Generational talent or extras: the choice facing contenders for No. 1 draft pick

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The football bosses at Hawthorn and West Coast insist they are not fixated on nominal No. 1 draft pick Harley Reid ahead of their clash on Sunday, but are open to exploring trade opportunities down the track.

Reid has quickly become the face of this year’s draft class and is widely expected to be the first name read out in November, with the Hawks and Eagles occupying the bottom two spots through nine rounds.

Harley Reid.Credit: AFL Photos

North Melbourne traded the No.1 selection last year as part of a four-club mega deal in which the Giants eventually picked Aaron Cadman first overall.

But Reid is such a precocious talent that the going rate may be as high as three first-round selections, including two inside the top 10, to make this year’s wooden spooner consider a deal.

Hawthorn’s head of football, Rob McCartney, told Money Talks they would remain open-minded with their draft options. They have recent history of making draft-night moves, after trading into last year’s first round to select Josh Weddle.

“You enter every draft period with a very open mind, wherever your picks lie. You weigh up what’s the cost versus reward of changing that mechanism in some way through trading,” McCartney said.

“There might be this once-in-a-generation player and regardless of what anyone offers, you keep that pick, and you don’t entertain a trade. But you weigh up the cost, and you might think, ‘Yes, we lose this player, but the two or three picks we gain can give us this.’

“You need to understand what the talent pool is like, and consider whether it makes the club better or worse off, so you look at every scenario.”

McCartney’s counterpart at West Coast, Gavin Bell, who stepped into the role in December, said they would also consider all possibilities.

The Eagles were part of the aforementioned mega deal last year, offloading pick two to bring in two first-round selections, which they used on Western Australians Reuben Ginbey and Elijah Hewett.

“We will look at any changes we need to make to our list that will make us a better list for 2024 and the future,” Bell said.

“We’ll keep an open mind to any options we have because we’re trying to keep a bigger-picture view of what we’re doing, while also acknowledging there is lots of stuff to sort out and work on to get better right now.

“But without sounding flippant or like I’m giving you a throwaway line – we’ll assess that at the end of the year when we know where our picks are and what the talent pool looks like.”

Neither McCartney nor Bell has watched Reid play a game in person.

Over to ‘Pickers’

Collingwood ruckman Mason Cox plans to leave his playing future in agent Liam Pickering’s hands as he nears the 100th game of his remarkable AFL journey from Texas.

Cox played one of the best games of his career as the Magpies’ No.1 big man on Sunday against Greater Western Sydney, but will soon have to share – or play second-fiddle – to Darcy Cameron, who is nearing his return from a knee setback.

No rush: Collingwood’s Mason Cox.Credit: Getty Images

The 32-year-old belatedly received a one-year deal in October 2021 after Collingwood football boss Graham Wright made him wait while Max Lynch’s trade to Hawthorn was finalised.

Cox then reached a contract trigger last year for this season, but Pickering will need to negotiate another deal for 2024.

“I can only control what I can control, and as long as I keep playing good footy, hopefully, there’s an opportunity for me here to be able to go forward,” Cox told Money Talks.

“But, as far as contracts go, and talks and stuff – that’s not really my wheelhouse.”

Sydney and Fremantle have shown interest in Cox in the past.

The Chayce is on

Adelaide and out-of-contract first-round draftee Chayce Jones have launched contract talks on what will likely be a two-year deal for the young Tasmanian, sources familiar with the negotiations confirmed.

Jones, 23, was originally the No. 9 pick in the 2018 draft, after North Melbourne matched the Crows’ bid on fellow Tasmanian Tarryn Thomas.

He played 58 games in his first four seasons without delivering on his huge promise as a teenager, but is amid a breakout campaign in 2023 for eighth-placed Adelaide.

Jones is averaging career-best numbers in disposals (18), contested possessions (six), inside 50s (three), clearances (three) and score involvements (five).

The spectre of the incoming Tasmanian team is not expected to be a factor in these negotiations.

Mid-season draft prospect suspended

Brandon Ryan in action for the Bullants at the weekend.Credit: Getty Images

Northern Bullants forward-ruck Brandon Ryan – the 200-centimetre cousin of Fremantle’s Luke – may have played his last game for the VFL club after copping a three-match striking ban out of the weekend.

The AFL’s mid-season rookie draft will be held on May 31, after round 11, and Ryan is considered as good as certain to be selected, with almost half the league’s clubs showing interest.

The late-blooming 25-year-old could have accepted a two-match suspension with an early guilty plea, but unsuccessfully challenged it at the VFL Tribunal on Tuesday evening and copped a three-game penalty.

Behind-the-goals vision showed Ryan swinging his arm back in retaliation and connecting with Coburg’s Trent Warren, who received a free kick from the incident but was not injured and played the match out.

Bullants coach Brodie Holland, who played 155 games for Fremantle and Collingwood, said Ryan had almost certainly played his last game, certainly for this season, with his side, given the mid-season draft interest in him.

“It’s disappointing because he’s never been reported or suspended, and is very quiet by nature and not aggressive in any shape or form,” Holland told Money Talks of the ban.

Holland believes Ryan, who he recruited from Maribyrnong Park, warrants being the first player taken in the mid-season draft – and he would be “stunned” if he wasn’t on an AFL club list for the second half of the year.

“He’s mobile for a player of his size, and I’ve seen him pick the ball up off his ankles a couple of times,” he said.

“I’ve even seen him, a bit Jeremy Cameron-style, wheel around and hit targets from 50 metres. He’s a unique player, and in the modern game where clubs are looking for taller players with longer levers – he could be that type of player.”

The complication is Ryan, like North Melbourne’s Sam Lowson, who is back on the radar after kicking 16 goals in seven VFL games, did not nominate for last year’s drafts and is still waiting for an exemption to be ticked off.

Contenders emerging

Sunday’s second Young Guns game offered another chance for many of the mid-season crop to show their wares, including potential No.1 pick Ryan Maric playing in a different role down back.

The Gippsland Power talent, who has shone in the early stages of the year as a 193-centimetre lead-up forward, racked up 23 disposals and eight rebound 50s, with talent scouts telling Money Talks they were pleased to see him show more versatility.

Clay Tucker also solidified his standing as the clear-cut best teenage ruck option with 13 disposals, 14 hit-outs and, importantly, two goals.

Nineteen-year-old Tucker’s ruck craft and his ability to go forward were what set him apart, a recruiting source said.

Others in the mix include Claremont forward Jack Buller, who kicked two goals at the weekend in his return from a corked calf, Northern Bullants key forward Ryan, and Subiaco goalsneak Robert Hansen jnr, while Werribee’s Shaun Mannagh is also generating some interest.

Ex-AFL footballers Oscar McDonald and Sam Naismith continue to be linked with Sydney and Collingwood, respectively, with the Swans potentially looking to make two selections.

AFL recruiters had to nominate the players they wanted the AFL to complete medical testing on by 5pm on Tuesday.

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