4:10 PM Tue 29 Nov, 2011
The Brisbane Lions welcomed ruckman Billy Longer (Pick No.8), half-back Sam Docherty (Pick No.12), wingman Elliot Yeo (Pick No.30) and forward/midfielder Patrick Wearden (Pick No.47) to the Club at last Thursday night’s 2011 AFL National Draft in Sydney.
Lions National Talent Manager Rob Kerr details the recruiting team’s approach to the Draft as well as the Club’s strategy behind each of the selections.
The 2011 AFL National Draft has proven to be an intriguing event to be involved in.
Naturally we approached it from the point of view of trying to bring the best available talent into our Club given the needs of our list. Some of the needs that we were conscious of included:
• Shaping the post-Jonathan Brown forward line
• Adding class and depth to our midfield
• Rebuilding our ruck brigade
• Strengthening our stock of support defenders
• Finding players who are capable of having genuine impact on the wing by providing run and carry
Obviously a number of assumptions have been made in the process of identifying those needs and prioritising them. Among those assumptions are:
• We will be unlikely to replace Jonathan Brown with a player of similar influence, therefore we need to build a multi-pronged and multi-faceted forward line
• Our current developing midfield group should provide a good foundation for the future but, like all midfields, a high-class midfielder would be a valuable addition
• Our spine is very much a work in progress and will need depth added to it
• While improving, our ability to carry the ball and break open the game is limited
• Bringing the ball effectively out of defence is a critical success factor
With four good picks at the Draft, we felt we were well placed to address some of the areas identified above. Jordon Lisle’s recruitment from Hawthorn proved a valuable addition to our spine and, as stated in the Trade Week summary, we were not overly confident that we would find a better key position player in this year’s draft pool. The fact that only few key position players were actually selected supported that judgment.
Meanwhile, Ben Hudson added short-term depth to our ruck division, but at 32 years of age, his time-frame is limited. Therefore bringing in another ruckman was a priority.
In Dayne Zorko, we feel as though we have a good small forward/midfielder whose recruitment will allow other players to broaden their roles in the team by adding support to the midfield group.
Preparing for the Draft
Our preparation for the Draft was very thorough. However, as is always the case and perhaps more so than ever this year with Greater Western Sydney’s (GWS) sequence of picks, our final selections were, in part, dependent on other clubs’ earlier picks.
Our selection process involves our recruiters identifying and tracking young talent before ranking the group. The players who are ranked are then closely monitored over several months before the Draft Combine. The Draft Combine allows us to challenge our assumptions and rankings based on the range of data that is produced - including the interviews and psychological assessments.
From there, we further refine our list before presenting our recommendations to the Football Department. This step allows us to present our arguments for certain players and the order of selection. It also provides the opportunity for the Football Department to challenge or support those arguments. It is important that we can justify a selection or philosophy as, in the end, the Football Department is ultimately putting the team out onto the field.
This quite structured and collaborative process produces a final ranking list that forms the basis of our plan for Draft night. The order of the later picks is often revisited, but the order of the early picks is fairly settled two weeks out of the Draft. However, things can change as new information comes to hand.
Pick No.8 - Billy Longer
Knowing our selection followed both GWS and Port Adelaide, we focused our reviews on players who we felt were ranked in the 6-12 range.
By Draft week, it was common knowledge which players would be chosen at Picks 1-5. We were also fairly certain that Chad Wingard would be taken by Port Adelaide at Pick No.6, but we did extra work on Chad just in case he fell through as he is a very classy finisher. In the end, we had a list of six players in this range. Our broad philosophy was that a tall would be our first pick as we felt that if we liked a tall and didn’t take him at 8, he wouldn’t be available at 12. We didn’t think that Billy Longer - who we ranked in our Top 5 - would be available, but if he was, we as a Club agreed we would take him. Our hopes of securing Billy came to fruition when GWS took Nick Haynes, who we also rated highly at Pick No.7.
Billy was a player we had followed all year, but had for the most part we thought he would be out of our reach. In two of the U18 National Championship games, our team rated his game a 5/5, so we were understandably surprised and delighted to secure him.
Over the last few weeks, I have had several ‘what if’ discussions with both National Recruiting Manager Graeme Hadley and Senior Coach Michael Voss along the lines of, ‘if we do take Billy Longer, how do you see him working with Matthew Leuenberger’. Graeme is confident Billy can develop a strong presence up forward, and Michael is of the view that teams take a big risk in asking ruckmen to play 80% of game time week-in-week-out, year-in-year-out. He instead sees two ruckmen playing a 60/40 split, and with Billy’s speed off the mark, size and hands, he has the potential to be target up forward when not in the ruck.
CLICK HERE to view Billy Longer's player profile
Pick No.12 - Sam Docherty
Having taken Billy Longer with Pick No.8, it was always just going to be a matter of taking the highest ranked remaining player on our list. Sam Docherty was that player and we were very pleased to call his name.
We had identified precision kicking and run as particular areas that needed improvement inside our defensive half, and Sam’s skill set fitted the bill perfectly.
Sam has emerged from outside the TAC Cup program in 2011. He forced his way into the Victoria Country team during the National U18s Carnival and was probably best-on-ground in his first game at that level.
He has maintained good form throughout the season, and we have high hopes of Sam developing into a dashing defender who can cover a range of opponents. His kicking is in the elite category which is a real plus for a half-back flanker. Sam may also develop into a wingman or on-baller down the track, but he can expect to learn the AFL craft in defence.
CLICK HERE to view Sam Docherty's player profile
Pick No.30 - Elliot Yeo
Having secured Billy Longer we no longer needed to take a ruckman at Pick No.30. We were initially prepared to take a ruckman at this pick, rather than risk our next choice ruckman being taken by another club before Pick No.47.
Therefore our approach with Pick No.30 changed on the night, although we had planned for this possibility. What we didn’t think was a possibility was that at Pick No.30, there would be two players who were ranked inside our ‘Top 25’ still available. We hadn’t expected that this would be the case, so there was quite a bit of discussion at the table during the break between the Round 1 selections and the recommencement of the broadcast.
Graeme Hadley has been a big fan of Elliot Yeo for much of the season and, in the end, the possibilities for Elliot Yeo’s development were too tempting to ignore.
Elliot has a rare level of athleticism in terms of his lateral movement and agility. He has also displayed the capacity to be involved inside the play and yet emerge outside the same play by applying his lateral movement and core strength that allows him to find a gap or break tackles that might otherwise stick. While he is confident on both sides of his body, his finishing does need work in order to become a highly rated AFL player.
In our judgment there is plenty of upside associated with Elliot, who we feel can develop either as a wingman or flanker, and possibly as a very good midfielder who can manoeuvre his way through traffic. His body will need time to mature and Elliot’s development will be a real point of interest over the next few years. Interestingly, two other clubs congratulated Graeme on the selection of Elliot - this always provides a recruiter with some reassurance.
CLICK HERE to view Elliot Yeo's player profile
Pick No.47 - Patrick Wearden
In preparing for the Draft we had developed a list of 15 players who we felt suited our needs and would like fall between the Pick No.30-47 range.
By the time Pick No.47 came around, Patrick Wearden and a tall forward/pinch-hitting ruckman were our two highest rated options. We felt that Patrick had the height and versatility to fill a number of roles for us, including playing on the wing. Patrick had played most of his football this year on the wing with the Murray Bushrangers, and played three games with Collingwood’s VFL side as well. During the year, he was probably the best player in a trial game for the Victorian Country team, but having failed to follow that effort up the following week, ultimately missed selection.
In the lead-up to the Draft, we met Patrick for a third time and got a real appreciation of how challenging it was for him to combine school with the travel he had to do to play for the Bushrangers.
His pre-season involved one session per week with the Bushrangers, and in season he trained only twice a week with the Bushrangers squad, often getting home at 10.30-11pm at night. This information helped us appreciate that Patrick has had very little exposure to a program at anything like the intensity that many of his peers in the cities had experienced. It also provided some explanation as to why his season was a little up and down as the demands on his time, including working the family farm, were significant.
Thus, we believe he has tremendous scope for improvement and are very confident he will give his all towards becoming an AFL player.
As a player, Patrick is a good mark, can run well and demonstrated towards the end of this season that he is capable of coming off the wing and involving himself in heavy congestion, winning the ball and delivering it to a team-mate on the outside. His knack of keeping his hands clear when under pressure so that he can deliver a clean handball to a team-mate is also eye-catching.
When in traffic, he is also very agile and competitive. Patrick has a unique ball drop, but is generally an effective kick although no doubt the coaches will work on the way he positions his hand over the ball. At 191 cm and very lightly built, Patrick comes to the Club in a condition not unlike Patrick Karnezis. He can be expected to build his body up over the next year or two and when he does, it is hoped that we have a player who can win his own ball as well as play outside on the wing and flanks or even been rotated through a key forward position to change things up.
CLICK HERE to view Patrick Wearden's player profile
I trust this overview provides some insight into the thinking and process that goes on behind the Draft. While we were not able to meet all our needs, we feel that when the outcomes of the trade period and draft are combined, as illustrated below, we have significantly strengthened our list.
- Billy Longer
- Sam Docherty
- Jordan Lisle
- Elliot Yeo
- Dayne Zorko
- Patrick Wearden
- Mitch Golby
- Ben Hudson
Promoted to Rookie List
- Richard Newell
In the short term, Lisle, Hudson, Zorko and Golby should all push to claim a senior spot with three of those players being long-term propositions. In the longer term, our draftees will be nurtured by the coaches and will hopefully develop into strong contributors over a long period.
While only time can judge exactly how effective our efforts have been, I do hope that all Lions members and supporters can look forward with a real sense of optimism and hope for the future.
I would like to thank all of our recruiting team, led by Graeme Hadley and Stephen Conole who are our full-time recruiters. The efforts of our part-time State Managers and scouts is also critical to our success, so I would like to acknowledge Andrew Farrell, Mick Gallus, Rick Dowling (Vic), Collin Watts, Brett Wills, Terry Pass (WA), Malcom Ellis, Adrian O’Dea, Peter Fitzgerald and James Saywell (SA).
The team has watched well over 750 games of junior and State League football and written 1,667 individual player reports as a result of viewing these games. I am confident this work will deliver results for Brisbane Lions supporters.