The 2021 AFL mid-season draft took place on Wednesday evening. ESPN's draft expert Chris Doerre analyses how it all went down, which clubs made the right picks and which did something a little unusual.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISES
Hawthorn had been heavily linked in the leadup to competitive ruckman Ned Moyle given the club's limited ruck youth and how strong Moyle's play had been. A Hawthorn supporter, Moyle would have loved to have been selected by the Hawks, but Jai Newcombe ultimately was Hawthorn's choice. Having been playing as a midfielder for Box Hill in the VFL, ball winning bull Newcombe attracted more attention than Hawthorn would have liked in the leadup to the mid-season draft. A portion of this attention around Newcombe came due to the chatter around his unusual choice to nominate to be taken in the Mid-Season Draft under 'other terms' which led to plenty of speculation in the leadup to the draft that Hawthorn had their eyes on Newcombe and may have had interest in taking him with their second-round selection. With the cat out of the bag and with several other clubs interested in Newcombe in the first round, Hawthorn were forced to select him with their first pick, ultimately prioritising their midfield over their long-term ruck needs.
The other major surprise was the lack of recycled players picked, given how many were rumoured to be offered a second chance. Riley Knight, Fraser Thurlow, Wylie Buzza, Blake Schlensog, Nathan Freeman, Michael Knoll and Tyson Stengle were among those linked to clubs as possible draft considerations. In the end, there was just one former AFL listed player to receive a second chance, with Matthew Parker (former St Kilda forward) given a second chance by Richmond. Parker has impressing this season with his play both up forward and through the midfield for South Fremantle, with his season best 26 disposal, four goal performance on the weekend against West Coast's WAFL side very timely.
JUST HOW GOOD IS NORTH'S NO. 1 PICK?
In the leadup to the Mid-Season Draft, Jacob Edwards had a decision to make. To enter the Mid-Season Draft or wait until the National Draft at the end of the season. Had Edwards waited until the end of the season, he likely would have featured inside the first round. By waiting until the end of the season, Edwards would be signing a longer contract and receive a greater pay packet. In the end though, Edwards elected to enter the Mid-Season Draft, securing him an AFL list spot and the opportunity to immediately gain access to AFL coaching, development and potentially some senior opportunities.
Edwards is a rapidly developing key forward and ruckman, who prior to this season, was not on the radars of AFL clubs. Emerging during the pre-season as a prospect, Edwards garnered substantial interest on the back of a strong practice match for Sandringham, continuing that form into the season. Highly athletic, Edwards is a strong aerial marking threat who is capable at ground level of hitting the scoreboard, and is noted for his tap work with either hand through the ruck.
We may see Edwards this year, but expectations should be tempered with his body still developing. Regular appearances are more likely to come in 2022.
Leading the SANFL in contested marks, 18-year-old Jackson Callow is a rare case of a ready-made key position player for his age and is arguably the bargain of the Mid-Season Draft. He is a key forward who impacts games every time he gets near the ball, either marking strongly, bringing the ball to ground, crashing packs, or setting up teammates for scoring opportunities. The bonus with Callow is he has also proven he can play in defence. With the ease with which Callow turns one-on-one marking contests into marks and how well he reads the ball in flight and intercepts, Callow could just as easily hold down a key defence post for Hawthorn in the future as he could a key forward post.
With Hawthorn overlooking Ned Moyle, Gold Coast added a seriously impressive ruckman with substantial long-term scope to improve. In each of his performances for Oakleigh in the NAB League, Moyle has featured among their best players, while in the VFL he has shown he can hold his own, with his competitiveness through the ruck shining through. While Moyle will take a few years to develop, he looms as a potential Jarrod Witts successor and despite only turning 19 in February, may contend for senior opportunities this year.
BEST PLUG AND PLAY OPTIONS
A high leaping, strong marking and talented forward, Ash Johnson, the half-brother of Adelaide's Shane McAdam, will be looking to earn senior opportunities this season. Likely to settle as a third tall if he can earn a position in Collingwood's best team, don't be surprised down the track if you see the talented Johnson switched into defence with a view towards becoming a high-flying intercept marking specialist.
Standing out as one of Box Hill's best players so far this year in the VFL, Jai Newcombe has been growing with each game and is ready-to-go. Newcombe is an excellent contested ball winner and tackler. Missing out on the opportunity to represent Gippsland as an overager last year, Newcombe is an untried talent, having only played school and local football prior to this year which gives him real upside.
Former Saint, Matthew Parker, at the age of 25, was selected with the view towards giving Richmond another option at the selection table. Able to play forward, up on a wing and through the midfield, Parker injects speed, aerial prowess and impact per possession. As with Richmond's 2019 Mid-Season Draft selection Marlion Pickett, senior opportunities may not come right away to Parker, but he'll be there to provide depth and injury coverage in case Richmond are looking for a dose of excitement.
A 195cm mobile utility, Kye Declase provides Melbourne with instant depth as a tall who can play forward, as a tall wing or in defence. On the back of the strength of his performances for Werribee so far this year, Declase may garner consideration at the selection table as something of a Mr. Fix It.
He may just be an 18-year-old, but Jackson Callow is a rare, ready-made key position player. Whether Hawthorn need a key forward or key defender, Callow arrives with an AFL-ready body and a game that is equally mature.
A line-breaking outside midfielder, Connor West is a high-volume accumulator who adds much-needed outside run to West Coast. Expect West to come under selection consideration sooner rather than later as a ready-to-go contributor.
HARD LUCK STORIES
Under consideration by Essendon earlier in the year and again during the mid-season draft, Angus Baker, as a high-volume rebounding and intercept marking defender, came into the mid-season draft as arguably the premier general defender outside the AFL.
Exciting this year through the midfield for Peel in the WAFL, Tyrone Thorne has arguably outperformed his Fremantle teammates. Also talented as a forward, Thorne was arguably the standout crumbing forward candidate with his speed, agility, ground level prowess, forward pressure and skills all highlights of his game.
Arguably the best key defender outside the AFL, Blake Schlensog, came under consideration by a few clubs needing a key defender. Leading the WAFL in marks taken, Schlensog has become an intercept marking machine in defence and is a greatly improved footballer since getting delisted by Geelong at the end of the 2020 season.
After being overlooked last year, Gold Coast Academy prospect Max Pescud has impressed both in the VFL and in the NAB League, showing significant improvement as a ball winner this season. An all-around excellent athlete with an appealing mix of speed, endurance and a high vertical leap, Pescud is not only an aerial marking threat, but also dangerous around goal. With his improving performance, Pescud attracted some attention and with continued improvement can again come under consideration in the National Draft.
OTHERS NAMES TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Electing not to put their names in for the Mid-Season Draft, talented forward Bailey Lambert, rebounding defender Jack Avery and Josh Newman, the younger brother of Carlton's Nic, were three who if they were to enter likely would have come under draft considered. Lambert, the son of Craig is eligible to join Richmond as a father-son selection if nominated.
2021 MID-SEASON DRAFT SELECTIONS
1. North Melbourne - Jacob Edwards (Sandringham - athletic key forward/ruck)
2. Hawthorn - Jai Newcombe (Box Hill Hawks - powerful inside midfielder)
3. Collingwood - Ash Johnson (Sturt - high leaping third tall forward)
4. Adelaide - Patrick Parnell (Murray Bushrangers - aggressive rebounding defender)
5. Gold Coast - Ned Moyle (Oakleigh Chargers - competitive ruck)
6. Carlton - Alex Mirkov (Carlton VFL - project ruck)
7. St Kilda - Max Heath (Sandringham Dragons - aggressive ruck)
8. GWS - James Peatling (GWS VFL - damaging utility)
9. Essendon - Sam Durham (Richmond VFL - skilful general defender/outside midfielder)
10. Richmond - Matthew Parker (South Fremantle - talented forward)
11. West Coast - Will Collins (Swan Districts - negating defender)
12. Sydney - Lachlan McAndrew (Sydney VFL - project ruck)
13. Port Adelaide - Jed McEntee (Sturt - small pressure forward/midfielder)
14. Brisbane - Kalin Lane (Claremont - competitive tap ruck)
15. Melbourne - Kye Declase (Werribee - tall utility)
16. North Melbourne - Charlie Ham (Geelong Falcons - quick general defender/outside midfielder)
17. Hawthorn - Jackson Callow (Norwood - strong marking key position player)
18. Collingwood - Aiden Begg (Eastern Ranges - competitive key position player)
19. Gold Coast - pass
20. Carlton - Jordan Boyd (Footscray VFL - rebounding defender/small forward)
21. St Kilda - Cooper Sharman (Oakleigh Chargers/Woodville-West Torrens - high leaping third tall forward)
22. Essendon - pass
23. West Coast - Connor West (West Perth - speedy outside midfield)
24. Melbourne - Daniel Turner (Murray Bushrangers - strong marking third tall defender)
25. Carlton - pass
26. St Kilda - pass
27. St Kilda - pass