Story & photos Eve Jeffery
Kevin Sheedy looked fit to burst as he stood side-stage holding a Greater Western Sydney Giants guernsey for the number-one pick at last night’s AFL Draft on the Gold Coast. Sheedy morphed from excited to pleased as Punch AND Judy as the name of the player was announced, and his face split from ear to ear as he mounted the stage to shake the hand of the luckiest man in Australia today.
The AFL season builds to a feverish climax and with the finals series you are pretty sure two or three weeks out who is going to be there. The Brownlow is another AFL biggy and everyone has their favourite runner in that race, but even at the event, as the votes are being counted, you get a clue who will walk away with the medal. But there is something different about the draft. Even amongst all the speculation, it is not until that name is announced on the night that the annual wonder-kid honours are given. Well not exactly, but sort of. Everyone really has a fair idea who’s who in the zoo.
The truly joyous aspect of the event is that these are not tried-and-true football veterans plying their trade. These lads are as fresh and as raw as they come and you can see it in their faces. The epitome of promise, an unearthing, and these young men are what the game is all about.
The fate of 107 young men was decided last night in seven rounds of the draft. This year there was a lot of ringside gossip and to some, if not most, it was no surprise when Lachie Whitfield stood next to Sheeds and smiled for the cameras. Whitfield is as proven as you can be and not be in the league. Lachie, as a junior, was a star midfielder from the Dandenong Stingrays, and the Giants’ pick of the crop today has engraved his name in AFL history as the 2012 top-ranked player.
The top ten was made up of the cream of the junior ranks and the boys sat nervously with loved ones at two handfuls of tables at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. They might have had a fairly good idea of where they were going but the nervousness came from sitting amongst the lights and hoopla of an AFL show and being the star attraction on the night.
As the draft got rolling, the top three picks went to the Giants with draft two, Jonathon O’Rouke, and three, Lachlan Plowmen, both coming from the Calder Cannons. Number four was a grinning Jimmy Toumpas, who will start his senior days with Melbourne, and picks five and six, Jake Stringer and Jackson Macrae, will both head to the Western Bulldogs. Port Adelaide chose Oliver Wines as number seven and Same [Sam ?] Mayes will head north to the Brisbane Lions at number eight. The Tigers had draft number nine – Nick Vlastuin will be learning the Richmond song next year, and rounding out the top ten was the first father-son entry for 2012, Joe Daniher. Joe has known for quite a few weeks where he stood in the draft as the son of Bombers Anthony Daniher, who played 118 games for the team from 1987 to 94.
I think Whitfield spoke for all the boys when he said, ‘This is very humbling’. They were humbled. And awed. And excited and nervous and about 15 other emotions. It can be easy to be jaded about the process, but let the lads have their moment. Witnessing their reaction to the birth of senior careers and the sudden splash of the spotlight was a joy to watch. Now we wait and see if the promise is fulfilled.