A MORE mature Liam Ryan's improved defensive pressure – although still a work in progress – sealed his passage to West Coast rather than his thrill-seeking aerial prowess.
But Eagles list manager Brady Rawlings still couldn't wipe the smirk from his face at the prospect of the indigenous livewire being let loose in the AFL next year.
Rawlings tipped Ryan, the club's third selection at No.26 in Friday night's NAB AFL Draft, as the most likely newcomer to make an immediate impact.
The Subiaco flyer burst onto the WAFL scene last year straight out of Geraldton with 40 goals in 16 games then led the competition with 73 more this past season.
Ryan is 184cm, but is not your typical small forward who thrives at ground level – he extraordinarily had four of the WAFL's five Mark of the Year nominations in 2017.
"The talent was evident last year and it was probably all a little bit new to him, in terms of the professionalism side of things," Rawlings told AFL.com.au.
"This year we feel like he's definitely backed up the form from last year and gone to another level even, and the excitement he brings to the field is terrific.
"But we've seen some improvements in his game as well this year – and not just the marking and the goalkicking."
Towering swingman Jarrod Brander, from Mildura, was the prize of West Coast's draft at No.13 after starting the year as a No.1 contender and within Greater Western Sydney's recruiting zone.
The Eagles were strongly linked with local product Oscar Allen at pick 13, but sprung a mild surprise in nabbing the 194cm talent.
But the AFL stripped the Murray region from the Giants' grasp to spark a feeding frenzy for Brander that West Coast ultimately won.
His inconsistent 2017 campaign for Geelong Grammar, the Bendigo Pioneers and Allies saw him tumble out of the top 10, but the Eagles had seen enough to add him to the club's tall stocks.
"Jarrod is a player we've admired for two years now and going into this season we thought he was an elite talent," Rawlings said.
"He had a bit of a different year with having to play with a lot of different teams and the travel he had to endure (but) we feel he's adapted to that pretty well.
"We like the versatility of him being able to play at both ends, and some of his athletic traits for a key forward are pretty special."
West Coast was left to sweat on Allen, the Larke medallist as the best Division One player at this year's NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
The Eagles giddily snapped up the 191cm forward when he unexpectedly slipped to No.21.
"We probably thought he'd be gone in the teens," Rawlings said of Allen.
"The fact he was still there at 21 – we discussed whether we need different types at that pick – but we just felt he was too big a talent to pass up."
West Coast rounded out its hometown hoard when it gave another player overlooked in 2016, Ryan's Subiaco clubmate Brayden Ainsworth, his AFL shot.
"He's come from nowhere really this year," Rawlings said.
"I reckon if you told him at the start of the year that he'd go at pick 32, he'd probably be a little bit surprised, but he's had a terrific season and definitely deserved to be called at that pick."
Northern Knights speed demon Jack Petruccelle (pick 38) was the last of the Eagles' five top-40 picks, many of which were accumulated in a busy NAB AFL Trade Period.
"Jack's a player that we'll probably work out where he's going to play once we bring him in," Rawlings said.
"He's very versatile … so there's definitely some X-factor there and he's got a bit to work with."
Midfielder Hamish Brayshaw, brother of Demon Angus and new Docker and No.2 pick Andrew, completed West Coast's night.
"His work-rate is terrific, he's got a terrific attitude – he's a Brayshaw, so they're all good boys," Rawlings said.
"We just think he's done everything right and done everything to get there."
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