AFTER missing out on being drafted in 2014, followed by short stints at the Northern Blues and Coburg, Garrett McDonagh returned to West Preston-Lakeside thinking his AFL dream had passed him by.
But after two premierships with the Northern league Roosters, he decided to give it one more crack, and after a breakout season for Richmond’s VFL team this year, McDonagh was on Thursday night donning a different-coloured sash after being taken by Essendon – the team he has supported all his life – at pick 50 in the NAB AFL National Draft.
McDonagh, 25, was the only VFL senior-listed player selected in the draft, with delisted Geelong star Charlie Constable taken by Gold Coast at pick 63.
Six young players who lined up in at least one VFL match were also picked up – Josh Goater (played for Essendon, drafted by North Melbourne at 22); Tyler Sonsie (Box Hill Hawks, Richmond, 28); Jake Soligo (Richmond, Adelaide, 36); Josh Fahey (promoted from GWS Academy, 42); Zac Taylor (Essendon, Adelaide, 44) and Jackson Archer (North Melbourne father-son, 59).
The 183cm, 75kg McDonagh played nine of the Tigers’ 10 VFL games, averaging 20.7 disposals at 71 per cent efficiency, 4.9 marks, 2.8 tackles, three inside-50s, five rebound-50s and almost one clearance per game – a season which saw him finish sixth in the club’s Guinane Medal for the best-and-fairest.
It was a marked improvement on his returns in five games for the Blues (11.4 disposals) in 2015 and two matches for Coburg (11.0) the following year, while he also added scoreboard pressure to his game with 4.4 this season after just 1.0 across those seven games at 19 and 20.
The left-footer known for his long, accurate kicking and decision making put in his best performance against Collingwood in round 13, when he had 30 disposals, nine marks and a goal, while he also impressed against GWS in round five (27, eight, one) and Brisbane Lions in round six (21, two goals).
He is the second VFL Tiger to find his way to Windy Hill this year after Sam Durham was taken by the Bombers in the NAB Mid-Season Rookie Draft in June, going on to play the last seven AFL games, including the elimination final loss to the Western Bulldogs.
Bombers general manager of list and recruiting Adrian Dodoro said McDonagh could make an impact at AFL level immediately.
"Garrett is player who deserves an opportunity," Dodoro told the club's website.
"We felt he was one of the better ready-made players in the pool this year. Even though he's 25 years of age, we think he's got a lot of football left in him.
"He's an elite left-foot kick and has fantastic endurance. We're looking forward to him playing a lot of senior football for us."