We want the young blood: AFL debuts by round

AFL teams have been increasingly ready to give draftees their first game in Round 1 in recent years.

Kangaroos Training Session

In compiling the round 1 team projection posts, I find that I’m being fairly conservative in predicting players to get their first senior game in the first round of the home & away season. In my last post on the subject, I had seven kids pulling on a senior jumper for the first time: Chris Yarran, Mitch Robinson, Simon Hogan, Daniel Rich, Jack Ziebell, Stephen Hill and Jarrad Grant.

When you look back at the recent history of when AFL-listed players have been given their first game, however, in the last two years the average number of debuts in round 1 has jumped to 13. Here’s the 2008 and 2007 lists of debuts by round.

2008 AFL season debuts by round
Round 1: 13 – Craig Bird, Nathan J. Brown, Jake Edwards, Jarryn Geary, David Mackay, Cale Morton, Cyril Rioli, Paul Stewart, Cameron Stokes, Scott D. Thompson, Kurt Tippett, Trent West, Isack Weetra
Round 2: 7 – Brad Ebert, Lachie Henderson, Chris Masten, Chris Mayne, Rhys Palmer, Darren Pfeiffer, Harry Taylor
Round 3: 4 – John Anthony, Matthew Kreuzer, Scott Selwood, Austin Wonaeamirri
Round 4: 3 – Tayte Pears, Ben Ross, Matthew Spangher
Round 5: 3 – Clayton Hinkley, Jarrhan Jacky, Nick Smith
Round 6: 5 – Steven Browne, Shane Mumford, James Polkinghorne, Sharrod Wellingham, Jesse White
Round 7: 6 – Jarrod Atkinson, Darcy Daniher, David Ellard, David Myers, James Sellar, Josh Smith
Round 8: 4 – Trent Cotchin, Ryan Davis, Alan Obst, Shane Valenti
Round 9: 4 – Tim Houlihan, Josh P. Kennedy, Jarryd Morton, Beau Wilkes
Round 10: 2 – Dennis Armfield, Gavin Urquhart
Round 11: 3 – Tom Bellchambers, James Hawksley, Callan Ward
Round 12: 2 – Andy Otten, Brent Renouf
Round 13: 4 – Jarryd Allen, Tom Collier, Robert Eddy, Ben McEvoy
Round 14: 2 – Josh Head, Stefan Martin
Round 15: 1 – Todd Goldstein
Round 16: 2 – Bradd Dalziell, Matthew O’Dwyer
Round 17: 1 – Addam Maric
Round 18: 5 – Ryan Brabazon, Scott Clouston, Mitch Farmer, Nick Salter, Patrick Veszpremi
Round 19: 4 – Chris Dawes, Rhys Magin, John McCarthy, Ryan Williams
Round 20: 3 – Patrick Dangerfield, Tony Notte, Matthew Westhoff
Round 21: 3 – Pearce Hanley, Cale Hooker, Marlon Motlop
Round 22: 3 – Jack Grimes, Sam Reid, John Williams

2007 AFL season debuts by round
Round 1: 13 – Mitchell Brown, Matt Campbell, Adam Cockshell, Alwyn Davey, Xavier Ellis, Bryce Gibbs, Jonathon Griffin, Lachie Hansen, Leroy Jetta, Nathan Krakouer, Matt Riggio, Joel Selwood, Lindsay Thomas
Round 2: 3 – Tom Hawkins, Travis Varcoe, Daniel Nicholls
Round 3: 4 – Shannon Cox, Brad Dick, Clinton Jones, Alan Toovey
Round 4: 5 – Joe Anderson, Shane Edwards, Jarrod Harbrow, Jake King, Tom Williams
Round 5: 3 – Leigh Adams, Colin Garland, Ricky Petterd
Round 6: 4 – Kieren Jack, Robert Warnock, John Hinge, Ross Young
Round 7: 2 – Bachar Houli, Garry Moss
Round 8: 5 – David Armitage, Tyson Goldsack, Brad Howard, Scott McMahon, Justin Sweeney
Round 9: 4 – James Frawley, Adam Hartlett, Jack Riewoldt, Clayton Collard
Round 10: 3 – Robbie Gray, Chris Schmidt, Justin Westhoff
Round 11: 2 – Garrick Ibbotson, Danny Stanley
Round 12: 4 – Travis Boak, Marty Clarke, Malcolm Lynch, Albert Proud
Round 13: 4 – Matthew Laidlaw, Michael Newton, Ben Reid, Daniel Dzufer
Round 14: 6 – Simon Buckley, Andrejs Everitt, Shaun Grigg, Tom Hislop, Matthew Leuenberger, Will Hamill
Round 15: 3 – Eric MacKenzie, Ben McKinley, Mitch Thorp
Round 16: 2 – Matt Little, Djaran Whyman
Round 17: 8 – Bryce Campbell, Daniel Connors, Nick Gill, Scott Gumbleton, Josh Hill, Will Schofield, Stephen Tiller, Travis Tuck
Round 18: 3 – Ryan Cook, Angus Graham, Michael Jamison
Round 19: 3 – Andrew Foster, Kyle Reimers, Jace Bode
Round 20: 3 – Ed Barlow, Heath Hocking, John Meesen
Round 21: 2 – Shaun Hampson, Jamie McNamara
Round 22: 3 – Mark Austin, Jay Neagle, Brock O’Brien

Prior to that – I won’t list them all because this post could get rather boring rather quickly – here are the first five round of debuts.

2006: 9,1,2,0,6
2005: 9,2,6,4,3
2004: 10,2,5,3,4
2003: 9,1,1,3,2
2002: 10,3,2,1,3

The major change to which I can attribute this change in the last two years is that clubs were made aware of the compromised drafts from 2009 onwards due to the introduction of the Gold Coast GC17 side, and have concentrated on developing their youth earlier and earlier to ensure they won’t be left with a depleted list in the next few years. That dynamic will only accelerate this year with the rookie concessions, especially after round 10.

It is interesting to drill down into the round 1 debuts to get an idea of the distribution from each tier of the previous drafts. In 2008, only two of the first-round picks from the 2007 draft got a game in the opening round, with a further five of them waiting until round two. In 2007 the corresponding figures were four in round 1 (plus the priority pick Jetta at the end of the first round of draft picks) and none in the second round. Seven of the 13 debuts in round 1 of 2008 were by players picked in previous drafts, while in 2007 that number was three. In each year there was one rookie draftee – Stokes and Campbell – while Cockshell bobbed up from the preseason draft in 2007.

So if we are on track for another 13 debuts in round 1 this year, which is not unreasonable to assume, who will be the half dozen others in addition to the seven I’ve already nominated? I’ve already named four first-rounders from the 2008 draft so based on historical records I probably should look outside there. Favourites in my mind would be: Dan McKenna, Dayne Beams, Jason Davenport, Taylor Walker, Jared Petrenko, Nick Suban, Greg Broughton and Wade Thompson. Michael Hurley would increase the first-rounder average, but he comes into calculation as well.

There’s no guarantees on how many there will be, of course, and all those round 2 debuts last year are a bit of a worry for fantasy coaches who don’t want to miss out on this year’s Palmer or Taylor. Give us your predictions on the number of debuts and who they will be in the comments.

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