Cats fans should be thankful Stephen Wells is their club’s list man, because he might’ve just nailed the steal of the first round.
Plus Sydney’s sneaky yet genius move to acquire its star academy prospect for a “cheap as chips” price.
Foxfooty.com.au nominates four early winners from the first round of the 2018 AFL national draft.
DRAFT TRACKER: Every pick by every club as they happen
AFL DRAFT WRAP: Blues take Walsh with Pick 1
Guru Cats list boss Stephen Wells has almost gained hero status at the club for building the premiership dynasty list before orchestrating trades that landed the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett and Zach Tuohy to the club.
And that reputation was only enhanced on Thursday night as Wells and the Cats picked up arguably the biggest steal of the first round.
With Pick 15, Geelong selected gun Western Australian product Jordan Clark, who looms as a ready-made prospect after playing WAFL league footy in 2018.
Clark, who was touted as a possible top-10 pick, was still on the draft board when it came to Geelong’s first selection at Pick 15. And Wells and his team quickly snared the WA product.
“He played in defence this year, but we think Jordan’s got an opportunity to develop into a midfielder as well,” Wells told Fox Footy.
“His numbers were compelling, his performances, his character — everything that we wanted in a player at Pick 15 came through in Jordan.”
Clark was the first WA product taken on Thursday night following an excellent 2018 campaign, capped off by winning WA’s MVP award then All-Australian selection after the national Under 18 championships.
Western Bulldogs legend Brad Johnson said Wells had pulled another off-season special.
“It’s a credit to Wellsy and the work all the club puts in,” Johnson told Fox Footy.
“Jordan Clark, he was still there when it came to Geelong and they were ready to pounce. And he’s ready to move, which is pleasing for Cats fans.”
This isn’t necessarily highlighting the Swans’ first-round haul — although academy prospect Nick Blakey is a young gun to watch — but for their ability to “outsmart the system”, according to dual premiership Kangaroos David King.
Essentially, they made the most of a live trading loophole by avoiding using their second-round pick as part of a matched bid on Blakey by cleverly trading the pick out then back in within minutes.
Here’s how they did it:
— Just before the Bulldogs’ Pick 7, Sydney was involved in a live trade.
— The Swans sent their second-round selection (Pick 26) to the West Coast Eagles in return for the latter’s future third-round pick.
— The Swans then matched the Giants’ bid on Blakey at Pick 10 by giving up Picks 34, 39, 40, which were selections they’d previously acquired.
— Then after the Blakey bid, the Swans struck another trade with the Eagles, acquiring the Eagles’ Pick 22 for a future second-round pick, subsequently putting the Swans back in the second round of this year’s draft.
In the end, they essentially swapped their future second-round pick for a third-round pick with the Eagles and only had to give up Picks 34, 39 and 40 for Blakey.
“That is as cheap as chips for Blakey,” King told Fox Footy.
“I don’t really think that’s what the system was designed to do, but it has.
“We said there’d be a club that would be ahead of the pack coming in. I didn’t think it would involve Nick Blakey, but to effectively get him for three picks in the 30s and drop backwards 15 picks next year … it’s an absolute steal and a bargain.”
Outgoing Swans football boss and incoming chief executive Tom Harley said the club was fortunate to have “progressive” recruiting department, with the idea evolving on the night.
“We wanted to maximise our position in the points that we ultimately had to absorb for Nick, so we moved that back starting with the Pick in the 30s,” Harley told Fox Footy.
“Then there was a clear focus to get back into the draft and that was the secondary plan with West Coast.”
The October departures were well documented. But the November inclusions loom as big wins for the Giants.
After losing Tom Scully (Hawthorn) and Dylan Shiel (Essendon) during the trade period, as well as Ryan Griffen to retirement, the Giants desperately needed to replenish their midfield stocks at the draft. Ideally, they’d be players who could make an instant impact in 2019.
And in Jye Caldwell, Jackson Hately and Xavier O’Halloran, the Giants have undoubtedly met their draft needs.
The Giants took Bendigo product Caldwell at Pick 11 before pouncing on impressive South Australian prospect Hately three picks later.
The selection of O’Halloran — one of the best leaders of this year’s draft class — was a surprise, considering he wasn’t even invited to Marvel Stadium on Thursday night. But the Giants met with O’Halloran last week and have long been fans of his.
Dual premiership Kangaroo David King said the Giants had nailed their early picks.
“They needed to get a couple of midfielders. So to be able to replace those guys instantly with Jackson Hately and Jye Caldwell and then o have Xavier O’Halloran, they’ve had a really successful evening,” King told Fox Footy.
“You’d expect those guys to almost play instantly in 2019.”
Johnson added that Hately was almost a straight swap for Shiel in terms of style.
“They lost some experience and power of run with Scully, although he was severely injured last season. They had to replace them, they’ve done it, now it’s up to those boys to see if they can jump straight into the line-up,” Johnson said.
For the first time in a decade, the Power had a massive presence in the first round of the draft.
And with their three picks, they undoubtedly addressed their speed and explosive needs, drafting Connor Rozee (Pick 5), Zak Butters (Pick 12) and Xavier Duursma (Pick 18).
Pot recruiting manager Geoff Parker said the club was pleased with its acquisitions.
“Connor’s a player we’ve tracked for a long time,” Parker told Fox Footy.
“(Living in Adelaide) was not a major consideration, but it certainly helps. He gets to play in front of our people, our coaches a lot.
“We know a lot about him, we were keen if he did get to Pick 5. He’s got some speed and some other stuff we were looking for.
“Overall we were trying to get some speed, skill and class and we think we’ve been able to get that. The running ability and ball use of all three boys is very good.
“We think we’ve done a pretty good job tonight.”