Growing interest in a Bontempelli-like midfielder means a live trade involving Essendon appears less likely.
Plus more clubs are eyeing a son of a gun, while a mad finish to the first round looms.
Ahead of the 2022 national AFL draft — which will be held across two nights on Monday November 28 and Tuesday November 29 — get the latest news and updates below in AFL Draft Whispers.
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DONS CLOSING IN ON IN-DEMAND PHILLIPOU
Rival clubs believe Essendon is likely to retain its juicy early position in the draft due to the significant interest in South Australian star Mattaes Phillipou from several other teams.
Phillipou, a classy 191cm midfielder who models his game on Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli, has emerged as a genuine top-five bolter after an impressive 2022 campaign at various SANFL levels and the national championships.
The Bombers, who hold Pick 4 in the draft, have been weighing up between selecting Phillipou and explosive Oakleigh Chargers on-baller Elijah Tsatas, who’s been touted as a top-three prospect all year despite his injury-interrupted season.
Multiple rival clubs spoken to by foxfooty.com.au believe the Bombers are now leaning towards taking Phillipou over Tsatas.
Essendon has been open to offers for its prized first-round selection, which will turn into Pick 5 after the Giants or Kangaroos bid on Lions father-son star Will Ashcroft with one of the first two selections of the draft. Aaron Cadman will land at the Giants, while it’s anticipated North Melbourne will select Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw.
Jeremy Cameron’s advice for Cadman | 01:47
But the Bombers aren’t the only team with substantial interest in Phillipou, with Hawthorn, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne all monitoring the top South Australian prospect’s progress closely. CODE Sports reported this week the Hawks had recently flown Phillipou to Melbourne for a meeting with senior club figures.
If Essendon enters Monday night’s draft determined to take Phillipou, a live trade involving the Bombers‘ first pick would be unlikely considering the strong interest in the Woodville-West Torrens player from Hawthorn, which is scheduled to pick just two selections after Essendon.
As reported by AFL Media on Tuesday, the Demons offered two future first-rounders to the Bombers, as well as Gold Coast and North Melbourne, in bids to get into the top five of this year’s draft order – moves that were rejected by all three clubs.
Foxfooty.com.au understands Melbourne’s primary motivation behind entering the draft earlier is to give itself a chance of securing Phillipou — the son of Sam Phillipou, who kicked 250 goals from 150 SANFL games for the Eagles and Magpies while also playing three AFL games for Footscray.
Outside of Phillipou’s eye-catching on-field ability, clubs are circling the left-footer due to his late-year birthday – he doesn’t turn 18 until December 27 this year – as well as his confidence and self-belief.
Asked by foxfooty.com.au last month which player he’d take if he had Pick 1, Phillipou said: “I think I‘d have to say myself, just because I think if you’re not going to back yourself, you probably don’t have the confidence required to play in the league.
“I always believed I was going to have a big year and that was the mindset I went in with and it didn’t change throughout.
“I think because I had that belief, I think I proved a lot of people wrong and I exceeded people’s expectations.
“I think everyone can resonate with feeling awesome when you’ve proven something wrong. It was definitely a motivating factor when I was looking at rankings earlier in the year and I was nowhere to be found.”
HAWTHORN’S CURIOUS CALL
West Coast could hold its position at the top of the order and still get its Reuben Ginbey wish as the Gold Coast Suns contemplate their crucial first-round selection.
The Suns have been strongly linked to two players: Gippland Power’s Bailey Humphrey and Ginbey, who for months has been tipped to be the first WA-based player taken after steadily working his way into top-10 calculations throughout the year.
The belief last month was the Suns were leaning towards selecting Ginbey. But industry sources told foxfooty.com.au they believe the Suns’ interest in Ginbey had cooled in recent weeks, with Humphrey now viewed as the favourite.
A powerful midfielder-forward that’s been likened to Norm Smith Medallist Christian Petracca, Humphrey has soared into top-10 calculations after an eye-catching return from injury in the latter stages of the year.
The player Hawthorn selects with its first pick will be heavily determined by the draft prospects Essendon and Gold Coast recruit.
Should Essendon select Tsatas with its first pick – which is increasingly less likely, according to rivals – Phillipou is unlikely to get past the Hawks’ first selection. Should Essendon select Phillipou, Tsatas should still be on the board when the Hawks select, with the Suns unlikely to entertain recruiting the Chargers midfielder.
The Hawks, who lost midfield duo Jaeger O’Meara (Fremantle) and Tom Mitchell (Collingwood) to rival clubs during the trade period, have been linked to all of Ginbey, Humphrey, Tsatas and Phillipou, but could also be tempted to pinch Geelong Falcons on-baller Jhye Clark before the Cats pick in the top 10. The Cats would then find it tough to overlook Tsatas with their selection, although they have also put work into Ginbey in recent weeks.
Still, the uncertainty around Pick 5 to 8 means there‘s some hope for the Eagles that Ginbey will still be available at their first selection. Although there has been speculation among clubs this week the Eagles are contemplating a move up the draft order to nab Ginbey before a rival.
A 188cm prospect from East Perth, Ginbey moved into the midfield during the national champs for his state and impressed recruiters with his consistency, attitude and grit at the contest. He won WA’s MVP award after averaging 20.8 disposals and 9.8 contested possessions before testing well at the national combine earlier this month, placing in the top 10 in all of the standing vertical jump, running vertical jump, 2km time trial and 20m sprint.
MORE CLUBS EYEING ALLAN
Four months ago, Ed Allan was considered a second-round prospect at best. Now he’s being linked to draft picks as high as No. 8.
A versatile 194cm prospect that can play in any third of the ground, Allan is the son of former Hawthorn and Fremantle midfielder Ben Allan but not eligible to either the Hawks or Dockers as his dad played 98 games for Hawthorn — two short of the 100-game minimum requirement for the father-son rule — and 47 for Fremantle.
Allan was a standout at October’s national combine after an injury-interrupted 2022 campaign, turning heads in the 20m sprint with a time of 2.81 seconds – the fifth-fastest 20m sprint time in combine history – and presenting impressively during club interviews.
Foxfooty.com.au reported last month the Eagles and Giants had put significant work into Allan and were considering selecting him with their respective early-teen picks. But it’s now considered unlikely Allan will be on the board when the Eagles have their second first-round selection.
Rivals this week linked Allan to late top-10 picks attached to Geelong (Pick 8 – after the Ashcroft bid) and St Kilda (Pick 10).
Foxfooty.com.au understands the Cats put work into Allan last week and were considering him as another option should local prospect Clark – their preferred candidate – be snapped up before their pick, while the Western Bulldogs (Pick 12) had also shown interest in him.
Allan is one of several players in the Dogs’ sights with the 12th pick, with rivals also linking the club to top Tasmanian prospect Lachie Cowan, WA defender Jedd Busslinger and gun two-way midfielder Oliver Hollands – should the latter not be snapped up by Carlton with the previous pick. Sandringham Dragons mid-forward Olli Hotton also has interest from the Bulldogs, although more likely with their second-round pick.
Star Oakleigh Chargers goalkicker Matt Jefferson continues to be linked to Melbourne’s first selection, however the Demons have been proactive in flagging trades with other teams over recent weeks.
BACK-END FIRST-ROUND MADNESS LOOMS
Ask any recruiter what they expect to happen with the last five picks of the first round, they laugh and shrug their shoulders.
Less than a week out from the draft and Picks 15 to 19 – taking the Ashcroft bid into consideration – loom as a genuine mystery for the talent industry.
Two clubs will be central to the five-pick madness, with the Giants and Swans holding four selections and Collingwood sandwiched in the middle. The Giants also hold the first pick of the second round – one of the most in-demand picks on offer as it‘s the opening selection of the second night of the draft. Rivals expect the Giants to trade that pick.
Foxfooty.com.au understands the Giants have attempted to package their suite of late teen selections to move up the order but haven’t found any takers. Rivals expect the Giants to target a small forward with at least one of those picks – Sandringham’s Charlie Clarke, Swan Districts’ Darcy Jones, Gippsland’s Jacob Konstanty and even Bendigo’s Noah Long have been linked to the club – should they hold them.
The consensus among recruiters is that clubs with top-12 picks, overall, are keen to retain their selections as they believe there’s a talent dip when the draft enters the latter stages of the first round.
It means clubs wouldn’t be surprised to see “funny games”, like several bids and possible trades, at this point of the draft.
After Ashcroft, Lions father-son prospect Jaspa Fletcher is viewed as the next prospect to most likely attract a rival club bid. He shot into first-round draft calculations after an excellent carnival for the Allies, booting three goals and averaging 22.7 disposals and 9.7 contested possessions to earn All-Australian selection.
But Allies teammate – and top Giants Academy prospect – Harry Rowston could also be bid on in the first round, according to rivals. While the Giants are hopeful Rowston – the Allies carnival MVP and leading ball-winner after averaging 23.0 disposals, 11.0 contested possessions, 5.8 inside 50s and 5.0 clearances – will slip into the second round, there’s a sense other clubs could pull the trigger earlier.
Davey bros commit to Dons via father/son | 00:36
Adelaide is also now bracing for father-son prospect and Dane Rampe-like defender Max Michalanney to be bid on as early as the first round – but more likely early in the second.
It’s also understood there’s a growing confidence out of the Essendon camp that Alwyn Davey Jnr mightn’t attract a bid until the middle stages of the second round. Should that come to fruition, the Bombers would get their wish and select two players in the open draft before being asked to match a Davey bid.