On Monday night time the city of Tongala joined the likes of Traralgon, Albany and Kyabram on a record of Australian cities with one thing particular in frequent.
No, they don’t seem to be locations placed on the map by new monorail methods, or the place miners have struck it wealthy — suppose extra sport pages than life-style or monetary, with a good bit of hope combined in for good measure.
When AFL head honcho Andrew Dillon learn out Harley Reid’s identify on Monday night time, the Victorian city of Tongala — in the Goulburn Valley area — added its identify to the record of house cities of AFL primary draft picks.
Each 12 months the AFL draft is a fountain of hope for footy followers throughout the nation. It’s the place the stars of the future are referred to as as much as new golf equipment, getting their first publicity to the shining lights and massive levels.
For their mates and household it is a fruits of a lengthy journey to the massive leagues.
Over 900 footballers nominated for the draft this 12 months. Only 64 heard their names referred to as. For these fortunate sufficient, it was a euphoric expertise.
A single draft could make and form footy golf equipment for years and many years to return.
This is what occurred at the 2023 AFL draft.
The rise of the north
Harley Reid spent most of the 12 months heralded by the media as the presumptive choose for many gifted junior footballer in the land.
But as the 12 months progressed, one identify joined him in that rarefied air.
Jed Walter, from the Palm Beach-Currumbin Lions Football Club on Queensland’s Gold Coast, shapes as being possibly the most full tall ahead to return by means of the draft in half a decade.
Walter was one of the focal factors for a breakthrough victory by “the Allies” at the Under 18 National Championships, breaking the stranglehold of the conventional footballing strongholds.
This beautiful victory foretold a shift in the standard pecking order of the youth expertise swimming pools.
This 12 months’s high 20 draft picks noticed the fewest Victorians drafted since 2002 as high three picks Reid, Walter, and Colby McKercher led the means for eight of the high 20 to be chosen from Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania mixed.
Perhaps extra curiously, all eight got here from simply three cities — the Gold Coast, Launceston, and Albury.
The Gold Coast Suns did effectively, grabbing three Palm Beach-Currumbin skills alongside one Broadbeach Cat — all from their Academy — in the first spherical.
The worth was comparatively miserly too, an assortment of traded later draft picks gathered fastidiously like driftwood on the shoreline.
The Suns had been concerned in 13 trades throughout the whole participant motion interval, a quarter of all transactions, every designed to maximise the probabilities of having the ability to seize all of their native skills.
This 12 months’s run from the north could also be joined by much more expertise in the close to future, with the Allies offering 12 of 22 Under 16 All Australians this 12 months.
The tides of footy expertise pipelines could also be slowly shifting extra completely.
An extended first spherical adopted by a short-ish night time
In principle the first spherical of the draft ought to final 18 picks — one for every membership in the league, handed out in reverse order.
This 12 months’s first day, nevertheless, noticed a whopping 29 first spherical choices referred to as out.
The first spherical was blown out by a excessive quantity of academy and father-son choices, in addition to free company compensation choices and particular aggressive help picks handed to North Melbourne.
The size of the first night time was additionally compounded by the excessive quantity of dwell choose trades throughout the draft.
The weeks main into the draft had been crammed with hypothesis of trades involving excessive finish picks — doubtlessly even choose one.
While most eventualities had been left unfulfilled, there have been nonetheless a quantity of chaotic strikes throughout the order.
The commerce of GWS’s choose eight to Adelaide — finally used on WA product Daniel Curtin — opened up the floodgates for different strikes.
In the finish the first spherical was solely narrowly shorter than the different 4 rounds of the draft mixed.
The draft additionally signalled the continuation of a long run pattern of the shortening of the draft. This 12 months’s draft was barely longer than final 12 months’s 59 picks, however far shorter than the close to 90 choices of the previous.
As the draft continues to be impacted by the long-reaching COVID pandemic and, as extra golf equipment consider they’re nearer to a premiership, few sides are taking a punt on the extra speculative skills accessible at the decrease finish of the draft.
Four golf equipment took simply two choices at the draft, with one other 5 golf equipment stumping for simply three new gamers.
At the finish of the scale stood Geelong, who took six gamers throughout each nights. Three of these six gamers had been mature aged skills designed to make an influence to assist the 2022 Premiers rise up the ladder after a down season.
Who had been the surprises?
Each 12 months’s draft sees a quantity of shock choices that throw the cat amongst the pigeons and some names that seemingly slide down the predicted order.
This 12 months’s greatest bolter was Albury’s Phoenix Gothard, an athletic small ahead chosen by GWS at choose 12.
Gothard wasn’t thought-about by many to be in the draft combine on the first night time — he solely got here down as a visitor of Connor O’Sullivan, his shut pal from Albury who was chosen at choose 11 by Geelong.
O’Sullivan needed to lower brief his introduction to Geelong and membership legend Joel Selwood to not solely have fun his mate’s choice however to additionally hand him a Bushrangers polo so he may go up on stage.
Gothard wasn’t the solely bolter in the draft, nevertheless.
Oscar Ryan, Billy Wilson and VFL star Shaun Mannagh weren’t typically anticipated to get picked up in the draft, however all three heard their names referred to as inside the first 40 choices.
Clubs appeared to look exterior of the field as the draft progressed this 12 months, with many of the intentions of golf equipment effectively hidden under a layer of public hypothesis.
With each bolter comes a identify that seemingly will get misplaced in the names of recruiters.
GWS capitalised on the first of these with their choice of Tasmania’s James Leake at choose 17 — whereas most consultants had pegged Leake as doubtless going inside the high 10 choices.
Some had been left ready a little longer, with predicted high 30 picks Arie Schoenmaker, Archie Roberts and Ollie Murphy left ready till late in the draft to listen to their names referred to as.
Whether any of these gamers show to be a discount will take a while to work out.
Check again in a decade or so to search out out.
Sports content material to make you suppose… or permit you to not. A e-newsletter delivered every Friday.