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COLIN WISBEY'S 2006 NATIONAL DRAFT PREDICTIONS

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Continuing Colin Wisbey's 2006 Draft Predictions (PART ONE)

CATEGORY THREE - THE FOLLOWING WILL PLAY PLENTY OF AFL AND MAY WELL TURN OUT TO BE GOOD BUT I DOUBT WILL BE AS GOOD AS TOUTED (in draft order):-

GUMBLETON, Scott (2 ESS) [14] Physical, pack-crunching competitive worker KP. Big mark with a big motor and the heart of Phar Lap. More crunch than class but 101% commitment to team every time and a quality person. Leads by example, on and off-field. In '06, although only 17yo, was named in WA Seniors squad for interstate game and also got 9 votes in Sandover Medal, incl BOG in R1 and 2nd best in R22. 42 goals in '05 Colts. Big leap, courageous, quite clean below the knee, very good endurance. Goes for many pack marks and does take some rippers but doesn't hold as many as I think he needs to and I feel his overhead "reliability" is somewhat overrated. His hands are fairly good and he really attacks his marks but too often struggles for balance and/or ability to hold his ground / keep his feet body on body. Gumby murders an ordinary opponent but often struggles against a quality peer. On the right opponent, he can play KP forward or back but is also handy in the ruck (197cm with big leap, natural ruck skills, and good judgement and decision-making). However he definitely lacks zip and his recovery agility isn't flash. All of that makes him vulnerable against a KP opponent who has some zip or is very strong body on body. In the 3 '06 U18 Champs games, at various times he played key defender on Hansen and Hawkins and CHF on Sellar. IMHO, all beat him. Hawkins looked a class above him. When Sellar played close he glove-foiled Gumbleton's marking efforts almost every time (albeit in terrible conditions) and caught him out a number of times by running off him to create an option. In their duel, Sellar 15 disposals to Gumby 8. I've watched Gumby for 3 years, from U16s and Colts to WAFL Seniors. In the '04 U16 Champs, he was very impressive and looked a top AFL prospect but I suspect his peers have since improved at a faster rate, AFL-wise. Kicking technique needs work. (For a set kick his release is too early, costing him accuracy, and his COM is too far back on contact, costing him depth. Tends to kick under the ball, and too often off "one" step, rather than through it). I'm confident he will play plenty of AFL games, including some good ones, but I can't see him being a gun (although I'm at odds with popular opinion). He still got a healthy ranking from me and was always going to get taken inside the very first few picks but there are quite a few players, including almost all the "name" KPPs, who I would have drafted ahead him. In '05 (a much shallower draft, esp for KPPs), I ranked Josh Kennedy at 14 (same as Gumby this year) and both went top 4 as expected. However, I have always considered Gumby to be by far the better prospect.

BOAK, Travis (5 POR) [25] Hard to be confident what his best injury-free capability is. Is coming off a very difficult couple of years (family tragedy, injuries). Back stress fractures during '05 and early '06, groin problems following '06 Champs, and missed 1st TAC final also. Even allowing for all this though, I'm somewhat agnostic and wouldn't have drafted him myself, not only because of the high price required but also due to a combination of factors (including, but not especially, his injury history). He is certainly a smooth mover, clean, with good pace (although I'd like to see him use it more), very good endurance when injury-free, good tackle count, and usually runs to the right spots. I'm sceptical re his ability to become a genuinely top AFL player as touted but he "moves" like a classy AFL type, finds the ball, and is athletic so I do assume he will play plenty of AFL games. His basic stats also read as consistently healthy. However, he is one of those players who can have 25 disposals (even 10 in a quarter) without having nearly the impact on the game that his stats might suggest. He also doesn't have a record of really shining in big games (albeit with excuses in some games). He is regularly described as "classy" yet his decision-making can be iffy and he misses way too many targets by foot (even allowing for injury). (Kicking style looks relaxed but his drop is too forward of his plant foot so COM stays too far behind, costing him depth, and his arm actions need work). Style somewhat like Kane Johnson. For current family reasons, I suspect a Victorian club would have been a better short-term fit for his needs than an interstate one.

CATEGORY FOUR - EARLY PICK QUERIES (in draft order) – In some cases (mainly Reid and Frawley) I wouldn’t be all that surprised if they make it but I have major concerns whereas many people would label them "definite" or nearly so:

REID, Ben (8 COL) [49] Courageous skinny tall with good pace. 2 days younger and he would have been too young for '06 draft and is also still growing into his body so plenty of allowance needs to be made (although he has been through all the system - AIS, U16 Champs, U18 Champs, TAC). My main concern is "What AFL role (might he become capable of owning)?". That's the show-stopper for me. Other concerns are poor balance, recovery and defensive agility, skinniness. Trademarks are (1) Anything to do with courage, including launching himself at the ground ball, (2) Clean hands to take an uncontested mark or gather a loose ball or receive out wide, then deliver a probably fairly accurate feed or kick, quite possibly a floater, to a well-spotted team mate, (3) Getting squeezed out of a pack marking contest or not being able to keep his balance in some other balance-testing situations. Ben, like Kepler Bradley, lacks natural balance in a host of circumstances. I rate balance among the top requirements for AFL and especially for KPP. If he is to be a potential KPP because he is 196cm and quicker than most KPPs, how competitive can he be in body contests if he struggles through lack of NATURAL balance to keep his feet and/or hold his ground? We have seen this with Bradley (whose balance admittedly is worse). Ben is skinny - needs to bulk up a helluva lot to have the strength for KPP. If he can (and I'm somewhat sceptical), can he do so without losing his main current advantage re KPP, namely pace? OK, let's consider him as a tall flanker/wingman. On paper it sounds great. A 196cm guy whose speed tests indicate he has the pace to go with many flankers/ wingmen, is quite clean at ground level and is fairly good overhead if not under great pressure. However, slippery opponents will be too nimble in general play and too zippy (especially off the mark, despite Ben's DC times suggesting otherwise). Further, Ben's lack of natural balance will be exploited even by much smaller opponents, mainly in running to the ball and inside traffic but, in some cases, even overhead. A smaller guy typically won't be able to match Ben overhead per se but many/most are still adept at laying a bump and body-on-body. If they can nudge Ben off his line, as many will be able to do, then it no longer becomes a marking contest but a fight for the spill/ground ball. Yes, Ben is good below the knees (at least in space or not inside traffic) for such a tall guy ... but he is not "contested midfielder good". Once the ball is on the carpet, especially inside traffic but also one-on-one, Ben, against most much shorter opponents will lose many more than he wins. We have seen this even at underage level when he has played non-KP roles (typically wing). People get excited about the prospect of a tall who has some small-man attributes. I am never seduced by "bonus" attributes if the kid doesn't look likely to be near enough to the real deal in his core requirement. The 198cm Paul Johnson was rightly lauded for small-man ability in many areas. What Paul lacked was big-man ability, especially overhead marking. I expect a potential KPP to be good as a tall. Anything on top of that adds value to his core contribution. You don't see many AFL long-termers who defy that rule, although many "in betweeners" get drafted/rookied ... then delisted. The lucky tall ones (eg Tristan Walker) stay on a list beyond their use-by date because we can be tempted to think it is just a matter of time before it all comes together. Occasionally it does. Usually it finishes up being a poor return on investment. Trying to picture Ben as a mid-age U18 in '07 he might make huge improvement, as some do, from one year to the next. As very bottom-age, I'm not categorically stating that Reid will never make AFL. However, IMHO he has critical issues that I am highly sceptical about being addressable and that he has no "above average" footy smarts or skill attribute and so represents a much greater risk than I would be prepared to take. Terrific kid and will play AFL games but I feel his upside is overrated (or too taken for granted) by most people and his risk underrated. His combination of the above assets will probably enable him to pinch-hit in various roles on the right opponent. However, I don't believe in drafting kids you think will be able to just pinch-hit.

FRAWLEY, James (12 MEL) [57] 193cm (although perhaps with a reach disadvantage) defender. Shows poise but sub-standard kicking and decision-making are almost show-stoppers. Has a fair bit wrong with his kicking action, including low take, being hunched (resulting in limited backswing and need to "rush punch" his kicks), and negligible arm movement. No left foot sometimes costs him. Currently slim and might (?) always be (added only 2kg in 2 years) but weight will be at least flanker-OK. Reliable overhead (in all respects). Gets his own ball but links well too. Pace has improved a lot but, despite some people saying otherwise, to no better than at best "handy" IMHO (and still sub par off the mark). He's a bit "neither one thing nor the other". Looked serious AFL in a couple of games (esp vs Geelong R 12) and sounds versatile but is prone to periods in various games where his opponent cuts him up damagingly. Frawley reads the play very well in defence, is very balanced and cool, and runs to the right spots (both defensively and offensively). He's built more as a tall flanker but he can get turned inside out by a quick/slippery opponent. He's competitive overhead for a flanker but someone like Hansen (among many others) would outmark him virtually every time as a KPP. If I had a hypothetical guarantee that both his kicking and decision-making would improve dramatically, he'd be definite "handy AFL" and earlier in my rankings. Although I think his kicking problems are addressable, it's hard, in the absence of real evidence, to justify confidence in him sufficiently improving his decision-making and kicking. Vision and awareness aren't flash either. I don't see him ever being top notch but he might become a solid type. I wouldn't have taken him myself though, let alone as a first rounder, although various clubs rated him fairly early. I do expect him to play a fair few AFL games however, perhaps even debuting in year 1, and he does have AFL ethic and some leadership traits.

RENOUF, Brent (24 HAW) [] Athleticism good, ethic very good but is he a small man trapped in a big man's body? NQR as a tall. Main selling points are small-man ethic and skills, athleticism (incl endurance). Has among the best small-man attributes of any of the serious talls in this draft. However, huge men should get drafted for what they offer in the big-man department, small-man attributes being a bonus, and I'm far from convinced about Brent in the big-man stuff, especially contested marking and ruck ability. Big leap but regularly jumps too early at centre bounce (and other ball-ups), resulting in him meeting the ball when he is well on the way down. The early jump allows him to partially command the space under the ball and has worked well for him against shorter rucks but leaves him vulnerable to a later-jumping ruck being able to connect with the ball at a point higher than what Renouf is by that stage. This is not an occasional thing. He has been doing it for at least the last 2 years. Brent has to modify his timing if he is to be competitive against good AFL rucks, let alone giants. Overhead concerns are positioning (tends to move to a spot directing under the ball and jump straight up, leaving him vulnerable to a spoil from behind.), ability to hold his ground, hands (he often seems to position them as if trying to grab a basketball, although his background is rugby) and judgement. Hard to criticise his '06 form (eg 7 Morrish Medal votes from a possible 9 in his 3 TAC games) but a recruiter's job is to assess AFL capability, not lower level form per se. Brent doesn't get a lot of ball but earns what he gets. Very impressive (hands, intensity, decisions) when at or near a "ground-level" play of any sort but he is too often where the play ain't. In 6 U18 Champs games '05-06, never more than 8 disposals in a game. His 3 TAC '06 games, although he played well, yielded only 8, 11, 13 (the 13 against a bottom team). Tends to be hard on himself and his confidence can be fragile. Some players respond well when criticised, using it as a spur to do better. However, some other players need to be emotionally "nursed" (continual positive reinforcement) and can lose confidence when criticised. Brent is in the latter category. That's certainly not a showstopper but it does bother me in any player. He was always going to get drafted based mainly on impressive "small man" ethic/capability (which is not the main thing I'm after in a huge man) and impressive QAFL Seniors form (including/especially a good game at CHB on ex Brisbane/Richmond player Luke Weller at season-end). I'm sceptical though. I don't see him cutting it as AFL ruck and can't see him as any chance of being a 200cm CHB at AFL level. (Better giants than Brent have been touted, without result, for such role).

DAWES, Chris (28 COL) [] Strongly-built blue collar tall who has really only been playing footy for about 3 years. Likely to miss all '07 due to knee reco late '06. That would be a problem for any kid but a relative newcomer to footy needs to get as many games under his belt as quickly as possible to make up for the start most of his peers have on him. In that context, Chris' knee injury is an even bigger misfortune for him than it would be for most kids. Quality person. Usually marks well on a lead (times leads well, prepared to make multiple leads, and has deceptive straight-linepace) but is not so good when he can't mark the ball out in front of his face (also has a tendency to duck, although I'm not suggesting through lack of courage). Officially has about a 9cm reach advantage - a huge help, especially for KPP. Murders U18 opponents and average-quality talls (although he also gave Jarryd Allen a bath) but I'm not convinced about him against decent opponents generally (struggles to avoid being spoiled, can tend to be 2-grab, and is not great at holding his ground). Team man who usually displays good vision, poise, decision-making. Recovery and defensive agility (big turning circle) is a concern. 2nd efforts are mixed bag but has high tackle count. It's not that he is very poor at anything, just that he isn't really above average at anything either.

MACKENZIE, Eric (29 WCE) [50] Well-built 196cm athlete. Good pace, excellent endurance. Runs very hard to link and is a thumping kick but is very lacking in intensity and smarts (esp on the run, in which situation he regularly just blazes away without looking for or noticing best option). Somewhat of a small man trapped in a big man's body. Will get AFL games due to his sexy size, very impressive athleticism (has done sub 3sec 20m and 15+ beep), thumping kick and his very hard running to link. However, IMHO (1) he is not nearly intense or smart enough for key defender (although I feel he needs the straight ahead, "play unfolding in front of him", benefits of defender; (2) despite handy onball stints at Colts level, he is and not smart enough or reliably clean (getting or delivering) for a linker or giant onballer. His hurt factors (all three) are sub-standard. My specific major concerns are intensity (re 2nd efforts, spoiling, desperation, attack on the man or ball), decision-making, vision, awareness (too often gets nailed/rushed taking too long to dispose through poor awareness). He works hard forward of the ball but much less so going the other way. His '06 performances are hard to assess as carried groin problem most of the year but I've seen a lot of him over 3 years and, although I was impressed at '04 U16 Champs, I've been increasingly underwhelmed since. Many believe he will be very AFL versatile but I'm of an opposing view, viz "What AFL role can he prove capable of owning?".

CATEGORY FIVE - These players caused me MUCH ANGST in assessing their AFL potential Every recruiter has some kids whose AFL potential he is just not confident in nailing, one way or the other, no matter how much he has studied them or due to lack of exposure. These are mine (in draft order):

BROWN, Nathan (10 COL) [30] and BROWN, Mitchell (16 WCE) [31]. I know this isn't fair and twins must hate it but I find insufficient differences between these twins to justify separate comments on each. Athletic improving late starters. Nathan significantly the better in '05 but IMHO Mitch caught up in '06. Determined, ultra-committed (excellent ethic, on and off-field, and will get the absolute most out of themselves) talls. Strong, mobile, competitive. Thumping kicks. Pace queries in '05 but both improved it in '06 and now have nice running styles. Similar "handy", sometimes "good", pace (Mitch quicker than his DC times suggest, Nathan not as quick as his DC times suggest), although lack some zip off the mark. Sometimes quick thinking / creative but not consistently good poise, vision or decision-making. Attack man and ball, have the 1%ers covered. Can certainly take some strong grabs but marking hands, judgement and ability to hold their ground / keep their feet are not particularly reliable. Neither (particularly Nathan) has a good tackle count. (eg Nathan was credited with no tackles in 3 U18 Champs games). In fairness, they do a lot of spoiling but, tackling-wise, they are susceptible to being wrong-footed by a slippery opponent. I believe best role for both will be key defender (perhaps FB). I don't foresee either twin getting particularly impressive stats but they play a team game, give their all, run hard both ways, are accountable, and have high pain threshold. I'd like to see them be proactive more often (which will probably eventuate). Forced to call, I'm confident both will play AFL games, I suspect both will be on AFL lists for some years (mainly because they will leave no stone unturned) but I shall be very surprised if either turns out to be A-grade AFL, although not surprised if both turn out to be solid indians or at least good backup. Depending on need and options, I'd have been prepared to draft either of them but with a pick certainly no earlier than where I ranked them, which is not as early as they were likely to go.

O'KEEFE, Daniel (15 SYD) [36] Improver since '05 and especially since mid '06. Backs his own judgement, plays on his own terms, with a style(!) that has elements of Dal Santo and S Grant. In some other respects (reliably strong overhead and goal-creation) he is not unlike his namesake and now Sydney team-mate. Pace is only borderline acceptable for his size and type and he is not flash off the mark. Can definitely get the hardball but he is not big on handballing and, due to lack of zip, is prone to getting nailed when he tries to break away from traffic. A lot of his possessions are virtually uncontested, often from sitting just off the play, ready to capitalise, and without being too fussed about his opponent. He reads such situations extremely well and really hurts the opposition when he gains possession from such plays or from backing himself to attack the oncoming ball. At AFL, his opponent will have plenty of opportunities to have first crack and cause damage too though. O'Keefe can play (at least pinch hit) in many roles but is perhaps best setting up play from half-back, often with quarterback efficiency. (Is not a failsafe kick but is usually good, often excellent). He calls for the ball a lot but doesn't do much hard running to link and he needs to handball more for AFL. Smart, balanced, unruffled. Handy around goals. (More noted for goals from strong marks within shortish range but is no slouch with other goal-kicking either. Kicked 32-15 in his "15" TAC games in '06, despite spending plenty of time upfield). No questioning his '06 U18 form or consistency (Morrish or Coaches votes in 10 of his completed 15 TAC games) but is he a bit too vanilla to be seriously good AFL?. He knows how to get good stats, his best is definite AFL, he will play AFL games, and he is likely to create a good initial impression at AFL. My concerns are pace and whether he will produce the right on-field work rate and ethic (including hard running and accountability) to be able to sustain an impressive long-term career. (eg) StKilda (in previous years), Carlton or Richmond would have suited his style but he will have to play less on his own terms to succeed long-term in a team that plays a primarily accountable game plan. I wouldn't be surprised if he turns out good, even very good, but I'm just not confident enough to lock in a strong conviction about him, one way or the other.

HAMPSON, Shaun (17 CAR) [41] Raw, very athletic 201cm newby with good ethic. Currently very NQR but improvement curve very encouraging over the past year and even since the U18 Champs. No sure bet - you are punting on what you think you may be able to develop him into. A reasonable comparison for where Shaun is right now would be Roberts-Thomson when he first played AFL - a raw footy newby who would walk over hot coals but was more frenetic energy than science. (LRT had much better U18 credentials). Main selling points are pace/athleticism at 201cm and upside. Main query is footy smarts. If you were looking to draft Shaun as potential KPP, he is not worth the risk. As a potential ruck, he was worth a mid-latish pick IMHO. If he develops really well footy-wise, perhaps he may furnish into a key defender anyway but you should treat that possibility as an outside-bet bonus, especially given the historical record of 201cm AFL KPPs, no matter how athletic. Only played footy 2 years (soccer background). Some examples of what you are buying, good and not so good:- (1) In a late '06 QAFL Seniors game, he scooped the ball off the carpet one-handed at pace, dashed at serious pace towards goals, sold the dummy without breaking stride then goaled. (2) In U18 Champs vs Tas, his ruckwork was outstanding, best of either side, including the quite highly rated below-age Bellchambers, and much better than Renouf's - high, well-timed leaps, clear hitouts - looked AFL in ruck contests but only in ruck contests, (3) 3 days earlier he didn't do a lot or anything special but ethic was promising - kept pushing himself, including a few 40m searching leads even though the ball was 70m upfield, (4) In a Challenge Cup game, his ruckwork had been impressive but he had done nothing else til 3/4 time, then very impressive Q4 (except for kicking), including 2 separate incidents in which he gave a small opponent 2m start and ran him down within 20m with a combination of closing speed and desperation, (5) I've seen him miss a gimme 25m/dead virtually set goal that saw the ball go way RHS and I've seen him kick a 50m 75degree goal with a very fluent kicking style, guiding ball to boot nicely and kick having plenty of power and straight as a die. I had no idea where to rank Shaun. Certainly not nearly as early as he was taken (he's way too raw and uncredentialled for me to justify early ranking). However he does show some real ability albeit, other than ruckwork and speed, only in cameo. You are buying upside in a genuinely quick, well-built giant. You'll have cause to groan on occasions as he finds his footy legs. However, great kid with intelligence, enthusiasm, the right intentions and a willingness to learn. Forced to call, I suspect he will make a handy AFL ruck, with an outside chance of FB (at least against the right opponent) and capable of pinch-hitting elsewhere (on the right opponent).

PETTERD, Ricky (30 MEL) [51] Running, marking versatile 185cm. I had ranked him at 26 until late in the piece but studying his QAFL Seniors games highlighted a pattern of a couple of significant concerns which were only occasional occurrences at underage level so I dropped off him a fair bit. I'm no longer sold on him but he does tick many boxes. Great '06 form (QAFL seniors and Div 2 B&F at U18 Champs), gets plenty of ball, is strong overhead (although with a disconcerting tendency to sometimes instinctively duck his head), has a big leap, and covers ground. Trademark is gather the spill, either at edge of or inside traffic, or link up out wide, then perhaps take an opponent on, have a bounce then kick across his body to a targeted option (perhaps fairly accurately but not necessarily) then keep running on. I get the impression (might be unfair to him but it's how it looks to me) that he tends to play for his stats and I'm not convinced he is a team player. Reads the play and ball well. Poise, vision, evasion (and he likes to take them on), traffic management, and decision-making are usually quite good but kicking and it's hurt factor are iffy. Habit of kicking around corners (which I dislike) and does too many high floaters. Max range seems about 50m. I'm not convinced he has a left hand either. Plays mainly as Predator. Shows real courage at times (mainly overhead) but, overall, doesn't commit his body often enough for my liking. I'm now not convinced that his good poise and decision-making at U18 will as good when he is faced with the tempo and physical pressure of AFL. He is also quite unaccountable. Will have good endurance for AFL and make full use of it (at least in one direction) but pace is usually only average and he can be fairly slow over a distance. I've no doubt he will play AFL games and possibly look quite good in the early ones. Unless he addresses my main concerns though, I'm not confident he will be a long-termer. What I like in him, I really like, and there's a fair bit to like. What I don't like in him, I really don't like, albeit that the likes outnumber the dislikes.

GOLDSTEIN, Todd (37 KAN) [40] Newby even compared to other newbies. Raw, ungainly, sometimes newby-unsure but often displays good ball control and some other encouraging ability in small-man aspects including below the waist, evasion and deceptive agility at times. (He was not recognised as a national-level basketballer for nothing). Biggest concern is that he struggles body on body in ruck contests, at least currently, which worries the heck out of me in a ruck. I'm cutting him slack because he is not used to ruck contests but he is a draft risk in this regard as there is no guarantee he will not always be that way. I'd take that risk myself but not with any degree of comfort. Currently a long way off the pace but has shown in cameo some really promising signs and he plays keen. His improvement trend has been rapid, and week by week, and that's the key to my interest, not where he is at now. Promising TAC finals series but his ruck opponents weren't good yardsticks. (Dominated against Gippsand but Hansen was their only effective ruck option and not a recognised tap ruck. Dominated in GF but Calder had no-one over 193cm. Beat Sandringham's Shaw but not resoundingly and he had help. "Competitive" against the genuine Geelong ruck Banjanin and Stavenuiter). You can only beat who the opposition throws at you though and Goldstein couldn't have done a lot more for such a newby. At 201cm, worth a late punt but pick 37 was a little early for the risk I'd be prepared to take. My ranking was similar to the pick used on him but that ranking was based on "suspected" upside and improvement trend without a strong body of evidence (basketballer until mid '06 and has played only 8 games in his life) to justify great confidence. Currently poor pace and endurance but is in very soft physical condition at this stage so AFL conditioning is likely to result in marked improvement. Forced to call, I suspect he will make AFL but I would rather he had gone to a club that has fewer young rucks ahead of him so he could get more opportunity to learn his craft quicker.

KRAKOUER, Nathan (39 POR) [48] (see above). Extreme skinniness was the only factor that caused me any angst but it caused me plenty (else I'd have ranked him quite early and without hesitation).

GARLAND, Colin (46 MEL) [53] Was initially reluctant to play '06 U18 Champs but simply had never seen himself as being good enough and had to be convinced otherwise. Is now committed to AFL. 2 VFL Seniors games late '06. Nice, intelligent kid. No concerns about him re character or off-field ethic. He's a hard cat to assess because, in a game, he tends to be on fire for a while and then just drift almost completely out of the game. His best looks serious AFL and his worst looks serious VFL Reserves. Allowing for current lack of bulk, is very good overhead. Kicking is very mixed bag (one extreme to the other). Kicking style is loose release but fluent. No left foot - sometimes when a left is called for, he tries to do "too cute" party-trick right-foot squeeze kicks, occasionally even when he has time to straighten up properly onto his right. Disposal in general needs to be more reliable but I suspect it will become so. Usually good poise, vision and clean hands all levels. "OK" pace, quick on a lead (and times it well), although not flash over the first few metres in general play. Good recovery and defensive agility. Falls to ground a bit too easily and also has a little bit of a habit of getting in the way of a team-mate (no drama but a bit disconcerting). If he turns out to be good enough for AFL, should be very versatile. Plenty of scope for improvement as he hasn't had the development and particularly the physical conditioning of many peers and I also suspect he will show a lot of improvement via confidence once he starts believing he belongs at AFL. Div 2 standard of U18 Champs can make some kids look better than they are but he did show promise in cameo and looked promising in his one genuine TAC test (vs Oakleigh). I initially ranked him in my 30s but he slipped down the further I analysed him. His 2nd VFL game impressed AFL-wise and almost swayed me back somewhat but, in the end, I ranked him conservatively. At this stage, there is too big a gap between his best (which is AFL) and worst (including intensity and involvement) so he is a punt. Forced to call, I suspect he will make AFL, such is the improvement I think he has in him once conditioned and confident.

O'BRIEN, Brock (52 FRE) [18] Tough (albeit with a temper he needs to watch), very quick defender. Thumping, and often very good, kick. Runs hard, hits hard. Genuine footballer, consistent. Not X-factor but appealing combination of genuine speed and aggression at both man and ball. Good leap, good evasion. No X-factor but has the potential to be AFL-reliable. Injured hammy very early in game 2 '06 U18 Champs so really only played one U18 Champs game in '06. Resumed mid-July but re-injured hammy immediately. Plays the game on his own terms and seems to have some personality issues he needs to address so, along with derailed '06 exposure, very hard to rank. I rated him highly in '04 U16s and, although my confidence is now shakier, in the end I still ranked him purely on his best capability (which is AFL) rather than as a reflection of any great confidence and I just hope he can "fit in" within an AFL environment and stay on top of injury. Might take a bit of time to regain confidence in hammies. Forced to call, I suspect he will be a handy AFL HBF/BP.

GRAY, Robert (55 POR) [55] Poor man's Gary Ablett Jnr in style, physical appearance, play/ball reading, reflexes and freakish traits and is similarly clean, slippery and nimble. Played mainly midfield 1st half of '06 then mainly FF. 33g-8b in 6 consecutive TAC H&A games late '06 as a 180cm FF, incl bags of 7 twice and an 8. 58-31 for the year. That's impressive in itself but what published stats don't divulge is his value-adding high rate of goal assists. I work on talent analysis 7 days a week 11 months of the year and most people who are full-time in recruiting would agree that heading off to games is often like a factory worker going to work. Dispassionate observers. It's the Robbie Grays and Gary Abbetts that actually lift my adrenalin. I love Robbie. Love watching the ways he plays and also admire his willingness to improve his weaknesses. Terrific kid and can do things most other players, even at AFL, can't. Instinctive smarts that you can't teach. In an era where creative flair is giving way to robotic adherence to rigid team game plans, Robbie never plays a game in which his flair doesn't excite at some stage(s). Not through breaking the lines (he lacks pace over a distance, although sharp on a lead), not through 60m goals on the run (he really struggles for depth, although improving a bit), not through linking up from one end of the ground to the other (he doesn't have a big tank and probably never will), and not through Sampi-like low percentage attempts to only try for the spectacular. Rather, Robbie has an instinctive ability to very sharply, cleanly and nimbly create something out of nothing, overhead or ground, regardless of pressure, and make other players on the scene appear to be mentally 2 steps behind. Importantly, he has good ethic both ways, attacks ball and man (fierce tackler), is mentally tough and is unselfish. I would have liked the chance to Rookie him to see after one year what improvement we could have made to his pace, depth and tank. They are the obstacles in his AFL path. His U18 club has worked hard with him on his kicking. Technique problems I've identified include (1) COM too far back, leaning too far back on contact, so he tends to kick under rather than through, (2) leg action too quick, allowing insufficient time for decent backswing, (3) tilts LHS, left arm too far back and right arm does nothing, (4) body is too tense. Running-wise, he holds his head too low. I'm highly confident his ability around goals (not only creating his own but also creating opportunities for team-mates) will translate well to AFL. It is what he doesn't bring to the table that made me reluctantly rank him much lower than I would have liked and behind various other players I would not have considered drafting. Will he ever have the pace, tank or all-round kicking ability (eg current comfortable range wouldn't be much more than 40m) to be more than a FP type? (And he hasn't looked AFL upfield). Will opponents find it too easy to run off him over a distance? Was carrying groin injury through '06 finals and last couple of weeks of H&A. Had also apparently been carrying injury leading into U18 Champs so his fitness had been down. It's just that I'm not confident he has the body structure to ever have much leg speed over ground or a decent tank. He's built for explosive impact, not ground coverage. Forced to call, I expect he will play AFL quite early and immediately become a cult figure among fans as Ablett Jnr did but (and I'd love to be wrong) I suspect that when opposition coaches work him out, his inherent weaknesses will be too readily exposable so I am dubious about him sustaining a long-term career. (And footy entertainment will be the poorer if he doesn't last).

CONNORS, Daniel (58 RIC) [32] Very ordinary '05 but huge improver in '06. Vision, poise, clean hands. Can be very good both one-on-one and inside traffic. Can be very slick and left-field clever. Good (but often too ambitious) overhead (and has a significant reach advantage). Soso pace. Plays too much on his own terms. Current endurance is poor, I suspect due to a combination of bulking up 10kg in '06, lack of off-field application, and perhaps not naturally having a big tank. Hypothetically, if I had some guarantee he would work hard (especially off-field but also on-field), I might have included him in my "Will be at least good" category as his best is AFL. Given his current physical condition, application has to be questioned. (Oddly enough, despite all that, he occasionally displays the odd leadership trait). I like on-field arrogance but he overdoes it. He needs to play the percentages more, less millionairish and respect his limitations. By way of comparison, Connors' kicking, although he is no stranger to clangers, is miles better (overall reliability and best kicks) than Grigg's (whose kicking reliability and quality are both sub-standard). However, I identified major flaws in Grigg's kicking action that should be addressable, making Grigg a fairly attractive package overall and I can identify a number of AFL roles (especially onball) that I could see Griggs being able to fill. Even though Connors' best attributes are more AFL-impressive than Grigg's, I find it harder to identify either scope for Connors to lift his pace or, in particular, reasons to automatically assume he will develop good endurance and work ethic, so Connors as a total package (strengths and concerns) ultimately had less appeal to me due to concerns over "What AFL role can I, with any confidence(!), see him making his own?" (although he could at least pinch-hit in various roles forward, back and mid). That said, I would not be surprised if he makes AFL or even becomes quite good AFL. It's mainly up to him and how much he wants to make it. I do rate his best qualities (his best efforts reek of class) but the risks (or really the degree of speculation required) were too great for me to consider drafting him at my ranking number (which reflects his upside more than my confidence in him achieving it). However, he was a reasonable pick-up at #58, although I wouldn't have been personally keen to take on the risks, given other options available at that pick.

LYNCH, Malcolm (66 WBD) [52] Very skinny, very quick 178cm. Quite one-sided but quick of hand and brain (left-field creative) and has elite vision. Surprisingly good ethic (esp chases, tackles) for a player of his creative type. Trademark is clean gather, sharp acceleration off the mark, then lookaway feed (perhaps on the run), displaying excellent vision, even under great pressure. Tiwi Islander but his secondary schooling has been in NSW, who he represented in '05-'06. I liked him in '05 but back, hammy and hand (IIRC) injuries ruined his 2nd 1/2 of '06 and I only saw him once at a recognised level in '06 (pre-draft) so I couldn't justify ranking him as early as my pre-'06 impressions would have warranted. Seems articulate, mature and sensible (eg Impressively narrated a doco on indigenous team representing Aust in Sth Africa tour). Forced to call, I'm quietly confident he will make it. My angst wasn't about whether I liked him (I do) but where to rank him.

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This is what he said about Michael Newton in 2004 when he was drafted:-

NEWTON, Michael (43) [Mel] Athletic marking KPP. Inconsistent and I'm not sure if he is a team player but attractive package and upside. Bargain.

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This is what he said about Michael Newton in 2004 when he was drafted:-

NEWTON, Michael (43) [Mel] Athletic marking KPP. Inconsistent and I'm not sure if he is a team player but attractive package and upside. Bargain.

Colin also rated Brock McLean at no. 1, which (in hindsite) was a pretty good call.

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Colin also rated Brock McLean at no. 1, which (in hindsite) was a pretty good call.

Actually i think McLean was one of his biggest mistakes. He put a big question mark on him when we drafted him, and now admits that he got it wrong

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Actually i think McLean was one of his biggest mistakes. He put a big question mark on him when we drafted him, and now admits that he got it wrong

Indeed. Pretty sure Wisbey did not rate McLean at #1!

This is what he said about Michael Newton in 2004 when he was drafted:-

NEWTON, Michael (43) [Mel] Athletic marking KPP. Inconsistent and I'm not sure if he is a team player but attractive package and upside. Bargain.

From what I've read on the forums that doesn't sound like a bad assessment.

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nah he never rated brock as number 1. and if i recall correctly said that he was one of the best players in the draft but had little scope for improvement.

Anyone else really disappointed by our player assessments?

Frawley's especially.

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Wisbey rated Brock as a "late second rounder at best".

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Wisbey rated Brock as a "late second rounder at best".

Unlike our wonderful recruiting manager who managed to pick him up at #5, and get Davey as a rookie, and pluck Bruce out of obscurity and bring us the Juice!

Don't mind me, just sucking up to make sure he stays...

(Read here if you have no idea what I'm on about)

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    IMAGINE by Whispering Jack

    The Demons made their official return to the training track for 2019 on a sunny Saturday morning at Goschs Paddock with most of the interest initially centred on a small patch of ground in one of the pockets where the rehab group was going through the paces. Some good pieces of news on that score. The  rehab group is considerably smaller than it was prior to the Christmas break with Christian Petracca (knee), James Harmes (shoulder), Jayden Hunt (shoulder), Neville Jetta (shoulder), Oscar McDonald (hip) and Tim Smith (foot) all having fully recovered and training with the main group.  More good news. The remaining rehabbers were all training at a reasonable level leaving one to think that they all should be right for the opening of the season, with the exception of Jake Lever (knee) who might not be that far away by the end of March. Key midfielders Jack Viney (foot), Angus Brayshaw (back) and Clayton Oliver (shoulders) have been on modified training programmes but appear on target to return to full training in the next month along with Oskar Baker (hamstring, Mitch Hannan (knee), Billy Stretch (toe) and Aaron vandenBerg (shoulder). Nathan Jones was apparently troubled by hamstring tightness and took it easy with a bit of sparring practice and Jake Melksham was the only player missing (possibly because his wife is expecting a child any day now).  And after Friday’s shocking news of Tom Mitchell’s broken leg at Hawthorn’s training, the really good news was that nobody ended the session on crutches or in a moon boot. The story going round during the break of a renewal of Tom McDonald’s toe woes was just that - a tale with no substance. There’s a blister on a big toe but mine’s worse than his and it’s not going to stop me from being at the MCG on Saturday 23 March when the season starts with a game against Port Adelaide. So with that game in mind, the attention turned to the blokes who were training their butts off in the warm-up to what promises a tough month or two heading up to the 2019 season.  I’ve tried to steer away from all of the media speculation about Melbourne being one of the top three in line for the premiership but the inescapable take away from the session is the observation that the maturing list now runs strong and deep in quality and the club’s recruiting appears to have added icing to the cake.  We are light years away from the position we occupied when Dave Misson arrived to find that the club’s fitness and training regime was well below the standards of most AFL clubs. We no longer need to go into raptures about young draftees stepping up to the plate for round one because that simply isn’t going to happen. The younger recruits will all be given plenty of time. However, there are three (perhaps four if you add former Collingwood VFL player Marty Hore) ready-made potential additions to the team who have arrived from other clubs to add strength to Melbourne’s 2019 campaign. The added depth will certainly put pressure on the veterans like Jones and Jordan Lewis - that sort of pressure being another plus for teams that want to go places in this tough competition.  The addition of another club’s captain to your list is something that doesn’t happen often so my first observation is that Steven May from the Suns looms as a significant addition to the ranks. That was made clear from my first sighting of him on the track - he cuts a very imposing figure out on the ground and one can’t escape the feeling that his move to Melbourne is one that will be a great one for his career and for the club. Imagine him and Jake Lever as additions to the defensive structure of the side that took part in last year’s finals. Imagine another revitalised former Sun in Kade Kolodjashnij and a fit and re-energised Jayden Hunt and/or Billy Stretch added to that mix tearing down the flanks or the wings. At 206 cm and 109 kg Braydon Preuss is a big man and it’s hard to reconcile why North Melbourne let him go. True, Todd Goldstein had a good season last year and Ben Brown and Majak Daw (before his tragic issues) were considered adequate pinch hitters in the ruck but Preuss is a monster who promises to provide major headaches to opposing clubs that struggle now to counter Max Gawn. With the new rules coming in this season, pity their ruck divisions at centre bounces and pity the defences having to counter resting talls.  Speaking of pity, I want to go back to the rehab group for a moment and talk Jack Viney who set the tone for the rest of the players in this group with his steely determination and toughness. Back in the day, it was generally considered that being on the injured list gave players the opportunity to slack off a bit at training. Pity anyone with that view when Jack Viney’s around! Late in the session, he was doing repetitions around the boundary with Brayshaw and Lever and he attacked them with brutality. It was understandable that he was able to beat off the latter but, by the end, he had Angus gasping in his wake. Viney was restricted to only 10 of a possible 25 games due to those nagging foot injuries and was rarely able to play at his best when he was on the field. On that basis, you could almost consider a fully recovered Viney as a “recruit” in 2019. The other players who impressed at training were 2018’s big improver James Harmes and the youngster who could take that improver’s mantle, Bayley Fritsch who seems to be relishing his first full AFL pre season.  Then there’s Christian Petracca. I’m looking for him to really break out this year. Imagine that!

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    THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS - 2018 by Whispering Jack

    Melbourne atoned for the heartbreak of its frustrating finish to the 2017 season by, at long last, making the finals and then disposed of two highly credentialed and experienced teams in Geelong and Hawthorn before it capitulated meekly to eventual premier West Coast in the Preliminary Final in Perth. The club’s progression has been forward and upward since it finished 2013 with two wins and appointed Paul Roos as coach. The number has increased to four, seven, 10, 12, and now 14 games. The Demons made the finals for the first time in a dozen years and are now tracking for their first premiership in five and a half decades.
     
    In the women’s game, the club’s second season of AFLW competition was dogged throughout by inaccuracy in front of goal causing it to again just miss out on grand final honours finishing third after losing 4.7.31 to 5.3.33 to rivals and eventual premiers, the Western Bulldogs in the final round. The Demons were well led by Daisy Pearce and had a star player in  Karen Paxman. They will miss their skipper Pearce, who will be out of the forthcoming season on maternity leave - a first for the womens competition. The Demons started their men’s campaign with a win in their section of the novelty AFLX competition, then won their two JLT  Community Series games against North Melbourne in Hobart and St Kilda at Casey Fields, the latter in unconvincing fashion after building a big lead early.  The opening round AFL match against Geelong resulted in a disappointing loss after a missed shot from Max Gawn in the final thirty seconds ceded a 3 point loss. The club won its next two matches, again unconvincingly although their round 3 win against North Melbourne broke a long run of defeats going back over more than a decade. A poor game against Hawthorn and a final term collapse on Anzac Day Eve against the Tigers had Melbourne down with a 2 - 3 record.  The revival began against Essendon and continued over the ensuing weeks as the Demons stretched their winning run to six games culminating with big wins against Carlton and Adelaide at Alice Springs and a solid victory over the Bulldogs. At the halfway mark of the season they were challenging for a top four spot on 8 wins and 3 defeats. The improvement had come from the return of injured pair Tom McDonald and Angus Brayshaw, the dominance of Max Gawn in the ruck and the strong form of Clayton Oliver and the young midfield. Jesse Hogan was consistently in the goals. Jake Lever who had taken a while to get his bearings but was solid during the six game winning spree sustained an ACL injury in round 11 and it took a while for the defence to recover from his loss, regroup and consolidate. In the interim, the experimentation in this area was partly the reason for a poor month that saw a  three-game losing streak including a disappointing loss to lowly St. Kilda. Earlier defeats to Collingwood on Queens Birthday and away to Port Adelaide might have been expected but the  loss to the Saints hit hard and possibly cost the team the coveted double chance.  Melbourne might have lost its star recruit, Lever, in midseason but the club did unearth two young players in Bailey Fritsch and Charlie Spargo who were both drafted in the 30s and established themselves as regulars for much of the year although they understandably ran out of steam a little at the end of the season. The Demons regrouped after the slump. The back line steadied when Sam Frost returned to help the improving Oscar McDonald in a key defensive role but, after returning to the winning list against the Dockers in Darwin and the Bulldogs at the MCG, they suffered some disappointing losses involving an after-the-siren goal to Zach Tuohy in the return game against Geelong and a home upset against   Sydney after some shocking inaccuracy in the first quarter and a half kept the Swans in the game. The injuries were mounting and the loss of Hogan at that point in time appeared devastating to a team that had yet to record a win against a top eight side. All that changed dramatically over the next four games starting with the Eagles in Perth and followed with a big win over the Giants that saw Melbourne finish in fifth place with a percentage of 131%. Then followed the emotion of a return to finals football and sound victories against seasoned playoff teams in Geelong and Hawthorn in front of crowds that gave majority support to the perennial underdog buoyed by the return from injury of co-skipper Jack Viney and the emergence at last of young key forward Sam Weideman who more than amply filled Hogan’s shoes.  Not for the first time in the modern history of the club, the wall was hit out west. The Demons looked spent in the early moments of their preliminary final in Perth against West Coast and much like last year’s lapse at the final hurdle against Collingwood, this one game is likely to inhabit the players’ collective memory over the summer and into the new season. Many players excelled and grew in 2018 and the depth of the club revealed itself when injuries struck. Max Gawn won the ‘Bluey’ Truscott’ medal and led an emerging midfield including the co-skippers Nathan Jones and Viney, a resurgent Angus Brayshaw (3rd in the Brownlow), Christian Petracca and Christian Salem and the incredibly improved James Harmes who stepped up several levels in the course of a season. The forward line was the best in the competition as many avenues were opened up to goals, breaking down only in that last final. The disappointment of that performance will surely act as a spur for even further improvement in 2019. That improvement is expected to come from a defence bolstered by the recruitment of former Gold Coast skipper Steven May and the expected return of Jake Lever in the first month or so of the season. They join some solid performers in defence including Michael Hibberd and the indefatigable Neville Jetta - a star both on and off the field. The Demons also picked up a handy defender from the Suns in Kade Kolodjashnij and a big ruck back up for All-Australian ruckman Gawn in Braydon Preuss. The club drafted a bevy of youngsters who will all take time to develop at Casey. Melbourne farewelled Jesse Hogan, Dom Tyson and Dean Kent to other clubs via trades and Tom Bugg found a new home through the draft. Former club champion Bernie Vince retired late in the season after a meritorious 100 game career at his second club. Vince will not be entirely lost to the Demons as he has returned to the club in a part-time leadership and ambassadorial role for 2019.  The loss that will hurt deeply is that of retiring CEO Peter Jackson who has overseen the six year progression from a team that won only two games in 2013 to become a preliminary finalist in 2018. Gary Pert has stepped into the breach to finish the task of leading the club to the promised land and a premiership.

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    DRAFT STORY: THE BYSTANDERS by Whispering Jack

    It was an eerie feeling, like floating on air high above the events taking place on the ground below. This was the New Draft, a two day festival of little importance to Melbourne supporters on the first night and seemingly, of little consequence on the following day. It was as if we were the bystanders of the 2018 AFL National Draft. From the time the Demons traded away their first round selection in this year’s event as part of the deal to secure Jake Lever more than 12 months ago, it was always likely to turn out this way. A little over a month ago, the club held picks 36, 46, 54, 62 and 65 which, once transposed into a world of potential priority picks and father-son and academy bidders, meant that its first choice would be pushing close to a pick near number fifty. It was akin to leaving you standing three city blocks away from Marvel Stadium and well outside the Jack Lukosious zone in draft night calculations. Even when the trades improved things somewhat marginally to a starting point of 23 and 28 (eventually 27 and 33), it meant you had just moved from William Street to King Street but the entrance to the venue was still on the distant horizon. It was probably just as well that we were that far away because opening night was excruciatingly painful, producing a clumsy and almost unwatchable production compared with the American counterparts in the NFL and NBA which it shamelessly sought to emulate. Gillon McLachlan produced a fitting highlight when he pounced onto centre stage only to discover he had nothing to announce despite the sounding of all the bells and whistles but for us - nothing. Not even the prospect of a live trade managed to keep us in the game.  When the show was over, Sam Walsh, the precocious Croweaters, the King brothers (we drafted the wrong big Max King a few years ago) and a bevy of others were gone. The Swans pulled a swifty trade to get a great deal for their next academy sensation and the Blues did nicely to steal the 2018 Morrish Medallist from the Tigers. Those who were previously uninformed of the new format were left baffled and confused that the Demons weren’t selecting on the night. By the rising of the sun on day two, we were virtually on the promenade at Marvel Stadium, hoping for a little action now that we were a matter of a few picks away from pole position. The AFL had sneakily changed the starting time from 10.00am to noon but even then we were hardly bashing down the doors to get in despite the dreary conditions outside. But when the draft restarted, we somehow remained the bystanders. The months (and for some, the years) of following potential draftees, the national championships, junior competitions, TAC Cup finals, draft combines, phantom drafts, power rankings, teams of the year and the late speculation all flashed past our eyes to produce ... on the face of it ... not a great deal. On top of that, there were no bolters, no All-Australian sliders who somehow mysteriously drifted into our laps, nor even any players finding their way to us from a list of so-called hidden gems” that was floating about. In the end, Melbourne took an inside midfielder in South Australian Tom Sparrow with pick 27 after making an unsuccessful bid for the Bulldog’s father-son prospect Rhylee West. Then came a real bolter in Oakleigh Charger James Jordon at 33, another South Australian, Aaron Nitschke, at 53 and a mature aged defender in Collingwood VFL’s Marty Hore with 56. If there was any icing on the cake, it came when the club was not required to bid for Next Generation Academy dasher Toby Bedford who was taken late at pick 75. The return to type came with the selection of Kade Chandler in the rookie draft. I should make it clear that this is not a criticism of the selection decisions but rather I’m pointing to the low profiles of those picked. As with any draft decision made, the proof of their value is never determined on the night but well down the track, often years into the future. The apparent left-of-centre approach to the draft may well pay dividends in the future for a club with a young team on the ascent  - the players selected are not shrinking violets. They are all aggressive ball-winners known for their relentless attack on the football. In that respect, none of them are bystanders.

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    THE KID - A TRIBUTE TO COLIN by Whispering Jack

    There are some truly endearing memories that I have of the Kid, one or two of them off the ground and others on the field of play. It seemed to me that at every club function I attended, one of the constants was the sight of the much-loved Colin Sylvia, face smiling and friendly, surrounded by admirers, young and old, male and female. There was the promotional clip (Foxtel, I think) with Colin in the locker room beside skipper David Neitz draped in towels and joking. It was as if, from the very beginning, the new boy on the block was being typecast as a larrikin, albeit a lovable one who, in our hopes, would one day  become a hero. And that was the problem for the recruit from Merbein which, during my childhood produced another star Demon in Hassa Mann, a shy country lad who went on to captain the club, played in a few premierships and was a solid citizen off the field. The new kid from Merbein simply kept getting into trouble.  There were problems with a girlfriend, he broke team curfews, missed the odd recovery session, left the scene of a car accident (it’s unclear if he was the driver). He was often in the wrong place and the wrong condition at the wrong time but we all still loved him. After all, he was going to be our hero. On the field, he was something else. The first time I saw him was in a practice match for Melbourne’s then affiliate Sandringham, at the Beach Road Oval, ironically named after another blond larrikan Trevor Barker who also passed at far too young and age but from cancer. There was one brief moment that defined Sylvia’s potential as a contender when he gathered the ball near the centre, swiveled past an opponent and barreled the ball from 70 metres out. Years later when I recalled that piece of play with him at a club best and fairest night, he laughed and said he remembered it but thought the kick was “from closer to 80 metres out”. It took a year or so to get his career going and it built slowly but surely within a few years during which time he grew in stature to the point that it wasn’t necessary to call him by his surname. He was Colin and we loved him. The tough break for Colin was that Melbourne went into decline just as he was approaching his prime. Most supporters would agree that his best game came on Sunday, 24 May, 2009 on the MCG in front of almost 40,000 fans against Hawthorn when he amassed 24 kicks, 13 handballs, 9 marks and 4 goals that were just not enough to get the Demons across the line.  He continued to play good football for the year despite the fact that the club was regularly accused of tanking its matches and again into 2010 but at around that time, the injuries in the form of groin and shoulder problems came, the team was performing miserably as the veterans left while other young saviours who were replacing them struggled. The contender was also struggling to live up to his potential status as a hero; he was failing and the fun had gone. After 157 games and 129 goals, the Kid departed for Fremantle at the end of 2013. Things didn’t work out in the West and, amid ongoing controversy about his attitude and behaviour under Ross Lyon, Colin managed six more games that were mostly unremarkable. Career over before his 29th birthday with life after football bringing further challenges for a young man who found retirement from the game at its top level a tough gig.  Colin was working to get his life on track when his car collided with another vehicle last Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Nineteenth Street and Benetook Avenue in the Mildura suburb of Irymple. He died on the scene and will be buried today. We loved him to death - our deepest sympathies go to his family. “I'm the kid who has this habit of dreaming
    Sometimes gets me in trouble too
    But the truth is I could no more stop dreaming
    Than I could make them all come true” - Buddy Mondlock  

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    THE TRADING CHRONICLES 2018 by Whispering Jack

    PART TWO - NO CHOICE There was a time before he even played a single game at AFL level that Jesse Hogan was regarded as the player who would lift Melbourne from the bottom of the ladder. He’s been at the club since he was selected in the 2012 mini-draft but circumstances caused him to wait two seasons before making his AFL debut. He achieved Rising Star status in 2015, kicked more than 40 goals in three of his four seasons, had his disappointments with injuries, illness and personal issues with the loss of his father and yet, Hogan the Saviour seemed forever absent for the club’s most triumphant moments.  Hogan is now a Docker after the Demons traded him for national draft picks 6 and 23 on the final day of the AFL's trade period. This is despite the fact that he was contracted to Melbourne for 2019 and would have earned good money. There’s no doubting his quality as a footballer but he wanted to go home and the likelihood remained high that he might be gone after another season filled with unwelcome distractions of an uncertain future at the club. And not for the first time. When expectations are high for the future after making it to a Preliminary Final, full commitment to the cause beyond the now is paramount. In the end, there was no choice. Moving on to the future, the three players introduced to the Melbourne Football Club  have the attributes of commitment, willingness to work hard and the ability to fill needs. Former Gold Coast co-captain Steven May, a hard-at-it defender has a five year contract. The skillful Kade Kolodjashnij who brings run and carry to the table and mature ruckman Braydon Preuss both join the club with three year deals.  There is no certainty in the business of sport but Melbourne appears to have done well in a trade period that also saw it upgrade its draft position to a point where it now has two picks in the 20s. There is still a lot to do at the draft table, some rookie upgrades and possible acquisition of delisted free agents to fill the eight vacant places on the club’s lists. Where does this all leave the Melbourne Football Club? Age journalist Peter Ryan summed up the Demons’ trade period in At a glance: Assessing each club's 2018 AFL trade period when he wrote  “At a glance: Going for the flag”. Of course, it’s too early to make a reasoned analysis of the trade period because the outcome is never determined in the moment. Time will tell for all clubs and in 2018 there were so many different agendas and strategies. There were clubs that used it to dump the burden of high salaries, some wanted better draft position while others aimed to fulfill certain needs. In the end 42 players changed clubs by way of trades but by draft time at the end of November, there will be many more new faces at every club. The completed trades - Trade Tracker

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    THE TRADING CHRONICLES 2018 by Whispering Jack

    PART ONE - BETWEEN RUCKS AND HARD PLACES Melbourne has been rather pragmatic in its approach to the off season Free Agency and Trade period. After methodically releasing a larger than usual number of players through delistings, it has also traded away a couple of others who it clearly regards as being surplus to the requirements of team focused on a top four finish in 2019 and to this date, acquired a big ruckman to accompany its All Australian Max Gawn in that campaign. The Demons’ lists have undergone a major refit since the final siren sounded on Preliminary Final day. At that point, we knew of the retirements of Harley Balic and Bernie Vince and soon after the announcements came of Tom Bugg, Dion Johnstone, Mitch King, Pat McKenna and Cam Pedersen and rookie Lachie Filipovic. On Friday, the trades of Dean Kent (to St Kilda) and Dom Tyson (North Melbourne) were signed off, bringing the number of departures to double figures.  The Kangaroos traded Brayden Preuss to the Demons to give Melbourne the competition’s most potent ruck combination.  If things were going well for Melbourne’s football manager Josh Mahoney, they certainly went sour with the news late on Friday that Fremantle had withdrawn its interest in securing forward Jesse Hogan by way of a trade. The decision threw the Demons’ plans of securing Gold Coast defender Steven May along with a raft of other potential trades depending on the outcome of those deals. The Dockers have been chasing WA native Hogan for some four years and last week they paraded him through their headquarters. After it was announced that Hogan had passed his medical, it was thought to be a formality that a trade would be arranged after the obligatory bargaining period.  Fremantle General Manager of Football, Peter Bell, just two weeks into the job, announced - “We have been undertaking a due diligence process as part of a possible trade to secure Jesse Hogan. “As part of that process, we have had discussions with Jesse, the player’s management and Melbourne. “While discussions were proceeding it became clear that what Melbourne would be seeking for a trade would not be possible for our club to meet. “As such, we have informed Melbourne and Jesse’s management that we will not be continuing further with the due diligence process.” This was Bell’s reaction to Melbourne’s refusal to accept his club’s offer of National Draft Pick 11 and a future second-round pick with the Demons expecting two early selections including # 5 that the Dockers would be expecting in a deal with Brisbane for Lachie Neale (Bell is reportedly expecting two first round picks). The reaction might have come as a surprise but it needs to be looked at in the context of what is happening at the very top at the Fremantle Football Club. In August, its list manager Brad Lloyd departed for Carlton and the task of dealing with the free agency and trading was taken over by CEO Steve Rosich in concert with Bell after his appointment. They are certainly doing things differently in a trade period during which all of the other clubs have been businesslike in their approach — the Freo pair’s dealings over Hogan, Rory Lobb, Neale and a clumsy approach to Geelong’s Tim Kelly who wants to go to the Eagles have raised scorn and disdain throughout the football fraternity and their own fans aren’t happy either! This has left Hogan back with the Demons for the time being as he plays out the final year of his contract in 2019 (unless the Dockers have a change of heart in the next few days). Mahoney has made it clear that the club is not in a position to follow up a trade for May without completing a deal for Hogan.  The bonus for the club however, is that it can go into the pre season with a quality key position forward approaching the prime of his career while the team is in the premiership window. Meanwhile, at the other end of the continent, the Dockers are likely to languish, living with a dysfunctional recruiting structure and scorned by the rest of the football community. Good luck with that! Docker shocker as Freo pull pin on Hogan pursuit This is the full list of trades after five days: • Reece Conca joined Fremantle as a free agent. The Tigers don't get any compensation.
    • Richmond signed Tom Lynch as a restricted free agent. Gold Coast opted not to match the offer. The Suns got pick No.3 as compensation.
    • Luke Dahlhaus joined Geelong as an unrestricted free agent. The Western Bulldogs got a round two pick as compensation (No.27).
    • Scott Lycett joined Port Adelaide as a restricted free agent after the Eagles decided not to match Port's offer. Port got pick 20 as compensation.
    • The Cats traded Lincoln McCarthy, pick 55 and pick 58 to the Lions. In return, the Lions sent over picks 43 and 61.
    • Richmond sent Corey Ellis, Anthony Miles and a future third round pick to the Suns for a future third round pick.
    • The Blues used one of their special assistant pre-draft picks to send Nathan Kreuger to Geelong in exchange for pick 43.
    • The Lions and the Suns did a pick swap. Brisbane ended up with 32, 41, 44 and 77. Gold Coast got 24, 58 and 79.
    • Mitch McGovern and a future third round pick made their way from Adelaide to Carlton. Carlton sent back Shane McAdam (their second pre-draft special assistance pick) and a future fifth round pick.
    • Sydney sent pick 13 to the Crows. In return, they got pick 40. They also got picks 26 and 28 from Carlton.
    • Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard moved to North Melbourne from Port Adelaide. Also sent over: pick 48. In return, Power received pick 11 and a future fourth round pick.
    • Sydney's Gary Rohan was traded to Geelong for pick 61.
    • The Swans sent pick 61 to North Melbourne in exchange for Ryan Clarke.
    • St Kilda traded Tom Hickey, pick 60 and a future fourth rounder to the Eagles. In return, the Saints got pick 39 and a future fourth round pick.
    • Alex Fasolo joined Carlton as an unrestricted free agent. Collingwood got pick 57 as compensation.
    • Gold Coast signed Josh Corbett (Werribee) and Chris Burgess ( West Adelaide) as two of their special assistance picks.
    • Port Adelaide and Fremantle swapped picks: Power got pick six and a future third round selection, and sent picks 11, 23, 30 and 49 to the Dockers.
    • Sydney Swans have traded Dan Hannebery and its Rd 2 selection, currently number 28 (on traded from Carlton) to St Kilda for its Rd 2 selection, currently selection number 39 (on traded from West Coast), and its Future Round Two Selection.
    • Melbourne have traded Dean Kent to St Kilda for its Rd 4 selection, currently selection number 65.
    • Melbourne have traded Dom Tyson to North Melbourne for Brayden Preuss and its Rd 4 selection, currently selection number 62 (on traded from the Sydney Swans).
    • GWS Giants have traded Will Setterfield and its Rd 4 (71), to Carlton for its Rd 3 (43), and Future Round Two Selection.

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    CHANGES 2018 by The Oracle

    PART 1 - UPHEAVAL AND CHANGE Every year, as soon as the grand final siren sounds, the 18 AFL clubs enter into a new season that lasts for two months and ends in the drafts. This is the time of transition and sometimes upheaval for the clubs as their lists change in the hope for each of them that they can regenerate their lists to the point where they can challenge for a premiership flag. The official proceedings start today with the opening of the restricted free agency offer and unrestricted free agency period starts and on Monday, the NAB AFL Trade Period kicks off. The coming off season of change is looming large at the Melbourne Football Club in comparison with last year when the club farewelled only six senior list players (including one, Heritier Lumumba, who had retired before that season even began) and one rookie. Their replacements came via trades and the draft, leaving the 2018 Melbourne Football Club player list (with new players in italics) as follows - PRIMARY LIST: Oskar Baker Harley Balic Angus Brayshaw Tomas Bugg Bayley Fritsch Sam Frost Jeff Garlett Max Gawn Mitch Hannan James Harmes Michael Hibberd Jesse Hogan Jayden Hunt Neville Jetta Dion Johnstone Nathan Jones Jay Kennedy Harris Dean Kent Mitch King Jake Lever Jordan Lewis Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Pat McKenna Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Cameron Pedersen Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Christian Salem Charlie Spargo Joel Smith Billy Stretch Dom Tyson Aaron vandenBerg Bernie Vince Jack Viney Josh Wagner Sam Weideman  ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A Lachlan Filipovic Declan Keilty Corey Maynard Tim Smith  As in the past, the process has been going on for months and even longer in the case of the assessment of younger talent. The 18 clubs have all been working feverishly looking for potential trades and for which some players on their lists are moved on.  The Demons have already added two Category B rookies who will shortly commence their apprenticeships at the club. The changes were being foreshadowed even before season’s end when two Demons - Harley Balic and Bernie Vince - had also announced their retirements.  The floodgates were opened almost as soon as the final siren sounded at Optus Stadium on Preliminary Final day. The first delistings included Tom Bugg, Mitch King, Pat McKenna and Cam Pedersen, who announced his retirement, and rookie Lachie Filipovic. Yesterday, Dion Johnstone was added to that group.  Then there are those being mentioned in despatches as being on the trade table from Dean Kent who almost has his foot in the door at St Kilda, to Jesse Hogan, seemingly bound for Fremantle delisted) and others such as Dom Tyson and Aaron vandenBerg said to be exploring options for various reasons. This means a potential of a dozen new faces including names such as May, Kolodjashnij, Preuss and many more in the club’s new period of upheaval and change ...

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    HEARTBREAK WEEKEND by KC from Casey

    The Casey Demons led the 2018 Grand Final from the beginning until the 13 minute mark of the final quarter of the VFL Grand Final at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon but were overrun in the finish by the Box Hill Hawks. The defeat was the team’s second in a season-decider in three seasons and marked yet another heartbreaking climax to a year of many highlights for the club. The Demons had opened the game in promising fashion moving the ball with great speed and converted four times to take a 25 point lead in the early going. They were ferocious with their tackling with 20 in the first term alone and by half time had shown up the effort of their senior counterparts by exceeding their total tally of tackles from the day before. Casey dominated proceedings in most facets of the game for almost all of the opening half but some crucial shots at goal from easy range. One of the few statistics where they were bested was the free kick count - one of the factors that seemed to keep the Hawks in the game. When the siren sounded to signal the start of the long break the Demons led by 23 points but an after-the-siren goal to Box Hill reduced the lead and gave the Hawks great hope leading into the final half.  The rejuvenated Hawks lifted their game after the break and they gradually clawed back at Casey’s lead, assisted by their complete dominance in the ruck where they smashed the undersized Casey ruck division through the agency of Pittonet who amassed an enormous 57 hit outs and took 7 big marks. This division has been problematic for the Demons all season and was exacerbated of late by the poor form of Mitch King who was not selected for the finals and the injury to young Lachie Filipovic. In their stead, Cam Pedersen, Tim Smith and Mykelti Lefau who were gallant in the preliminary final, simply struggled this week. And so, when it came to the final term of the biggest match of the season, Casey faltered and was unable to produce one of those stirring finishes that got it through a number of the 12 consecutive victories of earlier in the season. Some of its name players were unable to produce: there were far too many passengers and a number will no doubt be forced to look elsewhere in 2019. Bayley Fritsch was an exception. He provided plenty of run off the back line and showed great application and heart to prove the judgement of the senior Demon selection panel off key when they omitted him from the team that went to Perth.  The defensive work of Declan Keilty and Harry Petty was excellent in the first half and both have potential as key position defenders. Bernie Vince was solid and creative in his swan song game and Tom Bugg worked hard for four quarters.  The Casey listed crew were mainly underwhelming. Corey Wagner worked hard as did Jay Lockhart while Jimmy Munro tackled strongly as usual.  Unfortunately, they weren’t as effective or consistent as they have been for most of the season.  The scoreboard when the final siren sounded heralded yet another disappointment in the Demons’ Heartbreak Weekend. There’s always next year. Peter Jackson VFL 2018 Casey Demons 4.4.28 5.9.39 8.11.59 8.14.62 Box Hill Hawks 1.1.7 3.4.22 7.8.50 10.12.72 Goals   Casey Demons Bugg Kennedy-Harris Lefau Lockhart Machaya Pedersen Scott T Smith  Box Hill Hawks Moore 3 Jones Hanrahan Lovell  Moore O'Brien O'Rourke Ross  Best Casey Demons Fritsch C Wagner Petty Keilty Vince Bugg Box Hill Hawks Mirra Moore Pittonet Hanrahan Cousins O'Brien Statistics  Tomas Bugg 1 goal 15 kicks 9 handballs 24 disposals 5 marks 7 tackles 114 dream team points
    Tom Freeman 10 kicks 4 handballs 14 disposals 4 marks 4 tackles 67 dream team points
    Bayley Fritsch 1 behind 13 kicks 7 handballs 20 disposals 8 marks 1 tackle 83 dream team points
    Jeffrey Garlett 1 behind 3 kicks 2 handballs 5 disposals 2 marks 3 tackles 27 dream team points
    Mitch Gent 4 kicks 4 handballs 8 disposals 1 mark 3 tackles 36 dream team points
    Jayden Hunt 7 kicks 5 handballs 12 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 33 dream team points
    Jack Hutchins 2 kicks 3 handballs 5 disposals 2 marks 1 tackle 22 dream team points   
    Declan Keilty 7 kicks 6 handballs 13 disposals 3 marks 5 tackles 53 dream team points
    Jay Kennedy Harris 1 goals 1 behind 13 kicks 5 handballs 18 disposals 3 marks 6 tackles 89 dream team points
    Mykelti Lefau 1 goal 4  kicks 2  handballs 6 disposals 4 marks 1 tackles 6 hit outs 32 dream team points
    Jay Lockhart 1 goals 1 behind 10 kicks 3 handballs 13 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 61 dream team points 
    Pat McKenna 1 behind 2 kicks 1 handball 3 disposals 1 mark 1 tackle 17 dream team points
    Cory Machaya 1 goal 1 behind 5 kicks 5 handballs 10 disposals 5 marks 3 tackles 53 dream team points
    James Munro 1 behind 5 kicks 6 handballs 11 disposals 2 marks 12 tackles 78 dream team points
    Cameron Pedersen 1 goal 7 kicks 3 handballs 10 disposals 4 marks 5 tackles 12 hit outs 72 dream team points
    Harry Petty 5 kicks 7 handballs 12 disposals 5 marks 42 dream team points
    Angus Scott 1 goal 6 kicks 3 handballs 9 disposals 5 marks 4 tackles 62 dream team points
    Tim Smith 1 goals 1 behind 11 kicks 5 handballs 16 disposals 4 marks 7 tackles 6 hit outs 95 dream team points
    Cory Stockdale 2 kicks 1 handballs 3 disposals 2 tackles 10 dream team points
    Bernie Vince 3 behinds 18 kicks 1 handballs 19 disposals 4 marks 7 tackles 99 dream team points
    Corey Wagner 1 behind 15 kicks 6 handballs 21 disposals 2 marks 7 tackles 87 dream team points
    Josh Wagner 8 kicks 6 handballs 14 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 61 dream team points
    Mitch White 9 kicks 5 handballs 14 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 59 dream team points  

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    NO CONTEST by George on The Outer

    This was the first finals series the Melbourne Football Club has participated in a dozen years and its first Preliminary Final for 18. The club got here in 2018 because it built its reputation on contest, but in the end the game against West Coast was no contest as the Eagles ran out winners by over ten goals. The match itself was really over by quarter time, as the young Demons were simply swamped by a side that was bigger, stronger and ultimately had more intent on achieving its goal.  The game, while disappointing from an outcome perspective, should motivate the Demons in the same way that the Round 22 match against Collingwood did last year.  It was what finals football was all about and while they had performed admirably in winning their past 2 matches to progress to the Preliminary, this was when things got serious.   Melbourne was exposed in the same way that Richmond was exposed on Friday night because, to get into the Big Dance, you cannot afford to come into any game half-hearted, injured or with stop gap players. Right from the start the Demons were in trouble, with errant handballs and players slipping constantly at critical moments. While West Coast scored four goals to zip in the first quarter, three of those came directly from Melbourne turnovers. Coupled with some undisciplined acts from Jordan Lewis, the momentum that a young team relied upon to forge forward was completely and utterly deflated.   It didn’t get any better in the second quarter and by half time the Eagles held a ten goal lead, which was to be the final margin. The coach would have been fuming as he watched Melbourne revert to the old style of play of standing back and expecting others to do the work. I heard it mentioned that the Demons had only three tackles to ¼ time and a paltry 30 odd for the whole game - a poor result from a side that prides itself on contest. 
     
    Statistics lovers would think Angus Brayshaw played a good game.  But stumbles, fumbles and miskicks don’t get recorded.  The stat which did get recorded was the eight clangers. The fact that he wasn’t on the ground for a majority of the third term indicates that something was wrong with him, and his grunt and surety was missed, despite the numbers.   All around the ground, we were seeing structures which were not what had been seen in past weeks or months.  Tom McDonald was playing back, Aaron vndenBerg almost full time in the middle, Joel Smith supposedly selected as a backman spent most of the game forward.  When players are being thrown around like this, it can only mean that an attempt is being made to fill gaps.   The result is the was little in the way of forward structure, but then the ball didn’t get down there until the second half of the game, and even then there was no genuine marking target.  How we would have relished Jesse Hogan in front of goal - perhaps next year? The mids were simply destroyed, not from the clearances, but by the outside run which enabled them to deliver cleanly to their forwards in Darling, Kennedy, Cripps and LeCras.  As mentioned last week, when we have Jones and Tyson on the wing, there is no run for us, but importantly, they cannot keep up with the opposition.  Then with Alex Neal-Bullen able to just hit 50% disposal efficiency, it showed that even when we had the ball, we simply butchered it. The forwards had a shocker of a day as well.  Without T McDonald there to provide a target for good parts of the game, the likes of Melksham, Hannan and Spargo rarely had a viable touch, with all of them barely into double figure disposals. Sam Weideman reverted to being unable to hold a mark this week, and Christian Petracca kept trying to give the ball off to others when inside 30m himself. His set shots were nothing to behold again.  Plenty of work needs to be done for him in this area over summer.  The backs were overwhelmed by the amount of ball coming in, but the lack of composure was telling, especially compared with their work-rate last week.  Sadly, Oscar McDonald and Michael Hibberd failed to effect a single tackle, Sam Frost, Lewis and Christian Salem one each. Neville Jetta at least had three.  The mids weren’t much better and their numbers were mostly twos and threes. Overall there were seven players who didn’t lay a single tackle in the game. Simply not good enough in any game, let alone a Preliminary Final. Can the Demons learn from this game?  The coach has already indicated that contest is king and that is particularly the case in Finals, especially when you get to the pointy end. The fans can be proud and happy with the performance during the season, and have seen the results following years of promises and nothing to show but there has to be more. And there is much more improvement to come, simply because the majority of this group is still young. They came up against a side on its home turf which played in a Grand Final just three years ago, finished the home and away  season in second spot and were handed (and took) the initiative in the first ten minutes of the game. They deserve to be Grand Finalists again this year, but we must learn to perform to the standard required to get to the final stage, that they displayed in this game ... an in particular, to always provide a contest. I just can’t wait for the cricket and tennis to be over ...
     
    Melbourne 0.3.3 0.6.6 5.9.39 7.13.55 West Coast Eagles 4.8.32 10.9.69 15.10.100 18.13.121 Goals  Melbourne Melksham 2 Hannan Harmes Oliver  J Smith Weideman West Coast Eagles Kennedy 4 Cripps Darling LeCras 3, Hutchings Redden Rioli Ryan Venables Best  Melbourne Harmes Oliver vandenBerg Petracca J Smith Viney  West Coast Eagles Kennedy Redden Cripps Hurn McGovern Sheed LeCras Injuries  Melbourne Nil  West Coast Eagles Nil Reports Melbourne Nil  West Coast Eagles Nil Umpires Nicholls, Meredith, Chamberlain  Official crowd 59,608 at Optus Stadium

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