INTRIGUE surrounds the top end of this week's NAB AFL Draft as the cat-and-mouse between Fremantle and Gold Coast adds more uncertainty to the destinations of key players.
The Dockers' first pick (scheduled to be No.7 overall before any academy bids) is wedged between the Suns' second and third selections, with top-10 prospects Griffin Logue, Jack Scrimshaw, Will Brodie and Jy Simpkin all in the mix for both clubs.
But as Suns list manager Scott Clayton told AFL.com.au's Road to the Draft podcast this week, there is a tactical element to Gold Coast's strategy as it attempts to land the players it ranks highest despite their four early selections being weaved between three other clubs.
That could mean the Suns look to take athletic key defender Logue with pick six if they believe the Dockers are most keen on the West Australian with the next selection.
Fremantle has been linked strongly to Victorian pair Jack Scrimshaw and Jy Simpkin, and have met up with the duo in the past week for further interviews.
Scrimshaw and Simpkin are also considered to be in the Suns' mix, which has made it difficult to ascertain the priorities for both recruiting teams. Brodie has been interviewed recently by the Suns but not the Dockers.
But because of the mind games being played by both clubs in the lead-in to the draft, the positions in the back half of the top 10 have largely been in flux.
If Logue is taken by the Suns at No.6 and Simpkin joins the Dockers, Scrimshaw would seem a good fit to join Gold Coast with the next selection. The Suns have been long linked to the attacking half-back throughout the season.
Under that scenario, Brodie is a chance to make it through to Sydney's pick No.9, where it is expected he would be snapped up by the Swans to join their midfield.
Essendon will go into draft day with the No.1 choice remaining a secret, with Andrew McGrath, Hugh McCluggage and GWS academy product Will Setterfield in contention for the selection.
Hugh McCluggage (left) and Andrew McGrath are both chances to go at pick No.1. Picture: AFL Photos
Whichever way the Bombers go will create a ripple effect for at least the first five picks, particularly given the Giants would immediately grab McGrath at No.2 should Essendon not pick him. That would leave Brisbane likely to draft Ben Ainsworth at No.3 and the Suns to take Tim Taranto at No.4.
Later in the first round, Western Jets midfielder Daniel Venables could be in the running to be picked by the Brisbane Lions with their second choice, while attacking half-back Alex Witherden could join Essendon at the start of the second round.
North Melbourne may also jump ahead of West Coast to pick versatile Vic Country captain Jarrod Berry, which could leave the Eagles to take WA ruckman Tim English.
GWS academy prospect Isaac Cumming also looms as a possible first-round choice after being a late call-up to attend the draft at the Hordern Pavilion on Friday night.
Cumming, who played for North Adelaide in the SANFL this year and is from Broken Hill, has attracted the interest of Adelaide and Port Adelaide, while the Swans have also been linked as possibly placing a bid on the half-back.
Here is AFL.com.au's 'Late Mail' edition of The Phantom Draft, with an update in the latter part of the top 10.
Pick 1 – Essendon – Andrew McGrath
Pick 2 – Greater Western Sydney – Tim Taranto
Pick 3 – Brisbane Lions – Hugh McCluggage
Pick 4 – Gold Coast – Ben Ainsworth
Pick 5 – Greater Western Sydney (matching Carlton's bid) – Will Setterfield
Pick 6 – Carlton – Sam Petrevski-Seton
Pick 7 – Gold Coast – Griffin Logue
Pick 8 – Fremantle – Jy Simpkin
Pick 9 – Gold Coast – Jack Scrimshaw
Pick 10 – Gold Coast (matching Sydney's bid) – Jack Bowes
Pick 11 – Sydney – Will Brodie
Pick 12 – Greater Western Sydney (matching North Melbourne's bid) – Harry Perryman
Pick 13 – North Melbourne – Oliver Florent
Pick 14 – West Coast – Jarrod Berry
Pick 15 – Adelaide – Jordan Gallucci
Pick 16 – Port Adelaide – Will Hayward
Pick 17 – Brisbane Lions – Alex Witherden
Pick 18 – Port Adelaide – Todd Marshall
Pick 19 – Western Bulldogs – Tim English
Pick 20 – Sydney – Brennan Cox
Pick 21 – Essendon – Daniel Venables
Pick 22 – Brisbane Lions – Jordan Ridley
Pick 23 – Brisbane Lions – Jack Graham
Pick 24 – Greater Western Sydney (matching St Kilda's bid) – Isaac Cumming
Pick 25 – St Kilda – Sam Powell-Pepper
Pick 26 – Geelong – Josh Battle
Pick 27 – Carlton – Willem Drew
Pick 28 – Western Bulldogs – Cedric Cox
Pick 29 – Richmond – Elliott Himmelberg
Pick 30 – Collingwood – Shai Bolton