ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 24: Number 4 draft pick Clayton Oliver during the 2015 AFL Draft at the Adelaide Convention Centre on November 24, 2015 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by David Mariuz/Fairfax Media)The ”t” word has reared its ugly head again in the second half of this season and is getting even more air time as Saturday’s mockbuster between the Brisbane Lions and North Melbourne draws closer.
In case you’re wondering, the “t” word is “tanking”.
We haven’t heard much of tanking since the expansion clubs were introduced and dominated the early parts of four consecutive drafts.
But with the bottom two sides set to duke it out at the Gabba this weekend in a “loser takes all” match-up, the inevitable conspiracy theories have followed.
“Both clubs would be crazy to win and cost themselves the No.1 draft pick,” say the so-called modern footy pragmatists.
The thing is, though, there have been 31 national drafts and, except for Nick Riewoldt (2000), Adam Cooney (2003), Brendon Goddard (2002) and maybe Luke Hodge in 2001, the first pick in the draft hardly ever turns out to be the best player in the draft.
Don’t forget, dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd was taken at pick three in 2001, so it’s debatable whether Hodge was the pick of the bunch that year.
If you have a top-five pick at your disposal, which the Lions and Kangaroos are guaranteed this year, there’s a good chance you’ll to land a player that turns out to be just as good as, if not better than, the No.1 pick.
So what is all the fuss about? Why would Brisbane and North do all they can to avoid victory on Saturday?
It doesn’t make sense.
Both clubs will be fielding very inexperienced teams and should be doing everything they can to secure a victory and drive home the behaviours and attitude demanded of a ruthless win-at-all-costs football club heading into the next pre-season.
Let’s use Melbourne as an example as they were the only club that was punished by the AFL for conduct that came closest to resembling tanking.
The Demons collected 14 top-20 picks between 2007 and 2014 but are only just emerging from one of the darkest periods in their history. Finally, after 11 years, they look set to return to the finals.
But all that supposed high-end talent did little to prevent Melbourne’s losing culture from bringing the famous club to its knees and if it wasn’t for the intervention of Paul Roos, who knows where the Demons would be right now?
Former North Melbourne chairman James Brayshaw spoke passionately on Monday about his desire to see the Kangaroos avoid their first wooden spoon since 1972, saying the club wore the fact that they hadn’t “won” one in 45 years as a “badge of honour”.
“I will be very, very, very annoyed if there’s even a thought of the Kangaroos trying to achieve a wooden spoon,” Brayshaw told Triple M radio.
“They will be hellbent on winning that game of footy.
“They should be fighting with everything they’ve got to make sure that they get over Brisbane on the weekend.
“Pick one? Pick two? Who gives a stuff?”
Who gives a stuff, indeed.
If you look at the last few drafts, Clayton Oliver was selected at pick four in 2015, Christian Petracca was taken at pick two in 2014, Marcus Bontempelli went at No.4 in 2013 and Stephen Coniglio was picked at No.2 in 2011.
That’s enough proof in itself that “tanking” is a flawed concept and by all reports there isn’t that much separating this year’s top crop of talent in Cameron Rayner, Paddy Dow, Adam Cerra, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Darcy Fogarty and Jarrod Brander.
And, of course, Zach Merrett (pick 26), Lewis Taylor (28), Rory Lobb (29), Toby Nankervis (35), Tom Barrass (43), Riley Knight (46), Ben Brown (47), Orazio Fantasia (55), James Sicily (56) and Jayden Hunt (57) proved in 2013 alone that a swag of bargains can be available in the later rounds as well.
Top 5 picks at recent drafts
2016: 1. Andrew McGrath (Ess), 2. Tim Taranto (GWS), 3. Hugh McCluggage (BL), 4. Ben Ainsworth (GC), 5. Will Setterfield (GWS) – 6. Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carl), 18. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA), 21. Will Hayward (Syd), 46. Mitch Hannan (Melb), 49. Lewis Young (WB), 61. Tom Williamson (Carl)
2015: 1. Jacob Weitering (Carl), 2. Josh Schache (BL), 3. Callum Mills (Syd), 4. Clayton Oliver (Melb), 5. Darcy Parish (Ess) – 12. Charlie Curnow (Carl), 15. Daniel Rioli (Rich), 18. Jade Gresham (StK), 19. Ryan Burton (Haw), 25. Josh Dunkley (WB), 35. Marcus Adams (WB), 39. Rhys Mathieson (BL), 66. Sam Menegola (Geel), 68. Michael Hartley (Ess)
2014: 1. Paddy McCartin (StK), 2. Christian Petracca (Melb), 3. Angus Brayshaw (Melb), 4. Jarrod Pickett (GWS), 5. Jordan De Goey (Coll) – 6. Caleb Marchbank (GWS), 8. Peter Wright (GC), 10. Nakia Cockatoo (Geel), 14. Jake Lever (Adel), 24. Jack Steele (GWS), 26. Toby McLean (WB), 29. Touk Miller (GC), 43. Mitch McGovern (Adel), 45. Bailey Dale (WB), 46. Caleb Daniel (WB), 53. Oscar McDonald (Melb), 67. Dan Butler (Rich)
2013: 1. Tom Boyd (GWS), 2. Josh Kelly (GWS), 3. Jack Billings (StK), 4. Marcus Bontempelli (WB), 5. Kade Kolodjashnij (GC) – 9. Christian Salem (Melb), 11. Dom Sheed (WC), 13. Patrick Cripps (Carl), 23. Matt Crouch (Adel), 26. Zach Merrett (Ess), 28. Lewis Taylor (BL), 29. Rory Lobb (GWS), 35. Toby Nankervis (Syd), 43. Tom Barrass (WC), 46. Riley Knight (Adel), 47. Ben Brown (NM), 55. Orazio Fantasia (Ess), 56. James Sicily (Haw), 57. Jayden Hunt (Melb)
2012: 1. Lachie Whitfield (GWS), 2. Jonathan O’Rourke (GWS), 3. Lachie Plowman (GWS), 4. Jimmy Toumpas (Melb), 5. Jake Stringer (WB) – 6. Jack Macrae (WB), 7. Ollie Wines (PA), 18. Brodie Grundy (Coll), 41. Mason Wood (NM), 46. Tim Membrey (Syd), 81. Rory Atkins (Adel)
2011: 1. Jonathon Patton (GWS), 2. Stephen Coniglio (GWS), 3. Dom Tyson (GWS), 4. Will Hoskin-Elliott (GWS), 5. Matt Buntine (GWS) – 6. Chad Wingard (PA), 11. Toby Greene (GWS), 12. Sam Docherty (BL), 13. Taylor Adams (GWS), 14. Devon Smith (GWS), 30. Elliot Yeo (BL), 33. Bradley Hill (Haw), 57. Tory Dickson (WB), 58. Lachie Neale (Fre)
2010: 1. David Swallow (GC), 2. Harley Bennell (GC), 3. Sam Day (GC), 4. Andrew Gaff (WC), 5. Jared Polec (BL) – 8. Dyson Heppell (Ess), 11. Tom Lynch (GC), 14. Brodie Smith (Adel), 19. Isaac Smith (Haw), 33. Jeremy Howe (Melb), 40. Luke Parker (Syd), 53. Tom McDonald (Melb), 66. Paul Puopolo (Haw)