2008 AFL pre-season draft preview

The final AFL drafts for 2008 take place on Tuesday week, with six picks up for grabs in the pre-season draft, and rookie numbers set to expand to as many as eight at some clubs with concessions given as part of the introduction of the Gold Coast team. Fantasy relevance may be limited for some clubs, with others hiding some gems you’ll need to know about.

Let’s deal first with the pre-season draft, where Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Essendon, Carlton, Brisbane and Richmond all have picks. The Power have made no secret of their intention to select prodigal son Josh Carr, while Carlton is locked in to ex-Demon Chris A. Johnson… assuming that the Bombers don’t snap him up first. Carr is on the downward slide of his career, of course, whereas Johnson is a much more interesting player for fantasy. After an injury-riddled season for Melbourne in which he nevertheless averaged 76 in Dream Team and 78 in Super Coach across his ten games, he would become a genuine option in the Xavier Ellis price range with somewhat similar upside. At Carlton he would be helped by the Blues’ high-possession game plan and lack of small defenders, while at Essendon he’d be helped by the fact that the Dons don’t currently have much of anything…

Brisbane has attracted a lot of media play for its interest in Nick Davis, though early training reports on fan boards don’t sound too encouraging, with delisted rookies Joel Tippett, Daniel Dzufer and Phil Smith fighting with Davis for that last senior contract. Tippett has been showing up on a lot of ruck benches in Fanplanner teams, so if he was upgraded to senior list status his price would be lifted and his fantasy popularity would no doubt plummet.

Richmond is an interesting one. Media talk has them linked with Kade Klemke, who was talked up pre-draft in top 30 phantom lists but failed to get a guernsey in the real thing. However, don’t be fooled. The Tigers SOP for their final list spot these days is to cart a cast of thousands along to their pre-season training, pit the kids against each other in the style of Lord of the Flies, and draft whoever wins. Last year this technique produced David Gourdis, who hardly tore up the comp. This year it could be anyone, from delisted rookies to Coburg hopefuls like 170cm midget freak Fortunato Caruso (a “Rodan type”, which instantly makes Tiger fans cry) to Gourdis himself. Power reject Adam Cockshell is the name most being thrown around on Tiger fan forums. Unless it’s Klemke, I can’t see a huge amount of fantasy relevance. Klemke could also qualify as a NSW scholarship player for Sydney if Richmond don’t pick him, which would take him out of the reckoning given the Swans’ historic reluctance to play first-year players.

As for Melbourne and Essendon, apart from the Dons possibly taking Johnson they have essentially given themselves two weeks to further trial (and research) kids who weren’t picked up in the national draft, so it could be anyone. The same goes for the 60 or so free slots in the rookie draft: most of the delisted rookies will probably be picked up again, as well as the hyped draft prospects who missed out like Klemke, Matt DeBoer, Adam Cockie, Steven Gaertner, Brad Mangan, Clancee Pearce, Tom Rockliff, Tom Allwright, Tom Hill and Jamie Sheahan. Then there will be a bunch of names no one has ever heard of. Given the expansion of rookie slots you’d expect a lot of warehousing of kids from the championships, so pretty much all of the noted names will get picked up… the problem for fantasy coaches is that you can probably forget about the vast majority of them for this year, as teams will want to hang onto them in preparation for the compromised drafts when the Gold Coast team takes over the process.

And then, there’s Ben Cousins. I’m afraid, my friends, that you’re going to have to take him out of your plan teams. There’s little to no hope that he’ll be picked up at this point. At least you’ll have confirmation on the 16th so you can finally give up on him, as the league seems to have done. Oh well, back to the drawing board!

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