2020 AFL Draft Standouts: Melbourne and Western Bulldogs

AHEAD of the 2021 AFL National Draft, we cast our eyes back 12 months ago to when the newest draftees had their names read out, and what they have accomplished since at the elite level. In the fifth piece of 2020 AFL Draft standouts (first chance at AFL level), we look at the first and second placed teams in Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.

Melbourne:

#21 Jake Bowey
#22 Bailey Laurie
#34 Fraser Rosman

The Demons enjoyed a fairytale season, storming up the ladder following a disappointing 2020 season to claim their first flag in 57 years. Their premiership list has been built on clever drafting and recruiting, such is the story of the 21st overall pick of last year’s draft in Bowey. The 19-year-old was forced to bide his time in the Victorian Football League (VFL) as many fresh recruits are. The Demons were a tough side to break into all year due to their on-field success, so despite some impressive numbers in Melbourne’s VFL side, that Bowey had to wait until round 20 to make his debut. He made an immediate impact, impressing with his ferocious attack on the ball and his blistering outside run. He was injected into the side against the Gold Coast Suns, a match the Demons won by 98 points with Bowey racking up 13 disposals in an outing that made it impossible for the selection committee to drop him for the following week. This win also sparked a seven-game winning streak that culminated in a grand final triumph. Bowey retained his spot for all seven games and is etched into Melbourne folklore as a premiership player. He has proven himself as a best 22 player for this side and looks to have a bright future ahead in the red and blue.

Laurie unfortunately played just two games for the Demons’ VFL affiliate due to a nasty shoulder injury, but averaged 13.5 disposals in these two outings and will benefit from the experience. Rosman appeared in nine VFL games, with the wingman able to hone his craft under the guidance of some club veterans.

Western Bulldogs:

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
#55 Dominic Bedendo
Rookie Draft #11 Lachie McNeil

Pre-season Supplementary Draft, Anthony Scott

Grand final heartbreak for the Bulldogs shouldn’t take away from the fact that they had a very successful haul at last year’s draft. They don’t get more high-profile than Ugle-Hagan, who was one of the most talked about draft prospects in years, with comparisons to Lance Franklin building even more excitement around the young key forward. There was a level of impatience among AFL fans, with Ugle-Hagan spending the first 16 rounds of the season in the VFL. He was putting on promising performances, booting bags of goals on a weekly basis, but coach Luke Beveridge remained confident on his decision to leave the top pick out of the side. Ugle-Hagan finally made his debut late in the season, and booted seven goals in five games, with his marking prowess and accurate goalkicking putting smiles on the faces of Dogs fans. He was dropped shortly before finals commenced and was unable to retain his spot in the team for the remainder of their campaign. Key forwards are often long-term prospects in the AFL, and with Josh Bruce expected to miss much of next season, expect Ugle-Hagan to get some more games under his belt.

McNeil and Scott made their debut in the opening round of the season, and both made several appearances in Beveridge’s side. Scott racked up 16 disposals in his AFL debut, while McNeil displayed his smarts forward of the ball, booting six goals in his first nine games. Both earned a two-year extension at the club and look to be key pieces for the future of the Bulldogs. Bedendo was able to develop at VFL level, booting an impressive 13 goals in his nine appearances. Much like Ugle-Hagan, he appears to be a long term prospect for the club.

Picture credit: Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens

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