Selecting Ricky Petterd was a low-risk, high-reward gamble by Richmond.
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WHAT WE LEARNED: Richmond could nudge the top four in 2013, while two young guns face uncertain futures...
The Tigers are gearing up for a flag tilt
The emergence of Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt as genuine A-graders in recent years had pundits tipping the Tigers for a long-overdue finals berth in 2013. Clearly, coach Damien Hardwick has sought to hasten the opening of his side's 'window' with the recruitment of several experienced players across the ground. After securing Troy Chaplin, Chris Knights and Aaron Edwards earlier in the off-season, Richmond added Sam Lonergan, Ricky Petterd and Orren Stephenson in Tuesday's rookie draft - bringing the total influx of senior experience to 459 games.
Of those, Chaplin (ex-Port Adelaide) and Knights (Adelaide) should be in the side for round one, while Sam Lonergan (Essendon) and Aaron Edwards (North Melbourne) could well join them. Four-time VFL premiership ruckman Orren Stephenson will be handy back-up for Ivan Maric, while Petterd's selection is a low-risk, high-reward gamble on a talented player who has had more than his share of achilles and shoulder problems. If Richmond can keep their young stars fit and the older recruits slot in seamlessly, expect the Tigers to give a top-four berth a serious shake at some stage next year.
Character is everything
Dayle Garlett's plight is instructive for all potential first-time draftees. A clear top-10 prospect on talent alone, the WA wingman's reported penchant for partying, along with other unspecified "behavioural issues", has seen him miss out on an AFL chance this year. In an industry where clubs demand increasing levels of professionalism from their players, Garlett was seen as too great a risk - even taking into account his exceptional ability.
With a strong year in the WAFL - or perhaps in another state away from destabilising influences - Garlett should find himself an AFL home for the 2014 season. But if he falls off the radar, he may never get back on it. Football fans everywhere should hope that this is the wake-up call that the star teenager needs to make the most of his skills. If he gets his act together, he will be a player worth watching for the next decade.
When an AFL dream ends
Many of the biggest stories to emerge from Tuesday's pre-season and rookie drafts surrounded those who missed out. Brent Prismall, Josh Toy and Cameron Wood are among the AFL-quality footballers who won't be in the big league next year.
Prismall, who suffered serious knee injuries during his stints at Geelong and Essendon, turned down a one-year deal offered by Port Adelaide to pursue a longer contract at the Western Bulldogs. He missed out altogether when the Dogs instead opted to draft Brett Goodes, the club's player welfare manager. However, knowledgeable observers have hinted that the Doggies haven't abandoned Prismall altogether. An off-field role, combined with playing VFL footy, is one possible option for the talented midfielder.
Wood, who toiled for 64 games over eight seasons at Brisbane and Collingwood, should be a dominant player at state-league level in 2013 and could well earn a recall to the big time with a strong season. His relatively slight frame and his inability to establish himself as the Magpies' second-choice ruck over five seasons ultimately cost him.
Meanwhile, Toy has fallen a long way from the player touted as a top-three selection in the 2009 draft before he was snapped up by Gold Coast as a priority 17-year-old. He failed to thrive in his two years with the Suns before being diagnosed with a rare heart complaint that limited his ability to train to the same level as his peers. That didn't stop Gold Coast offering him a one-year deal for 2013 but Toy turned it down in the hope of returning to Melbourne.
It's not clear whether prospective suitors were put off by his heart condition, or his slow progress since being drafted. The one certainty about the robust defender's future is that it won't be in the big league. Like Garlett, his response in 2013 could be the making or breaking of a one-time junior superstar.
Family ties run deep
Sydney's strong 'Bloods' culture is justifiably famous, and even more so after the club's deserved flag in 2012. Now, the siblings of three Swans premiership stars have been granted their shot at an AFL career after the rookie draft.
Brandon Jack, the younger brother of star midfielder Kieren, was drafted as an academy selection while Xavier Richards, younger sibling of All Australian defender Ted, will get to shadow his brother around the SCG for at least the next 12 months. And the aforementioned Brett Goodes, who has plied his trade in the VFL for several years, finally gets a chance to share the field with older brother Adam after the Bulldogs rewarded his efforts with their first pick.
- The cut-throat nature of recruiting was exposed when Fremantle swooped on promising SA ruckman Jack Hannath, who had been training with Melbourne for the past month. Such was the Demons' interest that they took the Central Districts star on their Darwin training camp - but now the big man will learn his craft from Aaron Sandilands.
- It's a case of back to the future for Jaryd Cachia, who was drafted by Carlton as a rookie for the second time. Cachia spent two seasons on the Blues' rookie list without playing a game before heading to SANFL club Norwood in 2012. He starred in the Redlegs' premiership win and showed enough to get a second chance at Princes Park under new coach Mick Malthouse. At least he won't have to introduce himself to many new teammates.
- West Coast must really, really like Jamie Bennell after rookie-listing the former Melbourne utility. Bennell won't play any footy until at least halfway through the season after rupturing his ACL in round 16 this year.
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