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A DEEP talent pool conspired against VFL players hoping for their shot at the big time in the NAB AFL Draft, according to the state league's academy coach.

No VFL players had their names called by clubs on Thursday night, the first time since 2008 that the state league has been overlooked in the national draft.

However, AFL clubs are more likely to come calling in the pre-season and rookie drafts on Wednesday – with Coburg's Adam Saad, Nic Newman from Frankston and Williamstown's Adam Marcon among the leading candidates.

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"It was a strong draft pool and we weren't really hopeful of anyone being drafted onto a primary list," VFL academy coach Darren Flanigan told

"We thought most of the players who were showing form in the VFL this year were more likely rookie picks.

"It all comes down to clubs' needs. The more likely players to be picked up out of the VFL – Saad, Newman, Marcon – if a club hasn't got a genuine need for those sort of blokes or thinks they can pick them up in the pre-season or rookie draft they might leave it until then.

"You would like to see half a dozen kids get an opportunity. That would be a reasonably fair result."

The VFL has been a rookie draft goldmine for AFL clubs in recent years – with 32 players picked up since 2009.

Some of the biggest success stories include Western Bulldogs forward Stewart Crameri (2010), Fremantle midfielder Michael Barlow (2010), Essendon defender Mark Baguley (2012) and Collingwood's Sam Dwyer (2013).

Flanigan said most of this year's best prospects were inside-outside midfielders, such as Kane Lambert from Williamstown and Frankston's Ben Cavarra.

However, clubs searching to bolster their key position stocks could be interested in 25-year-old Coburg forward Lech Featherstone or Sandringham tall defender Elliot Le Grice.

Featherstone kicked 35 goals and "had a really good year" for the Lions last season, while 194cm Le Grice was the Zebras' best first-year player and the 19-year-old has been granted permission to train with St Kilda.

The VFL players who missed out on Thursday night will join many delisted AFL players – such as banned former St Kilda forward Ahmed Saad – by pinning their hopes on the pre-season and rookie drafts.