AMID the call for his North Melbourne side to explore the possibility of requesting a priority pick at season's end, David Noble's analysis of how AFL assistance can help fast-track the rebuild of a football club offered an insight into how the Kangaroos might actually use any potential draft package at year's end.
Noble, like few others in the coaching landscape, has first-hand experience of receiving a priority pick from the AFL and subsequently also has first-hand experience of ensuring it is used in the best possible manner to get a club back on its feet… and quickly.
As the then-recently-appointed football boss of Brisbane, Noble was part of the Lions team that received an end-of-first round selection – pick No.19 at the time – ahead of the 2016 NAB AFL Draft.
The priority pick was handed to Brisbane after the club won just seven games in its previous two seasons. North Melbourne has won just one of its previous 23 matches and has lost 16 straight games. The Lions were also in the midst of a seven-year finals drought at the time, with the Kangaroos bound to stretch their barren run to five seasons later this year.
But within three seasons of that draft, where Brisbane – led by Noble and new coach Chris Fagan – smartly manoeuvred its priority pick to give the club an instant injection of young talent and experience in the form of recruits from elsewhere, the Lions were back in the finals picture and back competing at the pointy end of the season.
"It gives you flexibility," Noble said on Thursday morning as he addressed a question about his own experiences with Brisbane and whether priority picks actually make a significant difference to a rebuilding process.
"Within the strategy of your list management, you either bring additional talent in or you've got the flexibility to manoeuvre your way through the Trade Period. You can also trade something forward into the future and that banks you something forward as well."
The latter part of that response is highly intriguing. Of the three hypothetical ways in which Noble suggested North Melbourne could potentially use a priority pick, should it receive one, Brisbane – under Noble's guidance – used all three in 2016 and 2017.
The Lions, handed pick No.19 from the AFL in October 2016, almost immediately relinquished that selection in a trade. Within 12 days of receiving the pick, they had given it – along with Irish defender Pearce Hanley – away.
In return, they received pick No.22 from the Suns and a future first-round selection from the Power as part of a complex three-way deal. Pick No.22 was used on Cedric Cox, while the future pick – which ended up being pick No.12 the next season – was given to the Crows in a trade for Charlie Cameron.
In essence, Brisbane had used pick No.19 to "manoeuvre its way through the Trade Period" so it could "bring additional talent in" courtesy of Cox and "bank something forward as well" in the form of Cameron. Sound familiar?
The deal helped two-fold for the Lions. Although the selection of Cox didn't necessarily work out, he added to the list of exciting young prospects brought into the club via the 2016 NAB AFL Draft. The talented junior was its fourth pick inside the top-24 selections on the night, adding to the recruitment of Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry and Alex Witherden.
While those selections helped shape the future of Brisbane, with McCluggage and Berry still at the club and playing important roles in its successive top-four finishes, Cameron brought an immediate injection of quality the following season.
A crucial member of Adelaide's Grand Final side in 2017, kicking five goals in its preliminary final victory over Geelong, the electric small forward has become an All-Australian member since arriving at Brisbane and has booted 120 goals from 62 games during his time with the club.
Still just 23 years of age when recruited to Brisbane, Cameron has matured with the club's list throughout its rebuild. The Lions used seven first-round picks in the three years either side of his arrival, ensuring there was young talent to mould around their high-profile acquisition.
North Melbourne, similarly, started that process last year when it secured dual first-round selections that it used to recruit Will Phillips (pick No.3) and Tom Powell (pick No.13). More early picks appear certain to follow in the years to come.
Despite his vocal support of a plan to push for AFL assistance, Noble himself conceded that a lot would have to play out before a decision would be made by the AFL. The North Melbourne coach said it "may be a bit early" for the discussion on whether the Kangaroos were even entitled to a priority pick in the first place.
But, if they were to receive one at season's end – and it remains a big 'if' – then all of the clues in terms of how the club could potentially use it to enact significant improvements to their list are staring right at us.
THE CASE FOR AFL ASSISTANCE
North Melbourne in 2021: Three wins in previous 25 games, five seasons without finals
Gold Coast in 2019: Seven wins in previous two seasons, nine seasons without finals
- Pick No.1 and pick No.20 in 2019 NAB AFL Draft
- Pick No.11 in 2020 NAB AFL Draft
- Pick No.19 in 2021 NAB AFL Draft
- Increased rookie list, Darwin as Academy zone, ability to pre-sign Academy players
Gold Coast in 2018: 20 wins in previous four seasons, eight seasons without finals
- Ability to pre-list three state league players
- Increased rookie list
Carlton in 2018: Eight wins in previous two seasons, five seasons without finals
- Ability to pre-list two state league players
Brisbane in 2016: Seven wins in previous two seasons, seven seasons without finals
- Pick No.19