Sport AFL Don’t trust the Dees in draft: choose for them
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Don’t trust the Dees in draft: choose for them

The Demons after their latest defeat.
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The AFL priority draft pick is once again being debated. This time Melbourne’s hand is out. Fair or not, the AFL should not award it unless they are convinced Melbourne has stopped the rot and fixed the problem that has led to their constant failings.

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Early picks are gold. They need to be treated as such. Melbourne has failed where others have thrived. In short, they have stuffed things up.

Sammy the Seal? No, Jack Watts. Photo: Getty
Sammy the Seal? No, Jack Watts. Photo: Getty

A smart recruiting bloke once told me that it takes five years to build a premiership list and only one bad year of selections to mess it up! Melbourne’s aches and pains stem from this.

Jack Watts was paraded around like Sammy The Seal when first selected. He appears to have neither the passion nor hunger to be elite. His card is stamped.

Poor recruiting has a drastic impact financially as well. They say the opportunity cost of a draft pick exceeds $250,000 when one considers the resources required to fund, teach, coach and manage each draftee.

It takes a player three to four years to demonstrate their true quality as an AFL player. Analysis of Melbourne draft selections reads like a horror story.

From 2008 to 2010 Melbourne had three priority picks and a further six selections in the first two rounds. Nine picks in total, all of whom should by now be established quality players.

However, I doubt any would get a game with the elite sides of the competition.

Two of the first round selections (Jordan Gysberts, Lucas Cook) have been delisted, which is a catastrophe in itself.

Another, Tom Scully, understandably took the cash and went north; still, good clubs don’t lose good players unless they want to.

There is not a best and fairest among them, nor a Rising Star winner.

High draft picks Goddard (L) and Riewoldt were keys to St Kilda's success. Photo: Getty
High draft picks Goddard (L) and Riewoldt were keys to St Kilda’s success. Photo: Getty

Jack Trengrove’s career began so brightly, so much so that he was prematurely elevated to the captaincy, but his form degenerated under the stress and strain of it all.

Much acclaimed first pick Jack Watts was wrongly paraded around like Sammy The Seal when first selected. He appears to have neither the passion nor hunger to be elite. His card is stamped.

St Kilda’s recovery was instigated through the draft led by their astute recruiting manager John Beveridge.

In the same period Geelong had nine late selections in the first two rounds and all remain on the list of the most successful club in the modern era. Murdoch, Guthrie, Duncan, Menzel, Smedts and Horlin-Smith have become regular selections in recent times, with Duncan already a premiership player.

Rebuilds are possible. Much is spoken about Melbourne’s 10-57 win-loss record in the past three seasons. From 2000 to 2002 St Kilda won eleven-and-a-half games out of 66. Their recovery was instigated through the draft led by their astute recruiting manager John Beveridge.

In the drafts of 2000, 2001 and 2002, the Saints had three priority picks and traded away players to have a further four first round selections and three second round selections – 10 in total.

Names like Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Goddard, Ball, Dal Santo and Montagna were amongst the 10 and they formed the backbone of an incredibly successful era. Among them are multiple captains, best and fairest winners, all-Australians, Rising Star winners and a Premiership player.

So why have the Dees got it so wrong?

Melbourne's manager of player personnel and coach Paul Roos at last year's draft camp. Photo: Getty
Melbourne’s manager of player personnel and coach Paul Roos at last year’s draft camp. Photo: Getty

Yes, the draft is an inexact science. Nevertheless, success is no fluke. Perhaps the answer lies in the process.

Paul Roos and others may need to set their egos aside.

In a meeting in my early days at one club, I heard the senior coach telling the recruiting manager who the club should select.

I asked the coach how many under 18 games he had seen, training sessions he had attended, videos he had watched or parental interviews he had been to that year. The response was in single figures.

I asked the recruiting boss the same question. His response was seven figures. The next question was simple: who had the most information and expertise to make the decision on draft selections?

The selection of talent needs to be made by those with the most knowledge – the recruiting staff. Yes, a coach and his entourage will more than likely have input into the type of players required, but it needs to be part of a planned approach.

Success at St Kilda was built on a determination in the early rounds to take the best player. John Beveridge did this.

AFL recruiting guru Kevin Sheehan should choose any priority pick. Photo: Getty
AFL recruiting guru Kevin Sheehan should choose any priority pick. Photo: Getty

Recruiters select on the presumption they know what they are doing. Track record is testament of success. The likes of Scott Clayton, Derek Hine, Kinnear Beatson, Stephen Wells and Graham Wright are the standouts at the caper. Yes, they have all made mistakes, but over time their records stand the test of time.

I would insist that Kevin Sheehan, the AFL’s most knowledgeable recruiting brain, be appointed to oversee the club’s 2014 draft.

Melbourne lists four recruiters on their staff. All may be great judges of talent, but none have a demonstrated track record.

How confident can the AFL be they will select well? They can’t, so I would place strict caveats on any priorities given.

I would insist that Kevin Sheehan, the AFL’s most knowledgeable recruiting brain, be appointed to oversee the club’s 2014 draft. His experience would be invaluable in safeguarding against Melbourne making the same mistakes again.

The AFL has always been willing to provide assistance to clubs in need. The success of the Demons may well rest with their decisions over the next two months, so who better than Sheehan to step in and ensure the $250,000 per pick is money well spent.

Yes, Paul Roos and others may need to set their egos aside, but this is serious business.

This is no time to take risks. You can give the Demons as many compensatory or priority picks as you like. It’s what they do with them that that counts.

Brian Waldron is a former CEO of St Kilda, Melbourne Storm and the Melbourne Rebels.