05/03/2024
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Alwyn Davey and sons Alwyn Jnr and Jayden in his 100th AFL game. Photo: @1116sen Twitter

Drafts can be won and lost at the very top, but the Bombers are set for a haul that won’t tarnish the positives that have come from late-season wins against flag-contending teams.

Essendon has shifted back from pick three to pick five after its recent run of form, defeating top-four hopefuls Sydney and Brisbane along with top-eight chances St Kilda and Gold Coast in the past five weeks.

They’ve been great wins, but have brought about the everlasting debate – are ‘meaningless’ wins at the end of a season worth the hit to your draft hand? In other words, why aren’t teams without a sniff of finals tanking their remaining games for better picks?

In the case of the Dons this year, these wins are setting up a genuine blueprint to success for a young group, and they still won’t drastically change the potential haul they could be about to reap in November. The top of 2022’s draft is extremely even, with a mix of quality youngsters in different moulds set to make up the top 10.

READ: AFL Draft 2022: Top 30 Power Rankings

There are bullocking inside midfielders George Wardlaw and Jhye Clark, the likes of which Dons supporters have been crying out for since the retirement of Jobe Watson. There are game-changers in the forward half Harry Sheezel and Mattaes Phillipou, who bring power, skill and prolific goal-kicking form to the fore. And there is class and polish in Elijah Tsatas and Elijah Hewett, who are high-impact players with their ball use and speed.

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The Bombers will have the opportunity to draft one of this group, who all fill a need in their building list. A chasm that has emerged over recent years in the list is also set to be filled later in the draft.

With the recent retirement of beloved goal-kicker Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Essendon has just one Indigenous player on its list that has played an AFL game – first-year father-son Tex Wanganeen. This is the same club boasting one of the richest Indigenous histories in football. Names like Michael Long and Gavin Wanganeen are larger-than-life figures, but the Dons’ list of current Indigenous players has dwindled to Wanganeen, Cody Brand and Josh Eyre, all picked up in the past two off-seasons.

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While clubs aren’t drafting or recruiting based on these factors, there’s a depth of culture, passion and lineage that has been missing from the Essendon Football Club for a number of years now.

That is set to change in a big way come November. The club’s push to give Alwyn Davey his 100th game in Round 23, 2013, was perhaps its biggest win in a season marred by controversy. His twins, Alwyn Jnr and Jayden, have entered their draft year and are primed to be picked up by the Bombers.

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Junior has shown natural footballing pedigree in the midfield and up forward for Vic Metro, the Oakleigh Chargers, and Xavier College. He’s intuitive in his positioning and skills, and is set to be a first-round contender that the Dons will need to amass points for.

Jayden is overcoming disappointment in his ACL rehabilitation, but is on par with his twin on talent. The brothers bring serious excitement and class in the forward half, and can immediately fill the small forward list need inhibiting the Dons this year.

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Anthony Munkara is also a chance to make his way to the Bombers as a Next Generation Academy talent. The Tiwi Islander is wonderful to watch; crowds rise when he gets the ball and opponents are left in the dust with his dazzling array of tricks and manoeuvres to create space in the forward 50.

He’s a great size at 188 centimetres, flying for big pack marks and immediately applying pressure at ground level with his speed. There are shades of fellow Territorian Joel Jeffery with his aerial exploits and talent with ball in hand.

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The Bombers have first dibs on Munkara… if he makes it past the 40th selection on draft night.

There’s some chance this could eventuate in November, with the excitement machine fading in and out of games in the SANFL u18s and having a down championships with the Allies. Based on talent, he’s a bonafide first-rounder with his kicking skills off both feet and raw athleticism. But there remains a tantalising chance he falls to the Bombers and helps them add three Indigenous stars to their list.

It’s the draft opportunities the Dons have been crying out for over a number of years. Adrian Dodoro’s team is set to accumulate the draft points to match a likely top-20 bid for Junior and potential late-round bids for Jayden and Munkara.

From there, the Dons could have a top-10 talent to go with some of the best Indigenous talent in the country and a rich vein of form to hit the 2023 pre-season with serious momentum.

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