Think you’d make a good recruiter? After all, how hard can it be to watch a bunch of kids play football and pick one or two who can kick, mark and handball? Easy!

Maybe think again. Because it’s much harder than you think.

As Swans recruiting guru Kinnear Beatson and his team of talent scouts finalise plans for this week’s NAB AFL Draft it is a fascinating exercise to look back at the club’s history in the draft, and some of the hits and misses in what we call ‘recruiting’.

It’s a horribly imprecise science. Even to say it’s a hit and miss business is a gross over-simplifaction because to talk in hits and misses you need a pass mark. What is considered a satisfactory return on a draft selection?

The real students of the recruiting caper will tell you a first-round pick needs to deliver more than a second-round pick to get a tick, and a national draftee needs to do more than a rookie. And a Category ‘B’ rookie lured from another sport is an out-and-out punt and any half reasonable return is a big tick.

But that’s much too complicated, especially when you include mid-season drafts and pre-season supplementary selections, which have become part of the caper recently. So we’ll just talk in games.

Using Swans recruiting history as a benchmark, if you set 50 games as the satisfaction point the chances are one in five. Or 20.6% to be precise. At 100 games it’s 11.3%.

But the real eye-opener, and the deterrent for would-be recruiters, is the chance that a draftee will not play even one AFL game is 42%. And it’s a 61.9% chance that he won’t play more than 10 games.

All this is based on Swans numbers since the first official AFL draft in 1986. It takes in the national draft, the pre-season draft, the rookie draft, the mid-season draft, and everything else that has been part of what is a curiously complicated process.

In total, the Swans have drafted 326 players. Of them 137 did not play, 67 played 50 games or more and 39 played 100 games or more. Only 14 have topped 200 and only four – all from the national draft - have reached 300.

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SYDNEY SWANS DRAFT HISTORY - 1986-2021
Draft Players AFL Games
300 200 100 50 11 - 49 0-10 DNP
National Draft 161 4 9 23 42 30 39 49
Pre-Season Draft 36 0 0 1 9 10 8 9
Mid-Season Draft 16 0 1 2 2 0 3 11
Rookie Draft etc 113 0 4 11 13 16 15 68
                 
  326 4 14 37 66 56 65 137
    1.20% 4.30% 11.30% 20.60% 17.20% 19.90% 42.00%


The Current List

Interestingly, among the 38 players currently on the Swans playing list, there are as many ex-rookies as there are national draftees. Sixteen of each, plus free agent Lance Franklin and trade-ins Josh Kennedy, Tom Hickey, Callum Sinclair and Ryan Clarke.

It’s all part of a fascinating Swans draft journey that, happily, has produced more hits then misses, and some of the best value-plus picks in AFL history.

The Draft That Wasn’t

Look on the AFL website, or in the AFL Guide, the ‘bible’ for all matters football, and it says the first AFL draft was on 26 November 1986, as the Brisbane Bears and the West Coast Eagles were preparing to join the competition in 1987.

The Bears were granted six pre-draft selections and first pick in each of five rounds of the draft. After them it was St.Kilda, Melbourne and Richmond, who had filled the bottom three spots on the 1986 ladder, through to premiers Hawthorn at #13.

The Eagles had been granted some exclusive home state selections but such was their talent pool that they were excluded from the draft, which delivered 65 players from across the country to the expanded 14-team competition.

It was draft history … or was it?

In fact, there were two previous drafts in 1981-82 which are curiously excluded from the records.

On 8 October 1981, and again on 19 October 1982, the then 12 Melbourne-based clubs in the old VFL each had two selections from interstate in reverse ladder order.

In ’81, having finished 9th or fourth-bottom the Swans had pick #4 in the first round and pick #16 in the second round. They chose 20-year-old South Adelaide rover Mark Naley at #4 and 24-year-old teammate Phil Brooksby, a dour defender, at #16.

In ’82, having climbed to 7th on the ladder, or sixth-bottom, the Swans went younger. They chose 18-year-old Sturt centreman Peter Motley at #6 and 16-year-old Port Adelaide wingman Greg Anderson at #18.

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The Swans’ return from the four SA guns was nil. Such was the uncertain nature of the system at the time that not one of them even joined the club.

Naley later played 65 games with Carlton (1987-90), Anderson played 103 games with Essendon (1988-92) and Adelaide (1993-96) and Motley played 19 games with Carlton in 1986-87 before a car accident in May 1987 ended his playing days. Brooksby, father of recently-retired Gold Coast, West Coast and Hawthorn player, never ventured to Melbourne.

It was the norm. Of the 48 players drafted over the two years 24 did not play for the club that had chosen them, and the average return was 30.7 games. Hawthorn’s 258-game Brownlow Medallist John Platten was the standout, while there were five other 100-gamers.

Melbourne fared best, with Alan Johnson, pick #1 in 1981, playing 135 games, and Danny Hughes 124. Andrew Purser, pick #1 in 1982, played 112 games for what was then Footscray, David Palm played 104 games for Richmond, and David Grant 191 games for St.Kilda.

Craig Holden, later to play 80 games with the Swans (1984-88), got his entry ticket to the AFL via North Melbourne, where he played 29 games (1982-83).

The first ‘official’ draftee

It is one of the great Swans’ great trivia questions … who was the club’s first official draftee?

It was John Brinkhotter, a 185cm utility player from Barooga, a town of about 1800 on the Murray River located 596km south-west of Sydney which doesn’t have any great claim to footballing fame. Except that it is directly across the river from Cobden, which was home to Garry and Steve Hocking, and John Barnes, who between them played 675 games for Geelong and Essendon.

Brinkhotter, taken with pick #10, was one of five Swans draftees, followed by pick #23 Lyndon Dakin (Longford), #36 Donald Thompson (Albury), #49 Craig Elias (Eastlake) and #62 Laurie Menhenut (Tocumwal).

Only Brinkhotter played at AFL level. Player #1167 on the Swans all-time list, he debuted in Round 1 1988 against the Western Bulldogs at Waverley in coach Tom Hafey’s 501st game. It was Glenn Coleman’s 100th AFL game and the first game in red and white for Craig Davis and Michael Lockman as Mark Hunter and Matthew Hogg debuted for the Dogs.

With only two kicks, one mark, one handball, one tackle and a goal from his first outing in a 26-point loss he was dropped the following week and had to wait until the last game of the season for another chance.

But it was worth the wait. Facing Brisbane at Carrara, he had 20 possessions as they won by four points after trailed at every change.

In 1989 under Col Kinnear he played Rounds 12-13-14, including Rod Carter’s 200th game for the Swans, but saw limited game time and had a combined six possessions. Career over.

The Best Swans Picks

Twenty-two Swans draftees have played 150-plus games for the club, so naturally they comprise the Swans best of the best draft ‘team’. There are 14 national draftees, including four first-round picks, seven players chosen inside 40, seven at 40 or beyond, and eight ex-rookies. And there are five current players.

SWANS IN THE DRAFT - THE BEST 22 
Rank Games Player National Draft Rookie Draft Drafted From
Pick Year Pick Year
1 372 Adam Goodes 43 1997     North Ballarat Rebels
2 325 Jude Bolton 8 1998     Calder Cannons
3 325 Jarrad McVeigh 5 2002     NSW/ACT Rams
4 303 Michael O'Loughlin 40 1994     Central Districts (SA)
5 282 Ryan O'Keefe 56 1999     Calder Cannons
6 256 Heath Grundy     42 2005 Norwood (SA)
7 256 Kieren Jack     58 2006 NSW/ACT Rams
8 241 Brett Kirk     40 1999 North Albury
9 235 Luke Parker * 40 2010     Dandenong Stingrays
10 223 Jared Crouch 8 1995     Norwood (SA)
11 217 Andrew Dunkley 56 1991     North Launceston
12 211 Nick Smith     15 2007 Oakleigh Chargers
13 208 Daniel Hannebery 30 2008     Oakleigh Chargers
14 197 Tadhg Kennelly     9 2000 Ireland
15 190 Dane Rampe *     37 2013 Uni of NSW
16 179 Lewis Roberts-Thomson 29 2001     NSW/ACT Rams
17 176 Nick Malceski 62 2002     Eastern Ranges
18 176 Jake Lloyd *     16 2013 North Ballarat Rebels
19 175 Matthew Nicks   1994     West Adelaide (SA)
20 164 Nic Fosdike 3 1998     Norwood (SA)
21 163 Sam Reid * 38 2009     Murray Bushrangers
22 151 Harry Cunningham *     49 20 Turvey Park
            * denotes current player

Two teams delivered three players to top 22 – the NSW/ACT Rams’ Jarrad McVeigh, Keiren Jack and Lewis Roberts-Thomson, and SANFL club Norwood Heath Grundy, Jared Crouch and Nic Fosdike.

Other 100-game Swans draftees have been Jason Saddington (142), Craig Bird (137), Luke Ablett (133), Isaac Heeney (129), Paul Bevan (129), Lewis Jetta (127), Tom Papley (122), George Hewett (120), Amon Buchanan (116), Callum Mills (110), Mike Pyke (110) and Gary Rohan (106).

Goodes: The Misnomer

Outwardly, Swans games record-holder Adam Goodes, drafted at pick #43 in 1997, looks like the bargain of a life-time. Easily the Swans’ best. But, almost as if to prove the complicated nature of the draft business, the 372-game megachampion is a draft misnomer.

It’s a fascinating re-draft. Goodes was drafted as a 17-year-old in a year when each club could only take one 17-year-old. A key part of the strategy of each club was when to play that card.

The Swans watched six early picks go on bottom-agers before taking 18-year-old Jason Saddington at #11. With their next pick not until #40, they chose to get one in the bank.

By pick #29 only Sydney, West Coast and St.Kilda still had their 17-year-old pick up their sleeve. Sydney had #40 and #43, West Coast had #44 and St.Kilda #48. And in between Port had #42 and Hawthorn #43.

The Swans had the Eagles and the Saints covered but needed to take the next best 18-year-old ahead of the Power and the Hawks.

So, they used #40 on Fred Campbell, a 175cm speedster from Pioneers in Alice Springs knowing Goodes, a standing in the North Ballarat Rebels’ TAC Cup grand final win, was in the bank at #43.

He was the 14th of the 17-year-olds drafted and in an uncompromised draft would undoubtedly have gone much higher than #43.

As it turned out, Campbell, who played five games for Sydney in 1999 and seven with St.Kilda in 2000, went three spots ahead of a dual Brownlow Medallist 9th on the League’s all-time AFL list.

Adam Goodes

Fools’ Gold ?

In 35 years of the National Draft two of the Swans’ best early draft hands didn’t amount to anything like they may have.

In 1993, with their only #1 pick, the Swans took South Fremantle defender Darren Gasper. He debuted in Round 3 1994 only to suffer a 12-week knee injury 60 minutes into his AFL career. He played four games later that season and 16 in 1994 before he was lured south by Richmond, where he played a further 12 years and 207 games. He joined the Tigers via pick #3 in the 1996 Pre-Season Draft. The Swans got nothing for him.

In 1994 the Swans had picks #2 and #3. After Fremantle took Jeff White at #1 they snared Anthony Rocca from the Northern Knights at #2 and Shannon Grant from the Western Jets at #3. And from them they got five years and 80 games.

Rocca, whose older brother Sav was playing with Collingwood at the time, spoke of home sickness almost from day one and later admitted his heart was “not completely in it” in Sydney. Played 22 games in two years before a trade to the Magpies for Ben Wilson, Mark Orchard and picks #14 and #33 in the 1996 National Draft.

Wilson, who had played two games with Collingwood, played four with Sydney. Orchard, a 12-game Magpies before the trade, played 41 games with Sydney in 1997-98 before going back to Collingwood.

The Swans used the draft picks on Prahran Dragons pair Brett O’Farrell (#14) and Will Sangster (#33). O’Farrell played eight games in Sydney in 1998 before 13 games with Hawthorn from 1999-2001. Sangster played two games in 1999.

Rocca played 220 games for Collingwood and kicked 404 goals over 13 years to rank 9th on the club’s all-time goals list.

Grant played three years 58 games in red and white, including the 1996 grand final loss to North Melbourne, but just as he was set to deliver on his unquestioned potential he got the ‘go home’ bug from Rocca.

Insistent he would not stay in the Harbour City, he was traded to North for veteran Wayne Schwass. And as much as Schwass was a great pick-up for the Swans, playing 98 games in four and a half years and winning the Bob Skilton Medal and All-Australian honors in 1999, Grant played 243 games over 11 years for North and won the Norm Smith Medal in their 1999 premiership.

Gasper, Rocca and Grant were three of 34 first-round picks used by the Swans in the National Draft.

SYDNEY SWANS - FIRST ROUND DRAFT SELECTIONS

Year

Player

Club

Games

 

1986

John Brinkhotter

Barooga

5

 

1987

Michael Parsons

North Adelaide

25

 

1988

Dion Scott

Devonport

6

 

1989

Brad Tunbridge

East Fremantle

50

 

1991

Andrew McGovern

Claremont

20

 

1991

Paul Burton

Claremont

0

 

1992

Jason Spinks

South Fremantle

0

 

1993

Darren Gaspar

South Fremantle

21

 

1993

Glenn Gorman

Geelong Falcons

0

 

1993

Adam Heuskes

Norwood

49

 

1994

Anthony Rocca

Northern Knights

22

 

1994

Shannon Grant

Western Jets

58

 

1996

Mark Kinnear

Calder U18

6

 

1996

Brett O'Farrell

Prahran U18

8

 

1997

Jason Saddington

Eastern Ranges

142

 

1998

Nic Fosdike

Norwood

164

 

1998

Ryan Fitzgerald

South Adelaide

10

 

1998

Jude Bolton

Calder Cannons

325

 

2002

Jarrad McVeigh

NSW/ACT Rams

325

 

2003

Josh Willoughby

Glenelg

0

 

2006

Daniel O'Keefe

Geelong Falcons

0

 

2007

Patrick Veszpremi

Northern Knights

11

 

2008

Lewis Johnston

North Adelaide

2

 

2009

Gary Rohan

Geelong Falcons

106

 

2009

Lewis Jetta

Swan Districts

127

 

2013

Zak Jones

Dandenong Stingrays

90

 

2014

Isaac Heeney (A)

Cardiff

129

 

2015

Callum Mills (A)

North Shore

110

 

2016

Oliver Florent

Sandringham Dragons

93

 

2017

Matthew Ling

Geelong Falcons

4

 

2018

Nick Blakey (A)

UNSW-East Sydney

54

 

2019

Dylan Stephens

Norwood

15

 

2020

Logan McDonald

Perth FC

7

 

2020

Braeden Campbell (A)

Pennant Hills

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

(A) denotes QBE Sydney Swans Academy

current players

 

Callum Mills

The Best Draft Year?

Only once have the Swans picked up three 100-gamers in the same draft – it was in 2009 when they got Gary Rohan (106 games) at #6, Lewis Jetta (127 games) at #14 and Sam Reid (163 games and counting at #38.

But it’s a tough call. There have been some wonderful pairings to join the club in the same year.

In 1994 #40 Michael O’Loughlin (303 games) and pick #21 Matthew Nicks (175 games) made up for the disappointing return on #2 Anthony Rocca, #3 Shannon Grant and #20 Stuart Mangin (did not play), while the 1997 duo of #11 Jason Saddington (142) and #43 Adam Goodes (372) topped their combined output.

The 1998 duo of #8 Jude Bolton (325) and #3 Nic Fosdike (163) were strong despite the fact it could have been an even bigger year if Ryan Fitzgerald, pick #4 turned national radio personality, had played more than 10 games after kicking five goals on debut.

In 2002 the Swans hit double gold when at #5 they landed 325-gamer Jarrad McVeigh and at #62 picked up Nick Malceski, who rebounded for major recurring knee problems to kick the winning goal in the 2012 grand final.

The standout rookie draft is clear – it was the 2013 draft curiously held in December 2012 when Dane Rampe (190) and Jake Lloyd (176) joined the Swans with Xavier Richards, who only played 12 games but did appear in the 2016 grand final, and 28-game ruckman Sam Naismith, who is still battling on.

And current pairings? Time will judge the 2016 pairing of Ollie Florent and Will Hayward, the 2018 trio of Nick Blakey, James Rowbottom and Justin McInerney and the 2020 trio of  Logan McDonald, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden.

Will Hayward and Ollie Florent in the 2016 draft

Raging Rookies in Red

A total of 128 AFL players have played 100+ AFL games after beginning their career as rookies. The Swans, with 11, have more than any other club, with Fremantle (9) and Adelaide (9) next best.

The all-time rookie honour board is headed by the Western Bulldogs Matthew Boyd (292 games) from West Coast’s Dean Cox (290) at St.Kilda’s Stephen Milne (275), and has Swans’ Heath Grundy and Kieren Jack equal 9th at 256 games. Brett Kirk (241) is 12th and Nick Smith (211) is 26th among 40 ex-rookies who have topped 200 games.

Tadhg Kennelly (197) is next on the Swans list from Dane Rampe (190), Jake Lloyd (176), Harry Cunningham (151), Paul Bevan (129), Tom Papley (122) and Mike Pyke (110).

Remember These Names?

They weren’t all a raging success – in fact most were downright flops - but through the 1990s the Swans drafted some of the biggest names in the game in search of some extra public appeal.

In 1992 they took Phil Krakouer at #53 after 141 games at North and seven games at Footscray but he retired and went home to Perth.

In 1993 it was Fitzroy great Richard Osborne at #1 in tandem with Paul Bryce at #3 and former #1 draft pick John Hutton at #5. Osborne kicked seven goals in his first game for the club and in 16 games he totalled 58, with eight games of four or more. But he quit thereafter, going on to play three years at Footscray and two years at Collingwood.

Bryce, a 74-game veteran with North Melbourne and Melbourne, played 17 games in 1993 and retired. And Hutton, pick #1 to Brisbane in 1991, played only five Swans games for nine goals before being de-listed. He later played 13 games at Fremantle. Three years, three clubs and 36 games.

In the 1993 mid-season draft the Swans even had a crack at 1985 Brownlow Medallist Brad Hardie, but going on 31 he decided 150 games with Footscray, Brisbane and Collingwood was enough.

In 1994 it was Dermott Brereton. The five-time Hawthorn premiership ace was pick #1 in the Pre-Season Draft. He had his 30th birthday during a seven-game stint in Sydney but little else positive. He copped a seven-game suspension pre-season for stomping on the head of ex-teammate Rayden Tallis in a pre-season game and was delisted after he copped another seven-game stretch following an incident in which Richmond’s Tony Free suffered a broken jaw. He played 15 games with Collingwood in 1995.

In 1995 the Swans got one right when they snared Paul Roos with pick #1 in the Pre-Season Draft. The man who would later coach the club to a drought-breaking flag in 2005, was value-plus through 87 games in four years, including the 1996 grand final.

It could have been a double whammy for future AFL coaches, with Ross Lyon originally set to follow ex-Fitzroy teammate Roos to Sydney until the AFL ruled the club had insufficient salary cap space. Instead Lyon, later to coach St.Kilda and Fremantle, went to Brisbane and played two games.

In 2001 ex-Melbourne star Stephen Tingay was the last of the so-called big names to head to Sydney. The 162-game wingman was too badly banged up and never played in red and white.

Nine Years On …

This is an odd one. Four players drafted by the Swans in the 2013 National Draft will all play against the Swans this year – pick #15 Zak Jones, #32 George Hewett, #35 Toby Nankervis and #44 Aliir Aliir.

You can watch the draft live on AFL.com.au from 6.30pm and follow all the Swans selections on our social media channels, website and app.

This news is brought to you by ELMO Software, the club's official list and recruiting partner.