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CHANGES 2014 - The final word

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CHANGES 2014 - The final word by The Oracle

From day one, the Paul Roos recruiting mantra has been predominantly about the midfield; the engine room of the game and the most important part of the ground where the gaining of control normally has a major impact on the outcome of a game.

When the dust settled over the trading period in late October, a look back at the Melbourne Football Club's recruiting was not suggestive that this was the case. It's acquisitions to that time were a forward goal sneak, a running defender and a big-bodied key defender. There were suggestions that Jeff Garlett and Heritier Lumumba could be brought into midfield play but the fact remained that the club's need to strengthen its inside midfield stocks had certainly not been fulfilled.

So out it went and recruited 22 year old Ben Newton from Port Adelaide as a delisted free agent. The 183cm, 84kg left footer had four games with Port in 2014 but rejected a contract offer to seek more opportunity after just missing out on a spot in their finals team.

The acquisition of Newton left only two available places on the club's list with its third round national draft selection already reserved under the father/son rule and another pick required for Neville Jetta's upgrade from rookie status. The situation changed however, when young Dom Barry suddenly announced his retirement citing a desire to pursue other things in life. When Michael Evans was delisted a few days later, the Demons had four live picks in the draft - 2, 3, 40 and 53.

The long wait for draft day ended on 27 November and the club's first two picks were determined after St. Kilda surprised by nominating key forward Patrick McCartin as its first choice, leaving two potential long term medium midfielders as the obvious next picks. Here's how they were described in Inside Football:-

Christian Petracca Eastern Ranges 4/01/96 186cm 95k

Christian is extremely competitive and a dynamic inside midfielder who is also a superbly capable mid-sized forward. At this level he's proven to be one of if not the best junior players in the country at winning his own ball on the ground and in the air. It's hard to liken him to anyone currently in the AFL because he's such a unique talent loaded with so many variables in his skill set. He was an Australian basketball junior representative so has all those inside decision making under pressure qualities that set him apart from most players. Just a dynamic talent who is ready to go Round 1 next year for the club that drafts him. - Eastern Ranges talent manager Mark Neeld

DRAFT RANGE: Top 2

Angus Brayshaw Sandringham Dragons 9/1/96 187cm 91kg

Angus is a ready-made senior footballer and he's just keen to get in there. He is a genuine inside midfielder who is very good at the stoppages and on both sides of his body. To be picky, we'd like him to add a bit more outside burst run to his game, but he is good above his head and has a really good character and work rate. It's really about him just taking up the challenges and getting set as quickly as possible. - Sandringham Dragons talent manager Ryan O'Connor

DRAFT RANGE: Top 5

The drafters had to wait a while before calling out the next name but we're pleased to go with stoppage extractor Alex Neil-Bullen from Glenelg, a close friend of Stretch and the player who led the clearances at this year's national under 18 carnival.

Alex Neal-Bullen Glenelg 9/01/96 182kg 76kg

Alex is probably the pick of our bunch at Glenelg. Played half a dozen senior games as an inside midfielder after having an outstanding carnival and I was surprised he didn't get All Australian. I'd expect him to go in the first 25 picks. He's a bit Pendlebury - like because he's not blessed with pace but his ability to get out of traffic and use the ball is outstanding. Had 25 possessions in one game at senior level and is just a great character kid in terms of maturity. - Glenelg football manager Matt Lokan.

DRAFT RANGE: 2nd round

Soon after, the formality of the father/son naming was completed.

Billy Stretch Glenelg 8/9/96 180cm 71kg

Billy has already gone to Melbourne as son of Steve Stretch. An outstanding person who comes from an outstanding family with the sort of professionalism that would rival lots of guys already on AFL lists. Played some senior footy this year and didn't look out of place at that level. - Glenelg football manager Matt Lokan.

DRAFT RANGE: Melbourne father-son selection.

The next choice was also a surprise. Tom McDonald's bother Oscar had been one of the leading tall defenders in this year's TAC Cup competition and was expected to be taken before pick 53, ironically the same selection as that which secured his sibling four years ago.

Oscar McDonald North Ballarat Rebels 18/3/96 197cm 94kg

It was a breakout year for Oscar. He concentrated on his studies last year and got a 99+ ENTER score. He has developed into a really strong man and reads the play exceptionally well. He can play forward and back and had some big jobs this year where he acquitted himself really well. There is a question mark on his speed but he answered those at the combine with some good testing. Players at 197cm don't grow on trees and we think he is our best chance this year. - North Ballarat Rebels talent manager Phil Partington

DRAFT RANGE: 2nd/3rd round.

This left only two rookie spots to fill and the recruiting team continued on with their now established trend and went for two medium sized versatile types who can also play in the middle of the ground.

Aaron Vandenberg was the smokey who didn't make it into Inside Football's list of over 200 players who were given pen pictures in its November edition. A 188cm, 90kg onballer, Vandenberg has won the Ainslie best-and-fairest for the last two years. This year, he dominated the NEAFL possession counts and finished off up forward with 20 goals. He was second in the NEAFL best-and-fairest and was also selected as a midfielder in the NEAFL 2014 Team of the Year. Melbourne Demons pick Ainslie's Aaron Vandenberg in AFL rookie draft

The club's last selection at # 20 was another left footer, Mitchell White from the Dandenong Stingrays who joins former teammate James Harmes on the rookie list.

Mitch White Dandenong Stingrays 10/4/96 189cm 85kg

Mitch is an AFL draftable player if he had two full years without his injuries. He was in Vic Country's best 22 and copped a corkie on the Thursday night before the last game. He's our best ball user - he kicks it 70 metres on his left and is neat on his right. He's got a funny running style which can throw guys off - he is a level 14 beeper. He can play on a wing, go forward and kick goals, he can play down back. He is Michael Hibberd where he is right now - they questioned his running style, they questioned his ability to play at the next level, but in the system he is a kid who will work his arse off. - Dandenong Stingrays talent manager Matt Wheeler

DRAFT RANGE: Late pick/rookie.

The playing list for the Melbourne Football Club as it faces 2015 is:-

PRIMARY LIST:

Rohan Bail Angus Brayshaw Daniel Cross Chris Dawes Lynden Dunn Jack Fitzpatrick Sam Frost Colin Garland Jeff Garlett Max Gawn Jack Grimes Jesse Hogan Jeremy Howe Jayden Hunt Mark Jamar Neville Jetta Matt Jones Nathan Jones Jay Kennedy-Harris Dean Kent Heritier Lumumba Tom McDonald Oscar McDonald Jordie McKenzie Viv Michie Alex Neal-Bullen Ben Newton Cameron Pedersen Christian Petracca Aidan Reilly Christian Salem Jake Spencer Billy Stretch Dean Terlich Jimmy Toumpas Jack Trengove Dominic Tyson Bernie Vince Jack Viney Jack Watts

ROOKIE LIST:

James Harmes Max King Aaron Vandenberg Mitchell White

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