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Sunday Age

Saints, Tigers spring surprises

Author: Jake Niall
Date: 21/11/2004
Words: 772
Source: SAG
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Sport
Page: 5
HAWTHORN and St Kilda, teams at opposite ends of the ladder with divergent needs and plans, yesterday raised the collective eyebrows of the football world with their surprise choices in the national draft.

In a clear sign of the club's arrival as a premiership contender, the Saints spent both their second- and third-round choices on ready-made recycled players in Port Adelaide ruckman Cain Ackland and Collingwood midfielder Mark McGough and plucked an unknown kid from suburban footy, while the Hawks wrong-footed everyone by selecting Gippsland teenager Jarryd Roughead with their first choice and the second pick overall.

The Hawks had been expected to pick the explosive Northern Territory prospect Richard Tambling, but, in elevating Roughead, they ensured that Tambling was delivered to the other club with a stockpile of early picks, Richmond.

The Hawks pulled another mini-surprise at pick No. 7 when they selected Geelong Falcons midfielder Jordan Lewis in preference to highly fancied ruckman John Meesen, who was drafted with the subsequent pick by Adelaide.

St Kilda wasted no time in inducting McGough and Ackland into the club, last night arranging for the pair to fly to South Africa to join their new teammates on their pre-season training camp; they might leave as early as today, with McGough believed to have been slated for the South African trip before the draft.

In other major draft developments:

? St Kilda plucked suburban footballer James Gwilt from obscurity, drafting the Noble Park player with pick No. 63. Gwilt was the first player drafted from the suburban leagues since Carlton drafted Trent Hotton, who hitherto had been at Collingwood, five years ago.

? For the first time, two of the first five and three of the top-10 draft choices were of Aboriginal descent, with Tambling, Hawthorn's Lance Franklin and Collingwood's first pick Chris Egan forming an indigenous treble. AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan said there was "no doubt" the performance of indigenous players for Port Adelaide in the grand final had further popularised Aboriginal footballers.

? A number of highly athletic, mostly tall players with limited football backgrounds were punted on. The Bulldogs set the tone by drafting Queenslander Tom Williams with pick 6, a trend that was followed by Collingwood in the second round (Sean Rusling) and the Kangaroos, who picked another Queensland tall, Brad Moran, in the fourth round.

? Hawthorn and Richmond, the clubs with the lions' share of early picks, took quite different approaches, with the Hawks making key position talls their priority in drafting Roughead and Franklin.

"We just had a strategy that it's easier to find midfielders than it is to find key position players and we had two guys at our mercy today that we weren't going to let slip through the net," said Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson.

The Tigers, with an astonishing five top-20 picks, simply went for the best available players and, according to most neutral observers, fared best in terms of acquisition of pure talent, though they missed on the prized early talls.

? Richmond, as expected, made Kyabram teen Brett Deledio the No. 1 draft pick, while picking Tambling with pick 4. Coach Terry Wallace and football director Greg Miller said they believed the club had picked the two best players in the draft.

? The careers of eight delisted AFL players were exhumed, with Sydney gaining David Spriggs and re-drafting Heath James, while the Tigers enlisted 31-year-old Mark Graham to bolster their suddenly youthful list.

? The Kangaroos, West Coast, Sydney, Geelong and Fremantle had minimal roles in the draft, having traded away picks, pre-selected father-sons and, in a few instances, re-drafted their own.

? Only a handful of clubs will be involved in what now promises to be an uneventful pre-season draft, since Hawthorn, the Bulldogs and Adelaide have all filled up their lists and cannot participate unless they delist a player.

At this stage, the likely order for the pre-season draft is Richmond, Collingwood, Carlton, the Kangaroos and Essendon, with Port Adelaide keen to participate.

Wallace said the Tigers would be seeking a ruckman, with Steve McKee a strong chance to return to Punt Road.

Trent Knobel is likely to join Carlton, while Blake Caracella is Collingwood-bound and Jarrad Schofield should end up at either Port Adelaide or the Kangaroos. Essendon is still considering Tigers Justin Blumfield and Ty Zantuck as pre-season possibilities.

? South Australia was the favoured breeding ground yesterday, supplying 16 of the 71 players selected, including five of the first 14. Significantly, five different states and territories were represented in the top half-dozen - Victoria (two), South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.

The national draft in detail SPORT 11-15

 
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