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CHANGES 2023 by The Oracle


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CHANGES 2023 Part 1: Silver Linings by The Oracle

Friday night, the Melbourne Football Club was unceremoniously dumped from the AFL finals in straight sets for the second year in a row after winning the premiership in September 2021.

To make things worse, its greatest ever player in Ronald Dale Barassi passed away within 24 hours and its dual All-Australian headline recruit Brodie Grundy who wasn’t deemed worthy of a final, announced he wanted out of the club on Monday. The gravity of these two events is vastly different but they do demonstrate how bad things have been going for the Demons this month.

As with most things however, there are still many silver linings for the club notwithstanding the loss of a club icon, the defeats and the bad run of luck, injuries and suspensions that have hit the club recently.

While we are now forced to sit back and watch as four clubs no more talented than ours battle it out for premiership glory, the focus for Melbourne must now be on the regeneration and improvement of its list by way of the process of change through trading, free agency and drafting over the coming two months.

The silver lining is that the club already has a strong list that sits within the premiership window, it has some good young up-and-comers including some who are in the warehouse waiting for an AFL debut and an outstanding hand with which it can confidently trade or enter the November Draft in search of high-end talent.

On that last point, at this time in 2022, the club’s first pick in the November Draft was a late second rounder at number 34. This year, the scenario prior to entering October’s trade period is that the Demons have locked in picks 5, 13, 24 and 32. With a good selection looming in a trade with the Swans for Grundy and others attracting interest as well, the possibilities for bettering that position are strong.

Grundy might be gone but Lachie Hunter proved an asset on the wing after transferring to Melbourne from the Bulldogs with Josh Schache who had very few opportunities at AFL level but has been retained for next season.

Melbourne found a few true rising stars in the underestimated Judd McVee who played every game for the season and the young power forward Jacob Van Rooyen who will go forward in leaps and bounds while Bailey Laurie and Taj Woewodin also showed great promise for the future. Second year key defender Daniel Turner again had his season hampered by injury but is expected to break into a regular position with added bulk and a good summer of training. 

This brings us to the players in the club’s "warehouse" — youngsters who have yet to be tested at senior AFL level and can therefore we can consider them as recruits for 2024 even before considering trades, free agents and draftees. They are —  

§  Blake Howes would almost certainly have played AFL but for a bad run with injury over the past two seasons. The classy, tallish winger, who can also go forward has some big wraps on him and could bring some much-needed polish into the Demon line up in 2024.

§  Andy Moniz-Wakefield is a Next Generation Academy player from the NT who showed further improvement at Casey and bagged five goals in the 2023 Wild Card game against North Melbourne. One to watch in 2024.

§  Matthew Jefferson — the club’s first round draft pick last year (received as part of the trade with Fremantle for Luke Jackson) had a mixed season at Casey. His best was excellent and included two four goal efforts, but he tired late in the year. Some added weight and work on his leading patterns over the pre-season should pay some big dividends in the next year or so.  

§  Jed Adams still has a way to go but he contested well, demonstrated some strong defensive skills and is a good mark. Very much a work in progress.

§  Will Verrell learned from some of the best ruckmen in the game in 2023 and showed that he is a very willing combatant in the big man stakes. Will be worth watching as his development continues in 2024.

§  Oliver Sestan is a player who could be anything but then again might not make it. He came raw from school and junior country football where he was a brilliant goal sneak into an elite AFL squad much in need of a football education and, because of injury failed to see out his first season. Looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this player. 

§  Kye Turner and Kyah Farris-White are two rookie listed players who, for varying reasons, we saw very little of in 2023.  They appear to be a fair way off.

The club has announced that another rookie, Deakyn Smith, will not receive a renewed contract so along with the retiring Luke Dunstan and Michael Hibberd, he is the first of the changes for 2024.

That leaves the Melbourne Football Club list looking like this: — 

PRIMARY LIST: —

Jed Adams Jake Bowey Angus Brayshaw Ben Brown Kade Chandler Luke Dunstan (retired) Bayley Fritsch Max Gawn Brodie Grundy James Harmes Michael Hibberd (retired) 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 (delisted) Daniel Turner* Kye Turner Will Verrell

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B  

Kyah Farris-White Andy Moniz-Wakefield

* to be elevated to Primary List for 2024

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If we say McVee and D Turner get promoted onto the primary list then the primary list is filled.   Assuming we get a decent player for Grundy our primary list will still be full.   Hard to see who else goes from the primary list to get any other players (including draftees).  There's always talk about Thomlinson, TMac and Melksham but more likely to stay than leave.

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2 hours ago, stinga said:

If we say McVee and D Turner get promoted onto the primary list then the primary list is filled.   Assuming we get a decent player for Grundy our primary list will still be full.   Hard to see who else goes from the primary list to get any other players (including draftees).  There's always talk about Thomlinson, TMac and Melksham but more likely to stay than leave.

JJ and Harmes will be gone for a start. McVee doesn't have to be promoted this year. McAdam coming in. That's 2 vacancies on the primary list.

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2 hours ago, Dee*ceiving said:

Tomlinson looking a chance to go as well. 
Maybe 1 of Brown or TMac will call it a day with some negotiation?

Source?

Last report (formal? last week?) was he was 'a required player'.

Edited by Timothy Reddan-A'Blew
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Thanks for that summary.

A smoky who I have totally forgotten about was Sestan.   From what little I have seen of him (TV only) and heard he seems an excitement machine if he develops AFL level fitness.  Another medium 188cm forward but with just a bit of a difference.   May take another year but worth keeping an eye on. 
 

GO DEES

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CHANGES 2023 Part 2: The Picture by The Oracle
 
The trade and free agency deals are done and, when the dust settled, the picture of how each club’s list was going to appear in 2024 was beginning to become much clearer.
 
For the Melbourne Football Club, the ins and outs appear as follows -
 
In: Jack Billings (St Kilda) Tom Fullarton (Brisbane Lions) Shane McAdam (Adelaide)
 
Out: Luke Dunstan (retired) Brodie Grundy (Sydney Swans) James Harmes (Western Bulldogs) Michael Hibberd (retired) James Jordon (Sydney Swans) Jake Melksham (delisted) Deaykin Smith (delisted ®) Kye Turner (delisted ®)
 
In terms of the players coming into the side, there was no “big fish” captured on the hook. Indeed, all three would have to be regarded as speculative selections by virtue of the fact that none of them have been stand outs in recent seasons. However, as I mentioned in the trade week wrap-up there was nothing in Collingwood’s 2023 recruiting “that screamed brilliance” but four players picked up in the post season are now premiership players.
 
It has been said that Melbourne was interested when Jack Billings was drafted by St Kilda at number 3 ten years ago. The brilliant 185cm, 82kg midfielder/forward has had an up and down 155 game (108 goal) career, highlighted by a place in the Saints’ leadership group and a fourth placing in the best and fairest in 2019. During his time, he has had his share of injuries and some form lapses, but a fit Billings at 28 years of age would certainly be an asset in Melbourne’s attack for the next couple of seasons.

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Similarly, with Shane McAdam who is also aged 28. The 183cm 79kg forward was a late starter at Adelaide and has notched up 50 games (72 goals) and played in only eight games this season. At his best, he’s a dynamic player with a good bag of skills who could electrify the Demon forward line in combination with Kozzy Pickett.
 
Tom Fullarton played four games for Brisbane in 2022 and none this year. The 24-year-old, 200 cm ruckman/forward with a basketball background could fill a couple of distinct roles including giving the skipper a chop out in the ruck.
 
Brodie Grundy and James Jordon found their separate ways to the Sydney Swans and James Harmes became a Bulldog in a low-profile trade. Luke Dunstan joined Michael Hibberd in retirement after his late season ACL surgery while Jake Melksham was one of the delistings but he’s expected to be relisted as a rookie later this month. Rookies Deaykin Smith and Kye Turner have also been delisted.
 
Daniel Turner is expected to be upgraded to the Primary List before the National Draft. We can also expect to see Kynan Brown (son of former Demon, Nathan Brown) drafted on one of the lists after he nominated himself for selection under the father/son rule.
 
Here’s a look at the club’s list as they stand at present: -
 
PRIMARY LIST
 
1. Jed Adams
2. Jack Billings
3. Jake Bowey
4. Angus Brayshaw
5. Ben Brown
6. Kade Chandler
7. Tom Fullarton
8. Bayley Fritsch
9. Max Gawn
10. Blake Howes
11. Lachie Hunter
12. Matthew Jefferson
13. Ed Langdon
14. Bailey Laurie
15. Jake Lever
16. Shane McAdam
17. Tom McDonald
18. Steven May
19. Alex Neal-Bullen
20. Clayton Oliver
21. Christian Petracca
22. Harrison Petty
23. Kysaiah Pickett
24. Trent Rivers
25. Christian Salem
26. Josh Schache
27. Joel Smith
28. Charlie Spargo
29. Tom Sparrow
30. Adam Tomlinson
31. Jacob van Rooyen
32. Jack Viney
33. Taj Woewodin
 
ROOKIE LIST CATEGORY A
 
34. Judd McVee
35. Oliver Sestan
36. Daniel Turner
37. Will Verrell
 
ROOKIE LIST CATEGORY B 
 
38. Kyah Farris-White
39. Andy Moniz-Wakefield
 
With the likely inclusion of Kynan Brown and Jake Melksham on one of the lists, this leaves the club with very little room to maneuver in its drafting although it remains in an advantageous position with two high end picks. Will the club make a play for the highly regarded top selection Harley Reid or will it go for two first rounders?
 
We’ll know soon.

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CHANGES 2023 Part 3: The Long Run by The Oracle

The first round of this year’s AFL National Draft  was the deepest of its kind in the history of the AFL draft due to the significant number of Next Generation Academy and Father/Son bids that were matched by clubs in that round. As a consequence, 29 players were selected in the longest running first night of a draft ever, almost half the total number of players drafted overall.

Melbourne was well placed in the draft with two picks at the top end which were ultimately picks 7 and 13 although it did make an unsuccessful attempt to secure the first pick which would have netted Harley Reid who was favourite for top spot throughout the year.

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For their first selection at #7, the Demons opted for the outside run and class of Caleb Windsor from Eastern Ranges who was described by AFL Draft Central* …

“[S]omewhat of a bolter, Caleb Windsor is a wingman capable of holding down his spot for the long-term. He plays the outside role expertly and is one of the draft’s best athletes – demonstrating a strong speed-endurance mix both through his agility and ability to snatch metres with each possession.

“Windsor worked on his deficiencies this year – from ground balls, to kicking on the run – and accelerated from being a first round chance to top 10 draftee. The Dees describe his work as classy and were very happy to add him to an already very strong list.”

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According to the Melbourne Age, Windsor told Fox Footy that he was "grateful for the opportunity", after getting the biggest cheer of the night when his name was read out.

Six picks later, Melbourne chose hard working Koltyn Tholstrup, already a regular in WAFL State League side Subiaco who, like Windsor, is considered not far away from being AFL ready. 

According to AFL Draft Central*, “The West Australian impressed with his willingness to perform roles in Subiaco’s senior side this year, shaping as a character who will only boost the quality of a team’s culture.

“He plays with great energy and flair going both ways, which should quickly endear him to fans. Even his exploits off the field are eye-catching. While he’ll likely start as a forward, Tholstrup certainly has scope to shift into the on-ball group in future.”

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Tholstrup was invited to the draft in person, according to Fox Footy, but declined to spend the night with his family in Western Australia.

Demons recruiting manager Jason Taylor said of his two first round selections:

"Caleb is speedy, he's quite fast and he covers a lot of ground as well so it's a speed-endurance combination. He's a 60-80m player, he really carries the ball and he's a goalkicker.

“He adds a bit of class. We think he can grow into an outstanding athlete and he's someone we really wanted to add to our footy club.
Koltyn is a great character, a really powerful medium forward who, we've got no doubt at some point in his career, can go through the midfield. He's going to add some real quality both as a person and player to our footy club."

The club’s trading of players in October had left it with very little need in terms of spots available on its playing lists. The final primary list space was taken by the uplifting of rookie Daniel Turner so the recruiters had an easy second night of the draft as onlookers while 35 more picks were added by the other clubs. 

On the following afternoon, the Demons preselected father/son pick, Kynan Brown, 181cm 71kg, who had featured in the Coates Talent League Team of the Year as a Category B Rookie. AFL Draft Central* said of him - “Brown turned out for Oakleigh Chargers over the last couple of seasons and was one of Vic Metro’s most consistent, albeit unheralded performers at the Under 18 National Championships. Expect him to provide handy list depth and work to get the best out of himself at the top level.” 

As expected, the club also rookie listed the injured Jake Melksham in the rookie draft and, at the first available opportunity, retook defender Marty Hore earlier this week as a supplemental selection after spending two seasons in the VFL. 

The 2023 changes now leave the club’s lists looking like this:

PRIMARY LIST: —

Jed Adams Jack Billings Jake Bowey Angus Brayshaw Ben Brown Kade Chandler Tom Fullarton Bayley Fritsch Max Gawn Blake Howes Lachie Hunter Matthew Jefferson Ed Langdon Bailey Laurie Jake Lever Shane McAdam Tom McDonald Steven May Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Kysaiah Kropinyeri Pickett Trent Rivers Christian Salem Josh Schache Joel Smith Charlie Spargo Tom Sparrow Koltyn Tholstrup Adam Tomlinson Daniel Turner Jacob van Rooyen Jack Viney Caleb Windsor Taj Woewodin 

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A —

Marty Hore Judd McVee Jake Melksham Oliver Sestan Will Verrell

ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY B —

Kynan Brown Kyah Farris-White Andy Moniz-Wakefield 

* 2023 AFL Draft Review: Melbourne

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In relation to the club lists, I have included Kynan Brown as a Category B rookie which leaves the club with 36 primary list and 5 Category A rookie list players. This leaves 3 Category B rookies. However, I am still looking for confirmation that this is the correct way to classify the list.

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