The Western Bulldogs are coming into the 2021 AFL Draft off a flag tilt, and will be thrilled to add another tantalising key position talent to a list that’s set to contend for years to come.
The Dogs have the picks to match a bid for Sam Darcy wherever it may come, but Pick 23 will be on the trade table on draft night.
With potential to also upgrade players off the rookie list, it’s set to be a busy two nights for the Dogs.
2021 AFL Draft: Western Bulldogs claiming son of a gun
In the open draft, Sam Darcy is the clear best key position player and would be taken within the first three selections on draft night. That may become reality regardless of the Dogs’ ability to match a bid, with the son of Dogs great Luke able to play across all three areas of the ground and dominate.
At 205 centimetres, Darcy was a dominant force with his contested marking in Vic Metro vs Country trials. There wasn’t a defender who could match up with him physically, and he also boasts quick movement off the mark and underrated agility to pivot with ball in hand and snap goals from open play.Embed from Getty Images
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He’s a dynamic prospect as a forward to add to the elite mix of Aaron Naughton, Josh Bruce and 2020 first-overall pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.
As a defender in the NAB League, Darcy proved he could potentially start his career in that position by paying his direct opponent respect and blanketing them more often than not. He has the right temperament to play as a defender, and it’s potentially where he could make his way at AFL level initially given the Dogs’ riches in the forward half.
Last year the club opted to not pick Cody Raak (NGA) and Ewan MacPherson (son of 188-gamer Stephen) in the draft, and they’ve both nominated for the open draft in 2021.
2021 AFL Draft: What can the Western Bulldogs get for Pick 23?
Pick 23 will get moved at some point. With an early pick on the second night of the draft a nice commodity, there’s a chance that the Dogs can get a first-rounder for their selection from a club in the premiership window. Port Adelaide might be interested in adding to Pick 12 and Jase Burgoyne, while Sydney has been linked to several players in this range and could pay up to grab another prospect.
A more likely scenario is a second-rounder from a club out of finals contention and additional draft capital in 2021 to match the Darcy bid. The Dogs could do well to move back into the draft once Pick 23 has been traded and the Darcy bid has been matched.
2021 AFL Draft: Value in late rounds for Western Bulldogs
Darcy gives the Dogs an abundance of key position talent, so the focus in the draft could be on project prospects that can bide their time at VFL level.
Paul Curtis is linked to the Dogs through the Western Jets and has shown real spark as a small forward, able to pressure and harass as well as anyone in this draft class. If the Dogs could move back into the second round at some point, Jesse Motlop would be a perfect pairing as a small pressure forward that can play senior football soon.Embed from Getty Images
With the retirement of Easton Wood, the Dogs have a definite need in that third-tall defender role. New recruit Tim O’Brien has shown some promise as a defender and could fit into that mould, and Bailey Williams has found some success on taller forwards but it’s an area that needs additional depth.
One option is Jack Avery, who – as a 19-year-old – was prolific in the WAFL this season as a 190-centimetre defender. His ball use is exceptional and he’s a tough player having moved into defence from an inside midfield role in previous seasons. Charlie Dean is also an ideal option, but would require a move into the top 30 to secure him.Embed from Getty Images
At 187 centimetres, Tasmanian Sam Banks is more of a running defender but plays above his height and is sure-footed in defence. He’s a prospect that could be available in the late stages of the national draft, while Avery may have a nervous wait to see if he’s selected after missing out in 2020.
The Dogs may look to upgrade Lachie McNeil or Anthony Scott off the rookie list after they both played senior football in 2021.
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