Excitement about the impending AFL draft is reaching a fever pitch among fans as they wait to find out which young stars will be joining their teams. The order has been set and we are less than a fortnight away from the draft, which takes place in Sydney on November 24.
A frantic trade period saw dozens of picks change hands, including 40 on the final day, but now that craziness is behind us we can look forward to the action.
Brisbane have the first pick, followed by Fremantle, Carlton, North Melbourne and then Fremantle again. They will choose from an elite group of youngsters and here are the five most likely to be picked first:
Dow plays like a young Patrick Dangerfield, with great pace, a strong work ethic and a good sense of where the goal is. He wins his own ball and bursts through traffic like Brad Crouch, while he kicks goals, gains marks overhead and cuts angles well too. He was best and fairest at the prestigious Geelong Grammar for three years in a row and his fledgling career has been marked by superb consistency. Fellow potential draftees Jarrod Brander and Lochie O’Brien have spoken glowingly about Dow’s talent and he has improved tremendously in recent months.
The rangy Fogarty started the year as the number one prospect thanks to his excellent versatility – he can play forward, across half-back and in the midfield, making him a great asset to any squad – but his season was curtailed by injury. However, he still looks a star in the making and would add toughness, power and height to whichever team takes a punt on him. He is physical, imposing, a great mark and a damaging kick and an all-round brilliant prospect. He may not go as number one but he should be in the top five due to his versatility, physicality and raw talent.
This classy midfielder could be another Josh Kelly in the making thanks to his masterful technique, excellent decision-making and strong engine. He too has suffered from injuries, but bounced back to average 26 disposals, 15 contested possessions, six clearances and more than a goal per game for the Ranges in 2017. He has bulked up at the gym and does not mind getting his hands dirty with some hard tackling and clearances. But it is his silky footwork and calmness under pressure that makes him a youngster with superstar potential and he would improve any team in the AFL.
Davies-Uniacke is the outstanding midfielder from the class of 2017 and he has enjoyed a superb season. The standout performance came against the Allies during the championships, where he had 34 disposals and 10 marks. He was also the driving force behind Dandenong’s sensational comeback victory against Eastern, where he gathered 33 disposals, 21 contested possessions, six clearances, five inside 50s, a goal and two score assists. He has great acceleration and his ground ball-winning and contested ball-winning attributes would make him an asset to any team.
The latest AFL odds suggest that Brisbane have no chance of seizing glory next year as they are $101 outsiders, while Adelaide, Sydney, GSW and Richmond are all low priced, but the Lions are building for the future.
They have three first round draft picks – the most of any team – including pick number one, and that could well be used to snap up Rayner.
If he goes he will find himself at the heart of a dynamic young team alongside two additional first round picks, and he could go on to be the beating heart of the Lions for years to come if they go for him. He seems destined to become an elite player and comparisons to Dustin Martin are inevitable.
He has a long and penetrating kick with both feet, has a great leap and is dangerous in attack and at stoppages. He had a great few weeks for Vic Metro that set tongues wagging, and his demolition of South Australia with 16 possessions, seven marks and five goals was a joy to behold. Right now he looks to be the leading light of his generation, and it will be a surprise if he is not picked first.
Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and has been covering the AFL for many years.