ESSENDON became the first club since the expansion era to utilise three top 10 picks at this year’s AFL Draft, taking a mix of the best available players and those who can help form a formidable spine for years to come.
After finishing 13th and losing some key personnel at the trade table, incoming coach Ben Rutten will have some very handy tools to work with as he looks to steer the Bombers back into finals.
Homegrown talent of sorts in Next Generation Academy (NGA) products also entered the list, making for one of the biggest and best draft hauls of any club – as was expected with the Bombers’ starting hand. Immediate improvement may not show, but the ceiling is unbelievably high on this crop.
#8 Nik Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#9 Archie Perkins (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#10 Zach Reid (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#39 Josh Eyre (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
#53 Cody Brand (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
Rookies: Martin Gleeson (Re-listed), Dylan Clarke (Re-listed)
Essendon clearly favoured bolstering its tall stocks at the top end, with versatile 200cm prospects Nik Cox and Zach Reid bookending a top 10 three-peat on either side of midfielder/forward Archie Perkins.
Northern Knights product, Cox was the first option and somewhat of a prospective one in that range. The Bombers like his high ceiling as an endurance beast who kicks well on both feet and can play a variety of roles.
Reid is arguably the more nailed-on key position get and should slot into the defence for years to come. He is also an elite kick for his size and reads the play beautifully to intercept.
Perkins could be the midfield wildcard Essendon has been crying out for, with his explosiveness at 186cm a desirable trait and something the Bombers currently lack. He also finds the goals and will likely develop off half-forward before earning more permanent midfield minutes.
Then there came the two NGA selections, with a bid for Josh Eyre coming perhaps a touch early for the Bombers’ liking at Pick 39. It did not stop them from matching for the promising key forward, with his raw athleticism and high rate of improvement really impressing recruiters this year.
Essendon then placed a bid on Maurice Rioli Jnr at Pick 51 before having that matched and trading down the order, with the Western Bulldogs springing a bid on Cody Brand late in the piece. Another Calder Cannons product, Brand is a key defender who can shut down opposition forwards and has been working hard on his contested craft in order to transition that game quickly to the next level.
With Cox, Reid, Eyre, and Brand all over 196cm, Essendon has some extremely exciting tall stocks which could go on to form the base of a competition-best spine – key word, could. Throw Perkins into the midfield mix, and the Bombers are building nicely.
Featured Image: Essendon’s trio of top 10 picks | Credit: Dylan Burns/Herald Sun