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Essendon rookie draft: Shaun McKernan joins Dons

Pre-season and rookie draft analysis Draft experts Callum Twomey and Nat Edwards analyse the 2014 NAB AFL pre-season and rookie drafts
Shaun McKernan of the Crows in action during the 2014 AFL round 01 match between the Geelong Cats and the Adelaide Crows at Simonds Stadium, Geelong on March 20, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Former Crows big man Shaun McKernan has been rookied by Essendon
McKernan is a good fit. His best is very good
Essendon list manager Adrian Dodoro
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ESSENDON entered Wednesday's NAB AFL Rookie Draft with one 'live' selection and the club was always going to target a ruckman to add depth to its thinning big man stocks. 

Former Adelaide tall Shaun McKernan got the nod at pick No.12, kicking off a draft day the Bombers were very pleased with as they re-listed Kurt Aylett and officially welcomed Irishman Conor McKenna and Jake Long, the son of club great Michael.

McKenna, who was arguably the best international prospect available, committed to the Bombers in October, while Long has been in full training at the club for the past two weeks.  

List manager Adrian Dodoro said the McKernan selection was an easy call to make given the club's need for a mature tall, rather than a youngster who would take time to develop.   

"There was a bit of a squeeze for him at Adelaide, but we've obviously lost a lot of talls in recent seasons and there was an opportunity for him to fit into our team," Dodoro told AFL.com.au. 

"He impressed us with his desire to be part of our team and it was a no-brainer in the end, without a lot of depth in the mature talls. 

"The aim was to get a bloke who could play in the ruck and play forward and was physically ready."

Locked out of the first two rounds of last week's NAB AFL Draft, the Rookie Draft took on increased importance for the Bombers, who found creative ways to reinvigorate their list and add depth. 

"What we've done is retained (Ariel) Steinberg and picked up Aylett and McKernan … three players who give us coverage on our rookie list and can be elevated if need be," Dodoro said. 

"We really rate Long and we got him as a rookie, and we rate McKenna and we got him as a category-B rookie, so it's fallen into place for us and we're very happy." 

Selection No.12 – Shaun McKernan (Adelaide) 
Adrian Dodoro says: "We needed another tall third forward and someone who can swing in the ruck, and Shaun can do that. His best is very good - we understand we've got to get some more consistency in his game, but at 24 we felt he's got a lot of good footy ahead of him. Being delisted by the Crows has put a bit of fire in his belly and there's an opportunity for him." 

Selection No.30 – Kurt Aylett (Essendon) 
Adrian Dodoro says: "Kurt was unlucky to be delisted, he was really stiff. He is a valued member of our team and a great person and he took it in his stride. He hasn't missed a beat since and there's no reason he can't play senior footy and progress off the rookie list. We think he's got a future."  

Selection No.47 – Jake Long (St Mary's)
Adrian Dodoro says: "We've known Jake since he was a baby; he grew up on our doorstep. He's a really exciting player but he'll take time, he's only light. He's a bit taller than his old man and he's got speed and agility. He sees the game unfold really well and he's got that little bit of x-factor you look for in a player. There's just something about him. He's been in full pre-season for a couple of weeks and he's exceeding our expectations."
 
Selection No.62 – Conor McKenna (Ireland)  
Adrian Dodoro says: "Once we saw Conor we zeroed in and wanted him, and he comes with high hopes. He's settled in well and there are no signs of homesickness. Our development program has been designed to get him up and running in the next year or two and we're committed to him long term. He looks like a natural half-forward but there's no reason he couldn't play half-back or midfield long-term."