Goodes joins Bulldogs as Tigers help redefine 'rookie'
Our footy experts analyse the AFL pre-season and rookie drafts, including the selection of Brett Goodes, the younger brother of Adam Goodes.PT0M0S 620 349
We celebrate the footballers who have transformed themselves from after-thoughts to stars, and rightly so. Dean Cox, Aaron Sandilands, Harry O'Brien, Stephen Milne and many others relied on the rookie draft to make their start in the AFL, while Matthew Boyd and Nick Maxwell have become club captains. Every player who had their name called today will be hoping to achieve similar things.
The truth is, it's getting harder. Numbers were down in last year's rookie draft and this time clubs made fewer than 30 'live' picks, following on from last month's shorter-than-usual national draft. It's important to note that rookie list numbers dropped from six to four this year, as a general rule, with clubs having been allowed two extra players during the introduction of Gold Coast and GWS in the past few years but, even so, many simply didn't want to invest in it.
Some clubs were happy with the four rookies they have, and stuck with them: Geelong and St Kilda are two that made no picks. Essendon, which used its pre-season draft choice on teenager Will Hams, took only one rookie and it was Ariel Steinberg, moved back from the primary list. Some clubs had used free agency to fill spots that would otherwise have existed, limiting opportunities for new players further: see the Saints and Dylan Roberton. But it's hard not to wonder how far the introduction of the new clubs has stretched the country's talent, given many clubs seemed to simply have no names left on their lists.
Just eight players were chosen in the pre-season draft, with Kurt Tippett now finally a Sydney player, but many clubs opted to go into next season one or two players short on their list of 40, and take one or two extra rookies instead. It's what the Western Bulldogs did with Brett Goodes, passing on their pre-season pick to draft their welfare manager with their one and only choice in the rookie draft.
Richmond and Carlton did likewise and it makes sense: the last spot on a club's list is almost always speculative and just 50 per cent of a rookie's salary counts in the salary cap. Clubs with 38 or 39 players can choose and upgrade a 'nominated' rookie at the start of the season and those players can play senior football straight away, so they won't really go in short.
Collingwood invested in the draft, but took a couple of mature age types in Jack Frost and Sam Dwyer, as well as Ben Hudson and their own Peter Yagmoor, delisted last month. Richmond took four players, but just one new one. Having already tied up Chris Knights, Aaron Edwards and Troy Chaplin during free agency and trading, they filled their list out with mature-age fringe players Sam Lonergan, Ricky Petterd and Orren Stephenson.
The Giants, like last year, barely participated, taking only local Zac Williams. Jon Ceglar (Hawthorn), Jaryd Cachia and Andy Collins (Carlton), Callum Bartlett (Brisbane), Andy Collins (Carlton), Ben Speight and Cameron Richardson (North Melbourne), Jamie Bennell (West Coast), Yagmoor and Hudson got another go, mostly at the same clubs that cut them.
Cachia's chance at Carlton is his second, after a year at Norwood, while 28-year-old Goodes, Frankston's Leigh Osborne and Kyle Martin (Gold Coast and Collingwood), Claremont's Kane Mitchell, Subiaco's Callum Sinclair and Frost were among the other 20-somethings picked. That suggests clubs still like what they see in the state leagues, that they are now leaning towards rookies who can step straight in when required rather than undeveloped kids and again begging the question: given the traditional meaning of the word, is it time for the "rookie" list to be called something else?