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AFL draft hits & misses, part 3

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AFL LOWDOWN: Bargain-basement captains and Richmond's first-round failures feature in the third of our four-part series on the best and worst draft picks from the 16 established AFL clubs



Cameron Bruce (No.64, 1999). A skinny flanker who hadn't played elite under-18 footy became one of the Demons' best players of the next decade. A best and fairest winner who played 225 games for the club, Bruce was exceptional value late in the draft. Made an impact in his first season by combining with fellow first-year player Brad Green to boot the Dees past Carlton in a famous qualifying final win.

Steven Febey (No.3, 1986). These days, clubs are expected to draft stars with top-three picks. In the inaugural draft, the whole exercise was taken a lot less seriously. Febey, a talented Tasmanian midfielder, played 258 games for the Demons in a career that was second only to three-time premiership player Alastair Lynch among his draft alumni.

Russell Robertson (No.68, 1996). Although he was demoted to the rookie list at the end of his first season, the high-flying Tasmanian became a mainstay of the forward line during his 13-year career, finishing with 428 goals from 228 games and a best season of 73 goals in 2005.


Luke Molan (No.9, 2001). When Melbourne made their first selection in the superdraft, the likes of Nick Dal Santo, James Kelly, Leigh Montagna, Sam Mitchell and Dane Swan were all still available. Demons coach Neale Daniher demanded toughness and got Molan. An aggressive defender, Molan never played an AFL game after a succession of serious injuries prevented him from ever donning the red and blue.

Cale Morton (No.4, 2007). A free-running wingman with a booming kick, Morton was adjudged the best player at the national under -18 carnival in 2007. However, he struggled to add weight to his slight frame and after two promising years he battled with confidence as injuries interrupted his pre-season. Morton was eventually shipped to West Coast for pick 88 - a downgrade of 84 picks on his original value.

Chris Lamb (No.13, 1998). The Dees went in search of a key defender and found themselves with Lamb. He was a good size and read the play well but battled for pace. Often viewed as a scapegoat by fans, he finished with just 21 games in five years. Others available at the time included Brady Rawlings (pick 15), Brett Burton (16), Tyson Stenglein (29) and Brendan Fevola (38).



Andrew Swallow (No.43, 2005). There was no doubt about Swallow's ability to find the footy in his under-18 year but question marks arose over his kicking. What the doubters didn't factor in was his outstanding character and determination to succeed. Picks at 40 and later are generally 50/50 in terms of success; landing a future club captain is a coup of the highest order.

David King (No.46, 1993). Plucked from Port Melbourne in the VFL, King was a mature-age wingman who immediately slotted into the best 18 of one of the finest teams in the land. His upright running style, forthright play and an eye for goal made him a favourite among the Roos faithful and he enjoyed the spoils of two premierships in return.

Brent Harvey (No.47, 1995). At 172cm, Harvey's height was against him ever making the grade at the top level but he continually defied the doubters. He had pace and excellent decision-making - two qualities he retains to this day as the club's games record holder. A former captain, premiership player and Victorian and Australian representative, he will retire as a legend of the club, if not the game, when he finally hangs up the boots.


Dylan Smith (No. 6, 2000). As the Roos' on-field fortunes waned in the early noughties, so too did their luck at the draft table. Smith was too small and too slow to make it as an AFL midfielder, playing just 11 games with the Roos over three seasons. Meanwhile, Shaun Burgoyne (pick 12), Scott Thompson (16) and Daniel Kerr (18) thrived.

David Trotter (No.9, 2003). Touted as a versatile option who could play almost anywhere, Trotter ended up as a jack of all trades and master of none who failed to find a niche. He played just seven games in four seasons, and never really overcame a deficiency in contested marking.

Kris Shore (No.18, 2002). At least Smith and Trotter could look back on their AFL careers having said they managed to play senior footy. Shore cannot do the same after spending three seasons on the list without cracking it for a debut game. Troy Selwood, Jared Rivers, Kade Simpson and Tom Lonergan were among those still available at the time.



Dom Cassisi (No.50, 2000). Another bargain pick who turned into a club captain, Cassisi is one of those players who does the common things well. Came to prominence in the Power's flag season of 2004 and has been a fixture in the side ever since.

Nick Stevens (No.25, 1997). Good players are often found around this point but it's not often they're as good as Stevens. A goalkicking wingman who won plenty of his own footy, he was a key player in Port's run of minor premierships before being delisted and sent into the pre-season draft the year before the Power won their first flag. Finished with 231 games, 127 of which were at Port.

Kane Cornes (No.20, 2000). Another relatively valuable draft selection that paid off big-time for the Power. Over 12 seasons, Cornes has been a key player in the midfield, either winning his own footy or stopping the opposition's best playmakers.


John Rombotis (No.6, 1996). The skinny midfielder from Fitzroy was hot property after a breakout 1996 season with the Lions. He was overlooked by the newly merged Brisbane outfit and the Power snapped him up with their first pick in the draft. However, Rombotis played just one season with Port before being traded to Richmond. Other options included Bulldog and Tiger Nathan Brown (pick 10), Max Hudghton (pick 15) and Jason Johnson (pick 28).

Michael Stevens (No.5, 1998). Port Adelaide's woeful return from first-round picks continued at their second attempt. The Power traded out Adam Heuskes, pick 12 and pick 44 for the Lions' pick five and wasted it on the brother of North Melbourne star Anthony. Stevens played 17 games in four seasons at the Power before finding his way to North, where he finished with 40 games in his last two years. Port got it right with Josh Carr at pick seven but they could also have had Jude Bolton (eight) and Lenny Hayes (11) at Stevens' pick.

Barry Brooks (No.15, 2001). The athletic ruckman was the first player drafted from King Island and he failed to live up to lofty expectations.  Big men take time but Port couldn't afford to give it to him, trading him on to St Kilda at the end of 2002 for pick six, which was used on Steven Salopek. The inside midfielder eventually gave the Power a good return from their original investment in Brooks, but it wasn't in the form of a giant goalkicking ruckman.



Brendon Gale (No.27, 1987). When the Tigers punted on the lanky Tasmanian, little did they know they'd have a centre half-forward, a ruckman and eventually a club CEO. It was a prescient selection by a club not generally known for its nous at player recruitment, and almost cancelled out the disappointment that was their no.1 pick that year (see below).

Shane Tuck (No.73, 2003). Richmond threw the Hawthorn discard a lifeline after his unsuccessful stint at the club where his father won seven flags and it paid off big time. While Tuck hasn't always been a first-choice selection, his ability to win the ball in close is nearly unparalleled at Punt Road. With 162 games under his belt, Tuck is coming off a career-best season in 2012 in a rising Richmond side.

Chris Newman (No.55, 2000). Like North Melbourne and Port Adelaide before them, the Tigers looked past Newman's perceived deficiencies and saw a smart player with an excellent kick and good character. He became a rock of the Richmond backline for more than a decade and captained the club for four seasons - a great return from a speculative choice.


Richard Lounder (No.1, 1987). At 203cm and 116kg, Lounder's hulking physique was every full-back's nightmare. Unfortunately, his application to the little things like fitness, diet and recovery weren't ideal. After a promising four-goal debut against North Melbourne, Lounder played just three more games before fading into the reserves and quitting the club at the end of the season. There weren't many stars taken in that draft but Collingwood's Graham Wright (pick three) and Melbourne's Stephen Tingay (pick 50) gave their clubs good service.

Richard Tambling (No.4, 2004). The lightly-built midfielder was touted as a potential No.1 pick in his draft pool, such was his vision, agility and skill set. But he had the misfortune to be taken one pick ahead of Hawthorn superstar Lance Franklin and was never given a chance by the Richmond faithful. He played some good footy for the Tigers in 2008 and 2009 but always lived in the shadow of Buddy.

Aaron Fiora (No.3, 1999). Chalk up another in the list of Richmond's big-time draft errors. Fiora was a silky-skilled wingman who had the misfortune to be picked up one selection before a champion key forward in Matthew Pavlich. Fiora battled through five seasons at Punt Road, averaging just under 10 touches a game before a move to St Kilda, where he was serviceable for four seasons. Meanwhile, Pavlich became a six-time All Australian. Ouch.

Draft and trade features from the vault:
•    Trades from hell: Top 10 disasters
•    Trades from hell: Docker shockers
•    Trades from hell: Past their prime
•    Trades from hell: Bad boys
•    Draft busts: Wasted trades
•    Draft busts: First-round picks
•    Draft busts: No.1 picks
•    Draft busts: Pick No.6

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.

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