With the AFL season and trade period finished, it’s time to focus on the draft. Many picks and players have been exchanged over the next few weeks as teams prepare to put themselves in the best possible position for next season. Whilst first round draft picks are highly sought after, this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to find value with later selections in both the National Draft and even some from the Rookie Draft. We thought it would be interesting to look at ten of the biggest steals from this decade. These current players; who were overlooked by many clubs; turned out to provide value far beyond their original draft selection.
Luke Parker (Sydney), Pick 40 – 2010
Parker; the substitute in the Swans’ 2012 premiership team; has become one of Sydney’s most prolific players since that game. Parker won Bob Skilton medals for Sydney’s best and fairest in both 2014 and 2017. Parker placed second in 2018. In 2016, he was runner-up to Patrick Dangerfield in the Brownlow Medal with 2016 votes, a season in which he earned All Australian honours. In 2019 Parker was named a co-captain for the Swans.
Jeremy McGovern (West Coast), Pick 44 Rookie Draft – 2011
McGovern endured a difficult start to his career. He was overlooked in the national draft, before spending two years on the rookie list before finally being elevated in 2013. Around the time of his elevation, he was banished from training with the main group for weight issues. What followed this was a change in attitude for McGovern, which translated to four All Australian selections in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. McGovern was also one of the Eagle’s best performers in their 2018 premiership.
Dane Rampe (Sydney), Pick 37 Rookie Draft – 2013
Alongside Luke Parker, Rampe is the co-captain for the Swans. The medium-sized defender is one of the most dangerous backmen in the game. Parker earned All Australian selection in 2016, whilst he was also a member of the 40-man squad in 2019. This year, Rampe also won his first Bob Skilton medal. Rampe played in losing Grand Final sides in 2014 and 2016.
Ben Brown (North Melbourne), Pick 47 – 2013
The 200cm full-forward was overlooked three years in a row before finally being taken by the Kangaroos as a 21-year-old. Brown has won North Melbourne’s goal kicking award every year since 2016, with returns of 41, 63, 61 and 64 goals. He has also been a member of the 40-man All-Australian squad in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
James Sicily (Hawthorn), Pick 56 – 2013
The hot-tempered swingman divides opinions, however, there is no denying his talent on-field. As a defender, Sicily earned a nomination in the 40-man All-Australian squad in 2019. He has three top-ten best and fairest finishes in the past three years. Sicily is the leader of Hawthorn’s backline and is close to their most valued player.
Harris Andrews (Brisbane), Pick 61 – 2014
At 22 years of age, Andrews already holds the title of vice-captain the Brisbane Lions. After a potential All-Australian year in 2018 was cruelled by a broken jaw, he came back an even better player this season to earn his first selection in the team of the year. Andrews has been a vital reason behind the Lions’ surge up the ladder in 2019 and will be integral to their future success, with the potential to become the best defender in the league for the next decade.
Tom Phillips (Collingwood), Pick 56 – 2015
Lightning quick Phillips has been one of the league’s biggest improvers in the last two years. During a breakout 2018 season that included a Grand Final appearance, the wingman averaged 25.5 disposals at just 22 years of age. 2019 was another solid year, as Phillips averaged 23.8 disposals and kicked 12 goals.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon), Pick 22 Rookie Draft – 2016
After the suspension of 12 senior Bombers for the 2016 season, McDonald-Tipungwuti was elevated straight off the rookie list as a 23-year-old first-year player. He made his debut in Round 1 of that year and went on to play 21 games in his first season. After the return of the suspended players the following season, AMT remained a first-choice selection and has now played 89 games, kicking 100 goals and averaging almost four tackles per game across four seasons.
Tom Stewart (Geelong), Pick 40 – 2016
In 2015, Stewart was playing local footy in the Geelong league, before getting an opportunity with the Cats’ VFL side. He was finally drafted as a 23 year old after dominating at VFL level. Stewart earned his first All Australian selection in just his second season. This was followed in 2019 by a second All-Australian selection, helping the Cats to a preliminary final, all well before reaching his 100 game milestone.
James Worpel (Hawthorn), Pick 45 – 2017
Worpel won his first Best and Fairest award this season at 20 years of age. He enjoyed a stellar 2019 season, averaging 26.5 disposals and 4.9 tackles a game as the star midfielder in the absence of Tom Mitchell. It is evident already that he is on his way to becoming one of the premier midfielders in the competition. The Worpedo will be vital to the Hawks’ chances of becoming a premiership contender in the coming years.