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Rival clubs opposed to possible Demon priority pick

Nick Bowen  April 11, 2013 7:01 AM

Boom Demon recruit Hogan on the board Young key forward Jesse Hogan takes a mark and kicks his first Melbourne goal
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The Demons snared key forward Jesse Hogan via the GWS mini-draft

The draft has been compromised enough with the expansion teams in recent years without handicapping everyone again by giving Melbourne another leg up

ANY AFL move to give Melbourne a priority draft pick to help the Demons escape their seemingly endless on-field struggles will be strongly opposed by rival clubs.

A number of club CEOs, football managers and list managers told AFL.com.au this week Melbourne did not deserve any additional draft concessions, saying its current on-field problems were largely of its own making.

Under the previous system, Melbourne was awarded a priority pick at the end of the first round of the 2008 NAB AFL Draft (pick No. 17, Sam Blease) for winning less than five games that season.

When the Demons again won less than five games the following season, they received a priority pick before the first round of the 2009 national draft (pick No. 1, Tom Scully) giving them the first two selections that year (they took Jack Trengove with pick No. 2).

Such gilt-edged draft picks are normally the base on which clubs rebuild, but more than three years later the Demons sit last on the 2013 ladder with a percentage of 28.4 after consecutive thrashings from Port Adelaide (79 points) and Essendon (148 points).

The AFL scrapped the previous priority pick system in February 2012, but the AFL Commission still has a discretionary power to award a priority pick in "exceptional circumstances".

However, the League faces a backlash if it decides at the end of this season the Demons need such special assistance.

One club CEO, who preferred not to be named, was vehemently opposed to the AFL giving Melbourne any further draft concessions, saying it was time the Demons stood on their own two feet.

"The draft has been compromised enough with the expansion teams in recent years without handicapping everyone again by giving Melbourne another leg up," the CEO said.

"Rebuilding is not rocket science. The consistently good teams get in good people, build a good development environment and get as many of their draft picks right as they can."

A club football manager echoed that sentiment, saying any AFL help given to the Demons should be focused on ensuring they had the right people running the club and, in particular, its development program for its youngsters.   

Although Scully left Melbourne after just two seasons to join Greater Western Sydney as an uncontracted player, Melbourne was not left emptyhanded, receiving two first-round draft picks as compensation.

This meant the Dees entered last October's trade period with picks No. 4 and 14, in addition to the No. 3 pick they received for finishing 16th in 2012.

In a complicated web of trade deals, Melbourne used picks No. 3 and 14 to acquire 17-year-old West Australian key forward Jesse Hogan and Northern Territory zone selection Dom Barry, later committing its second-round draft pick (No. 26) to father-son recruit Jack Viney despite earlier speculation it might have needed to use pick No. 3 to secure the tough midfielder.

At last year's NAB AFL Draft, the Demons selected highly rated South Australian midfielder Jimmy Toumpas with pick No. 4.

A rival list manager said clubs that had been unsuccessfully targeting elite junior key-position players in recent drafts would have looked on enviously when the Demons signed Hogan, who is not eligible to play until next season.

The list manager said such clubs would be further disadvantaged if Melbourne was awarded another priority pick and used it – as he expected it would – to select another elite young tall such as Victorian key forward Tom Boyd.

"A number of clubs have been screaming out for a key-position player but have had no access to any in the first round of the draft for several years," he said.

"Those clubs' ability to improve their lists is hard enough without making it even harder by giving Melbourne another priority pick."

Nick Bowen is a reporter with AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nick