Essendon had a remarkable trade period, successfully securing the services of Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and Adam Saad and putting themselves back on the map as a destination club. The only negative by-product of this flurry of activity is they will have a minimal draft presence with their first pick coming in at pick 48. Pick 48 has unearthed hidden gems such as Liam Pickering, Aussie Jones, Darren Milburn, Chance Bateman and Heath Shaw in the past, so it’s still important for the Dons to get this one right. Look for them to address their needs of an inside midfielder with their first selection in the draft.
Essendon will take picks 48, 67, 85 and 103 into the draft. This is off the back of their trading activity which saw them give up higher picks for more established players.
Tom North, Eastern Ranges
A big-bodied midfielder, North unfortunately had his season interrupted by foot and ankle injuries. A 43-disposal, 12-clearance, 3-goal effort against Bendigo showed us a glimpse of what he is capable of and the kind of impact he can have. The trend in the AFL towards bigger midfielders who can do scoreboard damage helps North’s prospects significantly as he fits the bill to a tee. He can go win his own ball, has a penetrating left foot and can bring teammates into the game. Questions still exist around his defensive capabilities and endurance, but they are improving. It also doesn’t hurt that his coach at Eastern Ranges is former Essendon premiership play Darren Bewick, who is sure to be called upon for his insights. If North is still available with Essendon’s pick 48, they would find it difficult not to take him.
Matt Guelfi, Claremont
A 20-year-old out of WA, this will be the third year Guelfi is attempting to launch his AFL career. After going undrafted in 2015 and 2016, Guelfi spent the 2017 season playing senior footy for Claremont in the WAFL which did wonders for his game and showed he could handle his own at senior level. He was their ‘Mr. Fix-it’ going from playing an inside midfield role, a shut-down defensive role to a high half-forward role all in one game. This kind of versatility may have been to his detriment as he is good at everything without excelling in one particular area. At 20 years old, clubs may overlook him in favour of the younger batch of 18-year-olds. If they do, Essendon could be the beneficiary and groom him as an inside midfielder should they be willing to take a punt on him.
Cassidy Parish, Geelong Falcons
Essendon has a great history of famous brothers playing alongside each other so the sentimental pick would be to reunite Darcy with his brother Cassidy Parish for the first time since their U14 days. Another inside midfield prospect, Parish thrust himself into the eyes of recruiters with a 32-disposal masterclass in the TAC Cup preliminary final against Dandenong, solidifying his status as a big-game player. Essendon won’t have it all their way however as up to six clubs have reportedly shown interest in Cassidy. His efficiency by foot and endurance have come into question and need work, but with minimal risk attached to picks 48, 67, 85 and 103 there’s every incentive to take a chance on him.
Whilst their outstanding period has bolstered their list for a potential premiership push in 2018, it is important for Essendon not to rest on these laurels. Their future goes beyond 2018 and they have a good opportunity to acquire and develop some young talent with their draft picks without the pressure on them to have an immediate impact. Whichever path they choose to take in the draft, the future is bright at Bomberland.
Can Essendon unearth a diamond in the rough with their draft hand? Comment below.
Alongside Andy McGrath, who is Essendon's only other AFL Rising Star Award winner?
- Joe Daniher
- Michael Hurley
- James Hird
- Dyson Heppell
Dyson Heppell won the 2011 NAB AFL Rising Star award ahead of West Coast's Luke Shuey and Gold Coast pair Zac Smith and David Swallow.
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