After a season like no other, AFL clubs are gearing up for a draft night that will deliver its own unique challenges.
Fewer players than ever before are expected to find homes on Wednesday night, given the relative lack of exposure to top-tier competitions this year – especially in Victoria, which traditionally supplies a large chunk of draftees.
Victoria’s football seasons were wiped out amid the state’s coronavirus lockdown, including the NAB League and VFL competitions.
Even the state’s top draft prospects have been starved of opportunities to impress, including potential No.1 pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.
Those further down the pecking order could miss out on earning a list spot altogether.
It means where in previous years players like Clayton Oliver and Jack Macrae charged up draft boards late with stellar under-18 seasons, there has been no opportunity for Victorian late bloomers to make their mark.
In previous years, clubs were required to select at least three players, including rookie upgrades.
But this year the rules have been changed to allow clubs to add just one, given the reduction in list sizes.
Despite the challenges presented by the smaller draft pool, some clubs still have strong hands at the top of the order.
Adelaide will kick off proceedings with the prized No.1 pick and will select again at pick nine, while Essendon currently hold picks six, seven and eight and GWS have four picks inside the first round.
The Crows face a decision on whether to bid for Western Bulldogs academy prospect Ugle-Hagan with the first pick, though the Dogs are certain to match.
Regardless of whether Adelaide bid on Ugle-Hagan or not, they are expected to ultimately use their first selection on one of West Australian key forward Logan McDonald, South Australian tall Riley Thilthorpe or Victorian midfielder Elijah Hollands.
Amid the challenges of border restrictions, this year’s draft will be a virtual event based out of the AFL review centre, with clubs submitting their selections via an online system.
The draft will also be held over just one night instead of last year’s two-night affair.