The AFL draft is fast approaching, as the latest crop of players to rise through the under-18s leagues across the country wait to hear whether they’ve been selected for the 2023 season. It’s a tactical and highly strategised event, as club recruiters spend the year preparing how to snare the best young talents.Whether you’re a seasoned draft-watcher or a newbie, there’s always something to learn about the notoriously complicated night. How does the bidding system work? Why will the best draftee not be picked first? Where is it being streamed?
From left: Mitch Szybowski, Will Ashcroft and Elijah Tsatas are all set to join AFL clubs in the upcoming draft.Credit:AFL Photos
What is the draft?
The national draft is where clubs make their formal selections for the upcoming season, adding the best young or mature-aged players who aren’t already on AFL lists. Each of the 18 clubs must pick at least three players from the draft, but generally each team picks four to five new players.
There are six rounds of selections, and during these rounds, clubs take it in turns to pick from the pool of AFL hopefuls to join the team.
How is the order of the draft determined?
The order is determined by the ladder from the previous season. The team at the bottom of the ladder gets the No.1 pick, while the premiers get the lowest first-round pick, No.18.
However, this order can and does change, as clubs can swap their picks in trade deals: This year, a so-called mega deal was orchestrated between four clubs. As part of that deal, the first three picks were traded between North Melbourne, GWS and West Coast.
That monster trade season was explained in detail by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald journalists, Jon Pierik and Peter Ryan.
Clubs have also been battling to get hold of a top-10 pick since the trade period ended, packaging up multiple selections in an attempt to secure a prized early pick, but clubs holding those early selections have stood firm.
Here is the draft order as it stands. Click on your club to see which picks they have.
Who are the top prospects?
It is widely expected that the first four picks will be used to pick up Will Ashcroft (son of three-time Brisbane Lions premiership player Marcus Ashcroft); Greater Western Victoria Rebels and Vic Country player Aaron Cadman; Sandringham Dragons mid-forward Harry Sheezel; and midfielder George Wardlaw.
Who’s set to be the No.1 pick?
The No.1 pick is a status held by the likes of Nick Riewoldt, Brendon Goddard, Luke Hodge and Marc Murphy – essentially, it’s the player the clubs want the most.
But because of how complicated the draft is, Will Ashcroft – considered the best player in this year’s crop – is unlikely to be called up for the coveted top spot. This is because of the father-son rule, which we’ll get to later.
Instead, it’s expected that GWS – who have the No.1 pick – will choose Greater Western Victoria Rebels key forward Aaron Cadman.
Potential No.1 pick Aaron Cadman.Credit:Jason South
When is the draft on?
Held at Marvel Stadium, the national draft kicks off on Monday, November 28 at 7pm, Melbourne time, with first round, father-son and academy bidding. The rest of the national draft is held the following night. The day after that, Wednesday, November 30, the pre-season and rookie draft is held.
Monday 28 November, 7pm AEDT: Round 1 – NAB AFL Draft Selection Meeting including Father/Son, Academy, NGA Players Bidding
Tuesday 29 November, 7pm AEDT: Round 2 to completion of draft – NAB AFL Draft Selection Meeting
Wednesday 30 November, 3pm AEDT: AFL pre-season draft and Rookie draft (online)
How can I watch the draft?
The draft will be telecast live on Fox Footy (Channel 504), and streamed on Kayo from 7pm AEDT on Monday, November 28.
For those without a Foxtel or Kayo subscription, never fear – the draft will also be live-streamed on the AFL website and AFL Live app.
What is the father-son rule?
If a draft prospect’s dad played a certain number of games for an AFL or affiliated state league club, that club can gain priority access to that player as a father-son selection.
It’s been part of the AFL’s recruitment since the 1950s, and has a big impact on the draft selection itself. The rule has changed over the years but the romance of it remains the same, enabling generations of Abletts, Silvagnis and Daicoses, to name a few, to represent their family club.
What is the academy rule?
There are two types of academies in the AFL: Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney and GWS Giants have access to local talent zones – known as northern academies – while the rest of the competition have Next Generation Academy (NGA) players. These players are of Indigenous or multicultural backgrounds, who are largely under-represented in the AFL. There is a key difference because the four clubs with northern academy prospects can match a bid on one of their players at any stage in the draft, whereas associated clubs can match a bid on an NGA graduate only after pick 40. To clarify, they can draft their NGA player inside pick 40 but cannot match a bid.
How does the bidding system work?
It’s important to remember this system doesn’t automatically secure father-son/academy players to clubs they’re linked with. Instead, it gives those clubs a greater opportunity to secure these players during the draft.
This is done through the bidding system. Each pick is worth a point value – the higher the pick, the greater the value. Pick No.1 is worth the most points (3000); pick No.2 is worth 2517 points; and so on until pick No.73, which is worth nine points.
All remaining picks are worth zero points. Clubs get a 20 per cent discount for their academy or father-son players.
It gets a bit more complicated than this, but let’s say there’s a father-son player in the draft whose dad played for Sydney, and Essendon makes a bid for that player at pick No.2. Because Sydney have links to this player, they can match Essendon’s bid (at a 20 per cent discount).
To do that, Sydney deducts the points from their pool of picks to secure the player. This will push back the order of when they can make their next pick, to the value of the points they have left over. If a club doesn’t have enough points, they go into deficit, which will affect the following year’s order.
It can get extremely complicated, which is why Michael Gleeson wrote this explainer on the points system ahead of last year’s draft.
How will the top 10 round unfold?
Below is the round one order, although it’s subject to change, as clubs are allowed to trade their picks during the draft itself. As Marc McGowan reported here, Essendon loom as the wildcards who could dramatically change the order of the top 10. The Bombers provisionally hold pick four, which will slide to No.5 once Greater Western Sydney or more likely North Melbourne place a bid on Ashcroft. Cadman is as good as certain to be the No.1 selection, with the Kangaroos – who have the next two picks – set to pair George Wardlaw with Harry Sheezel after an Ashcroft bid. Essendon are linked to Oakleigh Chargers midfielder Elijah Tsatas, but also South Australian Mattaes Phillipou, and rival clubs believe the Bombers are open to trading down the order, knowing big-bodied midfielder Phillipou could still be available outside the top 10.
Provisional order for AFL draft – first round
Who have been the most recent No.1 draft picks?
The Victorian-based first round draftees at Marvel Stadium on Thursday.Credit:AFL Photos
Last year North Melbourne midfielder Jason Horne-Francis topped the draft list, but he has since been traded to Port Adelaide. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan became the second Indigenous player to be picked at No.1 in this system in 2020, while midfielder Matt Rowell was nabbed by the Suns in 2019, and in 2018 Carlton scored Sam Walsh.
Make sure you don’t miss a pick by tuning into our live draft blog from 6.30pm Monday.
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