GWS football manager Jason McCartney has conceded the draft is different for non-Victorian clubs, with extra “risk” when the draft is “littered with Victorian talent”.
Recruiters and media draft experts are in general agreement this year the best talent is from Victoria, with the top prospects including Vic Metro trio George Wardlaw, Elijah Tsatas and Harry Sheezel, plus Vic Country’s Aaron Cadman and Brisbane father-son Will Ashcroft.
That’s a problem because of the go-home factor – kids who were drafted at 18 years old wanting to play in their home state or town, if at all possible.
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In every year since 2010, at least one player drafted in the top five has ended up moving back to their home state, with Izak Rankine (2018 draft), Luke Jackson (2019) and Jason Horne-Francis (2021) adding to the trend this trade period.
The only exception is 2020, where WA’s Logan McDonald (now at Sydney) was the only top-five pick wasn’t selected by a club in his home state, while from the 2009 draft Jack Trengove technically moved home, but that was as a delisted free agent.
The Victorian-heavy top of the draft pool has helped contribute to some of the biggest draft pick trades in recent history. West Coast and GWS, which naturally held picks 2 and 3 respectively, have traded them away to North Melbourne.
The Eagles moved down to 8 and 12, where more West Australian talent is rated as being worth selected, while the Giants moved up to 1, where they’re expected to pick the aforementioned Cadman.
Cadman is likely to have less of a pull to return to Melbourne because he’s not from the city nor its suburbs; he grew up in Darley, near Bacchus Marsh, approximately an hour out of the city.
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Speaking on Trade Radio on Wednesday afternoon, Giants footy boss McCartney explained his club – and others not based in Victoria – have to consider different prospects, depending on their willingness to move.
“I completely understand why West Coast moved from three and go out into the mid-part of the first round, and it’s exactly the same reason why we were sitting at three and wanted to get to one,” McCartney said.
“When you’re an interstate club and the draft board is predominantly, at the top end, looks like it’s littered with Victorian talent, you’ve got some risk there.
“You might think it’s fine that you just pick this player and you get them into your environment and your system and it’s all fine, but if there’s apprehension about a player right from the word go about making the move interstate and they may go home, you just can’t take the risk unfortunately.
“The draft board for us and maybe some other interstate clubs, it’s not the same draft board (as the Victorian clubs). And that’s ok, that’s the reality. We’re not complaining about it. So we do have to look at things a little bit differently.
“Everyone can throw up the players and we love all the players that have been talked about but there’s some we can’t pick. That’s the reality.”
This trade period alone GWS saw Tanner Bruhn (from Geelong) and Tim Taranto (from Melbourne) head home, while Jacob Hopper is from Leeton in Southern NSW making his case somewhat different.
Part of the reason the Giants were willing to trade those players is their bloated salary cap, which has seen them heavily compensate their top-end stars, forcing them into a bit of a reset this year.
But that is also tied back to the go-home factor, because particularly with the new expansion clubs GWS and Gold Coast, there is a need to overpay players once they come out of contract to keep them from heading home.