Aaron Cadman reacts to being drafted with pick one in the 2022 AFL Draft. (Photo: @GWSGIANTS Twitter)

The GWS Giants finally secured Aaron Cadman with its prized pick one in the 2022 AFL Draft. The promising young key forward is already eager to head north to Sydney and begin life as a fully-fledged AFL footballer. 

Having signaled their intent via a mega trade to claim the first selection in this year’s AFL Draft, GWS were widely expected to add Cadman to its playing list. This result ultimately came to fruition last night, with the Giants also opting not to bid on Brisbane father-son prospect Will Ashcroft.

Cadman’s arrival at GWS significantly bolsters the club’s forward stocks, which have seen the departures of Jeremy Cameron, Rory Lobb, and Jeremy Finlayson in recent years. The 194cm key forward booted 34 goals for the GWV Rebels in the NAB League, showcasing his strong aerial ability, work rate, and mobility.

Speaking to the media after being selected, Cadman expressed his gratitude to GWS for handing him an AFL opportunity.

“Yeah [it’s] a massive relief. My feelings have kind of switched from super nervous to super excited. I’ve just got this massive energy boost,” Cadman told the media. 

“I’m super fortunate that the Giants have taken me, and I look forward to getting into it.”

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Despite the growing speculation that the Giants were bound to select Cadman with pick one, it was only a week ago that the 18-year-old was officially informed by senior figures at the club that he was their man. Cadman’s family and manager were also privy to the news, relieving any potential doubt that he was not in GWS’s sights. 

“About a week ago Adam Kingsley and the recruiting team came down and asked me if I wanted to know, and at the start I said, ‘No, don’t’ tell me’, [but] then I was like, ‘Nah you’ve got to tell me,” Cadman recalled.

“I’m glad they did. It’s been hard holding it in, but it’s been well worth it.”

Central to these discussions has been GWS national recruiting manager Adrian Caruso. Speaking to the media in the aftermath of the first night of the draft, Caruso explained the decision to alert Cadman of GWS’s intentions to recruit him a week before draft night. 

“We obviously have had a fair idea that this was how it was going to play out. But we thought the right thing to do was let him keep training and keep pushing [because] you just never know what’s going to happen,” Caruso told the media. 

“We felt a week before the draft might be a good time to go meet his parents, which is always part of the process, and chat to them about living arrangements and what it looks like.”

“We went out to his house in Darley and met his parents [and] had that chat. I think it relieved some pressure for him knowing that it was going to happen, rather than taking it the next week without knowing.”

“It’s always a good moment when you get to tell a player that you’re going to draft them, knowing that there’s no other variables that can pop up in the meantime.”

With a midfield-heavy top 10 playing out at the 2022 AFL Draft, Cadman’s selection represents new coach Adam Kingsley’s plan to strengthen the Giants’ spine and respond to the current list’s needs. 

Caruso said that a multitude of factors were involved in the decision to draft Cadman.

“I think you’re always looking at your list first and foremost and saying ‘Ok, is there someone available that can help your list?’.”

“Finding good young key forwards [are] so hard to find. First and foremost, he was the best young key forward in the draft.”

“Then you add up I suppose what he was able to produce as a footballer. We’re not just picking him on some potential and upside. There’s a body of work there this year in what he was able to produce.”

“And then you’re looking at the interview process, the background checks, and the character side of things, which is critical for us as a footy club to bring in A-grade character. Aaron ticked all those boxes.”

“It just made enormous sense for us to trade up to guarantee ourselves someone like Aaron because these types of players just don’t come along very often.”

The Victorian-based product is now preparing to fly up to Sydney on Thursday to begin acclimatising to a new environment and meet his new teammates. For Cadman, a move interstate represents a new beginning, something which he isn’t tentative about. 

“That’s really exciting, I can’t wait. I think it’ll do good things for me and I like the idea of a restart, experiencing new things, and meeting new people.”

Much has been made in recent months of the hesitancy of local Victorian draft prospects to ply their craft interstate. This saw a few of the potential top picks warn clubs of their preference to remain in their home state.

Conversely, Cadman always appeared willing to pursue his AFL dream outside of Victoria, solidifying GWS’s strong interest in him.  

Whilst acknowledging that Cadman’s openness to head north played some role in the Giants’ decision-making process, Caruso explained that the key forward’s willingness to move interstate was not a determining factor.

“We’ll be prepared to pick any player. We’re not picking Aaron just because he was more open to moving to Sydney than anyone else. We’re picking him because we rate his talent [and] we think he’s a great character.”

Now officially a Giants player, Cadman joins Jonathon Patton, Lachie Whitfield, and Tom Boyd to have been drafted by the club with pick one. Despite the prestige which comes with being the No.1 pick, Cadman is firmly focused on getting to work this pre-season and earning his stripes. 

“I think it’s really special, but at the end of the day, it’s just a title.”

“Obviously there’s a bit of pressure added to it which I don’t mind at all.”

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