After doing most of the heavy lifting during the trade period, this week saw Derek Hine and our recruiting department put the finishing touches on our list for the 2016 season.
For some, the draft lacked the same allure of previous drafts given our first selection wasn’t until #32 amid a draft class that had been repeatedly assessed as shallow, but even in so-called shallow drafts gems are often found late and as we saw on Tuesday night, Derek Hine once more found a way to make a modest intake of talent more than a little interesting.
Whilst it took a while to get to our first choice, when our turn did arrive there were several recognisable names still available — a familiarity bred from the multitude of amateur and enthusiast phantom drafts on football forums; along of course with all of the pre-draft copy from those slightly more in the know.
At #32 all of Hibberd, Bonner, Balic, Johnson and Mathieson were still available, but Hine sprung perhaps the biggest surprise on draft night by reading out a name unfamiliar with the masses and one that had also evaded any of the pre-draft media spotlight.
With our first selection, we brought the Marcellin College product Brayden Sier to our great club, a 190cm/91kg midfielder who we are hoping may develop into a player comparable to the likes of Bontempelli and Cripps. Nothing was known of Sier and the faithful were scratching their heads – perhaps even preparing for a mutiny as their remaining pre-draft favourites were left to get picked off before our next selection at #58 – until the club made some footage available.
That footage, combined with the ever-present longing for hope, turned any angst or consternation once more into irrepressible excitement — particularly for a supporter base who loves a cult hero and sadly had to bid farewell to the heir apparent recently in Brenden Abbott.
In 90 seconds of footage, the fans were treated to a powerful 17 year old imposing himself at contests; showing crisp touch off the deck and an instinct for being in-motion at stoppages. You can only read so much into any highlights clip, but there was plenty to like on first viewing and there’s no doubt that many of the black-and-white tragics battling post-season withdrawal will have turned that 90 seconds into an hour long loop.
What would have pleased most, I suspect, would be the element of dynamism that Sier exhibited at stoppages: his tendency to read the tap well and look to drive his way through and out of traffic. Any player prepared to fend off an opponent and tuck the ball under an arm before taking on all comers – let alone being able to get away with it – is likely to win the favour of any supporter base, no matter what obscurity they are plucked from.
And so we have added a prototypical modern midfielder, in lieu of just missing out on Bontempelli – coincidentally another Marcellin College product – two years ago and perhaps on the back of setting the trend somewhat a decade ago with the foresight, recruitment and development of our current skipper.
The success of Carlton’s emerging superstar Patrick Cripps and the current eminence of Nathan Fyfe provide further precedents for the desirability of yesterday’s key position player/tomorrow’s prime midfielder — and Brayden Sier certainly appears to fit into this category in terms of scope.
It was an interesting selection all the same, given our current and developing midfield depth. Most entered this year’s draft wanting us to target some specific needs such as another key position forward, an opportunistic crumber and perhaps any player with pace. I was of a similar mind until after our trade period when our remaining modest draft picks left me more concerned with merely finding the best available options.
It appears that Hine has taken this approach, but in typical Hine fashion his judging of players has been weighted not so much by output to date, but by the more speculative notion of potential — particularly when introducing that player into a professional environment.
To date, Sier has only played two TAC Cup games for the Northern Knights and is at the youngest end of the age eligibility spectrum. Hine commented at length last year on De Goey’s lack of exposure to an elite system and the belief of how he might quickly elevate his game even further once brought into such an environment. The story appears to be much the same with Sier this year.
What Hine appears to be banking on, is the prospect of using our first choice this year – a second round selection – on a player who if overlooked and given more exposure within the TAC Cup next year, appears to possess the weapons and scope to potentially develop into a genuine first round selection.
This is just one way of looking at it, influenced somewhat by the knowledge of currently being without a first round selection in next year’s draft, but there’s little doubt that Hine has gone for an option who he perceives to have a much higher ceiling than some of the other available types, who may have had more exposure and amassed more runs at U18 level.
It is another one of those selections that could further enhance Hine’s reputation. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if Sier turns out to be an inspired choice, he could be the crowning jewel – or at least a complementary one alongside Pendlebury – in Hine’s drafting legacy.
At our next pick (#58 overall) we selected Tom Phillips from the Oakleigh Chargers, a top-aged player (19) who appears to be a fairly well-rounded footballer, projecting as a midfielder/flanker. He looks to have a balanced game, capable of winning his own ball or providing something on the outside with what appears to be a polished left foot and reasonable pace — traits that are desirable with a view to improving our ball use and overall efficiency.
Another surprise selection came at #63 with Rupert Wills, one of our very own VFL products who featured in six games throughout 2015 before sustaining a concussion, after which Hine has alluded to hiding him somewhat for the remainder of the year. I did get to attend quite a few VFL games this year and whilst I was at a few games in which Wills played, I have to confess to not taking note of him. My tendency is to zero in on our AFL listed players at the expense of and quite unfairly to our VFL listed troops — it is a balance and devotion that MagpieBat proves far superior at achieving when covering the VFL.
A mature aged selection at 22 years old, Wills is another who fits the future midfielder mould as a 191cm/89kg utility sized onballer. In his highlights he does appear hard to tackle and shows some snappy movement for his size, but what benefits players of this ilk as midfielders is their reach advantage and ability to keep their arms free when distributing from a stoppage.
Wills was another left-field selection, since if you took a poll amongst VFL watchers as to who we would gift a spot to you would likely have been presented with the likes of Moloney, Still, Close, Borthwick or Pendlebury the Third — some of which presented as solutions for perceived list deficiencies. What is also strange is that despite being 22 years of age, Wills doesn’t project as an immediate plug-and-play option, but that is likely just my own ignorance given the club would have a better idea as to what he could provide in the immediate term.
Alternatively, the club might also be prepared to give him a year or two of development under our system proper before expecting potential returns at senior level. We selected him ahead of Ben Crocker and our rookie selections in Tim Golds (who has four years under his belt at GWS) and the similarly aged Josh Smith, so Hine clearly rated Wills amongst what was available at that stage of the draft and enough to assure him a senior list spot.
And let’s be honest, it’s nice to have a Rupert back on the list.
When contemplating the selection of both Sier and Wills, it should be remembered that whilst our intention is obviously to develop such players as midfielders, they remain utility sized and will provide some versatility on game day.
Hine was once more presented with the opportunity to unexpectedly pull the trigger on a fourth selection in the national draft when Ben Crocker remained available at #65 — Hine expecting him not to last long in the coming rookie draft. This bodes well for those who remember the drafting of Tom Langdon (coincidentally a former pick #65) and Jonathon Marsh two years ago.
I must admit, I did take a liking to Ben Crocker’s highlights as he appears to possess the sort of forward nous – coupled with a combative spirit – that could serve us well. He’s also a fellow Collingwood tragic, growing up next door to Sir Scott Burns of all people. With Karnezis and Seedsman departing, Crocker’s arrival can restore the sentimental subplot.
Having played predominantly forward, Crocker looks to be a solid finisher and an exceptional overhead mark. Whilst we’ve been wanting a crafty small forward since the departure of Davis and retirements of Krakouer and Didak, Crocker projects as being more LeCras than Leon — and if he reaches such heights, nobody would complain.
Having captained Oakleigh to the premiership this year, Crocker also ticks the leadership boxes that we’ve held in high regard with previous draft and trade targets. He appears to enjoy the defensive aspects of the game as much as he does hitting the scoreboard, which should see him slot into our system easily.
A couple of days after the national draft we jumped straight into the rookie draft, having two live picks after already committing to redrafting the suspended Keeffe and Thomas. That story in itself has divided fans, but it was interesting that we used our first selection to secure Keeffe, with some word coming out post-draft that ironically, Essendon of all people were showing some interest in snaffling him ahead of us.
I know that some supporters – bitterly and understandably disappointed in both players – would have been happy if that eventuated. The fact that Hine didn’t let it happen suggests that, in Keeffe’s case at least, our offer to retain them on the rookie list is not purely a compassionate move. After the time and development that we’ve put into Keeffe since joining the club as a Category B rookie from an alternative sport background, the club seems intent on getting some return on that investment.
Keeffe has shown a fair bit at senior level whilst going through some form fluctuations. Furthermore, as a 204cm key defender with polished disposal, he does have a fair bit to offer assuming he can recapture his best form after a significant and self-inflicted setback. This really is the sticking point, as we cannot underestimate just how difficult it is going to be for both players to return to the game after being banned from a professional environment for a substantial period of time.
This is something I might touch on at a later point in time though, as I don’t want to detract from welcoming the final new additions to our list in Josh Smith and Tim Golds.
We’ve returned to Redlands once more – after drafting Thomas and Oxley previously – in selecting the mature aged Josh Smith. At 21 years old, Smith is a hard running and high accumulating midfielder, who notes his disposal efficiency as one of his strengths.
It has to be said that it’ll be a hard task for him to win senior selection given the depth we’re building in his preferred position, but he certainly appears likely to bolster our VFL midfield immediately – and we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of our VFL team remaining competitive – whilst the tall order of cracking into our senior line-up may just bring the best out of him.
With the season being a marathon and not a sprint, there’s no harm in having some ready-made depth players, without discounting the possibility of them becoming more than that given the right set of circumstances.
Finally, we welcome the former Giant Tim Golds to Collingwood, who seems on first look to be more athlete than footballer. Possessing both pace and endurance, to date Golds has struggled to take the next step in becoming a consistent AFL footballer. Nonetheless, at 193cm and capable of almost matching Dangerfield in a Grand Final sprint, there’s something to like. We’ve lost some run-and-carry with the departure of Seedsman, so I suspect the club would be hoping that Golds might be able to replace some of that.
He was invited to train with us alongside our first and fourth year players well ahead of the draft, so we’ve clearly had some interest in him from a way out. Also, whilst official club websites tend to be viewed with cynicism, the footage of Tapping and the lads officially welcoming Golds to the list was a nice moment.
Before closing, I should take a moment to congratulate Jack Frost on officially being elevated to the senior list, a richly deserved reward after standing up in recent years from the rookie list. I should also belatedly welcome our newest Category B rookie addition in Darrean Wyatt, a 204cm basketballer returning to our native game after spending three years in the American college system.
My final piece of business is to thank MagpieBat for his coverage of both drafts this week. Once again MB went above and beyond, putting together an excellent preview of the draft before providing those who tuned in with real-time updates on the picks and informative tidbits as to who remained at each of our selections. Thanks again MB, top work.
Thus concludes our drafting for the year 2015, with our list now finalised for the 2016 season. It was an immense trading period capped off by an intriguing draft night, the culmination of both resulting in an increase to our midfield quality and depth, both immediate and developing. We are now aware of all of the pieces at our disposal, so our attention can now turn towards how best to use these pieces in pursuit of returning to the finals.
Welcome to Collingwood lads.
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