THE Western Bulldogs liked the way Jake Stringer played football: hard. The club made sure it understood exactly how well the teenager’s leg had healed since he broke it horribly at the start of last year. Their recruiters knew they could provide Stringer with an environment that would help him improve his awkward running gait, and become as fit as he needs to be to fully complete his recovery.
Their last question? How much would the teenager give back?
”The process was very, very thorough,” Bulldogs recruiting manager Simon Dalrymple said. ”And once we had the all-clear on the leg, what we needed to know was how diligent Jake would be and how well he would commit to the program. That was the key factor, and he has a few loose ends to tidy up, but once we knew how driven he was and how compliant to the program he would be, we knew we had a player.”
Character. It’s a buzz word, but it was very much a theme of Thursday night’s draft. It’s one of the many reasons Lachie Whitfield became the No. 1 pick: whatever happens to the midfielder from here, he will give absolutely everything he has. It’s among the many reasons Greater Western Sydney drafted Jono O’Rourke and Lachie Plowman straight after him; it’s a reason Stringer forced himself into the No. 5 slot, and in fact is a word that could apply to all players picked up in the first round.
But Thursday night was also about who missed out. Every year, there are plenty. But not all of them have the talent of Dayle Garlett, who played some breathtaking football for Western Australia and Swan Districts this year and has everything clubs want: extreme pace, extreme skill, an ability to make a match all about him.
The problem was his off-field issues, the trouble he has gotten himself into. Early this week it became clear that 14 clubs wouldn’t take the risk on him, at any pick. By the later rounds of the draft, as clubs started to promote rookies and pass on picks, it became clear that none were willing to take him on. They couldn’t find a way to justify it.
Nor could they find a way to add Shannon Taylor, Chris Yarran or Marvin Worrell, talented teenagers who lack a strong work ethic. Nor could they give the likes of Daniel Connors, Kyle Reimers or Jason
Gram, all of whom have had their off-field discipline questioned, another opportunity.
How important is character? ”It’s massively important, because the demands of the game are at a level we’ve never seen before,” said Sydney’s recruiting manager Kinnear Beatson.
”They’ve got to be able to deal with the increased training load, to deal with all of the meetings, they’ve got to come to terms with the greater accountability, and if their history suggests they struggle in those areas, they’re probably not going to get any better.
”This draft’s proved that. If you’re considering a player and thinking, ‘Two-year contract, $250,0000 investment, how will your senior players react to this kid…’ you might go for the safe option. It’s not a cheap investment.”
The Bulldogs had no concerns with Stringer and none with Jackson Macrae, a smart, skilful forward who may end up playing in the middle for them.
While Greater Western Sydney dominated the first part of the draft, holding five of the first 14 selections, this was an important night for the Dogs, who have given debuts to half a side in the past two years, who finished near the bottom and who will be younger again next year.
The club was also able to grab Nathan Hrovat, a smart midfielder with – you guessed it, great character – at No. 21. Hrovat may have gone earlier but slid through, making the Dogs’ decision to trade Brian Lake to Hawthorn for a pick upgrade from the late 20s to the early 20s a wise one.
Collingwood simply consulted its list of preferred players as the club’s three consecutive choices rolled around at 18, 19 and 20. The Magpies haven’t been involved in the first round of the draft for a while, having traded their last couple of first-round picks, but got Brodie Grundy and a pair of smart midfielders in Ben Kennedy and Tim Broomhead.
That Grundy, the best ruckman in the pool and the furthest thing from a stringbean, fell so far down the order was another point of interest. Unless a potential ruckman is Nic Naitanui, many clubs are reluctant to use their first pick in a draft on a ruck given a) they take so long to develop, that b) they can trade them in from another club when they need them and c) can find them cheaply and trade them off for good draft picks if they end up with too many.
The Magpies had no hesitation. ”I didn’t even have his name on our contact list because I didn’t think he’d get to us,” said recruiting manager Derek Hine.
”He’s big, strong aggressive, and he’s a man. He’s ready to play. From that point of view, it’s really pleasing for us.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.