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STABBING IN THE DARK by Whispering Jack

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With a week to go until the 2017 NAB National Draft meeting there’s not a great deal of excitement about it here on Demonland. 

The Jake Lever deal delivered a quality player with a projected long future at Melbourne but it also left the club without a first round draft pick. The Demons’ first selection is in mid-second round.

They have four vacancies on their primary list and unless they decide to take the unlikely course of recruiting a delisted free agent in the next few days, the Dees will go into the draft meeting in Sydney next Friday evening with selections 29, 31, 36 and 47 (or thereabouts because matching offers for academy selections and father-son picks can throw the order about slightly).

In light of the above, it would be absolute folly to even attempt a phantom draft although things are somewhat better than last year when Melbourne ended up with a third round pick at #46 as its first choice at about the time much of the viewership of the televised event was about to take a power nap.

As it turned out, the club’s first pick was a good one - Mitch Hannan who made his AFL debut in Round 1, 2017 against St Kilda, at Etihad Stadium and finished the season with 20 games and 22 goals to his name.

That’s the objective here - to look for players who might be available within the range of Melbourne’s draft selections when the meeting takes place next week. 

According to the statistical evidence, it’s not necessarily a gloom and doom scenario. The AFL Draft Guru tells us that over the past 33 national drafts, the average number of games played by pick 10 (the selection given away for Lever) was 87 compared with 79 games for the club’s current first pick at 29. And the Dees’ second pick at 31 yields an average of 60 which is better than the equivalent first selection of 53 for the Magpies at number 6. Yes, we all know about statistics and damn lies.

 I’ve looked at the field and acknowledge that it’s like stabbing in the dark but someone has to try - so here goes (with the help of some pen pics taken straight from the current edition of Inside Football):-

Given the recent success with recruiting the likes of Aaron vandenBerg and Hannan who came from the state leagues, why not take a player who wore the colours with distinction throughout 2017 in that very arena? I refer of course to Casey Demon Bayley Fritsch who is attracting interest from a dozen clubs after a scintillating season in the VFL.

The indications are that he might be available at around pick 36 and the club obviously has plenty of inside information about his ability as a player and his character.

Bayley Fritsch DOB: 06-12-96 186.9cm, 80.1kg Casey Demons 

“After two years tailed by injury, the left foot forward from Coldstream enjoyed a full season and was so impressive he elevated himself more into a draft certainty than a hopeful. Often spectacular in the air, deceptively quick, a penetrating kick, and crafty at ground level, the 20-year-old represented the VFL, topped Casey’s goalkicking with 44, made the VFL team of the year and received the Fothergill-Round Medal as the league’s best young player (always a reliable guide to a player’s AFL prospects). It won’t be a surprise to see him nabbed in the national draft.” -  VFL expert Paul Amy

Let’s face it. Picking players at this range isn’t necessarily going to provide you with ready made guns but we all like excitement machines and this next pair would add plenty of that - one is a high flyer and the other, a speedster.

Jordan Houlahan DOB: 19-Feb-99 185.7cm 76.0kg  Sturt

“Jordan is a spectacular player who tested well at the draft camp. He has an outrageously good vertical jump and also reads the flight of the ball really well. Every week he will take a couple of Jeremy Howe-type hangers. So he has some real x-factor about him but how that translates to AFL we’ll see. He might end up playing as a defender rather than a forward but he’s a nice shot at goal. More on the introverted, laid back side than on the extroverted side of the spectrum.” - Sturt general manager David Oatey.

Jack Petruccelle DOB: 12-Apr-1999 185.1cm, 77.7kg Northern Knights

“Jack came into the system mid-way through last year and put the basketball stuff on hold. He’s the quickest player in the TAC Cup and whether it’s in the air or on the ground he just does things that others can’t. We were impressed with his ability to chase and tackle - he tackles to hurt - and he puts his head over the ball. He’s been working extremely hard on his kicking - he’s OK when he’s on the run or from a set shot, but he can miss the short ones when he pokes at them. He’ll improve enormously in an AFL competition.” - Northern Knights talent manager Rhy Gieschen.

Then we have the players who start each year as highly regarded prospects but, for some reason or another, fall out of favour and slide down the scale. In Charlie Spargo’s case it’s been injury that has seen him drop from possible top ten to mid second round.

Charlie Spargo DOB: 25-Nov-99 171.6cm 70.2kg  Murray Bushrangers

"Charlie didn't play a game this year because of a shoulder injury after a handful of games last year. A really clever small forward, he would have developed in the midfield this year but because of the injury that didn’t happen. Certainly a draftable player and while the injury means he’ll slide I’m pretty sure he’ll get taken.” - Murray Bushrangers coach Leon Higgins.

Another who was fancied early but has dropped in draft calculations is South Australian Callum Coleman-Jones, possibly because clubs are loathe to go too early with the taller types and also because of injury which restricted him. He could make a good fit as a developing tall at Melbourne.

Callum Coleman-Jones DOB: 13-6-1999 200.9cm,  98.9kg, Sturt

“Callum is a 200cm ruckman/forward who was an AFL Academy member. Always a certainty to be drafted but he had a few injuries this year, which didn’t help him. National carnival was OK and would have played senior footy for us but because of AIS and school duties it didn’t happen. A good quality tall who can get off the ground.” - Sturt general manager David Oatey.

You can never have enough hard at it inside footballers and there have been some suggestions that James Worpel could be in that mix all of the way to pick 47.

James Worpel DOB: 24-Jan-1999 1851cm, 85.5kg Geelong Falcons

“James’ strength is to win the contested ball and does that better than anyone I’ve coached. He’s just a beast on the inside and is super explosive with repeat efforts. If you get tackled by him - which he’ll lay seven or eight in a game - you’ll know about it. Super leader and had all the accolades this year with Vic Country captain and Falcons captain. Just a wonderful person to have around the club.” - Geelong Falcons coach Dan O’Keefe

Of course, when draft night comes around, there’s a good chance that none of the above will be selected by Melbourne so the next reference point might be this.

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