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CHANGES 2019 by The Oracle

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CHANGES 2019 by The Oracle 

PART 1 - IT’S A LITTLE MORE COMPLICATED THIS TIME

This year’s free agency, trade and draft period will see the usual drama and upheaval as the AFL’s 18 clubs seek to better their lists in order to challenge for finals and possibly premiership honours.

Long before the final siren sounded on the season just over a week ago, the maneuvering was under way with player agents and clubs discussing possible player movements and in some cases, deals had already been done. 

Yesterday, the restricted and unrestricted free agency window opened and today the first players in each category traded places. Restricted free agent Brandon Ellis (Richmond) is now a Gold Coast Sun after the Tigers declined to match the Suns' offer while  Adelaide's Cameron Ellis-Yolmen, an unrestricted free agent moved to Brisbane. There will no doubt be others to follow over the coming week.

The trade period will run partly in tandem with the free agency period, officially opening at 9am on Monday (it will run to Wednesday week).

The coming off season of change has assumed  added importance for the Melbourne Football Club after its dismal on field performance in 2019. Whilst it’s true that the club will be hoping for improvement on the understanding (or hope) that next year it won’t suffer similarly from the ravages of injury that it had to deal with this year, its year from hell exposed a number of weaknesses that cry out be covered with the right sort of recruitment via trades and the draft,  making life somewhat more complicated for its recruiters. 

The starting point is the club’s player list which underwent a couple of changes after the 2019 list was finalised with last year’s November drafts. At that time the lists stood as follows -

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    

For the first time, the AFL club’s were able to tinker with their lists in March with the introduction of a pre-season supplemental selection and in the case of the Demons, they used the opportunity to add Jay Lockhart to their rookie list (15 days later he was in the team to play the Cats). 

Another AFL innovation was the 2019 mid-season rookie draft in which Melbourne was able to participate because it placed first-year Aaron Nietschke on the inactive list due to his ACL injury. This set up the opportunity to select Kyle Dunkley on the club lists. 

Since the end of the season in late August, the lists have been reduced with the departures of Jeff Garlett, Declan Keilty, Jordan Lewis, Corey Maynard, Tim Smith and Guy Walker through delistings or retirement, leaving them presently looking like this:- 

PRIMARY LIST:  

Oskar Baker Toby Bedford Angus Brayshaw Bayley Fritsch Sam Frost 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 Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Steven May 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 Kyle Dunkley Jay Lockhart Corey Wagner  

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B  

Austin Bradtke 

Then are some players being mentioned in despatches as being on the table for trades. Sam Frost and Billy Stretch have been mentioned in connection with Hawthorn and Gold Coast respectively while Ed Langdon and Adam Tomlinson are expected to join the club in trades or in the case of the latter, as a free agent. The Demons are also in contention for Collingwood’s injury-prone Jamie Elliott who wants more than the two year deal offered by the Pies but he has yet to disclose his hand between staying put at the Holden Centre or joining Brisbane or Melbourne. So let the next period of upheaval and change begin ...

Changes2019Part01.png

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Interesting. 

This means that we have four vacancies at the present time and this will remain at four if we gain Langdon and Tomlinson and lose Frost and Stretch. Three, if we get Elliott. 

Essentially, we should have 6 or 7 new names on the list after the draft plus a few drafted last year who have yet to make their debuts (Bedford, Jordan and Nietschke).

And on top of that, well over a dozen others who missed a lot of games in 2019.

Therefore, we can expect a very different Melbourne taking the field in 2020.

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Thank you for starting this thread up

At the end of 2018 there was IMO a big clean out. I counted 11 players leaving the club: Bugg, Hogan, Balic, Johnstone, Kent, King, McKenna, Pederson, Tyson, Vince and the rookie Filipovic. Of the 11, I would classify 6 as seasoned players even if you doubt their ability

We bought in 13 recruits, a number raised by the 2 B category rookies Bradtke & Walker.  The remaining newbies are May, Bedford, Kolodjashnij, Preuss, Jordan, Nietschke, Sparrow, Hore, Chandler, Lockhart & Dunkley. Of this group I only consider May a seasoned player and Kolodjashnij perennially injured. Preuss came to us with 8 games. Sparrow, Hore, Chandler, Dunkley & Lockhart all made their debut as did Baker from the 2018 list with a total of 6 debutants. There were some weeks we had 3 of them playing at a time. The 3 who didn't debut were Bedford, Jordan and Nietshke (injured). With so many injuries and players unavailable it is no surprise we struggled and the FD would not has considered how depleted and inexperienced we became

I don't doubt that at the end of 2018 it was correct to refresh the list and bring in so many fresh faces but it left us very young and inexperienced outside of the core group. I hope that we won't have as many changes this season or if we do, we bring in seasoned players as we bought a lot of youth in last year. The upside is that many first year payers got a game earlier than expected and I hope this accelerates their development.

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20 hours ago, Sydney Pennski said:

Does this mean that we would be more or less likely to split pick 3?

Can’t see that it would make that much difference. Splitting the pick could help the club secure Langdon and further, if the club decides on taking an extra player, a further delisting could happen to accommodate it.

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PART 2 - REBOUND

The Melbourne Football Club’s free agency and trade period was generally seen as favorable. The club gained the services of the two main players it targeted, traded out one of its key defenders and exchanged draft selections so that, at this point in time, it holds two picks in the top ten in next month’s national draft.

The players introduced into the club were selected specifically to fit some of weaknesses identified in its season from hell. 

Adam Tomlinson, taken as an unrestricted free agent from Greater Western Sydney, is a player who has shown great resilience in his career with the Giants and can play as an outside midfielder, a key position and a back up ruck. The club has designated him for a wing position.

Another good fit for the Demons is Fremantle’s Ed Langdon, who is also looked upon as a player who will go a long way to providing some outside run in rebalancing the club’s midfield. He is also expected to line up on a wing.

With the Demons currently holding national draft picks 3 and 8, they are primed to fill other needs identified during the year particularly a small crumbing forward and a tall marking key position player who can kick goals.

There is another aspect of change at the club and that is in the area of the key personnel off the field who will be tasked with assisting Simon Goodwin in restoring  the magic which took his team to a preliminary final in 2018. The way to achieving the rebound is to return the team to its confident mindset in the areas where it was so strong - pressure at the contest and ball use - and, in order to achieve that aim, the list needs to be brought back to full health and strength. In that respect, the club is seeing changes taking place in the coaching department and on the health and conditioning side with the appointments of former St Kilda coach Alan Richardson in a senior support role to  Simon Goodwin and Dean Burgess as the new performance manager. The pair spent time together at Port Adelaide and are expected to play a major role in the club’s 2020 resurgence.

So whilst all of the above are expected to go a fair way to providing the necessary springboard to see the club recover from last year’s disappointing fall from grace, there is still some work to be done to cover the weaknesses uncovered this season. 

Some of this will unfold over the next five to six weeks that could see further activity in the trading of draft picks, a consideration of delisted free agents and the national, pre season and rookie drafts.

There are currently three vacancies on the primary list while two players - Jay Kennedy Harris and Billy Stretch remain uncontracted.

PRIMARY LIST:  

Oskar Baker Toby Bedford Angus Brayshaw Bayley Fritsch Max Gawn Mitch Hannan James Harmes Michael Hibberd Marty Hore Jayden Hunt Neville Jetta Nathan Jones James Jordan Jay Kennedy Harris Kade Kolodjiashnij Ed Langdon Jake Lever Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Steven May 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 Adam Tomlinson Aaron vandenBerg Jack Viney Josh Wagner Sam Weideman   

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A 

Kade Chandler Kyle Dunkley Jay Lockhart Corey Wagner  

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B  

Austin Bradtke 

C4C151F0-0489-4C58-93F7-6F766A8A81DE.jpeg

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So with three spots available and two players uncontracted, I suppose that the club will show its hand when a decision on the futures of JKH and Billy Stretch is made. 

Then it gets down to whether there are spots available to take delisted free agents or players in the drafts. 

Interesting times.

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PART 3  —  BOLD AND BRAVE

There’s been a debate raging for years in relation to the AFL draft and it relates to whether a club should recruit the best player available or whether it should look to its own particular needs. 

The question came squarely into focus at the 2019 National AFL Draft meeting when several clubs balked at nominating GWS Giants Academy player Tom Green, a strong bodied inside midfielder who was widely regarded throughout the year as being in the three best players available in this year’s crop. At the draft meeting, Green barely fell in the top ten — he was taken at that number by the Giants after his name was called out by Carlton. 

For its part, Melbourne apparently showed its hand early. More than a week out from the draft, news filtered out that the Demons would not be nominating Green with its pick 3 which it had reserved for Western Australian ruckman Luke Jackson and further, it would be looking to draft the exciting but diminutive forward Kysaiah Pickett from Woodville West Torrens with its second selection (ultimately #12 overall). Both selections raised some eyebrows as Jackson was ranked by many pundits as being outside the top ten best, although some club recruiters were suggesting they would have taken him at three if they had the pick. As for Pickett, some media analysts including Gary Buckenara had him going in the late 20s. His conclusion was that the club had “addressed list needs”.

In the final analysis, Melbourne added three youngsters to its primary list  — all of them from outside Victoria. The selections suggest that the club’s recruiting strategy was bold and brave, particularly on the basis that the club recently lost Jesse Hogan to Fremantle due to the go home factor. 

The Demons secured East Fremantle ruckman/forward Luke Jackson with their first pick. The club’s national recruiting manager Jason Taylor said this on the club’s website about the 199cm former basketballer who was Australia’s best player at the 2018 FIBA Under 17 World Cup:-

“His primary role is a ruckman, but he has played some good footy forward in the latter part of the year and he’s been successful.

“He’s been able to take contested marks and win the ball at ground level.

“His ruck work though, he forms as an extra midfielder with his groundwork, his hunt for the ball, his competitive nature.“

Kysaiah Pickett is a 171cm dangerous small forward from Woodville West Torrens and a nephew of Neville Jetta and former Demon Byron Pickett. According to Taylor:- 

“He just gives us that real speed and x-factor if you like – at ground level and in the air up forward.

“Love’s to tackle but he’s just got really good forward craft.

“His front and centre work is excellent, he’s got a real eye for the goal, and he’s just a team first player.”

The club returned to the draft for one more selection on the second night of the meeting and its selection at pick 32 enabled Jackson to be reunited with his fellow All Australian teammate from East Fremantle in 188cm big bodied defender Trent Rivers.

“A couple of East Fremantle Sharks there, so that’s good for those two boys to be coming over to the one club,” Taylor said.

“Trent’s played some really good footy at national level as a half-back, so [he’s a] rebound defender.

“He’s a good kick, he’s good overhead, he’s got some real power about him, he’s a good size lad.

“But he has played some really good football as a midfielder for East Fremantle where he’s been a high possession winner and he also hits the scoreboard.“

Rivers’ preseason was hampered by glandular fever but the classy contested ball winner still managed to gain selection for the national championships and gain All Australian selection which bodes well for a successful AFL career.

The last piece of drafting for the time being was announced today with the news that former Geelong and Essendon key forward and sometime defender Mitch Brown has joined the club as a rookie for this season through the supplemental selection period (SSP). 

Brown was originally drafted by Geelong with Pick 15 in the 2008 national draft but injuries restricted him to just 15 games before he was delisted by the Cats at the conclusion of the 2014 AFL season. His career was revived when briefly recruited as a fill in by Essendon in the wake of the supplements saga and was drafted by the Bombers at the end of 2015 and  played 21 games in 2016. He was delisted by the Bombers after kicking 21 goals across 16 in 2019 including four hauls of three or more majors. Brown, who has elite endurance, has played 70 AFL games in total for 69 goals and is seen as a handy addition to the club’s list with his experience at both ends of the ground.

The club still has one senior list vacancy which is expected to be taken up in March by Harley Bennell if he can convince the club that he has overcome the ravages of injury by the SSP deadline next March. In the meantime this leaves the Melbourne Football Club lists looking like this:-

PRIMARY LIST:  

Oskar Baker Toby Bedford Angus Brayshaw Bayley Fritsch Max Gawn Mitch Hannan James Harmes Michael Hibberd Marty Hore Jayden Hunt Luke Jackson Neville Jetta Nathan Jones James Jordan Kade Kolodjiashnij Ed Langdon Jake Lever Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Steven May Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Aaron Nietschke Clayton Oliver Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Kysaiah Kropinyeri Pickett Braydon Preuss Trent Rivers Christian Salem Charlie Spargo Joel Smith Tom Sparrow Adam Tomlinson Aaron vandenBerg Jack Viney Josh Wagner Sam Weideman   

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A 

Mitch Brown* Kade Chandler Kyle Dunkley Jay Lockhart Corey Wagner  

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B  

Austin Bradtke 

* SSP signing

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On this issue of best player available v needs, I have this thought.

During the second test in Adelaide, I heard an interesting discussion on the selection of Marnus Labuschagne into the test side a little over 12 months ago. When selected, the right-handed batsman had a first class batting average of well under 40 (he only passed that mark with his innings in his latest test) and there were plenty other young batsmen around with better records who could have been picked ahead of him. He scored a duck in his maiden test innings but the selectors saw something in Labuschagne’s technique that convinced them of his potential to succeed at the highest level. And that he has done in spades with a test batting average currently standing at 53.52 and two 150+ innings in the series v Pakistan and some fine hands in the Ashes series after coming in as an injury replacement for Steve Smith on day five of the second Test. 

I see the same sort of attention to detail in Jason Taylor’s draft selections. It hasn’t really been a case of drafting for needs but one of picking out attributes in two diverse types as Luke Jackson and Kysaiah Pickett that are likely to prove successful at the highest level with the right sort of patience and development. In any event, I certainly wouldn’t call this a case of drafting for needs or picking long shots as Gary Buckenara asserts. Both of those players were being considered by recruiters with picks close behind ours in each case.

The bonus for the club is that for the past months, the popular view was that Melbourne was set to draft a line-breaking defender like Hayden Young or Lachlan Ash which was the type of player the club needed after a season in which the team broke down badly on the outside. Well, we didn’t go for the obvious but we did get a similar type player with our third and final pick who fits that mould. And what’s more, like Young and Ash, he’s also an All Australian and not far behind them in stature for that half-back role. 

And let’s not forget that Jackson and Rivers were members of the championship winning Western Australian u18 team that often gets underrated in a world that’s definitely Victorian-centric. 

It will be interesting to see how things pan out for this 2019 MFC crop.

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