There were numerous surprises in the first mid-season draft since 1993. Several clubs (Melbourne, Fremantle and to a lesser extent Sydney) prioritised talent acquisition over positional needs. But do the Demons need another ball-winning midfielder? Fremantle another key forward? Sydney another ruckman?
The greatest surprises from the night were Marlion Pickett and Sam Lowson. Pickett is the great story of the draft, turning his life around after being jailed in his late teens to become over the past few years one of the WAFL's best. A 27-year-old, Pickett went agonisingly close to selection in 2018 only to get overlooked and it seemed that his chances once again would be dashed after he broke a finger on Saturday which will keep him out 8-10 weeks. Richmond however surprised everyone by awarding Pickett a chance with the 13th pick.
Lowson, like Pickett, sustained an injury at the weekend - hurting his ankle, though his injury did not appear overly serious. He was viewed a likely early selection heading into the midseason draft but missed out completely, but is still someone to look out for in the leadup to this year's AFL Draft as he possesses a much-coveted combination of speed, pressure and scoreboard impact.
MID-SEASON ROOKIE DRAFT ORDER
1. Carlton (Tomas Bugg) - Josh Deluca (former Docker readymade midfielder)
2. Gold Coast (Harrison Wigg) - Mitch Riordan (explosive midfielder)
3. Melbourne (Aaron Nietschke) - Kyle Dunkley (ball-winning midfielder and younger brother of the Bulldogs' Josh)
4. Sydney (Kurt Tippett) - Michael Knoll (best ruckman outside the AFL and improving rapidly)
5. North Melbourne (Ed Vickers-Willis) - Lachlan Hosie (talented forward who leads the SANFL goalkicking)
6. Western Bulldogs (Liam Picken) - Ryan Gardner (former Cat who is a developing key position player able to play either end)
7. Essendon (Devon Smith) - Will Snelling (former Power midfielder who is a pressure specialist)
8. St Kilda (Paddy McCartin) - Jack Mayo (improving mobile tall forward who will take time to develop)
9. Port Adelaide (Jake Patmore) - Cam Sutcliffe (former Docker with the versatility to plug holes)
10. Hawthorn (Tim Mohr) - Pass
11. Fremantle (Matt Taberner) - Dillon O'Reilly (a developing key forward and the son of Stephen with his father two games short of 100 with Fremantle)
12. Adelaide (Tom Doedee) - pass
13. Richmond (Shaun Grigg) - Marlion Pickett (one of the best outside the AFL and with the versatility and hurt factor to play once his finger has healed)
14. Collingwood (Lynden Dunn) - John Noble (speedy type who can add some speed on a wing or half-back flank)
15. Gold Coast (Rory Thompson) - pass
16. Sydney (Heath Grundy) - Cody Hirst (one of the fastest and most exciting with ball in hand outside the AFL but is light bodied and will take time to mature)
17. Western Bulldogs (Tom Boyd) - pass
18. Essendon (Joe Daniher or Sam Draper) - pass
Kyle Dunkley may be a questionable selection from a needs perspective for Melbourne given they have an excessive number of inside midfielders but all things said and done, may have the best career of the players selected. He stood out in the Young Guns game with 27 disposals and two goals which was backed up one week later with three goals for Footscray in the VFL. While Dunkley is likely to start his career as a forward given Melbourne's glut of ball-winning midfielders, ultimately his best play is most likely to come as a midfielder.
One of the best outside the AFL, Pickett has made his name in recent seasons as a damaging half-back flanker until making the switch into the midfield in 2018 where it looked like he found his home. While Pickett is set to miss 8-10 weeks with a broken finger, he was an astute choice because he brings an AFL standard game to the table with the versatility to play midfield, back or forward as required.
Failing to develop in 2018 after leading the WAFL Colts goalkicking in 2017 as an underager, Dillon O'Reilly is a questionable selection from Fremantle. The query with O'Reilly is his lack of development with his disposals, marks, tackles and goals per game in 2018 weaker than he achieved as an underager. Also, in his two League opportunities this year, he has struggled with a total of four marks and no goals across his two opportunities. What makes this decision even more questionable is it follows the successful recruitment of Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb over the offseason - adding to Fremantle's key forwards in Matt Taberner, Brennan Cox and Cam McCarthy. It's surprising that Fremantle see any possibility that O'Reilly can surpass any of these already established key forwards.
The passes by Hawthorn, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Western Bulldogs and Essendon are opportunities wasted. An argument could be made that Lowson and Sandover medalists Haiden Schloithe and Jye Bolton would each be best 22 players for any of these five teams if chosen.
Best plug-and-play options
The ready-to-go players taken include Josh Deluca, Will Snelling, Cam Sutcliffe and Pickett. Of those four, Pickett is the least likely of that group with his return unlikely until the final rounds of the season.
Deluca should receive opportunities for Carlton at some point through the midfield. He won the Simpson Medal for WAFL's best in the state game against the SANFL. It's his first possession-winning and distribution by hand that makes him stand out most and should see him earn midfield minutes for Carlton to provide support to Patrick Cripps at the coalface.
Selected as a Devon Smith injury replacement, Will Snelling is a smart choice with the capability to play a similar role as the most lively tackling midfielder outside the AFL. Expect Snelling to play early and often once comfortable with the club's structures.
Already familiar with the way Port Adelaide want to play after getting drafted out of the club's SANFL side, Cam Sutcliffe was picked as a depth player who the club feel confident they can call upon at any time to fill any gaps in defence or through the midfield as required.
Lowson is the significant hard luck story no one saw coming. He was injured on Saturday after being viewed as possibly one of the first chosen. Like Lowson, Coburg teammate Lochie Dickson received considerable interest from clubs as a late bloomer who has transitioned from defence last year into a tall midfielder this year.
Powerful ball-winning midfielder Frank Anderson, who made the step up from the Eastern Football League to the VFL, was another who received strong AFL interest with his ball winning and explosiveness intriguing recruiters. Anderson, like Lowson and Dickson, should take great confidence from the interest he has received from recruiters and will be among the leading mature age draft chances later in the year.
Receiving a medical in the leadup to the draft, Jake Riccardi should take confidence from that. If he continues to perform in the VFL, he may be another in line for draft consideration at year's end with his rapid improvement impressing recruiters with the 19-year-old kicking 13 goals through the first seven games for Werribee.