NORTH Melbourne has taken a significant step towards addressing its shortage of midfield run and class with its first pick in Friday night's NAB AFL Draft, taking highly touted Dandenong Stingray Luke Davies-Uniacke at No.4.
The Kangaroos invested heavily in their midfield at the draft, with three of their other four picks also used on on-ballers: Will Walker at No.23, Kyron Hayden at No.62 and former Hawk Billy Hartung at No.77.
Davies-Uniacke was understood to be one of four players the Brisbane Lions were considering for pick No.1 before ultimately opting to take Cameron Rayner, while he was also widely linked with Fremantle at pick No.2 until late in draft week.
North did not hesitate to use its earliest selection since 2006 to snare Davies-Uniacke, who the Roos hope will be a key plank of the list rebuild they started at the end of 2016. The 18-year-old will wear the No.9 guernsey left vacant by Andrew Swallow's retirement.
North recruitment manager Mark Finnigan said the club was thrilled to secure an elite talent like Davies-Uniacke.
"A lot kids were rated in that top group this year so it could have gone either way for about five or six, but to pick a player like Luke at four we were very excited," Finnigan said.
"He's probably something that we've been crying out for a little bit at the footy club with his inside and outside game.
"Another strength of his game is his ability to go forward, he's a really strong mark overhead and hits the scoreboard."
Most draft experts did not expect Walker, 187cm and 78kg, to be taken so early, but Finnigan said the Sandringham Dragon had enormous scope for improvement.
"Will played high-level soccer for a few years. He came back to footy in the last few years. We saw the development he had from the start of the year to the end going from a forward to an inside-outside mid, so we see a lot of scope for development," Finnigan said.
Hayden missed the entire 2016 season with injury but the West Australian impressed with Subiacio and in the Under-18 Championships this year.
"He's another with elite speed. He broke the vertical leap record at the Draft Combine, he's got real power and size about him," Finnigan said.
"I think the midfielders we got with our first three picks are going to add depth to our midfield. They all offer something a bit different too, so hopefully they complement what we have at the moment, which will give us a really different mix across the board."
Finnigan was hopeful Hartung would use his second chance at AFL level to become a consistent player, saying if he did he would be a valuable player for the Roos.
"The other three (draftees) can get out but they're predominantly inside midfielders, so to add Billy to that mix with his outside run is going to really add to our running game," Finnigan said.
North's other selection on Friday night was ruckman Tristan Xerri from the Western Jets at pick No.72.
"He's a developing ruck, who can also go forward. He's aggressive and a really strong mark and competitive," Finnigan said.
"We think he'll develop nicely in our VFL team year. We see some enormous potential with him."
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