Although Adrian Dodoro arguably lost a few hands at the trade table, the long-term list manager currently sits with a healthy stockpile of chips and a hot hand heading into the draft.
Having finished the 2020 season 13th on the ladder, Essendon was rewarded with the 6th pick in December’s draft. Couple this with the departures of Joe Daniher via free agency and Adam Saad in the trade period and the Bombers now hold the two picks that follow.
With said experienced talent flying from the Hangar, Dodoro swiftly replaced them with younger models in Jye Caldwell and Peter Wright. Although efficiency and output will naturally decline with this pair instead of Daniher and Saad, it did signal that the Bombers have shifted their gaze from recruiting proven stars to that of the rising variety.
If utilised well, this adjustment in ideology – along with an enviable hoard of top end picks – has the ability to set Essendon up for a rapid rise.
Dodoro, as well as the recently tortured Essendon faithful, will be desperate to become this season’s success story.
With three top 10 selections in a row at his disposal, the only questions that need to be asked are: what exactly should the Bombers be targeting and how will Dodoro and his team of talent selectors use their haul?
With this in mind, we’ve run through the quartet of popular ways that Dodoro and the Dons could play their stacked hand.
Select the best possible players
Despite a year that saw many of this year’s draft class unable to play competitive football, there is a widespread consensus of the names destined to be drafted with the first 10 selections.
Although they currently hold picks six, seven and eight, it appears almost certain that due to a draft comprised of so many academy players, Essendon’s three picks will be pushed back after bids are made.
Be that as it may, there is still a strong suggestion that the Bombers will be able to choose from any name on the board excluding those of Jammara Ugle-Hagan, Riley Thilthorpe, Logan McDonald, Denver Grainger- Barras, Elijah Hollands and Will Phillips.
Should Dodoro and his list management team call Bruhn, Perkins and Reid’s names in order, the Dons will have landed a midfielder, a mid/forward and a key defender.
Although this route will net the club a bevy of talented youngsters capable of playing on all three lines, it could be argued that it is an easy option. As well as this lack of creativity, hindsight may prove that the approach was fraught with danger.
Should Dodoro’s mindset mirror this, another route may well be walked.
Recruit for need
Having failed to achieve any semblance of finals glory since 2004, Essendon fans are quite rightfully ravenous for a shred of post-season success.
Anyone familiar with our indigenous code understands that it is not necessarily the most star-studded team that wins the premiership each season, but instead the list with the most balance.
Should Essendon wish to fly up the ladder, it is imperative that Dodoro and company identify the current and future deficiencies in their list and address them at the draft.
Cynics could argue that the Bombers need help on all three lines of the ground and with three early strikes at the plate available, the list management team should be recruiting a name for each third.
However, the right names will need to be called.
After studying Essendon’s current list, it is obvious that they need to address three key pitfalls – a tall in defense, a key forward to partner Wright and an inside mid to pair with Caldwell
With a back six comprised of veterans, kids and names yet to reach their potential, depth will need to be added this year to play under Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley. When the pair naturally depart, their talented understudy will obviously be called upon.
It is for this reason that the 202 centimetre and 83-kilogram project defender Zach Reid is almost certain to become a Bomber. The Gippsland Power product’s ability to mark the ball at height, set the game up from defense and keep a cool head should excite red and black disciples everywhere.
With the first three selections in the draft tipped to be key forwards – Ugle-Hagan, Thilthorpe and McDonald – should Dodoro wish to fish for Peter Wright’s future partner in crime, he will need to dig deeper in his draft prospectus.
The next best available forward is Geelong Falcon Oliver Henry. The younger brother of Cat’s defender Jack, Oliver stands at 188 centimetres and is as adept in the air as he is on the ground. At that height, he is listed as more of a medium forward, but with Wright measuring in excess of two metres in height, he is always going to look small next to his prospective partner.
Should Essendon be searching to haul a classy inside-midfielder with one of their three picks, then you can be certain that Will Phillips is at the top of their shopping list.
The Oakleigh Charger’s footballing and leadership abilities have been well documented in the lead up to next month’s draft, so much so that he is unlikely to be available when the Bombers enter the draft.
Top draft prospect Will Phillips admits he's humbled by suggestions he has what it takes to be a future AFL Captain.
If this is the case, Adrian Dodoro has two options – bite his tongue and select the multi-talented Archie Perkins or trade up to land Phillips.
Of all the options available to Adrian Dodoro, this is by far the most adventurous.
Although such a scenario playing out appears unlikely, it isn’t completely out of the question.
If Dodoro and the Dons are desperately keen on Phillips, then a move will be made to secure him. This means that although their draft hand will be altered, Essendon will be content that they made the move for the right prospect.
Who exactly this hypothetical trade will be made with, we’re not sure, but with the consensus being that Phillips is likely to join his former Oakleigh teammates Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell on the Gold Coast, Suns list manager Craig Cameron looks the most certain to receive a phone call.
Place a bid
As mentioned, this season’s draft is the most compromised in recent memory due to the smorgasbord of academy linked players available.
With this in mind, we may see the often derided Dodoro place a bid or two with his early trifecta of selections just to keep the competition honest.
Exactly when or if he will do so is unknown, but it is certain to make for great theatre on December the 9th.