BY BEN HENNESSY
Perth footballers will dominate this year’s AFL national draft with new club Gold Coast Suns holding an advantage with many of the early picks.
The Suns have signed WA pair David Swallow and Brandon Matera and their first selection in the draft is likely to be Peel Thunder midfielder Harley Bennell.
Bennell won the Larke Medal for the best player during the 2010 National Under-18s Championship and is WA’s best young player along with Swallow.
WA under-18s vice-captain Reece Conca is also considered a strong draft prospect after he played well at the under-18 championship.
He averaged 18 disposals and three clearances a game and is seen as a potential second round selection.
Conca said the prospect of playing AFL was exciting. “I just want to finish off this year as strong as possible,” he said.
Conca is happy to go anywhere to follow his AFL dream, but he said he felt some apprehension about a possible move to the Gold Coast.
“As a rookie you really want to try to get more established players around you to help you develop,” Conca said.
His former coach at Perth Football Club Andrew Jarman said Conca’s ability to find the football made him attractive for AFL recruiters.
Jarman said Conca had the ability to step into an AFL line-up in 2011 but was concerned about his slight size.
“Physically he’s underdone so that’s one area of the game he’s got to get to work on,” Jarman said.“If they can get eight to 10 games out of him in his first year, I think that will be a nice stepping stone for his second year.”
The new franchises Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney will open the door for some mature age players.
Jarman said clubs were recruiting mature age players because they were ready for the rigours of AFL football.
“Drafting kids at 17 and 18 years old, they’re just not ready and it’s costing clubs money,” Jarman said.
“What clubs need now is to fast-track players so they can play AFL football straight away.”
The Gold Coast was very active in the recent AFL trade week.Rules allowing the new club to pre-list 10 players previously on AFL lists or overlooked in previous drafts meant the existing 16 clubs could trade for mature players with the new franchise.
This allowed the Dockers to get Perth midfielder Tendai Mzungu and Williamstown defender Peter Faulks before the November national draft.
Swan Districts star midfielder Andrew Krakouer also benefited from the pre-list rules, joining Collingwood after the Magpies and Suns completed a trade deal.
The Collingwood move completes a dream comeback for Krakouer, who this year helped Swans end their 20-year premiership drought as well as winning the Sandover, Simpson and Swan medals.
East Fremantle defender Jacob Brennan has become the latest mature-age recruit with the West Coast Eagles confirming they would pick Brennan as a father-son selection in the draft.
Brennan’s father Michael was a dual premiership defender with the Eagles and Jacob becomes the Eagles first true father-son selection in their 25-year history.
The draft will be held on November 18 at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.
Published in the Western Independent October 2010