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CHANGES 2022 by The Oracle


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Part 1: The year we stood still (or did we?). 

Premiership coach David Parkin who  coincidentally turned 80 yesterday, famously used to say that even a premiership team needs to bring at least five new players into the fold in order to advance from year to year and therefore, if this adage remains true, then the Melbourne Football Club really did stand still in 2022. 

Of the players recruited after the club’s premiership in September, 2021, only Luke Dunstan (5 games) managed to provide service at AFL level. In addition, defender Daniel Turner who was picked up in the Mid Season Draft in June 2021, saw action for less than a half before he was injured against Collingwood in the last Queens Birthday game for a while — the only genuine debutant in terms of AFL games for the year are concerned. 

None of this is necessarily a criticism of either the coaching or the recruiting people at the club. That’s how it happened in 2022 when the playing list was strong enough to finish second on the ladder in the wake of a particularly tough draw. It all broke down in the finals but, in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “it is what it is” and there’s a silver lining there in that the club moves towards the next phase with a number of players who have yet to be tested at senior AFL level and can therefore be considered recruits for 2023. They are — 

•    Blake Howes Now here’s a player who is versatile; he can play as a tallish winger or as forward who wasn’t far off senior selection before he injured his foot early in the season. Will benefit from a full pre season.

•    Bailey Laurie He has now spent two seasons at the club and was also close to stepping up for senior selection, particularly after one outstanding 30+ possession game at GMHBA Stadium for Casey against the Cats. Hoping for a breakthrough in 2023.

•    Fraser Rosman Another two year player with height, pace, a good engine and versatility. Unlucky with injuries.

•    Jacob Van Rooyen  We’re all waiting with bated breath to see how this 194cm key forward with vice like marking grip, the strongest 18 year old Tom McDonald’s ever seen and boundless enthusiasm goes when he finally gets a senior call up.

•    Taj Woewodin Son of a club Brownlow Medallist and an emerging midfield talent.

•     Judd McVee Rookie from WA who spent most of his time in defence at Casey.

•    Deakyn Smith Another rookie with two seasons behind him, learning the back pocket ropes (mentored last year by Neville Jetta).

•    Daniel Turner I’m including him here because the dashing defender is virtually a recruit having spent not much more than half an hour in AFL ranks (and it was an impressive half hour).

•    Andy Moniz-Wakefield A Next Generation Academy player from the NT who the Demons managed to capture and who has plenty of flair and X Factor. Fingers crossed but he could be very, very good.

And there you have it!

Even before the club’s National Recruiting Manager Jason Taylor, List Manager Tim Lamb and their recruiting staff begin to roll up their sleeves and get to work, there are nine names who are in contention for new places in the team. Some won’t make it and, based on the percentages, it’s likely that the majority will not.

However, if three or four of them can become regular performers at the highest level, then it’s a bonus for the club. Which is just as well because at this point in time, Melbourne’s first pick in the November Draft is a late second rounder at number 34. 

Let’s take a step back to earlier in the year when the club sat out the Pre-season supplemental selection period and the Mid Season Draft. With all those untried players already at the club there was no need for further picks. Melbourne’s player list looked like this in early June:— 

PRIMARY LIST: —

Oskar Baker Toby Bedford Jake Bowey Angus Brayshaw Ben Brown Luke Dunstan Bayley Fritsch Max Gawn James Harmes Michael Hibberd Blake Howes Jayden Hunt Luke Jackson James Jordon Ed Langdon Bailey Laurie Jake Lever Tom McDonald Steven May Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Kysaiah Kropinyeri Pickett Trent Rivers Fraser Rosman Christian Salem Joel Smith Charlie Spargo Tom Sparrow Adam Tomlinson Jacob Van Rooyen Jack Viney Sam Weideman Taj Woewodin 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A 

Mitch Brown Kade Chandler Majak Daw Judd McVee Deakyn Smith Daniel Turner 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B  

Andy Moniz-Wakefield 

A few weeks later, there might have been some regrets about the inactivity when Majak Daw retired, leaving the club a little light on for ruckmen.

Things changed again today when Luke Jackson formally asked to be traded to his home state of Western Australia. This has already sparked speculation as to what Melbourne will ask in return for the former number 3 draft pick who became a premiership star for the club. And by way of a replacement, the Demons have already held talks with Magpie big man Brodie Grundy.

So folks, relax, sit down, get yourselves a big bag of popcorn at the ready and enjoy the hectic trade, free agency and draft period that awaits us.

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Part Two - The Rose Garden

Melbourne’s list manager Tim Lamb never promised us a rose garden prior to the AFL’s 2022 Free Agency and Trade Period but you won’t hear us little complaining about the following list of trades completed by Wednesday’s 7.30pm deadline -

• Melbourne received a third round compensation pick (pick 52) as Jayden Hunt signed with West Coast via Free Agency

• Melbourne traded picks 33, 43 and 53 to Port Adelaide for pick 27

• Melbourne traded Toby Bedford to GWS for pick 44

• Melbourne traded Luke Jackson, picks 44 and 67 to Fremantle for pick 13 and Fremantle’s future first and second round picks

• Melbourne traded pick 27 to Collingwood for Brodie Grundy

• Melbourne traded Sam Weideman, picks 54 and 72 to Essendon for pick 37

• Melbourne traded its future fourth round selection to Western Bulldogs for Josh Schache

• Melbourne traded its future third round selection to Western Bulldogs for Lachie Hunter

The combined effect of the above trades is to leave the Melbourne Football Club in a strong position with a combination of improved draft choices and the inclusion of what Lamb described as “battle-hardened senior talent”.

F1D34765-ABFD-49D5-9EAB-279EDF7EE058.jpegThe end of season changes were added to a day later with the delisting of Oskar Baker whose cards were no doubt marked with the acquisition of Hunter. The remaining uncontracted players, Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham, are believed to have been offered contracts for next year.

This leaves the club with the mandatory three vacancies on its Primary List, one of which will be filled in due course by the uplifting of rookie Kade Chandler onto the Primary List. 

The Demons take picks 13 and 37 into the November Draft and they will add a couple of rookies and possibly a Next Generation Academy player, again most likely as a rookie. 

There’s still a long way to go but the past fortnight has foreshadowed the possibility that the club could well emerge from its next big challenge smelling of roses. 

Bring it on.

PRIMARY LIST: —

Jake Bowey Jake Bowey Angus Brayshaw Ben Brown Luke Dunstan Bayley Fritsch Max Gawn Brodie Grundy James Harmes Michael Hibberd Blake Howes Lachie Hunter James Jordon Ed Langdon Bailey Laurie Jake Lever Tom McDonald Steven May Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Kysaiah Kropinyeri Pickett Trent Rivers Christian Salem Josh Schache Joel Smith Charlie Spargo Tom Sparrow Adam Tomlinson Jacob Van Rooyen Jack Viney Taj Woewodin 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A 

Kade Chandler Judd McVee Deakyn Smith Daniel Turner 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B  

Andy Moniz-Wakefield 

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Part Three - Comparing apples with pomegranates by The Oracle

One of the truly pointless exercises after each year’s draft is the game over which club “won” the period in question. The reality is that there is no winner or loser at the time and it’s only years further down the track when a full assessment of how the picks turn out can be made, that the winning hand is revealed.

And the draft results cannot be considered in isolation; you need to look at where each club stood before the trades including their original hands, how they traded and drafted and where they stood in the end. It wasn’t so long ago that one so-called “expert” gave Melbourne a C rating for its 2019 draft haul of Luke Jackson, Kysaiah Pickett and Trent Rivers. Less than two years later the trio were all part premiership team.

With this in mind, I return to the changes in the make up of Melbourne’s 2022 list in the fortnight after this year’s grand final. The club had failed in its recent finals campaign and then lost exciting young ruckman Jackson who sought to return home to Perth.

In the trading period, the Demons acquired three new names in two-time All Australian 203cm tall ruckman and Copeland Trophy winner Brodie Grundy, premiership Bulldog wingman Lachie Hunter (also a past best and fairest for the Western Bulldogs) and his teammate in Josh Schache, a former Larke Medallist and the number two national draftee of 2015.

On top of that, the Demons improved their draft position. They now held a current first round pick and two future first and second rounders for 2023. 

That outcome wasn’t enough to impress all of the pundits but to many, including yours truly, it was nevertheless a satisfactory outcome.

In the month before the draft, Melbourne added young basketballer Kyah Farris-White as a Category B rookie on a one year contract brokered by his American agent who initially contacted Jason Taylor via Linkedin. The 206cm beanstalk was tested by Mark Williams who liked what he saw and the youngster will now gain tuition in ruckwork within a system containing two of the game’s best ruck practitioners.

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With the draft fast approaching, there was speculation that the Demons were preparing to deal aggressively with their future picks to improve their hand but that all came to nought. 

Perhaps the Demon recruiters are fans of the US musical Hamilton because they decided to use the national draft to select a pair who carry the names of two early American Presidents, Jefferson and Adams.

High flying forward Matthew Jefferson from the Oakleigh Chargers has been associated with the Demons ever since they collected a first round selection (which turned out to be 15) in the Jackson trade. The connection was clear and present. One of the club’s needs was a key forward to team up with 2021 draftee Jacob Van Rooyen as Ben Brown and Tom McDonald neared their twilight years. 

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The Under 18 All Australian Jefferson who booted 14 goals in the recent national carnival including a haul of seven against WA was the obvious choice at that point on the first night of the draft meeting. He was also the full forward in the NAB League Team Of The Year.

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Late in the second round of the following evening, Melbourne snared a Jefferson bookend, Jed Adams, a 196cm key defender from Western Australia. Despite some injury concerns in 2022, Adams is considered a cool and steady customer who could fill Steven May’s shoes when the great man decides to step down. 

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There was no third selection in the national draft. As expected, the club promoted Kade Chandler off the rookie list — a fitting reward for the young midfielder/forward’s patience and perseverance during the Covid pandemic when he played an understudy role at a premiership club, biding his time for opportunities that were hard to come by.

The critics provided no universal accolades for the Demons’ drafting exercise. Rather, it was considered as a solid effort. There were no raised eyebrows. Pulses never ran hot. There were no apples to compare with the fruit of the other clubs.

So when the rookie draft came a day later, Melbourne did pull a couple of surprises. It bucked the trend of reloading with previously delisted players and continued to go young and tall by selecting an impressive South Australian ruckman who has established some great credentials in his young career. Standing at close to 200cm, Will Verrall is not that far away from accompanying one of the two big guns in the ruck or up forward at AFL level should the need arise. If not, he will develop in their shadows at Casey.

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Then came the bombshell selection of the smoky of the draft. Strong bodied Xavier College student Oliver Sestan happened to be at the place (Gosch’s Paddock) at the right time when the Paul Connors management team showed off its draft stable to league recruiters late last month.  It has been said that Sestan matched it that day with now North Melbourne recruit George Wardlaw. Days later the prolific 186cm goalkicker in junior ranks at Mansfield was a Demon. The experts all asked “who” and I guess we’ll find out some time sooner or later as to whether the speculative selection can play. 

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But that’s not all. 

The selectors left one place open to be filled during the preseason supplemental selection period or further down the track in next year’s mid season draft. And beyond that, the Demons have two first and two second round draft picks awaiting them when the 2023 trades and draft take place.

In the meantime, the lists read like this —

PRIMARY LIST: 

Jed Adams Jake Bowey Angus Brayshaw Ben Brown Kade Chandler Luke Dunstan Bayley Fritsch Max Gawn Brodie Grundy James Harmes Michael Hibberd Blake Howes Lachie Hunter Matthew Jefferson James Jordon Ed Langdon Bailey Laurie Jake Lever Tom McDonald Steven May Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Kysaiah Kropinyeri Pickett Trent Rivers Christian Salem Josh Schache Joel Smith Charlie Spargo Tom Sparrow Adam Tomlinson Jacob Van Rooyen Jack Viney Taj Woewodin 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A

Judd McVee Oliver Sestan Deakyn Smith Daniel Turner Will Verrell

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B 

Kyah Farris-White Andy Moniz-Wakefield

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