The Brisbane Lions’ two father-son stars will likely be the first players to attract bids in this year’s draft – but Essendon’s ultimate wish could come true.
An array of father-son and academy prospects, like previous years, will feature prominently in the 2022 AFL draft, which will commence on Monday November 28.
The Lions will be central to the complex system, which gives rivals the chance to bid on players linked to clubs – either via their academy or father-son eligibility – while also giving the existing team the chance to secure their players by using multiple picks as ‘payment’.
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Recruiters would be stunned if the Giants didn’t bid on Lions father-son star Will Ashcroft at Pick 1, considering he’s widely regarded as the standout player in this year’s draft pool.
A star midfielder with Sam Walsh-like qualities both on and off the field, Ashcroft has barely put a foot wrong during his 2022 campaign. He won almost every award possible – Larke Medal, NAB League premiership captain, best on ground in the NAB League grand final and NAB League Team of the Year captain – and dominated at every level he’s played, including a couple VFL games for Brisbane.
After Ashcroft, no father-son or academy bids are expected until the middle to later stages of the first round. That’s when at least four players could attract interest from rival clubs across an 18-pick range.
The consensus among recruiters spoken to by foxfooty.com.au this week is Jaspa Fletcher, who’s tied to the Lions, will be the second prospect to attract a rival club bid.
The versatile Fletcher, who’s the son of Adrian Fletcher who played 231 games for four clubs including 107 for Brisbane, 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.
Fletcher confirmed to foxfooty.com.au earlier this month he didn’t have to nominate the Lions under the father-son rule as he can be picked up as a northern academy prospect due to his involvement in Brisbane’s development program over recent years.
Recruiters believe a bid on Fletcher could come as early as West Coast’s second pick (Pick 12, which will be Pick 13 after the Ashcroft bid), but more likely from when the Swans enter the draft and the Giants re-enter it. That’s because the two NSW-based clubs hold five of the six selections between Picks 14 and 19.
If Ashcroft receives a bid at Pick 1 and Fletcher earns one at roughly Pick 15, the Lions would need to use 3290 points to match the bids.
They currently only have 2247 points – not even enough to match an Ashcroft bid at No.1 (2400 points). They could either trade for more second and third-round picks, or go into draft deficit, which would see their first pick in the 2023 draft move backwards.
Of course, the Lions traded their future first and second-round picks in the Josh Dunkley deal, so their highest 2023 selection right now is Geelong‘s future second. This means the draft deficit would only drag back what’s likely to be a late pick anyway.
However the Giants might have to use a pick or two from their haul to match a rival’s bid on top academy prospect Harry Rowston, who some clubs believe is in the first round mix.
Recruiters indicated Rowston during this year’s national championships elevated himself from a mid to late draft chance to an early standout. A shrewd inside midfielder with an improved kick that can also push forward to hit the scoreboard, Rowston was named the Allies’ MVP and was the team’s leading ball-winner, averaging 23.0 disposals, 11.0 contested possessions, 5.8 inside 50s and 5.0 clearances while also booting three goals.
The Giants are reportedly hopeful he’ll slip into the second round, but there’s a sense other clubs could pull the trigger earlier. And if they pull the trigger really early, for instance in the middle stages of the first round, the Giants might be unwilling to match.
Adelaide is also now bracing for father-son prospect Max Michalanney to be taken as early as the first round – but more likely early in the second.
A mobile 192cm defender that’s been likened to Swans veteran Dane Rampe, Michalanney was named in this year’s Under 18 All-Australian team. He played three SANFL league games for the Redlegs this year as a lockdown defender, while he also showed off his ability to rebound off half-back at reserves and, most prominently, Under 18s level.
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The Crows last week made two moves to give themselves the best chance of securing Michalanney, who’s father-son eligible to Adelaide as his dad Jim played in four SANFL flags across 211 games for Norwood.
Adelaide completed a swap of draft picks with North Melbourne and Brisbane, which saw it gain Picks 56 and 59, as well as North’s future second-round selection, in exchange for Pick 23 and a future fourth-rounder (tied to Fremantle). Moments after the pick swap was lodged, Adelaide officially nominated Michalanney as a father-son prospect ahead of next month‘s draft.
Not only did the Crows net a strong 2023 second-round draft pick as part of the trade, it also meant they wouldn’t have to worry about Pick 23 being swallowed up in a bid for Michalanney should it have come before that natural 2022 second-rounder.
With the Crows also trading out of the first round of this year’s draft to help them land Suns star Izak Rankine, it means the club is unlikely to take another player before having to match a Michalanney bid.
The fourth player in the late first-round/early second-round mix is Alwyn Davey Jnr – the son of 100-game bomber Alwyn Davey Sr.
Renowned for his speed, evasion, cleanliness at ground level and goalkicking nous, small forward Davey hasn’t officially nominated the Bombers as his preferred club, with all eligible father-son players needing to make their calls by November 2. Although there’s a sense of confidence Davey will still choose Essendon before the deadline.
In an ideal world for Essendon, Davey would receive a bid after the Bombers’ Pick 22, meaning they could use their first two selections (Pick 4 and 22) to recruit players in the open draft. But recruiters this week indicated it’ll be a lineball on whether a Davey bid comes before the Bombers’ second pick. If it does, the Bombers’ natural second-rounder would be eaten up in the bid-matching process.
Cooper Harvey, the son of North Melbourne legend and VFL/AFL games record-holder Brent Harvey, is also firming to attract a bid from a rival club during November’s national draft.
After suffering two arm injuries in close succession during the middle of the season, Harvey starred upon returning to the field. He was among the best players for Assumption College in a school game before pulling out two excellent NAB League performances for the Northern Knights then a strong showing for Vic Metro in the final Under 18 national championships game.
While scouts believe Harvey still has some work to do on his aerobic capacity, they love his power at stoppages – to the point where they wouldn’t be surprised if a rival club bid on him in the first half of the draft, although it’ll more likely be in the second half.
Should Harvey find his way onto North Melbourne’s list, he’d become the sixth father-son selection in the club’s history.
While clubs can match father-son and northern academy bids at any point in the draft, bids for Next Generation Academy prospects can no longer be matched inside the top 40 selections.
Arguably the NGA prospect that will be flirting with that Pick 40 cut-off the most is Isaac Keeler, who’s tied to Adelaide.
A 198cm forward-ruck prospect, Keeler started the year with some monster SANFL Under 18s games then turned heads for SA against the Allies with a three-goal haul. On his freakish talent alone, he’s a first-round draft prospect – but his lack of consistency has some recruiters thinking he’ll be in the mid to late second-round mix.
Versatile Gippsland Power prospect Cooper Vickery, who’s tied to Hawthorn’s NGA, could also be around the Pick 40 mark, while the Demons are closely monitoring the interest in their NGA prospect Finn Emile-Brennan – a damaging wingman/half-back player with lovely kick.
Essendon will be hopeful NGA prospect Anthony Munkarra doesn’t attract a bid until later in the draft, or they can pick him up as a Category B rookie.
Other players that should come into consideration after Pick 40 – possibly in the rookie draft – include Jayden Davey (Essendon father-son), Shadeau Brain (Brisbane academy), Josh Draper (Fremantle NGA), Jasper Scaife (Fremantle NGA), Conrad Williams (Fremantle NGA), Ted Clohesy (Geelong NGA), Nick Madden (Giants academy), Nathan Barkla (Port Adelaide NGA) and Tyrell Dewar (West Coast NGA).