NORTH Melbourne has crowned Jacob Edwards the No.1 selection in the 2021 NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft, rewarding the Sandringham Dragons youngster for his scintillating start to the season.
The 202cm Edwards has long been tipped as the best youngster in the mid-season draft crop, with the Kangaroos officially welcoming the 18-year-old ruck-forward to Arden Street on Wednesday night.
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North Melbourne, who earned the first selection courtesy of its 1-10 start to the campaign, paired Edwards with Geelong Falcons midfielder Charlie Ham at pick No.16 as the club continues its dramatic list rebuild under first-year coach David Noble.
It came on an evening where just one ex-AFL player found a lifeline at another club, with former 19-game St Kilda speedster Matthew Parker earning a second chance with reigning premiers Richmond.
Instead, rucks became a theme of the draft with seven chosen among a total of 22 picks across the course of the night. That included four ruckmen being taken off draft boards inside the first seven selections.
Many felt Hawthorn would shape the draft, with the club ultimately opting to pull the trigger on much-hyped Box Hill midfielder Jai Newcombe with pick No.2 after the young onballer nominated under 'other terms'.
It allowed Gold Coast to pounce on promising 204cm ruckman Ned Moyle at pick No.5, after Collingwood selected creative forward Ash Johnson and Adelaide went for diminutive defender Patrick Parnell.
But more rucks were soon to fly off the board, with Carlton selecting for 210cm ex-volleyballer Alex Mirkov from the club's VFL program before St Kilda recruited 18-year-old prospect Max Heath.
Greater Western Sydney also recruited from within, selecting pressure forward James Peatling out of the club's VFL side, while Essendon pinched Richmond VFL prospect Sam Durham with the selection before the Tigers were due to pick.
That enabled the reigning premiers to opt for a mature-aged selection, turning its attentions to former St Kilda forward Parker following an impressive step-down from AFL football with WAFL outfit South Fremantle.
The run of rucks continued later in the draft, with Sydney selecting former rugby union player Lachlan McAndrew out of its VFL program before Brisbane plucked Kalin Lane from WAFL side Claremont and Collingwood nabbed Aiden Begg from Eastern Ranges.
Melbourne handed an opportunity to Werribee VFL star Kye Declase at pick No.15, after the defender trained with the club throughout pre-season, while Hawthorn was the side to punt on 195cm key forward Jackson Callow.
Fremantle, the Western Bulldogs and Geelong didn't take a pick into the draft.
But the night belonged to Edwards, who missed selection at last year's NAB AFL Draft after his top-age campaign with Sandringham was halted by the COVID-19 enforced cancellation of the 2020 season.
He has since emerged as one of this year's brightest young talents, electing to nominate for an 18-month contract with North Melbourne instead of waiting for the end-of-year national draft where recruiters believe he could have been a top-10 pick.
Edwards rocketed up recruiting boards to become the mid-season draft's No.1 selection after kicking five goals from his first three NAB League games with the Dragons this year, while averaging 12 disposals, 3.7 marks and 14.3 hitouts per match.
MID-SEASON DRAFT IN FULL
1 – North Melbourne: Jacob Edwards (Sandringham Dragons)
2 – Hawthorn: Jai Newcombe (Box Hill VFL)
3 – Collingwood: Ash Johnson (Sturt SANFL)
4 – Adelaide: Patrick Parnell (Murray Bushrangers)
5 – Gold Coast: Ned Moyle (Oakleigh Chargers)
6 – Carlton: Alex Mirkov (Carlton VFL)
7 – St Kilda: Max Heath (Sandringham Dragons)
8 – GWS Giants: James Peatling (GWS Giants VFL)
9 – Essendon: Sam Durham (Richmond VFL)
10 – Richmond: Matthew Parker (South Fremantle WAFL)
11 – West Coast: Williams Collins (Swan Districts WAFL)
12 – Sydney: Lachlan McAndrew (Sydney VFL)
13 – Port Adelaide: Jed McEntee (Sturt SANFL)
14 – Brisbane: Kalin Lane (Claremont WAFL)
15 – Melbourne: Kye Declase (Werribee VFL)
16 – North Melbourne: Charlie Ham (Geelong Falcons)
17 – Hawthorn: Jackson Callow (Norwood SANFL)
18 – Collingwood: Aiden Begg (Eastern Ranges)
19 – Carlton: Jordan Boyd (Footscray VFL)
20 – St Kilda: Cooper Sharman (Woodville-West Torrens SANFL)
21 – West Coast: Connor West (West Perth WAFL)
22 – Melbourne: Daniel Turner (Murray Bushrangers)