While Richmond’s trade period might have been a cure for insomnia, the same couldn’t be said of Greater Western Sydney. The Giants had been involved in the landmark deal of the fortnight as Tom Boyd – the No.1 pick of the previous season – headed to the Western Bulldogs in a trade that sent Dogs skipper Ryan Griffen to Homebush. Fellow early draftees Kristian Jaksch, Jonathan O’Rourke also departed. The upshot was GWS were left with three picks inside the top seven of that November’s national draft.
Richmond, having kept their picks during the trade period snoozefest, also went into the draft reasonably well-stocked. The jewel in their crown was pick 12.
Remarkably for two clubs who are playing off for a grand final five years later, none of the six players they took between them in the first 24 picks of the 2014 draft remain at their respective first AFL homes.
The Tigers took skilful left-footer Corey Ellis with their first pick. Ellis teased across four years at Punt Road but was unable to cement a senior spot, and was traded cheaply to Gold Coast at the end of last season.
Yet again blessed with a prized draft hand, the Giants took Jarrod Pickett (pick 4), Caleb Marchbank (pick 6), Paul Ahern (pick 7), Pat McKenna (pick 23) and Jack Steele (pick 24). Amazingly all were gone from the club within two years, traded to Carlton, Carlton, North Melbourne, Melbourne and St Kilda respectively.
McKenna didn’t manage a senior game before being delisted by the Demons, while Pickett’s AFL days are also done. Having recovered from the knee setbacks that cruelled the early part of his career, Ahern has been something of a riddle at North. Marchbank has shown himself to be a very capable AFL defender but has struggled with injuries. Of the five, only the big-bodied Steele has put together a string of strong AFL seasons, all since joining the Saints.
This looks like a tale of woe for both 2019 grand finalists, but things get much better.
The Tigers also took Connor Menadue (pick 33) and Dan Butler (pick 67) later in that draft. Menadue has been a perennial fringe-dweller, while Butler has fallen out of favour after being an important member of the 2017 premiership side.
However Richmond found four diamonds in the rough in 2014. Incredibly their side on Saturday will feature three players taken in the rookie draft at the end of 2014: Jason Castagna, Jayden Short and Kane Lambert. Then there’s Ivan Soldo, the project player signed as a category B rookie in the middle of 2014, who enters the last Saturday in September as the Tigers’ form tap ruckman.
It was a hard slog, but ultimately there was gold waiting at the end of the Tigers’ 2014 off-season rainbow.
The Giants also managed to make their haul count, eventually. Deep in the 2014 draft they plucked academy tall Jeremy Finlayson. At the time he loomed as a footnote to the Giants’ top-10 spree. He took until mid-2017 to make his senior debut, playing just one game that year, before 14 appearances last year, predominantly in defence. There was talk this time last year that he could even be squeezed out of the club.
But fast forward 12 months and Finlayson has become the second prong in the Giants’ triple-headed tall forward monster, kicking 44 goals from 22 matches in 2019.
GWS have also managed to make their initial concessions last by repeatedly turning departing players into more picks, effectively bringing a never-ending feed of young talent into the club to replace departees.
So even out of the 2014 wipeout, the Giants managed to get something worthwhile. The future second-rounder they traded to the Saints for Steele was used on Brent Daniels, whose flashes have been instrumental in hauling GWS to their first grand final.
They used a series of crafty trades, including the departure of Cameron McCarthy to Fremantle, to slide up to pick two in 2016 despite having narrowly missed out on a grand final that year. The player they took with that selection, Tim Taranto, has starred in the midfield, helping to fill the gaps left over the years by Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel, just to name a couple.
Richmond’s three years of dominance have been built on the back of three very strong national drafts in the space of four years: 2006, 2007 and 2009. In Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards, Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance, Dustin Martin and David Astbury, the Tigers developed a core around which they could add important pieces. Canny selections such as Dylan Grimes and Bachar Houli, both taken in the pre-season draft, are the type of moves that elevate a list from good to great. Oh, and getting Tom Lynch as a free agent hasn’t hurt either.
Featuring discards such as Matt de Boer and Sam Reid, the Giants’ 22 on Saturday is arguably more of a hodge-podge collection than that of Richmond. Still, while plenty of their early picks didn’t last, and neither Jonathon Patton nor Stephen Coniglio – picks one and two in 2011 – will play, the Giants still nailed enough early selections (Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield, Nick Haynes, Toby Greene, Taranto) to build a strong nucleus around under-age concession player Jeremy Cameron.
They have also made hay from their contentious academy zones, with Jacob Hopper, Harrison Himmelberg, Zac Williams, Finlayson and Harry Perryman all big ticks.
Richmond list build
Jack Riewoldt (pick 13)
Shane Edwards (pick 26)
Trent Cotchin (pick 2)
Alex Rance (pick 18)
Dustin Martin (pick 3)
David Astbury (pick 35)
Dylan Grimes (pick 2, pre-season draft)
Bachar Houli (pick 3, pre-season draft)
Brandon Ellis (pick 15)
Nick Vlastuin (pick 9)
Kamdyn McIntosh (pick 31)
Connor Menadue (pick 33)
Dan Butler (pick 67)
Jayden Short (pick 11, rookie draft)
Jason Castagna (pick 29, rookie draft)
Kane Lambert (pick 46, rookie draft)
Ivan Soldo (Category B rookie)
Daniel Rioli (pick 15)
Jacob Townsend (traded from Greater Western Sydney)
Oleg Markov (pick 50)
Nathan Broad (pick 67)
Callum Moore (pick 12, rookie draft)
Mabior Chol (pick 30, rookie draft)
Josh Caddy (traded from Geelong)
Dion Prestia (traded from Gold Coast)
Toby Nankervis (traded from Sydney)
Shai Bolton (pick 29)
Jack Graham (pick 53)
Ryan Garthwaite (pick 72)
Jack Higgins (pick 17)
Callum Coleman-Jones (pick 20)
Noah Balta (pick 25)
Patrick Naish (pick 34)
Ben Miller (pick 63)
Liam Baker (pick 18, rookie draft)
Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (Category B rookie)
Tom Lynch (free agency)
Riley Collier-Dawkins (pick 20)
Jack Ross (pick 43)
Fraser Turner (pick 58)
Luke English (pick 62)
Jake Aarts (pick 16, rookie draft)
Maverick Weller (supplemental selection period)
Sydney Stack (supplemental selection period)
Marlion Pickett (pick 13, mid-season draft)
GWS list build
Jeremy Cameron (underage expansion concession)
Callan Ward (expansion signing rules)
Adam Kennedy (expansion concessions)
Jonathon Patton (pick 1)
Stephen Coniglio (pick 2)
Matt Buntine (pick 5)
Nick Haynes (pick 7)
Adam Tomlinson (pick 9)
Toby Greene (pick 11)
Lachie Whitfield (pick 1)
Aidan Corr (pick 14)
Zac Williams (pick 54, rookie draft)
Heath Shaw (trade from Collingwood)
Josh Kelly (pick 2)
Jeremy Finlayson (pick 85)
Dawson Simpson (free agency)
Jacob Hopper (pick 7)
Harry Himmelberg (pick 16)
Matthew Flynn (pick 41)
Sam Reid (pick 8, rookie draft)
Daniel Lloyd (pick 25, rookie draft)
Brett Deledio (trade)
Tim Taranto (pick 2)
Harry Perryman (pick 14)
Isaac Cumming (pick 20)
Matt de Boer (pick 58)
Zach Sproule (category B rookie)
Jake Stein (category B rookie)
Lachlan Keeffe (delisted free agent)
Aiden Bonar (pick 11)
Brent Daniels (pick 27)
Sam Taylor (pick 28)
Zac Langdon (pick 56)
Nick Shipley (pick 64)
Dylan Buckley (pick 17, rookie draft)
Jack Buckley (category B rookie)
Jye Caldwell (pick 11)
Jackson Hateley (pick 14)
Xavier O’Halloran (pick 22)
Ian Hill (pick 24)
Kieren Briggs (pick 34)
Connor Idun (pick 61)
Tom Sheridan (delisted free agent)
Callum Brown (category B rookie)
Shane Mumford (supplemental selection period)
Daniel is an Age sports reporter