Meet the NSW/ACT Academy Draft prospects
A number of northern academy kids should become high picks at next week’s draft, as the AFL’s live bidding system is used for the first time.
The four northern clubs will need to come up with enough draft ‘points’ to match bids made for their players.
Exact calculations are difficult because of the way draft picks will move up and down the order as the draft is unfolding, but Emma Quayle examines the various scenarios.
By Emma Quayle.
Callum Mills – Swans Academy
Mills was born and has been bred on Sydney’s northern beaches. He’s a genuine local and the sort of kid this program was put in place for. Mills started playing Auskick as a kid – his grandfather Ray Mills played for Perth and WA in the 1960s – before becoming more interested in rugby league. He joined the academy at 13, drawn back after being talked into filling in for a Mosman Swans junior side by a friend of his father: Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham. Mills has missed much of this season with shin and foot problems, but still averaged 17 possessions in his three NEAFL games. And no one has forgotten what he did last year.
Mills will attract an early bid. How early? The difference between someone bidding at 3 or 4 – or at 7 or 8 – is significant. If Melbourne bid at 3, which other clubs are anticipating, Sydney will need to use their first three picks (33, 36 and 37) to match the bid and ”buy” pick 3 (and Mills). Their fourth pick, 44, will lose about 239 points and be moved further down the order, to about pick 54, though it’s important to remember that because picks be will moving up and down the draft order as the draft unfolds and as bids are made and matched, some latter picks will end up gaining in value before they are used.
If a bid comes at pick 7, the Swans would have to use 33 and 36 and a bit of 37 but 44 would remain intact and gain some value as GWS and the Lions start matching bids for their players. Still, a bid at 3 would make it tricky for the Swans to get both Mills and Josh Dunkley, should he nominate as a father-son pick. Should Dunkley go into the draft, as expected, a bid at 3 for Mills would see the Swans having to use picks 54, 55 and 69 on other players (or other academy kids, in the unlikely event others are bid for). A bid for 7 would allow them to use 44 to help match any bid for Dunkley, or to use that much-better placed selection to draft another player.
Draft prospects Callum Mills and Jacob Hopper. Photo: Pat Scala
Jacob Hopper – GWS Academy
Hopper is from Leeton in the Riverina. He was a talented swimmer but football has always been in his life: his parents ran the local Auskick. For the last two years Hopper has been boarding at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, and playing for the Rebels in the TAC Cup. He’s an aggressive, competitive midfielder with the off-field character to match. Every club picking high in the order could do with him: Essendon and Carlton in particular. Will they? It’s hard to see the clubs who benefited from trade deals with the Giants calling out their players, even though any such side deals are against the rules. There’s also some doubt that the Bombers will.
GWS hold pick 10, so if no club bids for either Hopper or Matthew Kennedy by then, the club will be able to use the pick, getting a third shot at a top-rated talent. There would be no value in them using that pick on one of their own players, as they wouldn’t receive the 20 per cent discount clubs get when matching bids. The Giants can go into deficit if they need to, and have already traded heavily into the 2016 draft so to do that wouldn’t be a huge deal.
It could well fall to Adelaide – who will hold picks 10 and 14 if Mills has been picked – to bid for either Hopper or Kennedy. They would bid not necessarily because he is placed there on their list (though either player would be more than worthy) but because everyone knows the Giants will match any bids placed for the trio, and because letting the Giants use 10 might mean missing out on a player the Crows want for themselves at 14.
Should Adelaide bid for Hopper, the Giants would be able to cover the bid using just pick 11, and have a couple hundred points left over to use later in the draft on other players. They’ll move up to pick 10, Adelaide will move to pick 11 and the Giants’ remaining points will be moved down the order, into the 50s.
Matthew Kennedy – GWS Academy
Kennedy stayed home on the farm in Wagga Wagga last year, choosing to play local footy with his three older brothers than play as a bottom-ager for NSW-ACT. The four played in back-to-back flags for Collingullie in September. He made it clear from the get-go this year that he was a seriously good player. He has size, he’s brave, he tends to get the ball when he goes after it and he can go forward, out-work an opponent, take an overhead mark and kick a goal. There are a bunch of clubs in the top 10 who need an out-and-out midfielder who can do these things, but whether they bid for him is questionable. Melbourne? It’s hard to see. Essendon could clearly do with him, but whether they bid at such a high point knowing they won’t get either him or Hopper is doubtful considering this is the club’s most crucial draft in a long time. They might not necessarily want to send the ‘message’ that the two players they end up picking are their third and fourth options, though the kids ultimately picked would surely get over it. The same goes for Carlton.
Adelaide could bid again, but if they’ve already called Hopper’s name might leave it to someone else. At worst, Richmond could be expected to force the Giants’ hand at pick 12. But should the Crows bid at 9 (11, if Mills and Hopper are gone), GWS would need to pay back 1063 points to get him. That would mean using their next two selections (34, 43) and some of their third (53). Matching a bid at 14 means 53 should remain in tact, so long as Mills has already been bid for. Where bids come for Hopper and Kennedy will determine whether the Giants have other points to bring in a third academy player, Harry Himmelberg, if he attracts the late first-round bid some clubs are predicting.
GWS need Mills to be bid first (or at least before their second player), because Sydney’s picks in the 30s being used would mean the Giants’ late picks gain value before the club needs to use them.
Matthew Kennedy is one of the best midfielders in the draft. Photo: Getty Images
Harrison Himmelberg – GWS Academy
Himmelberg is an athletic 19-year-old tall forward who loves to push up and back down the ground. He’s quick off the mark, and gets plenty of shots on goal. He moved to Canberra on his own this year, so that he could play for Eastlake and remain a part of the Giants Academy. A few clubs have interviewed him, and the Giants would be expecting a bid to come for him at some point. Tall forwards aren’t easy to find so it could come very early: some are predicting the end of the first round. Let’s use that as a worst-case example and say North Melbourne bid for Himmelberg with their first pick, 17. Presuming Mills, Hopper, Kennedy, Hipwood and Keays have been taken, that pick is now No. 22. Under the new system, clubs matching a bid after pick 18 will receive a fixed discount of 197 points, rather than the 20 per cent. This gives them the incentive to match bids late in the draft, with the players becoming cheaper and cheaper to acquire the later they are bid for. Himmelberg’s fate may depend on how high picks come for Kennedy and Hopper. If they both get through to the end of the top 10 or one of them goes later than that, the Giants might be able to also bring Himmelberg in. If the bids come a lot earlier they’ll struggle. Squeezing Himmelberg in might mean leaving them unable to match bids for any of their other players, if any bids come. Of course, they could also let him go through, if they consider the bid too much to match and have others – such as ruckman Matthew Flynn – rated as a higher priority.
Harrison Himmelberg in action at the under-18 championships Photo: Darrian Traynor
GWS: Matthew Flynn, Lachlan Tiziani, Jock Cornell, Nick Coughlan, Jack Irvine
Sydney: Darcy Baron-Hay, Lachlan Behagg, Ryan Hebron, Matthew Wilson