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Will Mosquito bite the Hawks? Plus other overlooked players

Irving Mosquito has set the Bombers buzzing. Will the Hawks regret not matching Essendon's bid? - AFL,Essendon Bombers,Hawthorn Hawks,Irving  Mosquito,Draft
Irving Mosquito has set the Bombers buzzing. Will the Hawks regret not matching Essendon's bid?

WHEN Hawthorn hosts Essendon in round 13 next year, all eyes will be on whether Bombers small forward Irving Mosquito plays, and the damage he inflicts on the Hawks.

For the duration of his AFL career, Mosquito will forever be remembered as the player the Hawks passed up at pick 38 in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft.

Living in the Hawks' Next Generation Academy catchment area in Gippsland, Mosquito had moved from remote Western Australia as an 11-year-old.

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However, the Hawks opted not to match the Bombers' bid for him, instead holding fire with plans of their own for GWS Academy member Mathew Walker later in the draft.

They're just two of a number of Academy and father-son prospects overlooked in the open draft by the clubs they were tied to since 2013. 

Irving Mosquito – Essendon (Pick 38, 2018 NAB AFL Draft)

Arriving at Tullamarine at 72kg, he's got plenty of developing to do, but the Bombers are confident they've landed a small forward for the future. Not holding a pick until the second round after trading for Dylan Shiel, the Bombers had been watching Mosquito's name closely. When lodging the bid, the Bombers were over the moon when Hawthorn passed up the chance to match.

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Mathew Walker – Hawthorn (Pick 63, 2018 NAB AFL Draft)

A member of Greater Western Sydney's Academy, the Giants were well aware of the Riverina forward's capabilities. Playing for the Giants' NEAFL side, he even booted five goals in a match against Gold Coast as a 17-year-old in 2017. He also played one game for Albury Tigers in the Ovens and Murray Football League in 2018 – for a premiership. But the Hawks pounced, nabbing him after the Giants decided not to match their bid.  

 
Declan Watson – North Melbourne (Pick 34, 2016 NAB AFL Draft)

Hailing from Aspley, Queensland, Watson played six NEAFL games for the Lions during 2016 after impressing in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. However, the Lions knocked back the chance to match North Melbourne's bid as he walked to Arden Street. Suffering an ACL in 2017, the key defender spent 2018 recovering but received a one-year extension for 2019.

Josh Williams – North Melbourne (Pick 36, 2016 NAB AFL Draft)

Blessed with blistering speed, Williams was nabbed by the Roos despite being a member of the Gold Coast Academy. Had moved from Townsville to Gold Coast to further his football as a 17-year-old, but the Suns opted not to match the Roos' bid. Played just two games in two years at the Roos and despite playing 16 VFL games this year, was delisted at season's end.

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Kobe Mutch – Essendon (Pick 42, 2016 NAB AFL Draft)

Having been a member of the AFL Academy and GWS in 2016, playing for the Giants in the NEAFL, Mutch ended up a Bomber. The Giants had first rights to the half-back but opted to allow him to end up at the Bombers, where he debuted and played three senior matches in 2018. Has a contract until 2020. 

Harrison Macreadie – Carlton (Pick 47, 2016 NAB AFL Draft)

Another who the Giants passed up the opportunity to recruit. Hailing from Henty – between Albury and Wagga Wagga – in south-west NSW, the defender debuted for the Giants in the NEAFL in his bottom-age under-18 year. However, Stephen Silvagni and his recruiting team liked what they saw in another 'Giant', Macreadie playing eight games in his debut season before hamstring and quad setbacks hurt his 2018.

Harrison Macreadie played in the AFLX earlier this year but injury cruelled his season. Picture: AFL Photos

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Ryan Garthwaite – Richmond (Pick 72, 2016 NAB AFL Draft)

Fully stocked with key defenders in Phil Davis, Aidan Corr, Jeremy Finlayson, Nick Haynes and Tim Mohr, the Giants watched the 192cm prospect end up at Punt Road. Debuting this year and playing two matches, the Albury big man looks next in line behind Richmond's settled key defensive trio of Alex Rance, Dylan Grimes and David Astbury. 

Josh Dunkley – Western Bulldogs (Pick 25, 2015 NAB AFL Draft)

Signaling his intentions pre-draft to stay in Victoria, the Swans granted him that wish by not matching the Dogs' bid at the start of the second round. Less than 12 months later, Dunkley's 17th AFL game came in the Dogs' drought-breaking premiership … against the Swans. With 43 games to his name, he is contracted until the end of 2019.

A whirlwind first season in the AFL ended with a premiership for Josh Dunkley. Picture: AFL Photos

Corey Wagner – North Melbourne (Pick 43, 2015 NAB AFL Draft)

Tied to Brisbane's Academy, the Lions passed up the chance to nab Wagner as he became a Roo. After four games in each of his two seasons, he was cut at the end of 2017. Returning to the VFL to play for Casey in 2018 while working as a barista, Wagner's impressive form saw him earn a lifeline on Melbourne's rookie list as part of the pre-season supplemental selection period. 

Jake Kelly – Adelaide (Pick 40, 2014 Rookie Draft)

Celebrating at schoolies with friends, Kelly was told the Magpies weren't going to select him in the 2014 Rookie Draft after being overlooked in the National Draft. Despite playing two games for the Pies in the VFL in 2013, the son of premiership player Craig was left to walk to the Crows. Has since played 53 games and a Grand Final for the Crows, while his height would've been handy for the Pies in last year's decider against West Coast after they were decimated down back. The Pies didn't make the same mistake twice, taking brother Will at pick 29 this year after matching a bid from GWS.  

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James Stewart – GWS Giants (Pick 27, 2012 National Draft)

Father Craig's 115 games for Collingwood didn't sway the Pies in nominating Stewart as a father-son prior to the draft. Under the old bidding system before 2015, clubs were forced to nominate their father-son prospects before rival clubs 'bid' on their services. For example, Essendon only had to use their first pick (10) in the 2012 draft to match Port Adelaide's bid at seven for Joe Daniher. However, as the Pies didn't nominate Stewart, he was free for the open draft. After 18 games in four years at the Giants, he was traded to the Bombers where he's played 27 games in the past two seasons, earning an extension until 2020.

Bomber James Stewart started his career at the Giants but could have been a Pie. Picture: AFL Photos

And some selected recent near-misses

- Draft bolster Ely Smith, taken by Brisbane at pick 21 this year, was destined for GWS before family intervened. Hailing from Kellyville in Sydney's north-west, the relocation to Yarrawonga in country Victoria meant he was eligible for the open draft. A ready-made midfield prospect, the Murray Bushranger only received a late invite to the first night of the draft on the Lions' advice. Jacob Koschitzke, a member of the Giants Academy until 2016, was taken by the Hawks later at pick 52. Living on the Murray, he would've been eligible before the AFL changed the rules ahead of 2017.

- Geelong tried on more than one occasion to qualify defender Connor Idun as part of its Next Generation Academy this year. Born in the UK with Ghanaian heritage (father), the Cats later found out that his father had been born in the UK and not Ghana, as AFL rules state an eligible player must be born or have a parent born in an African or Asian country. Despite the Cats still holding interest, he was taken by the Giants at pick 61.

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- Melbourne's Oskar Baker was once part of the Brisbane Academy before he was cut as a 15-year-old, for in his words, being too small (160cm). Heading to the open draft in 2017, his time at the Lions was a distant memory as he landed at Melbourne at pick 48. Yet to make his debut, the flashy midfielder will be pushing for senior action in 2019.

- Port Adelaide's Todd Marshall had focused on cricket for much of his junior career before the Giants' calls for him to join their Academy intensified in 2016. Destined for the first round of the draft, rival clubs started to make noise to the AFL before the Giants' first rights to him at the draft were denied for a "registration issue".  Heading to the open draft, Marshall was taken by the Power at pick 16 and is contracted until the end of 2020.

- Watching his brother Harrison get selected by GWS in 2015, Elliot Himmelberg was drafted to Adelaide in 2016 at pick 51. Elliot had spent 2016 as part of Brisbane's Academy, however because his family had only recently moved to the Sunshine State, he hadn't met the time length requirements. Debuting in round 23 this year, Elliot is contracted until 2020.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs