AFTER a trade period that saw Essendon largely retain most of its list despite the likes of Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia linked to other clubs, the Bombers headed into the draft to just fill some holes and improve their mid-table finish to a top four hopeful. Fans were keen to see at least one tall taken, as well as a potential goalkicking forward, but most importantly a big-bodied inside midfielder. Whilst the Bombers managed to achieve the first two aims, in the National AFL Draft, fans were concerned that they had not picked up the third. Then a day later, a mature-ager in Mitch Hibberd was selected to provide immediate support in the area.
30. Harrison Jones (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro) | 196cm | 78kg | Key Position Utility
38. Nick Bryan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro) | 202cm | 87kg | Ruck
56. Ned Cahill (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country) 179cm | 78kg | Small Forward
63. Lachlan Johnson (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro) 176cm | 74kg | Small Utility
10. Mitchell Hibberd (Williamstown) | 191cm | 90kg | Inside Midfielder
It was rumoured from the outset that the Bombers were keen on Harrison Jones, a key position utility with high upside, and, conveniently a Bombers supporter. The 196cm tall has played back, forward and even in the ruck, with a sub-three second 20m sprint and an elite endurance base. While only standing at 78kg and viewed as a long-term prospect, the Bombers were confident enough to select him with Pick 30 – trading up to secure the talented tall. Essendon then doubled up on high potential big men with the selection of athletic star, Nick Bryan. While Bryan’s year was not as consistent as some would have hoped given his start, he showed during the finals series what he was capable of, picking up plenty of touches in the NAB League Finals Series and clunking the contested marks that he was not earlier in the season. Still a lot of room to build into his body, Bryan is worth the selection based on his upside, even if some might have considered it a bit of a reach on the night. With the premiership ruck considered in the top few rucks this year, it was too hard to pass up for Essendon who were in dire need of a quality back-up to Tom Bellchambers as Sam Draper continues to show great signs but unfortunately injured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Essendon met its small forward need at Pick 56 when it pounced on Dandenong Stingrays’ excitement machine, Ned Cahill. The 179cm forward has shown he is capable of playing through the midfield, but is much more damaging around goals with a good endurance base and ability to apply defensive pressure to the opposition. Whilst his best weapons are his offensive ones close to goal, Cahill can make opposition defenders nervous with his implied pressure and quick footsteps helped by his nimble movement. Along with Cahill, Next Generation Academy member Lachlan Johnson was picked up in what was an unusual set of circumstances. Tied to the Brisbane Lions through the father-son ruling thanks to his 300-game father Chris, the Lions had nominated him as a rookie prospect. It did mean any selection in the National Draft would trump the Lions’ offer and it was somewhat ironic that the Bombers chose to do so. Earlier, Essendon bid on Brisbane Academy prospect Keidean Coleman, but that bid was matched by the Lions.
In their only selection of the 2019 Rookie Draft, Essendon picked up Hibberd, in what was a blessing for Bombers fans. They wanted a big-bodied inside midfielder who could come in and play a role, and given Hibberd’s experience at AFL level, that is exactly what they got with the selection. The Williamstown midfielder needed just one year in the state league system before showing clubs he was more than capable of earning a second chance, this time with the red and black.
Overall, Essendon drafted for long-term, before grabbing Hibberd who could immediately fill a role in the midfield from early in the season. Do not expect many of the others to see too many games next year, with Jones and Bryan having to add size to their frame and develop their games further, while Johnson is coming off an ACL injury. Cahill is some chance throughout the season, but will be another who is more likely to impact in a couple of years.