04/03/2024

Essendon's 2022 AFL Draft will be busy. Photos: Anthony Munkara, Alwyn Davey, Mattaes Phillipou.

Essendon has a critical decision on its hands at Pick 4 of the 2022 AFL Draft, and the club is keeping tight-lipped up to this point.

Adrian Dodoro’s team will be busy on both nights, with other critical points coming at the Pick 22 where the club will be setting up contingencies for an Alwyn Davey Jr. bid, while later in the draft will be a nervous wait as Anthony Munkara draws consideration from clubs.

Amongst the intrigue bubbles great anticipation from the Bomber faithful with the club set to welcome an influx of Indigenous talent with rich lineage at the club, as well as addressing vital needs for a team that severely underperformed in 2022.

READ: AFL Draft Power Rankings: The top 50 prospects in 2022

Essendon’s draft hand: 4, 22, 54, 61, 66

Pick 4 narrowed down to two

Essendon’s selection may be the first live pick of the draft, with its decision impacting the rest of the top 10. 

On the one hand, Victorian Elijah Tsatas beckons as a speedy midfielder with star-factor traits. His acceleration and confidence with ball in hand is something the Dons have sorely lacked through the middle of the park.

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On the other, Mattaes Phillipou is the prototype modern-day midfielder at 191 centimetres. He can extract the ball in the midfield and hit the scoreboard up forward, plus oozes confidence in his ability to be the best player in his draft.

Phillipou is coming with a bullet, meeting with Brad Scott in recent days to fuel speculation. Given the size of Essendon’s midfield, he may be the best fit and possesses the highest upside at this point of the draft. With the Hawks circling a few picks later, trading down would be out of the question if Phillipou was Dodoro’s man.

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Other left field options for the Dons include inside midfielder Reuben Ginbey and dynamic mid-forward Bailey Humphrey, but they seem peripheral options with the decision likely narrowed down to Tsatas or Phillipou.

Move up or trade out?

The Bombers come into the draft with a first-round talent in Alwyn Davey Jr. all but secured. He’s skilful and pacy like his father, but plays a different brand with his smarts and cleanliness around the ball in the middle of the ground.

The conundrum facing the Dons is what to do if Davey is bid on before their second-round selection at Pick 22. It’s either move up or trade out for Dodoro’s team.

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Pick 22 will warrant value as an early selection on night two, but if the Dons want any earlier pick – potentially in the first round – that deal will need to be struck on Monday night. 

Sydney is one team rumoured to be tabling their first-rounders for future assets – a package of Pick 22 and a future second-rounder may entice the Swans to part ways with Pick 14 or 17. This would allow the Dons to grab another talent and still collect the points to match a Davey bid with some Swans later selections. 

If they do move up from 22, expect the Bombers to target West Australian Elijah Hewett who boasts explosive midfielder traits and a wicked fend-off.

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Another option is to target Gold Coast’s early 2023 selections, with the club looking to accumulate points to match expected early bids on star NGA prospects Jed Walter, Ethan Read and Jake Rogers next year. 

Pick 22 and late 2023 selections could entice the Suns to part with a future second, one of which is tied to the Giants. This would give the Dons a strong draft hand for the star-studded 2023 crop.

Could Munkara slip past 40?

One of the most intriguing headlines of night two will be where a bid for Tiwi Islander Anthony Munkara comes. 

The medium forward has all the talent in the world with his boundless athleticism and skills on either side of his body, but clubs haven’t seen much of him after returning home from South Australia midway through 2022.

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Munkara has stated his desire to make it to the Dons, but the NGA Academy prospect is at the mercy of the same rules that saw Melbourne unable to match a bid for Mac Andrew last year. The Bombers can only match a bid at Pick 41 onwards.

He’s a top 30 prospect based on talent alone, but the lack of football over the past few years may see Munkara slip into the Bombers’ hands.

Forgotten twin a draft wildcard

Jayden hasn’t received the same spotlight as his twin brother Alwyn, but that isn’t for a lack of talent. Davey has suffered two ACL injuries during his junior football but at his best he plays a very similar game to his father.

He’s elusive and crafty, and has that sixth sense in front of goals that the very best small forwards possess. The Bombers have nominated him as a father-son, so if a bid doesn’t eventuate in the national draft they will have the opportunity to add him straight to their list.

Expect the Bombers to take four to five players in the draft, with the club keeping at least one list spot open for the pre-season supplementary selection period.

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