By Grant Hitzman
As the 2013 AFL National Draft approaches, all of the 18 AFL clubs will be doing their research to make sure they have the best talent at their club. Both Queensland clubs will be fairly active in the top end of the draft, but as history shows, it’s sometimes those players in the second and third rounds who can have the biggest impact on their clubs.
Both the Lions and SUNS have picked up a couple of stunners in the draft, here’s who we think are their top five.
1. Simon Black – Pick #31 1997 National Draft
Black has no doubt been the greatest steal in the Brisbane Lions’ draft history. After standing out at draft camp, the talented midfielder somehow slipped to the second round and the Lions pounced.
It was a selection that is still paying dividends now, with Black joining the club as an assistant coach after retiring as one of the game’s greats.
The only player to have won a premiership, played 300 games, won a Norm Smith and been an All-Australian, Black is an almost certain Hall of Famer and renowned as one of the most professional players off the field as well.
2. Jonathan Brown – Pick #30 1999 National Draft
The Lions co-captain, Brown, was the first father-son selection to head to the Lions, along with Shane Morrison, in the 1999 draft.
Fortuitously, Brown was drafted before the eligibility included a 100-game minimum, when his father had played 51 for Fitzroy.
Brown flourished at Brisbane, winning his first premiership in 2001as a teenager, before adding another two flags in his first four years of senior football.
The 30-year old claimed the Coleman Medal in 2007 and captained Victoria in the 2008 Hall of Fame game.
Brown also booted home a career high 85-goals in 2009, leading the Lions to their first finals appearance since 2004
After 245-games and a club record 573 goals, Brown will go down as a great of the competition and one of Brisbane’s finest draft choices.
3. Luke Power – Pick #5 1997 National Draft
Oakleigh Chargers product, Luke Power, was one of the Lions’ highest draft picks in history, but also one of their most underrated in a stellar period for the club.
In 14 seasons in Brisbane, Power put together a sensational 282-game career for the Lions, in which he was an integral part of Brisbane’s trio of premierships in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
The small midfielder was highly skilful, able to contribute in forward 50 as well, kicking 226 goals for the club. Power achieved All-Australian selection in 2004, after a stellar season in which he averaged 22 disposals.
While he departed for the GWS Giants in 2012, Power’s contribution to the Lions could never be overemphasised.
4. Tom Rockliff – Pick #5 2009 Pre-season Draft
Young midfielder, Tom Rockliff, could yet shape up to be one of the Lions’ greatest draft bargains.
Overlooked by all AFL clubs despite a solid 2008 TAC Cup season, due to question marks over his athleticism, leaving him to wait until the pre-season draft.
Brisbane, however, identified the Benalla junior as a creative and smart forward with untapped potential, and they have proceeded to develop him into a vice-captain of the club.
Rockliff made an immediate impact at AFL level, finishing third in the 2010 Rising Star Award.
In just his third year at the club, Rockliff became the youngest Lions player in history to be crowned Club Champion, winning the 2011 Merrett-Murray Medal ahead of Simon Black and Jack Redden at just 21 years of age.
2013 saw Rockliff edge towards elite status. After starting the year with more of a role in the forward line, a full-time switch to the midfield saw him averaging 27.3 disposals a game and racking up 30+ touches on nine occasions.
He capped off the year in style by finishing equal 6th in the Brownlow Medal count, polling 21 votes.
5. Joel Patfull – Pick #56 2005 National Draft
After entrenching himself as one of the Lions’ most consistent players, it’s hard to believe that Joel Patfull only ended up in Brisbane after Port Adelaide discarded him.
The South Australian failed to crack the big time with the Power, and spent a season with Norwood in the SANFL before the Lions selected him in the 2005 National Draft.
Patfull has made every moment count in his second chance with Brisbane, amounting 161games to date and winning back-to-back Merrett-Murray Medal’s in 2012 and 2013 ahead of fierce competition from Jack Redden, Tom Rockliff, Simon Black and Pearce Hanley.
Patfull has been a general in defence for Brisbane in the last two seasons, and is beginning to gather league-wide recognition for his vast improvement and achievements.
Honourable mentions: Jack Redden (#25 National Draft), Jed Adcock (#33 National Draft), Martin Pike (#33 National Draft), Daniel Merrett (#30 National Draft) and Daniel Rich (#7 National Draft)
1. Jaeger O’Meara –Pick #1 2011 Mini Draft
When the Gold Coast traded its fourth pick in the 2011 draft, for the first crack at the nation’s best 17 year-old, it seemed like a major gamble.
But Jaeger O’Maera, this year’s NAB AFL Rising Star, was well worth the risk, already a key player for the SUNS.
After playing with Gold Coast’s NEAFL team in 2012, O’Meara debuted in the opening round of the 2013 AFL season against St Kilda. O’Meara became the first teenager since Chris Judd in 2003 to play every game and average over 18 disposals a game.
His 23-disposal, eight tackle and three goal game against Collingwood in round 17 had AFL Hall of Fame members, Robert Walls and Tim Watson touting the teenager as a future all-time great.
O’Meara finished off his first season in the AFL by claiming the 2013 NAB Rising Star Award in convincing fashion. O’Meara won 44 of a possible 45 first-choice votes, defeating Crows rookie, Brad Crouch, by a comfortable 13 votes.
2. Dion Prestia – Pick #9 2010 National Draft
Dion Prestia could well be the subject of a number of sliding doors propositions by Essendon fans in years to come.
The Bombers overlooked the ‘human meatball’ in the 2010 National Draft, due to concerns over whether he could make the step to the AFL, leaving him to fall to the SUNS at #9, their fifth selection in the 2010 draft.
Prestia has certainly had no problems adapting to the big leagues, amassing four 30+ disposal games this season , including a mammoth 42 touch effort against Adelaide in round 14.
Prestia collected runner-up honours in the 2013 Gold Coast SUNS Club Champion race and was named in the inaugural 22 under22 side.
3. Harley Bennell – Pick #2 2010 National Draft
Touted as one of the best run and carry players in the country, with electric speed and exceptional vision, Gold Coast jumped at the opportunity to draft Bennell in 2010.
After struggling with homesickness in 2011, by 2012, Bennell had adjusted to his surroundings in an impressive season that drew the attention of countless onlookers. Bennell played all 22 games and averaged 24 disposals in 2012, finishing second in the Club Champion Award behind Gary Ablett.
Bennell backed up his sensational 2012 year by averaging 23 disposals in 2013 and receiving seven Brownlow votes. That he is only 20 means Prestia’s upside could be massive.
4. Aaron Hall – Pick #7 2012 Pre-season Draft
Not considered to be a Draft prospect in 2011, Hall caught the attention of numerous AFL recruiting scouts in the final game of the year while playing for Hobart against Lauderdale. He was overlooked in the 2011 National Draft, but spent considerable time with the SUNS on the training track.
After a slow start to his AFL career, Hall’s strong 2013 pre-season led to major on-field improvement, leading to the Tasmanian featuring in all of the Sun’s matches.
Hall booted 24 goals in 2013, including five against Hawthorn in round nine. He kicked the second most goals for the SUNS in 2013 and kicked at least one goal in 15 games, displaying his consistency.
5.David Swallow – Pick #1 2010 National Draft
David Swallow was one of the most highly-touted youngsters to be drafted to the Gold Coast SUNS, as the no. 1 selection in 2010.
Younger brother of Kangaroos captain, Andrew Swallow, David had high expectations placed on him, earmarked early on as a certain top pick.
Swallow came to the club ready for AFL, playing 21 of 22 games in his first season, and becoming a key member of the SUNS midfield, under captain Gary Ablett.
A knee injury curtailed his second year in footy, but Swallow was back to his consistent best in 2013, with 18 games as part of a developing SUNS midfield brigade.
Honourable mentions: Sam Day (#3 National Draft), Thomas Lynch (#11 National Draft)
The NAB National AFL Draft is on this Thursday at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.