, Sam Butler has athleticism to spare. With one of the best footy brains in the draft, Butler can impact games in the midfield or up forward, and has drawn comparisons with Power young gun Zak Butters.

With Robbie Gray entering his final years and Orazio Fantasia’s injury woes a permanent concern, Butler would be a more than handy option for Port to have up their sleeve as he continues to develop his game.

Backup plan
The Power have already committed to Jase Burgoyne as a father-son, and fans are already excited about seeing a Burgoyne don the prison bars silver, teal, black and white in the years to come.

At just 68kg, the rangy half-back has plenty of bulking up to do, but with the Power in the premiership window, they can afford to be patient. With only one pick in the top 60, being able to match a bid with their slew of late picks is a handy situation to be in.

The smokey
While no relation, it would be worth drafting Miller Bergman simply to see commentators have to differentiate between him and current Port player MILES Bergman for years to come.

Aside from that, though, Bergman’s sound decision making and exquisite foot skills would suit the Power well, who struggled in both facets during their preliminary final loss to the Bulldogs. Another project player, the lightly built Mazenod College alumn has shown plenty of potential, and could be worth the investment.

Richmond Tigers

Picks: 7, 15, 26, 27, 28, 79

Best fit
For the first time in years, the Tigers head into the draft with a strong hand. Top of the agenda for them is key defender Josh Gibcus. The leading tall back in the draft pool, the Vic Country gun’s vertical leap dropped jaws at the Victorian draft combine, and his intercept marking would be an ideal fit for the Tigers’ game style.

With new recruit Robbie Tarrant very much a short-term option, grooming Gibcus to be the leader of the backline in the years to come makes pick 9 a price worth paying.

Backup plan
Looming as a draft slider, the Tigers have enough picks to be able to run the gauntlet with Tyler Sonsie.

Injuries and the COVID breaks affected him more than most; Sonsie was seen as a potential top-five pick at the start of the year. Having impressed in the VFL for Box Hill with a two-goal, 24-touch game, he’s got the ability to make an impact right off the bat at the highest level.

It’s often the case that players drafted in the late teens or 20s become just as good as the more widely regarded names near the top of that draft, and no player has greater capacity to be that steal in the 2021 crop than Sonsie.

The smokey
While diminutive in nature, Jake Soligo’s fierce determination at the contest and clean hands are quintessentially Richmond traits. Averaging nearly 23 possessions in the NAB League at Eastern Ranges, his stoppage strength belies his small frame.

Having played for the Tigers in the VFL, the club already has a link to Soligo, and with five draft picks before 30, one could very easily be used on the boy from Dromana.

St Kilda Saints

Picks: 9, 55, 61, 65, 66, 81

Best fit
A ball magnet and captain of the NAB League Team of the Year, expect Josh Ward to be a Rising Star frontrunner wherever he lands. With a pick in the (current) top 10, the Saints would be well advised to make sure that landing is at Moorabbin.

Neat by foot and a ball magnet – he won at least 33 disposals in each of his last three NAB League games – Ward is a certainty to go in the first round, and could even go as high as the top five, with Hawthorn particularly interested.

But the Saints, who need readymade AFL-calibre talent as they look to rebound from a disappointing 2021, loom as the best fit for both parties.

Backup plan
Academy product Marcus Windhager is currently dealing with a back injury, but the Saints have already all but committed to matching a bid to secure the powerful bull.

It’s not expected to come in the top 20, making Windhager a safe bet to be wearing red, white and black in 2022. If (when) he does, his efficiency with ball in hand despite limited numbers makes him an ideal fit for a Saints side whose work with ball in hand was sloppy last season. While less than ideal, his back injury should also deter other sides from bidding too early.

The smokey
The Saints boast two Academy guns they are expected to be able to match bids on, with Mitchito Owens the pick of them. The Saints have stockpiled late picks to be able to match an expected bid in the 20s or 30s for Owens, a speedy midfielder who has improved his overhead marking and inside game out of sight in 2021.

If available, the Saints are certain to pick him up; but what makes him a smokey is the interest from Richmond, who have early picks to take Owens out of the Saints’ hands. With two picks in the top-20, an early Tigers bid would leave the Saints unable to match; they’ll be praying that it comes after that.

Sydney Swans

Picks: 16, 31, 39, 69, 84, 89

Best fit

Jordan Dawson’s departure has opened up a hole on the Swans’ half-back line, and Tom Brown could be just the man to fill it.

Composed with ball in hand and an excellent intercept marker, the Geelong Grammar and Vic Country product could have been a Cat had father Paul played 16 more games during the 1990s. But as it stands, the Swans have plenty of interest, and Brown has attributes that would pair nicely with a team on the brink of something great.

Backup plan
The Swans love themselves some versatility, and are masters at moulding players to fill their needs. That makes Blake Howes a tantalising option for their first pick, if Brown is already off the tablet.

Having struggled as a forward in the NAB League, Howes was switched to a wing, and enjoyed success at both ends of the ground from there. Taking seven intercept marks and booting five goals in his final four NAB League matches, the St Bede’s product boasts an excellent tank for his age and could be slotted virtually anywhere on the field.

The smokey
Western Australian Kade Dittmar hasn’t attracted ample attention from rival clubs, but the Swans are masters at finding diamonds in the rough, and are a chance to take the plunge with one of their late picks.

While far from the finished article, Dittmar is a contested ball-winner who, if given time, could prove handy as the Swans look to replace veterans Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker. He goes hard at the ball and tackles to hurt; both qualities the Bloods are famous for. There are concerns over his kicking, but you know Dittmar will give everything in his being on the field.

West Coast Eagles

Picks: 10, 29, 35, 67, 82

Best fit
A rare first-round pick awaits the Eagles this season, after their disappointing 2021 season; and they’re expected to be fighting with Fremantle to secure Neil Erasmus.

One of a number of highly-rated WA products, Erasmus is a big-bodied midfielder with outstanding endurance, while a four-goal haul in the WAFL Colts grand final proved he’s got plenty of strings to his bow. He averaged 28 disposals a game for Subiaco, showing he’s ready-made for higher honours; with the Eagles’ midfield beset by injury for much of the last two years, he’s every chance to win regular senior opportunities from the get-go.

The Eagles will have to wait for Fremantle to pick twice before getting the chance to snap him up, and you can guarantee they’ll take whoever is left out of him, Jye Amiss and Matt Johnson. But as an Academy product with the club, they’d probably pick Erasmus first out of the three if they could.

Backup plan
Key forwards Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling aren’t getting any younger; so drafting Jack Williams as a long-term replacement is well and truly on the cards for the Eagles.

A 40-goal season at WAFL Colts level showcased his marking strength and accurate kicking, while the 195cm prodigy also had an impact when trialled in defence and even in the ruck.

He’d make a perfect foil to Oscar Allen in the Eagles’ future forward line… that is, unless he slots in at the other end of the ground.

The smokey
The Eagles will know better than anyone whether champion defender Jeremy McGovern’s disappointing 2021 was just a one-off, or a sign his best is behind him. If it’s the latter, Leek Alleer would definitely be worth considering with one of their first three picks.

Another intercept marker by trade, the South Sudanese-born tall plucked 28 of them in 11 senior games for SANFL side Central District. At 21, Alleer was overlooked by Adelaide despite being an Academy prospect, before making the move to defence which revitalised his AFL hopes.

While you could argue the Eagles would be better suited stockpiling elite midfield talent as they begin to rebuild, Alleer’s upside and elite reading of the play could be too tantalising to pass up.

Western Bulldogs

Sam Darcy celebrates.

Sam Darcy (C) celebrates a goal. (Photo by Martin Keep/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Picks: 23, 43, 44, 45, 52

Best fit
Just like Collingwood with Nick Daicos, the Bulldogs have already placed all their eggs in the Sam Darcy basket for tonight.

The son of club great Luke and grandson of another Dog David, the 205cm teenager surged into pick one calculations with a dominant six-goal performance for Vic Metro against Vic Country in a June trial match. Darcy’s versatility – he can also play in defence and in the ruck – makes him an even more valuable asset, especially for a club like the Bulldogs with limited key back and ruck options.

The only question is how high the Dogs will have to go in the draft to match the points for the son of a gun. Will North Melbourne make them pay full price with a bid right from the get-go, as Adelaide did with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan last year?

Backup plan
The Dogs hold picks 23, 43, 44, 45 and 52, but will likely need most if not all of them to match a bid on Darcy. But if for whatever reason they decline to do so, swingman Jacob Van Rooyen could be their man with their first pick.

A tall utility from Claremont, Van Rooyen took eight marks in the backline in WA’s U19s side in the AFL grand final curtain-raiser, before switching forward to kick the winning goal in the final minute. His versatility is right in coach Luke Beveridge’s wheelhouse, though whether he’ll slide past both WA sides for pick 23 would be a gamble.

Ultimately, though, the Dogs not taking Darcy would be just about the biggest shock in draft history.

The smokey
The Dogs should still have a pick or two up their sleeve once they match a bid for Darcy, and they could do worse than giving Corey Preston a look. A mature-age forward who went undrafted in 2020, the Eastern Ranges product mirrored Dogs All Australian Bailey Dale by moving to the half-back line, where he shone with his elite ball use and intercept marking.

He trained with the Bulldogs at the end of last year for a spot on their list and appeared in two games for VFL side Footscray, so the Dogs are familiar with his work, and should be well placed to take a punt on Preston this time around.

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