Pick No.2s: Trent Cotchin, Christian Petracca, Nic Naitanui. Picture: AFL Photos

ADDING a Norm Smith Medal and a premiership medallion to an already impressive resume has vaulted Christian Petracca up the pecking order of the competition's most influential players.

However, has it helped him climb the ranks among the best No.2 draft picks of all-time?


While there's always hysteria over who is taken with the No.1 selection – as there will be at next month's NAB AFL Draft – history shows the following pick can be even more fruitful.

Petracca was selected second in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft behind Paddy McCartin who was taken by St Kilda, and after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament during his first pre-season, has blossomed into the best player from that crop.

Matt Primus (1995), Brad Ottens (1997), Daniel Wells (2002), Dale Thomas (2005) all enjoyed outstanding careers, but fell just short of making the final cut.

In 2019, AFL national talent ambassador Kevin Sheehan nominated the greatest players selected at each pick and gave the nod to Trent Cotchin.

Would the triple-premiership Tiger still be considered the best No.2 of all-time? Let's have a look at the leading candidates.

1993 Nigel Lappin

A highly skilled midfielder, Lappin would go on to be a key player in the Lions' three-peat. He was part of the famous 'Fab Four' along with Michael Voss, Simon Black and Jason Akermanis that was an unstoppable force in the early 2000s. Along with three flags, Lappin was a four-time All-Australian and won the best and fairest in 2004. He was also a co-captain for two years and inducted in the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2016. 

Nigel Lappin after being inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame on June 14, 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

2001 – Luke Ball

Taken behind Luke Hodge and ahead of Chris Judd in the 2001 'Superdraft', Ball had a fabulous career of his own. He was an All-Australian and St Kilda best and fairest winner in just his fourth season and a Saints captain before his controversial move to Collingwood which netted him a premiership in 2010. Ball was a reliable and consistent midfielder that finished up with 223 career games, averaging more than 20 disposals a game.

Luke Ball celebrates with Saints fans after a win over Fremantle in round four, 2009. Picture: AFL Photos

2004 – Jarryd Roughead

A key part of Hawthorn's four-premiership dynasty, Roughead got to the Hawks in the same draft as Lance Franklin and Jordan Lewis. Although not always the headline act of a star-studded team, Roughead was a powerful key forward that kicked 578 goals from his 283 games. He was strong in the air and quick on the lead, a great focal point that won the Coleman Medal in 2013, as well as All-Australian jackets in 2013 and 2014. Roughead could easily be on the podium in this conversation.

Jarryd Roughead with his Coleman Medal at the All-Australian night on September 16, 2013

2007 – Trent Cotchin

Hard to top the Richmond skipper as the best No.2 pick of all-time. He won a Brownlow Medal in 2012 alongside Sam Mitchell (after it was stripped from Jobe Watson) and made the All-Australian team the same year. However, he was far from done, continuing to grow as a player – becoming a rock-hard, fearless, in-and-under midfielder – and leader, to take the Tigers to three premierships in four years. He won Richmond's best and fairest three times. For his peak as a player, evolution as player and leader, and longevity, Cotchin is tough to beat for the best man selected second in the draft.

Trent Cotchin after winning his third premiership in 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

2008 – Nic Naitanui

For highlights alone this man deserves a spot on the list. Naitanui was an All-Australian early in his career in 2012 with his peerless ruck work and high-flying marks. As he put on muscle, 'Nic Nat' became a terror at ground level, capable of following up with clearances and panicking opponents into mistakes with his presence alone. He's added two more All-Australians in 2020 and 2021, along with two best and fairest awards to show there might still be plenty ahead for the 31-year-old fan favourite. 


2013 – Josh Kelly

The Greater Western Sydney gun has had a rollercoaster career, but at just 26 years of age appears to be on the up. Kelly looked set to take the competition by storm after an All-Australian selection in 2017 with his hard two-way running and polished left-foot kicking. However, he battled to find his absolute best in subsequent years, although still highly effective, before a terrific 2021 season that saw him win a second Kevin Sheedy Medal. 

Josh Kelly celebrates a goal against Essendon in round eight, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

2014 – Christian Petracca

At the rate he's going, Petracca will surpass everyone on this list by the time his career is done. The powerhouse Demon is the prototype midfielder every club is after, with his ability to burst from stoppages and kick goals when he goes forward. Petracca is just two seasons into his 'peak', having earned back-to-back All-Australian jackets to go along with his Norm Smith Medal and premiership in 2021.