Despite varied public opinion, Queensland has been beacon of talent when it comes to the AFL Draft and over the past 19 years, plenty have come through the talent pathway to go on and forge hall of fame calibre careers at the top level.
Perhaps most notably, Nick Riewoldt, the first overall pick in the 2000 AFL Draft, David Hale a three-time premiership player having been taken with pick 6 in the 2001 super draft and Dayne Beams, who has emerged as one of the modern game’s bets midfielders, have all hailed from the Sunshine State.
All of those names though, were taken inside the draft’s first round and the timeless adage suggests there is plenty of value to be found later in the piece.
So, as we count down to the 2019 NAB AFL Draft which takes place this week, AFL Queensland takes a look at the top 20 best draft bargains this side of Y2K.
Stay tuned across the week as we find out the number of bargain in the century!
CATCH UP ON THE COUNT DOWN SO FAR RIGHT HERE!
5. DANIEL MERRETT – Pick 30 2002 National Draft
Merrett made his way to Brisbane with the 30th pick in the 2002 draft having been touted as one of the state’s most talented teenagers while coming through the Southport ranks. Despite having been drafted in 2002, Sauce was forced to wait until Round 2, 2005 to make his debut for the Lions in a two-point Grand Final rematch loss to Port Adelaide. Throughout his career, Merrett was deployed as both a key forward and key defender but it was in the defensive 50 where he truly made his mark. A renowned spoiler of the ball, Merrett’s physical playing style held him in good stead over his 200-game career. He moved back inside 50 later in his career and even booted a seven-goal haul in Round 8 against the GIANTS. Merrett retired at the end of the 2016 season.
4. SAM GILBERT – Pick 33 2005 National Draft
Perhaps the best modern Queensland footballer to ply his trade for an interstate club, Sam Gilbert was a genuine team player and damaging user of the ball throughout his 206-game career with St Kilda. He made his way to the Saints after impressing for both Coolangatta Tweed and Southport on the Gold Coast and was aptly picked up with pick 33 in the 2005 draft. While tall enough to play as a key defender, Gilbert’s agility, speed and tackling prowess allowed him to play further up the ground. He was a mainstay in the St Kilda line-up during their formidable run under Ross Lyon at the turn of the decade and was a critical cog that played in three Grand Finals from 2009 to 2010. He retired following the 2018 season.
3. ROBERT COPELAND – Pick 66 2000 Rookie Draft (Queensland Zone)
Including the national, preseason and rookie drafts, there were 155 players selected ahead of Robert Copeland in 2000, who fell to pick 66 in the rookie draft as a Queensland zone selection. Copeland was the third last player selected in 2000 yet it would be he who would leave an incredible impression at Brisbane and in Queensland football. He broke into the Lions’ line-up in his rookie season where he played 17 games and won a premiership. He would play 17 games again in his sophomore year but miss out on his second flag before returning to Brisbane’s line-up in 2003 to win a second premiership with the Lions. Copeland was a good, honest defender during his run with the Lions before being delisted at the end of 2008 after 143 games for the club.
2. DAYNE ZORKO – 2007 Queensland Zone Selection
It’s common knowledge now, but Dayne Zorko’s path to the AFL, despite his obvious talents, almost never came to fruition. He was overlooked in four consecutive drafts before being picked up by the Lions as part of the concessions afforded to the fledgling Gold Coast SUNS. While he was out of the AFL system, Zorko won three straight best and fairest awards with QAFL side Broadbeach. He made his debut in Round 7 of the 2012 season and would go on to be on of the Lions’ most revered players of this century. Since his debut season, Zorko has been the epitome of consistent, playing over 20 games in every season since where he has developed from a wily small forward into one of the most offensively damaging midfielders in the competition. As well as being Brisbane’s current captain, Zorko earned All Australian honours in 2017 and won four consecutive best and fairest awards with Brisbane from 2015 to 2018.
1. JARROD HARBROW – Pick 27 2007 Rookie Draft
While Dayne Zorko may well be able to stake his own claim to the number one spot on this list – and we don’t necessarily disagree there – Harbrow’s pure longevity across two clubs and volume of influence sees him get the nod here. While Zorko may have the accolades, Harbrow is far more tenured and his influence now at the Gold Coast SUNS cannot be understated. The Cairns-born Harbrow was overlooked in both the 2006 national draft but was picked up by the Western Bulldogs with pick 27 in the 2007 rookie draft. After commencing his career developing in the VFL, Harbrow was quickly named for a debut game in Round 4 of the 2007 season and quickly became a regular for the Dogs. A speedy defender that could both lock down an opponent but then rebound with detrimental effect, Harbrow was quickly recognised as a key for the Western Bulldogs and averaged 17.5 games in his four years at Whitten Oval. He joined Gold Coast as a prelisted player and since that point has been invaluable both on and off of the field for the SUNS. In 2018, he became the first SUNS’ player to reach the 150 game milestone with the club and will lay his 250th AFL game later in 2019.