COULD this be Geelong’s 2001 all over again?
The Cats walked into the draft of that season with five picks inside the top 40. They walked out of it with the core that would help build the foundations for their triple-premiership dynasty.
Not since then have they held a draft hand as strong as they do now.
Tim Kelly’s departure on Wednesday left Geelong with a bevy of early selections – five inside the top 40 of the draft, to be exact. Now, it’s time for veteran list and recruiting manager Stephen Wells to do what he does best.
The Cats found Jimmy Bartel, James Kelly, Charlie Gardiner, Steve Johnson and Gary Ablett during that famous draft of 18 years ago. Together, they have combined for 1117 games and 11 premierships while based at Kardinia Park.
Jimmy Bartel with his 2011 Norm Smith Medal. Picture: AFL Photos
It’ll be a hard task for the next crop to replicate that success. However, getting as close to that as possible is what Wells will be dreaming of when the Telstra AFL Trade Period ends and his final haul of NAB AFL Draft picks is in front of him.
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The man who has recently found gems like Gryan Miers, Tom Stewart and Jack Henry with late picks will this year have a far more attractive hand to work with.
As it stands, the Cats have picks No.14, 17, 24, 36 and 37 at next month’s national draft. At least one of those, likely one of the latter two, will go to the Saints in a deal for Jack Steven.
Gryan Miers was a revelation this year. Picture AFL Photos
But how do they approach the draft with their remaining selections?
One option is to bundle picks in an effort to move higher up the draft order. Their first two selections are worth 2186 Draft Value Index (DVI) points alone, which is the equivalent of pick No.4 at the draft.
Of course, finding a side willing to slide down the order will be difficult. More realistically, Geelong could opt to retain its place in the queue and hand Wells multiple chances to land a host of young guns in what recruiters believe is an even draft pool.
It’s a tactic that makes sense, considering there are a number of areas where the Cats need bolstering despite a season in which they secured the minor premiership and qualified for a preliminary final.
Geelong still needs speed through its midfield, having had to shift youngster Jordan Clark to a wing at times throughout the 2019 season in order to add a burst of pace through its onball group.
Draft value index
|ROUND ONE||ROUND TWO||ROUND THREE||ROUND FOUR||ROUND FIVE|
|1. 3000||19. 948||37. 483||55. 207||73. 9|
|2. 2517||20. 912||38. 465||56. 194||74. –|
|3. 2234||21. 878||39. 446||57. 182|
|4. 2034||22. 845||40. 429||58. 170|
|5. 1878||23. 815||41. 412||59. 158|
|6. 1751||24. 785||42. 395||60. 146|
|7. 1644||25. 756||43. 378||61. 135|
|8. 1551||26. 729||44. 362||62. 123|
|9. 1469||27. 703||45. 347||63. 112|
|10. 1395||28. 677||46. 331||64. 101|
|11. 1329||29. 653||47. 316||65. 90|
|12. 1268||30. 629||48. 302||66. 80|
|13. 1212||31. 606||49. 287||67. 69|
|14. 1161||32. 584||50. 273||68. 59|
|15. 1112||33. 563||51. 259||69. 49|
|16. 1067||34. 542||52. 246||70. 39|
|17. 1025||35. 522||53. 233||71. 29|
|18. 985||36. 502||54. 220||72. 19|
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It recently delisted the experienced Scott Selwood, while developing midfielder Charlie Constable has impressed Cats officials at VFL level but doesn’t necessarily have speed on his side.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways of finding a bit of dash at the draft.
It could add salt into the wounds of Fremantle after not landing Kelly by forcing it to match a bid on gun Next Generation Academy prospect Liam Henry with pick No.14.
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Speaking of forcing an opponent’s hand at the draft, Geelong could also get cheeky and make arch-rival Hawthorn match a bid on father-son jet Finn Maginness.
Flying up draft boards across the country, the big-bodied Maginness ran a 2.957-second 20m sprint at last week’s NAB AFL Draft Combine – the sixth-fastest time of any draft hopeful.
Could the Cats force the Hawks to match a bid on highly rated Finn Maginness? Picture: AFL Photos
South Australian midfielder Dylan Stephens also has a nice turn of speed, Sandringham Dragons youngster Miles Bergman could fill the attacking midfield void at GMHBA Stadium and local product Cooper Stephens is a likely type who tested well at the Combine.
Then there’s key-position depth, which Geelong is soon to lack at either end of the field with a host of veteran talent coming towards the end of their illustrious careers.
It has the ageing Lachie Henderson and Harry Taylor down back, while the Cats haven’t completely committed to Mark Blicavs as a defender after playing the versatile tall on a wing during the finals.
Harry Taylor has committed to playing one more season in the blue and white hoops. Picture: AFL Photos
Meanwhile, the club has high hopes for young forwards Nathan Kreuger and Esava Ratugolea. However, it still relies heavily on Tom Hawkins and had to roll the dice on throwing Henderson forward when he was unavailable for this year’s preliminary final.
Draft hopeful Fischer McAsey can play at either of the field, with the 195cm swingman perhaps looking most accomplished as an intercept defender while playing for the Dragons this season.
The only problem is whether he will still be available at Geelong’s first pick.
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Fellow Sandringham product Josh Worrell, also standing at 195cm, is another who can play at both ends of the park and did so to good effect throughout the early stages of his junior season.
Big-bodied South Australian defender Will Gould is in the mould of Eagles premiership captain Shannon Hurn and could appeal to the Cats, while 200cm Dandenong Stingrays youngster Sam De Koning has plenty of upside after impressing in defence this year.
Will Gould could appeal to the Cats to fill a role in defence in coming years. Picture: AFL Photos
Then there’s exciting 194cm Calder Cannons forward Harrison Jones, who has tricks up his sleeve and boosted his draft stocks significantly after testing strongly across all areas at the Combine.
The majority of those players will likely be available at some stage during the period in which the Cats could select five times within 24 picks next month.
Geelong’s list is in an intriguing position. It might be ageing, but it also has a good crop of young talent who will have the added benefit of being given time to develop within a successful system.
That young core will be added to considerably next month. Who that young core consists of, however, could prove pivotal to the club’s future success.
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