There are plenty of future AFL stars on offer at this year’s national draft but club recruiters might need to look a bit harder to find them.
That’s the view of AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan, who says the prevailing belief that this year’s crop of potential draftees lacks depth is overly pessimistic.
With the AFL’s trade and free agency periods upon us, clubs are jockeying for extra picks inside the top 30 of the supposedly thin draft.
But Sheehan believes there’s every chance this year’s version of Matt Priddis, a former rookie pick, or Brian Lake, pick 71 at the 2001 draft, are there for clubs to find if they do their homework.
“There will be guys that won’t be perfect right now but they’ll end up being terrific players at the highest level and we want clubs to be brave enough to choose them,” Sheehan told AAP.
“There will be well-credentialled guys there even when the rookie draft comes around – it happens every year.
“But I would say that clubs will need to be creative later in the draft. Be creative – there will be (good) players there but there will be a reason why someone hasn’t performed consistently this year.
“There will be hidden gems back there who have had some sort of illness, injury or personal issue that has held them back from being a consistent performer at a high level.
“Work harder is the answer to those who might be sceptical about the depth. There will be good players down the back.”
At the pointy end, Victorian key position prospects Jacob Weitering and Josh Schache are vying for the honour of being the first player selected in a draft that Sheehan says will see several quality talls taken early.
A key part of the recruiting process, the AFL’s annual draft combine, kicked off on Thursday at Etihad Stadium with over 80 draft hopefuls put through four days of skill testing, medicals and interviews as clubs attempt to identify those potential diamonds in the rough.
“We call it ‘the last 15 per cent’ of the recruitment analysis,” Sheehan said.
“Clubs need to know whether a player can work in a full-time AFL environment. Can they cope with all the things that can occur? The winning, the losing, the injuries – are they resilient enough to get through all of that.
“There’s more interest from the clubs than ever. I think we’ve got over 200 hundred club scouts, coaches and list managers here.
“The level of scrutiny has never been higher in terms of the investigation into these young men and their prospects.”
This year’s national draft will be held in Adelaide on Tuesday, November 24.