Winners and Losers of the 2021 AFL Draft

After a whirlwind few days, the AFL Draft period for 2021 is in the books! A total of 65 players had their names called out during the first two days with another 26 given a lifeline via the Pre-Season/Rookie Draft yesterday. With all the dust settling from another draft period, there are some clubs and players that stand out as the success stories from the past few days, while there are others who fall into the category of fails and miscues.

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Gold Coast
Heading into the draft with pick No. 3 as their only notable selection, Gold Coast still did enough to strengthen their list – which might not sound like a massive win. They were able to relist Hugh Greenwood, Jez McLennan and Rory Thompson while giving Charlie Constable and Levi Casboult a lifeline with Constable a particularly nice addition. After failing to string games together with Geelong, he’ll get another chance to succeed as an AFL midfielder and Casboult gives the Suns handy depth as a versatile key position player. Not all hope is lost Suns fans.

North Melbourne
Snaring the prized talent from this year’s draft pool makes North Melbourne a HUGE winner in my eyes, regardless of how the rest of their draft unfolded. Jason Horne-Francis has all the traits necessary to become a modern-day superstar and should slot straight into the Roos’ lineup for Round 1. North wasn’t done there though, investing their other picks in Josh Goater (22nd) and Miller Bergman (38), helping to fulfil a dream draft scenario for the duo by being selected by the club they supported as kids. Sinboner legend Glenn Archer’s son Jackson rounded out a solid draft class for the Roos as they rebuild their list and start to aim upwards.

Richmond Tigers
Holding five picks inside the top-30, there was optimism behind the Tigers getting plenty of bang for their buck in the 2021 draft. They didn’t disappoint. Selecting arguably the best key defender in Josh Gibcus with their first selection was massive, but nabbing Tyler Sonsie was one of the steals of day one if you ask me. Rounding out their draft with dashing defender Tom Brown, skilled ball-user Sam Banks and dynamic forward Judson Clarke helped boost Richmond’s depth in all three areas of the ground and saw them walk away happy.

This week was a great time to be a Joshua, with six Josh’s drafted – including four in the first 12 picks! Exciting talents Josh Rachele (Adelaide) and Josh Ward (Hawthorn) went off the board back-to-back at No. 6 and 7 respectively with Josh Gibcus (Richmond) and Josh Sinn (Port Adelaide) taken soon after. Rebounding defender Josh Goater heard his name called with the second pick of round two and 20 selections later GWS academy prospect Josh Fahey rounded out a successful week for Joshua’s.

Family Ties
There were a lot of famous names called out over the 2021 draft period with Woewodin, Dacios, Archer, Motlop and Darcy all on display. The recognised lineage didn’t stop there as Jase Burgoyne (son of Peter) made his way to Port Adelaide, Sam Butler (brother of Dan) and Jai Serong (brother of Caleb) landed at Hawthorn and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (son of Terry and nephew of Gavin) joined the Saints. Anita and Trevor Warner were the big winners amongst all the footy families this week though, with her son Corey drafted by Sydney; two years after his brother Chad joined the Swans.

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Despite the feel-good vibes with another Warner bro joining their ranks, the Swans didn’t exactly nail this draft. Selecting Angus Sheldrick in the first round was a curveball after Tom Brown was taken just before they had a chance to pounce and opting to draft Matthew Roberts and Lachlan Rankin with their latter picks also raised some eyebrows. Sydney added some grunt to their engine room that’s for sure, but their most recent rookies have to deliver to provide them with the midfield boost they need. Sheldrick may eventually become a key cog, but I have doubts over the rest of their selections.

Heading into night one, we had a decent idea of how the first batch picks would unfold and the clubs stuck true to form without rocking the boat. Even the bids on Sam Darcy and Nick Daicos at No. 2 and No. 4 respectively went according to plan with very little drama at the top of the order. You could argue that Freo selecting Neil Erasmus 10th was the only twist with the very late picks in the first round the only ones that differed from most mock drafts around the country. There were a few trades over the draft period, but none of them provided us with the theatrics we were hoping for.

Matthew Johnson
Two years ago a budding WA midfielder in Deven Robertson faced a nervous, overnight wait until he was the first selection of round two. Entering the second day of the draft, many believed that Fremantle would trade out of their spot at pick No. 21, but instead, they opted to stay local and end Matthew Johnson’s anguish. The Subiaco talent can hardly be viewed as a loser now that he gets to remain in his home state, but after being viewed as a bonafide top-10 pick, having to wait an extra 24 hours to be drafted somewhat sucked.

Don’t get me wrong, Ben Hobbs looks set to become a dominant midfielder at AFL level; however, in an engine room that already boasts Andrew McGrath, Dylan Sheil and Darcy Parish, Hobbs hardly fits a need. Essendon reportedly had their sights set on snaring speedster Josh Sinn only to see Port Adelaide leapfrog the Dons and draft the exciting half-back. Further rubbing salt into the wounds, the Bombers didn’t exactly hit a home run with their latter picks in Alastair Lord and Garrett McDonagh. It was hardly a dramatic failure, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan for Adrian Dodoro and his team.

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