One club recruiter recently told foxfooty.com.au this was “the least predictable draft” they’d ever been involved in.
That was the sense putting this first-round phantom draft together, with crucial calls from Hawthorn, Fremantle and Essendon to dictate how the opening stages of Wednesday night’s event will go down. A big trade, which is widely expected, could reshape the top of the order too.
Foxfooty.com.au predicts how the first round of the draft will pan out — including two father-son bids — plus the inside word on which prospects your club could take and why.
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PICK 1 – NORTH MELBOURNE: JASON HORNE-FRANCIS
Size: 184cm, 81kg
Clubs: South Adelaide/Christie Beach/South Australia
AFL player comparison: Patrick Dangerfield
The Kangaroos received two offers during the trade period – one from Adelaide then another from Richmond – in a bid to entice them to trade away the first pick of this year’s national draft. Both advances were rejected by the Roos – because they want Horne-Francis. And they’ll get him. Horne-Francis has influenced and changed games against both players his own age and SANFL league players older than him. The South Adelaide product is not only powerful, courageous and aggressive at the contest, he also possesses an awesome aerobic base and class that helps him hit targets and push forward to hit the scoreboard.
In the mix: Unless the Kangaroos have a dramatic change of heart and launch a bid on Pies father-son prospect Nick Daicos – or receive a ridiculous offer from a rival club to give up Pick 1 – Horne-Francis will be taken with the first pick of the draft and be in blue and white by the end of the night.
PICK 2 – WESTERN BULLDOGS: SAM DARCY (GIANTS’ FATHER-SON BID MATCHED)
Size: 204cm, 73kg
Club: Oakleigh Chargers/Glen Iris/Scotch College/Vic Metro
AFL player comparison: Ben King
Few clubs have benefited from the father-son rule as prominently as the Bulldogs over the past decade – and they’ll benefit again in 2021. And Darcy – the son of best and fairest and All-Australian Luke Darcy – is no ordinary key-position player at 204cm. He’s a terrific contested mark and an accurate kick for goal, but his superb versatility and athleticism allows him to play in any third of the ground. This was highlighted by a six-goal haul for Vic Metro in an Under 19s trial game after averaging 3.3 intercept marks and 5.7 intercept possessions from his three NAB League games. After securing Mitch Wallis, Lachie Hunter, Tom Liberatore, Rhylee West and Zaine Cordy over recent years, the Dogs will add Darcy on Wednesday night.
In the mix: The Giants are expected to bid on at least one of the top-two father-son prospects this season. There’s a strong possibility they use this selection to bid on star midfielder and future Pie Nick Daicos, who some recruiters believe is the best player in this year’s draft class. If they do, Darcy will attract a bid at the next pick.
PICK 3 – GWS GIANTS: FINN CALLAGHAN
Size: 191cm, 86kg
Club: Sandringham Dragons/St Bede’s College/Vic Metro
AFL player comparison: Marcus Bontempelli
Callaghan – and the selection the Giants are almost certain to select him at – has been in high demand. Gold Coast, Adelaide, Hawthorn, Fremantle and Richmond have all had interest in Callaghan, with most inquiring about trading up to the Giants’ selection to nab the Bont-like left-footer. But the Giants have rejected all offers so far. And even though Callaghan hasn’t always been their top priority, they’ve warmed to the idea of taking him over recent weeks, with coach Leon Cameron understood to be a big fan of the on-baller. Callaghan is a great size for the modern-day midfielder with terrific composure, kicking skills and drive to help his team break lines.
In the mix: Yep, you read that right: No bid on Nick Daicos. The Giants are set to only bid on one of the top two father-son prospects. Callaghan is one of four prospects the Giants have been considering with their top pick, with Dandenong Stingrays tall Mac Andrew, GWV Rebels defender Josh Gibcus and Murray Bushrangers small forward Josh Rachele the other three players. Andrew, in particular, had been linked to the Giants for weeks and would be an outside chance to be taken at this selection. But all signs point to Callaghan.
PICK 4 – COLLINGWOOD: NICK DAICOS (SUNS’ FATHER-SON BID MATCHED)
Size: 183cm, 72kg
Club: Oakleigh Chargers/Kew Rovers/Vic Metro
AFL player comparison: Zach Merrett
If he hadn’t endured a Covid-interrupted year – or Horne-Francis had – Daicos likely would’ve attracted a Pick 1 bid, with many recruiters regarding him as the best player in this year’s draft class. The ball magnet, who this year led the NAB League for disposals (35.8) and averaged two goals per match, looms as a genuine future AFL star. He’s more than just a big ball-winner, for he possesses exquisite foot skills, vision, run and footy IQ. And, as the name suggests, he possesses a mercurial ability and on-field tricks. Daicos will fit in at the Pies with aplomb, with one recruiter even suggesting the midfielder would get tagged in his first season.
In the mix: If the Giants remarkably bypass Daicos – which looms as sheer draft robbery for the Pies – the Suns will bid here. No matter where the bid comes, the Pies are stacked with ample draft picks and points to match and secure Daicos.
PICK 5 – GOLD COAST SUNS: MAC ANDREW
Size: 200cm, 70kg
Club: Dandenong Stingrays/Berwick/St Joseph’s Ferntree Gully/Vic Country
AFL player comparison: Paddy Ryder
A 200cm star with great athleticism, natural leap and strong hands, Andrew has probably been the biggest draft board bolter across the season. His ability to play across all thirds of the ground really excites AFL clubs, but his ruck craft, especially at centre bounces, has really caught the attention of recruiters this season. Andrew, aka ‘Big Mac’, is tied to Melbourne’s Next Generation Academy. But as the AFL has changed the in-draft NGA bidding rules for 2021 – clubs with existing links to multicultural and Indigenous Academy players can’t match bids inside the top 20 selections – the Dees aren’t getting their hands on Andrew, with the Suns widely expected to take him now.
In the mix: If the Giants don’t pounce on Finn Callaghan, the Suns will. They’ve also been linked to highly-rated inside midfielder Ben Hobbs and gun tall backman Josh Gibcus. The latter would make ample sense for the Suns, who need some key defensive depth. And if Gold Coast doesn’t take Andrew, expect a few clubs to consider trading up the order to get him.
PICK 6 – ADELAIDE: JOSH RACHELE
Position: Small forward
Size: 179cm, 81kg
Club: Murray Bushrangers/Shepparton Swans/Caulfield Grammar/Vic Country
AFL player comparison: Toby Greene
On spark and talent alone he’s worthy of a top-five pick – and despite recruiters’ hesitancy in the past to pick a small forward early in the draft, Rachele looms as an exception. He’s one of this year’s most fascinating and exciting prospects as he’s a talented forward-midfielder blessed with goalkicking nous, strong hands overhead, x-factor and an unwavering belief in his own ability. Adelaide has long been linked to Rachele — and it’s now hard to see them bypassing the next Toby.
In the mix: Crows recruiting manager Hamish Ogilvie told reporters the club is looking at drafting a player with “some speed and power throughout the draft”. Rachele doesn’t necessarily scream speed and power, but the Crows could address that need with their first pick. Sandringham Dragons’ Josh Sinn is the definition of speed and power, while local SA talent Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera would also be a chance. There have been whispers the Crows might be prepared to trade down the order if it meant they’d still get their hands on their preferred prospect. If they trade down, Sinn and Wanganeen-Milera would be their likely targets. If they hold their pick – as widely expected – Rachele should become a Crow.
PICK 7 – HAWTHORN: JOSH WARD
Size: 181cm, 74kg
Club: Northern Knights/Fitzroy/Melbourne Grammar/Vic Metro
AFL player comparison: Dan Hannebery
One of the best and most well-rounded midfielders at the top of the draft class, Ward finds the footy both inside and outside the contest. He loves to run and carry, is a polished distributor and has the potential to play AFL footy early in 2022. The Hawks have long been linked to Ward, whose great grandfather Alex Lee played 31 games for the club between 1933 and 1935. He’s also a Hawks fan himself.
In the mix: This is where things get real interesting – and why rival clubs are desperate to know what the Hawks will do with their first pick. If it isn’t Ward, the Hawks would likely turn to WA on-baller Matt Johnson, who could also fill the Hawks’ need to bring in some outside class to complement their glut of inside on-ballers. Hawks coach Sam Mitchell is a big fan of Johnson and has been pushing for the club to take him. Classy Glenelg winger Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera has also been linked to the Hawks, who were also recently impressed by Josh Sinn during a recent interview with him. But the call seems to be between Ward and Johnson.
PICK 8 – FREMANTLE: BEN HOBBS
Size: 183cm, 79kg
Club: GWV Rebels/Horsham Demons/Ballarat Clarendon College/Vic Country
AFL player comparison: Taylor Adams
The best pure inside midfielder and contested possession-winner in the draft class, Hobbs is a master at winning the footy at the coalface and his quick hands make him a threat at stoppages. Yet unlike a lot of inside midfielders, Hobbs has great composure with the ball when in tight, often opting against thumping the ball forward by foot. The on-baller recently met again with the Tigers, who appear to be Hobbs’ preferred club. But the Dockers like the Vic Country prospect, who’d bring grunt to Freo’s on-ball brigade.
In the mix: The big question: Will they pick WA talent or be happy to select a player from interstate? If Josh Rachele is still on the board, it’s hard to see him getting past the Dockers. Otherwise if it’s not Hobbs, it’s likely another star WA-based prospect will be taken here. Fremantle needs another key forward – and East Perth’s Jye Amiss, who’s long been linked to the Dockers, could be taken, while classy midfielder Matt Johnson, who’s surged into top-10 calculations, would be a strong chance to be taken by Fremantle if the Hawks don’t pounce on him with the previous pick. Intercept defender Josh Gibcus would also be considered, but the Dockers are already well stocked for key backs.
PICK 9 — RICHMOND: MATT JOHNSON
Size: 192cm, 81kg
Club: Subiaco/North Beaches/Western Australia
AFL player comparison: Scott Pendlebury
Johnson’s strong finish to his 2021 campaign – he won the WA best on ground medal for his performance against SA at Optus Stadium in an AFL Grand Final day curtain-raiser then had a terrific draft combine with three top-10 finishes — has seen him surge into top-10 calculations. A tall midfielder with ridiculously good composure in traffic, Johnson got a taste of all three WAFL competitions in 2021. A top-five pick on talent alone and shouldn’t have to wait too long to have his name called out.
In the mix: Don’t be surprised if Picks 8 and 9 are flipped here and the Dockers choose Johnson and the Tigers opt for Ben Hobbs, who would love to land at Punt Road but is prepared to go anywhere. The Tigers also have interest in 196cm key forward Jye Amiss, especially after losing Callum Coleman-Jones and Mabior Chol during last month’s exchange period. Key defender Josh Gibcus would fill a need, too, considering the recent departures of David Astbury (retired) and Ryan Garthwaite (delisted), although they’ve just brought in free agent Robbie Tarrant.
PICK 10 – FREMANTLE: JYE AMISS
Position: Tall forward
Size: 196cm, 83kg
Club: East Perth/Busselton/Western Australia
AFL player comparison: Harry McKay
Arguably the best key forward in the open draft. He’s blessed with a deadeye left foot kick, strong hands above his head, presence on the lead and great athleticism below his knees for a player of his size. Amiss kicked a WAFL colts season-high 51 goals this season — the most by a player in that competition since 2015 – but just as impressive was the fact he only kicked 15 behinds. The Dockers have had a strong, long-time interest in the East Perth product.
In the mix: This is one of the more intriguing picks in the draft. Will the Dockers opt for best available? Do they look to fill a list chasm? Or do they target WA talent again. If it’s not Amiss and Matt Johnson is off the board, the Dockers could choose another WA star in Subiaco’s Neil Erasmus. Otherwise they might be facing a choice between Josh Ward (arguably best available and fills a need), Josh Gibcus (adds more key defensive depth and has WA family links) and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (provides outside class). This is also the pick where exciting midfielder-defender Josh Goater could come under consideration. There are also suggestions the Dockers would be prepared to trade down the order if they could snare their preferred prospect.
PICK 11 – ST KILDA: JOSH GIBCUS
Position: Key defender
Size: 196cm, 87kg
Club: GWV Rebels/Eastpoint/St Pat’s College/Vic Country
AFL player comparison: Jake Lever
The quintessential modern-day tall defender at 195cm that can intercept with aplomb, as well as hold his own one-on-one. Recruiters say his vertical leap is “ridiculous” – highlighted by his 95cm running vertical jump result at the draft combine, which was ranked third nation-wide – while he also has strong aerobic capacity, good footy nous and strong spoiling ability. St Kilda really needs a key defender after the departures of Jake Carlisle, Oscar Clavarino, James Frawley and Dylan Roberton — and Gibcus could be the answer.
In the mix: The Saints have been strongly linked to Josh Sinn, who’d bring much-needed speed and carry to the club. But if gun midfielders Josh Ward or Matt Johnson were still on the board, they’d be hard to ignore, as would classy wingman Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. Again defender-midfielder Josh Goater would be a chance to be taken.
PICK 12 – WEST COAST EAGLES: NEIL ERASMUS
Size: 188cm, 80kg
Club: Subiaco/Sorrento-Duncraig/Hale/Western Australia
AFL player comparison: Tim Taranto
An exciting, versatile player blessed with great footy smarts and strong overhead marking ability, Erasmus had a stunning start to his season and only improved as the year progressed. He was ranked among the top five players for disposals, contested possessions, intercept marks, clearances and score assists in the WAFL colts, but has also proven an ability to push forward and hit the scoreboard in the past. It’s understood the Eagles have had a long interest in Erasmus, who’s one of three WA-based players that’s around the top-10 mark.
In the mix: Will the Eagles actually pick here? Sources on Monday suggested West Coast might be happy to trade down the order if they opted for another prospect with dash and dare, with Campbell Chesser linked to the club. A few clubs with later first-round picks are keen to trade up the order, with Darcy Wilmot attracting interest from the likes of Essendon, Port Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. Don’t be surprised the Eagles do a deal here. If they keep their pick though and don’t choose Erasmus, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Josh Goater and Josh Sinn would be considered.
PICK 13 — ESSENDON: NASIAH WANGANEEN-MILERA
Size: 187cm, 71kg
Club: Glenelg/Marion/South Australia
AFL player comparison: Paul Seedsman
As his surname suggests, the South Australian has a great footy pedigree, being the nephew of Essendon and Port Adelaide champion Gavin Wanganeen and the son of Terry Milera, who played 30 games for the Saints last decade. A smooth mover that makes good decisions by foot, Wanganeen-Milera seemed to improve with every game he played in 2021 as he showed off his excellent kicking skills and ability to link teammates between the arcs. Has bolted into top-10 draft contention, but could slip to Essendon which is, no doubt, a romantic prospect.
In the mix: If Darcy Wilmot is still on the board, it looms as a tight call between him and Wanganeen-Milera. Wilmot could be a player in demand around this point of the first round. Another player the Bombers would consider is Josh Goater, who took part in a VFL game with the Bombers earlier this year. If, somehow, Jye Amiss was still on the board the Bombers would have to consider him, with the club’s determination to bring in a key forward well documented. Josh Sinn would be around the mark, while this is also the stage where Sandringham Dragons forward Blake Howes would start to enter the conversation.
PICK 14 – PORT ADELAIDE: JOSH SINN
Position: Medium defender
Size: 186cm, 78kg
Club: Sandringham Dragons/Old Xaverians/Vic Metro
AFL player comparison: Adam Saad
Blink and you’ll miss this speedy footballer, who’s a genuine 70m player in that he carries the ball 20m (at least) then kicks it 50m. Sinn is an explosive, line-breaking half-back with genuine leg speed but has the potential to become a full-time midfielder at AFL level if his aerobic capacity continues to improve. Entered the year in the Pick 1 mix, will finish it somewhere in the middle of the first round. But if it clicks for him at AFL level, watch out.
In the mix: The Power are in a fascinating spot in the order, as there’s expected to be a flurry of activity and left-field selections before them yet they’ll still have access to players that would arguably be worthy of top-10 status. It’d be hard to see them passing up on Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera if he was still available, so too Neil Erasmus. Darcy Wilmot and Josh Goater will be considered if they haven’t been snapped up in the previous picks.
PICK 15 – GWS GIANTS: JESSE MOTLOP
Position: Small forward
Size: 176cm, 75kg
Teams: South Fremantle/South Coogee/Aquinas College/Western Australia
AFL player comparison: Cody Weightman
A first-round bolter — and an evasive, shrewd, much-improved small forward that has the potential to play AFL footy early in 2022. He applied great defensive pressure for South Freo at WAFL league level and showed off his terrific goal nous, as well as his ability to push up the ground and play as a high half-forward. Motlop is the son of ex-Port Adelaide and North Melbourne forward Daniel Motlop, but isn’t father-son eligible as Daniel didn’t play at least 100 games with either of the clubs. Instead, he’s tied to Fremantle via its Next Generation Academy. But as bids on metropolitan-based Indigenous players tied to West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide’s NGAs from this year onwards can’t be matched inside the top 40 selections, the Dockers are set to miss out on Motlop.
In the mix: Of all the first-round picks, this looks like the one that’ll most likely be traded, with the Giants open to moving down the order. After picking Callaghan in the top three, the Giants are now looking to fill a need — and that need appears to be a small forward type that can play a role. Motlop is a player they’ll be able to get a little down the order, hence they’d be willing to do a trade with a club. Otherwise GWV Rebels forward Sam Butler would be a strong alternative to Motlop, but the Giants might have to hold their pick to get him as he has interest from other clubs. Josh Goater or Blake Howes, who’s been strongly linked to the Giants due to his friendship with Callaghan, would be considered if the Giants retain the selection.
PICK 16 – BRISBANE LIONS: DARCY WILMOT
Position: Medium defender
Size: 183cm, 75kg
Club: Northern Knights/Montmorency/Hazelglen College/Vic Metro
AFL player comparison: Darcy Byrne-Jones
This terrific, well-rounded medium backman ticks a lot of boxes, hence he’s received a lot of interest from clubs with latter first-round selections. Wilmot’s ability to read the flight of the footy in the air as a defender is outstanding. Then when he wins the ball back, he isn’t afraid to use his leg speed to rebound and gain territory for his team and often makes good decisions by foot. Wilmot could go a lot earlier than this.
In the mix: Could be a line-ball call between Wilmot and Sam Butler here, with Butler heavily linked to the Lions over recent weeks. It’s understood Brisbane is keen on both a small forward and a half-back, which is why Sandringham duo Campbell Chesser and, if he got through, Josh Sinn, would be considered here too. This is also where Claremont utility Jacob Van Rooyen and Murray Bushrangers defender Tom Brown will enter the conversation.
PICK 17 – RICHMOND: JACOB VAN ROOYEN
Size: 193cm, 91kg
Club: Claremont/Western Australia
AFL player comparison: Tom McDonald
An exciting swingman that impressed at both ends during his draft year. Van Rooyen booted 34.14 from nine WAFL colts games up forward then starred for WA’s Under 19s side as a backman on AFL Grand Final day, taking eight marks in defence. After a year that was interrupted by glandular fever, Van Rooyen finished strong at the draft combine, running the 20m sprint in 3.06 seconds. If the Tigers didn’t pick Jye Amiss with their first selection, Van Rooyen would be a strong chance with their second.
In the mix:Campbell Chesser would have to be considered here if available still. This would also be talented Eastern Ranges midfielder Tyler Sonsie’s best chance of being selected in the first round, however he’s now looking more likely to be snapped up on Thursday night. It’s also the earliest a bid on top Giants academy prospect Josh Fahey would receive a bid, but the Tigers would likely save that move for Thursday night. Could they snare Sam Butler after letting brother Dan go a few years ago?
PICK 18 — SYDNEY SWANS: TOM BROWN
Position: General defender
Size: 186cm, 77kg
Club: Murray Bushrangers/Mooroopna/Geelong Grammar/Vic Country
AFL player comparison: Bailey Dale
An exciting defensive prospect that can not only intercept but also use natural speed, agility and composure to burst away from congestion and break the game open. Brown was ranked among the top 10 NAB League players in both intercept possessions and intercept marks this year as he displayed great overhead marking confidence close to his defensive goal. The Cats will be disappointed injury restricted Brown’s father Paul to just 84 games during the 1990s, because his son would’ve been a terrific father-son selection for the club. Geelong has ample second-round picks, but Brown is set to be snapped up on the first draft night, with Melbourne and Brisbane also keen on him.
In the mix: After losing George Hewett and Jordan Dawson during the exchange period, the Swans would also be looking to boost their midfield stocks — although they could do that in the second round. Josh Goater is a big chance to be picked here if still available, as would Darcy Wilmot, Campbell Chesser and Calder Cannons’ Zac Taylor. Sam Butler and Jacob Van Rooyen are also contenders.
PICK 19 — MELBOURNE: BLAKE HOWES
Position: Medium forward
Size: 190cm, 79kg
Club: Sandringham Dragons/Parkdale/St Bede’s/Vic Metro
AFL player comparison: Jack Gunston
An athletic, high half-forward with ample upside, Howes’ strong core allows him to keep his feet, while his game awareness, composure and footy nous helps him make wise choices with ball in hand. Howes showed he can impact the game at either end of the field late in the year, hence he’s surged into first-round calculations. The Demons were linked to Jack Gunston prior to the trade period — could they pick Howes, who has Gunston-like traits, at the draft instead?
In the mix: Rival clubs believe the Dees could make a play up the draft order, meaning defenders Tom Brown and Darcy Wilmot are chances to be taken earlier. If the Dees are picking naturally here, again Campbell Chesser and Sam Butler could be there for the taking.
PICK 20 – BRISBANE LIONS: SAM BUTLER
Size: 184cm, 76kg
Club: GWV Rebels/Lake Wendouree/St Pat’s College/Vic Country
AFL player comparison: Zak Butters
If he’s going to be as exciting as his brother is at AFL level, we’ve got another fan favourite. A player with footy smarts and great strength at the contest, Butler — the brother of premiership Tiger and Saints forward Dan Butler — is a genuine midfielder-forward that can swing games. He was one of the best-performed mid-forwards in the NAB League before turning heads at the draft combine with four top-10 finishes. Could go a lot earlier than this pick.
In the mix: If both Butler and Darcy Wilmot are off the board by the Lions’ second pick, Campbell Chesser would be a strong chance to be selected considering the club’s desire to select a half-back. Blake Howes and Josh Goater could also still be available.