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CHANGES 2018 by The Oracle

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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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PART 2 - ¾ 

As things stand, the Melbourne Football Club has retained ¾ of the list that took it to fourth place in the recently concluded AFL season. Eleven players have either retired or been delisted or traded with three new names on the lockers at AAMI Park. 

The newcomers are Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij who were second and third in the Gold Coast Best & Fairest count in 2015 and Braydon Preuss from North Melbourne.

The 26-year-old May had been at Gold Coast since its inception in 2011 and served as its co-captain in the past two seasons. A strong bodied key defender with 123 games under his belt, the 193 cm, 102 kg May is an excellent intercept mark and will add grunt, pace and skill to the lineup with his precise left-foot kicking. 

Tasmanian Kolodjashnij was picked up by the Suns at number 5 in the 2013 AFL Draft and has played 73 games at AFL level but after an outstanding start to his career, which included a AFL/NAB Rising Star in 2014 and a podium best and fairest finish a year later, the 190cm, 85kg running defender’s career has been hampered by concussion injuries which are now under control.

There’s no secret as to Preuss’ drafting. The Demons were bereft of a quality back up ruckman and the 206cm, 109kg was just what the doctor ordered for the club. A late starter with only 8 games in 4 seasons with the Kangaroos (none in 2018), the 23-year-old Preuss is expected to share the ruck duties with Melbourne’s All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn.

The club has also elevated midfielder Corey Maynard off the rookie list to leave a primary list of 34 players with a further 2 on the rookie list, leaving a total of eight vacancies. There is every possibility, depending on what happens between now and during the draft meetings later this month, that the club might go with a primary list of 38 and take 6 rookies. 

There seems to be very little mail around at present suggesting that the club has the appetite to take a delisted free agent so the focus could well be on the two day AFL National Draft Meeting later this month. 

The first part of that meeting on 22 November won’t involve the Demons because it covers the first round picks from 1 to 20.

It will be interesting however, at that point to contemplate where the club sit in terms of the rest of the draft pool.

At that point in time, if you add potential father son and academy bids, then as many as 24 players might be selected on day one then and we will have a fair idea of who is still available and gettable on the second day given that the Demons currently holds picks # 23 and # 28. There are later picks down the track, one or two of which are likely to be used to bid for young Dandenong Stingrays speedster Toby Bedford who was a member of that club’s TAC Cup premiership winning team and is also on Melbourne’s New Generation Academy. 

The Demons’ player cake will finally be complete and come out of the oven later on the second day of the draft with the NAB AFL Pre-Season and NAB AFL Rookie Draft but for the time being, the lists read like this:-

PRIMARY LIST:

Oskar Baker Angus Brayshaw Bayley Fritsch Sam Frost Jeff Garlett Max Gawn Mitch Hannan James Harmes Michael Hibberd Jayden Hunt Neville Jetta Nathan Jones Jay Kennedy Harris Kade Kolodjiashnij Jake Lever Jordan Lewis Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Steven May Corey Maynard Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Braydon Preuss Christian Salem Charlie Spargo Joel Smith Billy Stretch Aaron vandenBerg Jack Viney Josh Wagner Sam Weideman 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A

Declan Keilty Tim Smith 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B

Austin Bradtke Guy Walker 

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PART 3 - WHO WILL LOVE A LITTLE SPARROW?

The takeaway of many from last week’s AFL National and Rookie Drafts was that Melbourne’s selections were somewhat left of centre and moreover, depressingly so when viewed through the lens of those who spend most of the year following the so-called draft experts. After all, the world is full of people who admire the rock stars but who will love a little sparrow?

The fact that most of the club’s picks appeared to be off the radar of the pundits and pretty much unloved by them, suggests that the Demon recruiters either erred in their judgement or that they had a plan to overcome the fact that they were entering the draft at a time when more than 25 of the “best” names had already been called out. It’s not simply my optimism as a fan, but rather, the appearance of a pattern in the selections that leads me to support the latter view.

There is an element of dash and enterprise among the new crew that suggests that the club is satisfied that the combination of its maturing young list together with the players brought in by way of its trades, allows it to take in some youngish prospects with time to develop and nurture them from within the nest like bird mothers do with their young sparrows.

The new faces in the drafts came mainly from the junior ranks. Three of the club’s draftees (including the club’s only rookie pick) were members of the successful South Australian Under 18 national Championship winning team and two others participated in opposing sides in the TAC Cup Grand Final. The mature agers coming in through the draft system each won best and fairest awards at their respective VFL clubs in 2018.

The newcomers are:-

AFL National Draft

27. Tom Sparrow Height: 182cm. Weight: 81kg. DOB: 31/5/2000 Position: Midfielder/half-back Recruited from: South Adelaide U18 (SANFL)

Sparrow is not so tiny. He is known for his strength and tackling and has good run and endurance. In due course, he will fit into a Melbourne midfield led by the likes of Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and James Harmes.

Pick 33  James Jordon Height: 186cm. Weight: 84kg. DOB: 20/12/2000 Position: Midfielder Recruited from: Oakleigh Chargers U18 (TAC Cup)

Jordan is an outside midfielder who made his senior debut early this year at Yarrawonga and played APS football with Caulfield Grammar before finishing the season at TAC Cup with runners up Oakleigh Chargers. He has footy smarts, shows composure, has excellent disposal and decision making skills. 

Pick 53 Aaron Nietschke Height: 184cm. Weight: 77kg. DOB: 26/5/2000 Position: Half-back/midfielder Recruited from: Central Districts U18 (SANFL) 

A versatile utility, Nietschke won the league best and fairest in the SANFL Under 18s averaging 32 disposals and was super impressive when moved up to the Central Districts Seniors late in the season where he averaged more than 20 possessions in his three games, mainly off half back.
 
Pick 56 Marty Hore Height: 189cm. Weight: 89kg. DOB: 5/3/1996 Position: Defender Recruited from: Collingwood (VFL)/Bendigo Pioneers U18 (TAC Cup)

Winner of the last two Collingwood VFL best and fairests as an intercept defender  with good skills who is considered to be close to AFL ready.

Pick 75 Toby Bedford Height: 176cm. Weight: 69kg. DOB: 27/5/2000 Position: Small forward Recruited from: Dandenong Stingrays U18 (TAC Cup)

If the club picked up a steal, then it was with its Next Generation Academy member Bedford who was one of Victoria Country’s best in the national carnival and a member of the Dandenong Stingrays TAC Cup premiership team. The classy small forward is fast, agile and runs down opponents.

Rookie Draft

Pick 14 Kade Chandler Height: 173cm. Weight: 73kg. DOB: 13/1/2000 Position: Forward Recruited from: Norwood U18 (TAC Cup) 

The dynamic, strong tackling small forward, has endurance and an impressive vertical leap. He averaged six tackles per match in the Under 18s Championships.

Pre-Season Supplemental Selection

The last of the club’s newcomers arrives as a pre-season supplemental selection (PSSS) which comes into play today. 

Corey Wagner Height: 180 cm. Weight: 74 kg. DOB: 23/3/1997 Position: Midfield Recruited from: Casey Demons/North Melbourne 

Brother of Josh, the blond midfielder who won Casey’s best and fairest this year, joins Steven May, Kade Kolodjiashnij and Braydon Preuss as a newcomer with AFL experience (8 games at North Melbourne in 2016/7). 

These changes will not entirely close off the books. The club still has a list vacancy which can be filled during PSSS period which runs until 15 March, 2019. For the time, the club’s lists read like this:-

PRIMARY LIST:  

Oskar Baker Toby Bedford Angus Brayshaw Bayley Fritsch Sam Frost Jeff Garlett Max Gawn Mitch Hannan James Harmes Michael Hibberd Marty Hore Jayden Hunt Neville Jetta Nathan Jones James Jordan Jay Kennedy Harris Kade Kolodjiashnij Jake Lever Jordan Lewis Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Steven May Corey Maynard Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Aaron Nietschke Clayton Oliver Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Braydon Preuss Christian Salem Charlie Spargo Joel Smith Tom Sparrow Billy Stretch Aaron vandenBerg Jack Viney Josh Wagner Sam Weideman   

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A 

Kade Chandler Declan Keilty Tim Smith Corey Wagner  

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B  

Austin Bradtke Guy Walker 

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