AFL 2 years ago

Western Bulldogs' Greatest Draft Misses

  • Western Bulldogs' Greatest Draft Misses

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 02: Jarrad Grant of the Bulldogs flies for a amrk over the top of Martin Gleeson of the Bombers during the round 18 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on August 2, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Last year I wrote about some of the Western Bulldogs greatest draft hits over the years.

But with this year's AFL draft drawing near – less than a week to be precise – I'll look to the other side this year and write about the biggest draft busts in the history of the Western Bulldogs.

To me, it's always important to nail the first draft selection with quality talent, but over these past 20-25 years, the Dogs, like many other clubs, have missed the mark. I've identified 10 first-round selections since 2000 that I believe were massive busts, and have put in a 'what could've been' scenario for each player. 

Allen Jakovich – Pick 9, 1995 AFL Draft

It may not have seemed like a bust at the time. Jakovich in only a short-time at Melbourne, proved to be a big-time goal-kicker, snagging himself over 200 goals in not even 50 games of footy. He kicked 71 goals in his debut season, before injuries began to take a toll. He was let go by the Demons at the end of the 1994 season and took a year out of the game before being picked up by Footscray with their first-round pick in the 1995 draft. 

Given his injuries, selecting him at pick nine was a huge risk, but given what he was capable of, the Dogs were willing to take it. Unfortunately, Jakovich could never re-live his glory days, only playing seven games for seven goals in 1996 before eventually calling it quits.

What Could've Been

Barry Hall ended his career at the Western Bulldogs, but could've easily had began his career at the Kennel. He was taken by St. Kilda with the 19th overall pick and whilst controversial at times, has enjoyed a stellar career, playing 289 games and kicking 747 goals for St. Kilda, Sydney and the Bulldogs to go along with a premiership medal with the Swans.

Luke Penny – Pick 14, 1998 AFL Draft

Penny was the Bulldogs' first-round selection in the 1998 draft and was seen as a tall defender, standing in at 193cm. Initially seen as a project player, Penny struggled for game-time in his short-stay at the Bulldogs, playing only 35 games and was traded away to St. Kilda at the end of the 2002 season for an early second-round selection. It didn't get much better for Penny, as knee injuries in 2004 and 2005 forced him into an early retirement.

What Could've Been

Midfielder Brady Rawlings (245 games at North Melbourne) and high-flying forward Brett Burton (177 games at Adelaide) were the next two selections following the Bulldogs draft selection and either men would've been very handy contributors to this team. Another controversial, but star forward in Brendan Fevola was also available and didn't go until the 38th pick. Imagine having a duo of Hall and Fevola inside your attacking 50 on a weekly basis.

Sam Power – Pick 10, 2001 AFL Draft

Draft experts dubbed the 2001 draft as the 'Super-Draft' with names like Judd, Ball, Hodge, Ablett and many other superstar names drafted this year,

Oakleigh Chargers' prospect Sam Power was not one of them. A top-10 selection, Power played 84 games in six seasons, predominantly as a midfielder. At times Power struggled to adapt, and by the end of 2007, the Bulldogs were fed up with him and shipped him away to North Melbourne, where he only managed a further 39 games before he was delisted in 2009.

What Could've Been

So many options. Nick Dal Santo (Pick 13) or James Kelly (Pick 17) would've been very good acquisitions to this team. There was also goal-sneak Steve Johnson (Pick 24), star midfielder Sam Mitchell (Pick 36), another midfield ace in Leigh Montagna (Pick 37) and Brownlow medallist Dane Swan (Pick 58) to choose from.

Tim Walsh – Pick 4, 2002 AFL Draft

When I think of Tim Walsh, I think of Greg Oden in the NBA. Both men were selected so highly in their respective drafts because of their potential. Oden was a number one pick that broke down because of so many injuries. Walsh was the fourth pick in the 2002 draft, but he endured the same fate. He was a good prospect, but numerous injuries which forced the Dogs to delist him after the 2007 season. He only managed one game throughout his time at the Whitten Oval.

What Could've Been

You could've picked anyone else from the first-round and they would've made a better impact. Jarrad McVeigh was taken straight after Walsh at pick five and has enjoyed a fine career at Sydney. Premiership Cats Andrew Mackie (Pick seven) and Tom Lonergan (Pick 23) were also available as well as Carlton defender Kade Simpson (Pick 45).

Farren Ray – Pick 4, 2003 AFL Draft

Ray was recruited as a midfielder with good pace and skills. He played 75 games in five seasons at the Dogs before requesting a trade to St. Kilda at the end of the 2008 season. His questionable decision-making and inability to contest for the ball were big talking points throughout his time at the Bulldogs, but went on to play in three Grand Finals for the Saints and was a solid contributor in their midfield during their finals runs.

What Could've Been

2003 wasn't exactly a star-studded draft. Brent Stanton (Pick 13) and David Mundy (Pick 19) arguably are the better selections in this draft, whilst Michael Rischitelli (Pick 61) would've also have been a much better option in comparison to Ray.

Tom Williams – Pick 6, 2004 AFL Draft

Another player that was dogged by injuries, Williams was the Bulldogs' second pick in the 2004 AFL Draft, after the Dogs selected Ryan Griffen with the third overall pick. Drafted as a key defender, injuries meant Williams wasn't able to debut until 2007, Williams showed promise in what was his first season, but unfortunately, a spate of injuries meant Williams wasn't able to show any consistency. He went on to play 85 games in eight seasons and eventually retired at the end of 2014.

What Could've Been

Midfielder Jordan Lewis was the next selection at pick seven, and turned out to be a four-time premiership player at Hawthorn. Mark LeCras (Pick 37) would've also been a really good option as he's been a fantastic small forward over the years.

Andrejs Everitt – Pick 11, 2006 AFL Draft

Everitt was the Bulldogs first-round selection in the 2006. Standing at 194 centimetres, he was seen as a guy who could play various roles around the ground. At the end of the 2007 season, he inherited Chris Grant's number three guernsey, but it did nothing to help his consistency issues, playing only 36 games in four seasons at the club before being moved to Sydney at the end of 2010. 

There he remained a fringe player for three seasons before moving again to Carlton, where he took out the club's leading goal-kicker award in 2015, before finding himself on the outer yet again. Delisted by the Blues this year, Everitt went on to announce his retirement, having only played 131 career games.

What Could've Been

James Frawley (Pick 12) and Jack Riewoldt (Pick 13) were the next selections and with both being named All-Australian at one time or another would've been handy pick-ups. Robbie Gray (Pick 55) was the steal of the 2006 draft after proving to be one of the game's more elite goal-kicking midfielders.

Jarrad Grant – Pick 5, 2007 AFL Draft

This was a selection that bugged me. With a top-five selection in the 2007 draft, the Dogs had to nail this pick, but failed big-time, selecting the thinly-built Jarrad Grant, with the Dogs hoping he could add something down forward. Unfortunately, the Dogs got little in return in the 81 games Grant played for the Dogs. He kicked six goals in a game in 2010, but that was about it. He was delisted by the Dogs at the end of the 2015 season, only to be picked up by Gold Coast for the 2016 season.

What Could've Been

The obvious ones here are Patrick Dangerfield (Pick 10) and Cyril Rioli (Pick 12). Dangerfield is arguably one of the best midfielders going around at the moment and is the current Brownlow medallist, whilst Rioli's forward pressure and ability to kick goals goes unrecognised a fair bit. All-Australian defender Alex Rance (Pick 18) proved to be one of the bargains of the draft today and Jack Steven (Pick 42) would've also been a great pickup.

Ayce Cordy – Pick 14, 2008 AFL Draft

Cordy was picked up by the Dogs via Father/Son selection, with the Dogs being forced to match St. Kilda's bid with their first-round pick. Father of Brian Cordy, who played 124 games for the Dogs back in the 80s, I kind of wished they hadn't matched that bid. Cordy debuted in 2011, but struggled for any consistency and was delisted in 2015 after having only played 27 games in five active years. To make things worse for Ayce, his little brother Zaine is now a premiership player at the Dogs.

What Could've Been

Had the Dogs not elected to match St. Kilda's bid, their was still some quality talent on offer. Talented midfielders Luke Shuey (Pick 18), Dayne Beams (Pick 29), Dan Hannebery (Pick 30), Liam Shiels (Pick 34) and Rory Sloane (Pick 44) were all still available. A much better big man in Jackson Trengove (Pick 22), as well as goal-sneaks Steven Motlop (Pick 39) and Hayden Ballantyne (Pick 21) were also available.

Christian Howard – Pick 15, 2009 AFL Draft

The Bulldogs' decision to draft half-back flanker Christian Howard with the 15th overall pick surprised many on draft night, given that many predicted that he would go in the third or fourth round, but it came as no surprise to anyone that he turned out to be a massive bust. Injuries held Howard back in his first season, and would not debut until the midway point of the 2011 season. Unfortunately, he would only play 19 more games for the Bulldogs from 2011 until 2014, where he was ultimately delisted from the club.

What Could've Been

The one that bothers me the most here is the fact that the Dogs could've snared future Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe (Pick 20), we can only ponder this. Midfielder Mitch Duncan (Pick 28) and forward Jack Gunston (Pick 29) were also still available and would have been very handy pick-ups for the Dogs, and they also missed out on All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn (Pick 34).

Pictures Courtesy of Getty Images

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