It boggles the mind how often you see a superstar in the AFL and wonder how early they were picked up in the draft, then realise they were overlooked for multiple years. Some of our league’s best talent didn’t get the recognition they deserved til they were 23.
Guys like Tim Kelly, Bailey Fritsch and Liam Ryan have taken the league by storm in 2018, which has promoted the idea that team’s should change their recruiting strategies.
This team was created in order to show we appreciate what these guys have done after being initially turned down by recruiters.
Here is Zero Hanger’s best team of mature age AFL draftees still currently in the league:
Michael Hibberd (Melbourne)
Michael Hibberd was 22 when he was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 pre-season draft by Essendon. Hibberd had talent at age 18 but suffered a groin injury in the 2008 TAC cup, which only allowed him to play half the season. He finished fifth in Best and Fairest award but was overlooked in the draft. He went to the VFL for two seasons where he played for Frankston and picked up the best and fairest award.
Jeremy Howe (Collingwood)
Jeremy Howe was selected pick 33 overall by Melbourne in the 2010 National Draft at age 20. Although he had some good showings in 2009 for Tasmania in the AFL National Under 18 Championships, Howe was overlooked in the 2009 draft and had to play another year in Tasmania before he was drafted into the AFL.
Harry Taylor (Geelong)
Harry Taylor spent years in the WAFL playing for East Fremantle before being picked up in the AFL draft. Taylor played 49 games for the Sharks and finished third in their best and fairest. Geelong picked up Taylor at pick 17 in the National Draft when he was 21 years old, and two premierships later, fair to say
Tom Stewart (Geelong)
Tom Stewart was taken at pick 40 of last year’s National Draft as a 24-year old and has immediately shown why he deserves to be in the AFL. Dominating from half back, Stewart has already put his hand up for All-Australian contention in just his second year.
Alex Silvagni (Carlton)
Alex Silvagni is one of the few Victorians in the league who didn’t play in the TAC cup. Instead he played for his school Haileybury College, where he won a premiership in his final year in 2005. Due to lack of exposure, Silvagni was overlooked in the draft and had to play for the Casey Scorpions in the VFL. He had three successful seasons in the VFL and finally got picked in the AFL rookie in 2010 at pick 24 when he was 23 years old.
Adam Saad (Essendon)
Adam Saad was selected at pick 25 in the 2015 AFL Rookie Draft by the Gold Coast Suns. Saad spent two years with the Coburg Lions after his stint with the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup. Saad won the VFL’s best and fairest in 2014 and was named in the team of the year.
Liam Picken (Western Bulldogs)
Liam Picken completed one preseason with Collingwood and two with the Western Bulldogs but was never picked up by an AFL team. He played with the Williamstown Seagulls where he won the league’s best and fairest. At age 23, Picken Finally got picked up by the Western Bulldogs at pick 30 in the AFL rookie draft. And he may also be one of the all-time Norm Smith Medal snubs too!
Tim Kelly (Geelong)
Tim Kelly was picked up at age 23 by the Geelong Cats in the 2017 National Draft at pick 24. Kelly played in the WAFL with the South Fremantle Football Club since 2013. He won the team’s best and fairest in 2014 and came runner up for the league’s award in 2017.
Hugh Greenwood (Adelaide)
Another player picked up at age 23, but for different reasons. Hugh Greenwood chased a career in basketball from a young age. Competing successfully and picking up trophies all around the world, Greenwood signed a three-year deal with the Perth Wildcats before calling it quits on basketball and trying his hand at AFL. Greenwood was picked up by the Crows in the 2015 rookie draft at pick 48.
Anthony Mcdonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon)
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti moved to Victoria at the age of 17 to better his chances of making the AFL. Playing six years for the Gippsland Power and in Essendon’s reserves, it wasn’t until the Bombers copped all their suspensions that gave Tipungwuti his opportunity. He was picked up in the 2015 Rookie draft at pick 22.
Mitch McGovern (Adelaide)
Mitch McGovern played in the Western Australian Football League before being selected in the AFL draft at age 20. McGovern played two seasons with Claremont before he was picked up by the Adelaide Crows in the 2014 national draft at pick 43.
Isaac Smith (Hawthorn)
Isaac Smith played for many clubs before being selected by the Hawks in the 2010. Moving around a lot, Smith played with the Temora, East Wagga-Kooringal, Wagga Tigers, Redan and finally North Ballarat in the VFL. His final season with North Ballarat, playing in a premiership helped him get recognised as he was taken at pick 19 in the draft at age 21.
Hayden Ballantyne (Fremantle)
Starting his career as a midfielder for Peel Thunder, Hayden Ballantyne moved into the midfield in 2008 and bagged 75 goals, coming second in the WAFL’s leading goalkicking, winning the Sandover Medal. The Thunder even named their wing after him!
His impressive season saw the Dockers pick him up later in the year with pick 21 of the National Draft. He then made a name for himself as one of the peskiest forwards during a successful era for Fremantle, earning an All-Australian cap in Fremantle’s 2014 Grand Final year, also leading the club’s goalkicking tally.
Ben Brown (North Melbourne)
Ben Brown was selected at pick 47 in the 2013 National Draft at age 21. Prior to the selection, Brown played for the Glenorchy Football Club in the Tasmanian State League, and now leads the Coleman Medal tally in 2018.
Paul Puopolo (Hawthorn)
Paul Puopolo played with Norwood in the SANFL prior to his selection in the 2010 National Draft. He played 68 senior games and kicked 13 goals as his coach played him in defence, despite his lack of height. Puopolo was selected at the 66th pick a few months before he turned 23.
Josh Jenkins (Adelaide)
Another player who transferred from basketball. Josh Jenkins always had the talent, but it wasn’t until 2010 where he started taking AFL football seriously. Invited to attend a training camp for GWS in 2010, it was later that year he was selected by Essendon at pick 12 in the Rookie Draft.
Dayne Zorko (Brisbane)
Although very talented during his days playing for the Broadbeach Cats, Dayne Zorko continued to be overlooked in the draft, probably due to his size. Leading Queensland to a premiership in 2007 and winning best and fairest for the Cats in 2008, no team seemed to want him. It wasn’t until 2011 where Brisbane decided to pick him up under the Queensland zone selection rule.
Ed Curnow (Carlton)
Ed Curnow was originally selected by the Crows, but was delisted before getting his senior opportunity. Curnow returned to Victoria and played with Box Hill in the VFL for two seasons. After his exceptional 2010 season which was cut short by injury, Curnow was again picked up in the Rookie Draft by Carlton at pick 18 in 2011.
Dale Morris (Western Bulldogs)
Dale Morris spent four years in the VFL playing for the Werribee Football Club before being picked up by an AFL squad. In 2004, the Western Bulldogs picked up Dale Morris with the 19th pick in the Rookie Draft.
Ben Stratton (Hawthorn)
Taken by the Hawks with Pick 46 in the 2009 National Draft from East Perth, the savvy defender has gone on on to play 157 games to date, including three premierships.
Liam Ryan (West Coast)
Liam Ryan played most of his footy prior to the AFL in Western Australia. In 2016, he moved to Perth to play for the Subiaco Football Club in the WAFL. A goalkicking machine, Ryan kicked 73 goals in 23 games in his final season with Subiaco. He was drafted in 2017 to the West Coast Eagles with the 26th pick.
Bayley Fritsch (Melbourne)
Fritsch had a difficult time on his road to the AFL. Initially missing out selection with the Eastern Ranges in the TAC cup, he played 22 games from 2013 to 2014 with the Coldstream Football Club seniors in the Eastern Football League.
He then joined the Casey Scorpions, but suffered two injuries which kept him from playing as much footy as he would’ve liked to in 2015 and 2016. He finally strung a full year together playing 19 games in 2017 which led to him being drafted by the Demons at pick 31 in the 2017 National Draft.
Here’s our squad:
FB: Michael Hibberd, Jeremy Howe, Harry Taylor
HB: Tom Stewart, Alex Silvagni, Adam Saad
C: Liam Picken, Tim Kelly, Hugh Greenwood
HF: Anthony Mcdonald-Tipungwuti, Mitch McGovern, Isaac Smith
FF: Hayden Ballantyne, Ben Brown (vc), Paul Puopolo
FOLL: Josh Jenkins, Dayne Zorko (c), Ed Curnow
INT: Dale Morris, Ben Stratton, Liam Ryan, Bayley Fritsch