Top draft prospects Aaron Cadman, Elijah Tsatas and George Wardlaw. Pictures: AFL Photos

EVERY year, the club with the No.1 pick in the NAB AFL Draft says they will listen to offers for the selection before always just holding it for themselves. This is the year they shouldn't just be listening to offers for pick one, they should be initiating trade discussions about the top pick.

The No.1 pick at the draft hasn't been traded since 2001, when Fremantle famously traded it to Hawthorn for Trent Croad and Luke McPharlin as the Hawks swooped on Luke Hodge with the first selection at the famous 'Superdraft'.

If North Melbourne, as expected, holds the No.1 pick by the end of this weekend, the Kangaroos should be putting it on the table and see what's up for grabs. There are several factors why.

DRAFT HUB Click here for the latest draft news

The first is Will Ashcroft. The gun midfielder has pieced together a complete season at every level he has played – in the NAB League for the Sandringham Dragons (where he's averaged 36 disposals), for Vic Metro at the under-18 carnival (where he averaged 33 disposals) and for Brisbane's VFL side (where he's averaged 29 disposals). 


Ashcroft is the bulletproof midfielder who warrants a bid at the No.1 pick given his form, with injuries to other top pick contenders opening the gap between his performances and that of his contemporaries. But North won't get him, with Ashcroft committed to the Lions as a father-son on a four-year deal.

Should North bid – it would be very hard not to this year – they have options. Do they stay at pick No.2 and take George Wardlaw, who has been viewed as the other leading contender for the top pick? Or do they look to turn the selection into multiple picks, splitting it and making a brave call to turn one great pick into more very good ones? 

ALL THE COMBINE INVITEES Full list of young guns heading for trials

The complicating factor with Wardlaw is his lack of games this season. Many recruiters still believe he could be the best player out of the pool: the midfielder is tough, explosive and a game-breaker who has been best afield in his two biggest games this season (for Oakleigh against Sandringham in round one of the NAB League season and for the NAB AFL Academy against Collingwood's VFL side in May).

Vic Metro's George Wardlaw is tackled by Vic Country's Oliver Hollands during an U17 Championships match on June 26, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

But a hamstring injury ruled him out of the under-18 championships with Vic Metro and he had a setback in his recovery that extended his time out of action to close to two months. He returned last weekend at school level, only to suffer another hamstring strain in the opening minutes in what will likely be the end of his draft campaign.

INDICATIVE DRAFT ORDER Where do your club's picks fall?

It adds a layer of intrigue to North's call (or West Coast for that matter, if they drop to 18th on the ladder this weekend). It's why the wooden-spooner should be seeing if a pick split has any takers.

Can No.1 (which would become No.2 after a bid) be turned into two top-10 picks? Would it be worth the Roos shifting back a few spots, taking one of Elijah Tsatas, Jhye Clark or Cam Mackenzie as their midfielder or half-forward Harry Sheezel and seeing if they can take a second early selection? 

Jhye Clark of Vic Country poses before the 2022 U18 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos

Or could they move back to grab exciting key forward Aaron Cadman, knowing he may be available several spots after the top choice, and in turn get a bonus selection for doing so?

Brisbane traded pick No.2 to Greater Western Sydney in the 2016 draft for pick No.3 and 16, which saw them take Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry. The Giants moved up and got Tim Taranto. 

The option to slide back down the order, of course, requires a buyer with the capacity to swap multiple selections. 

The Giants already currently hold pick No.3 at the draft again this year but look likely to have a strong hand of picks with a busy trade period ahead, while Gold Coast too may have two top-10 picks if Izak Rankine takes up an offer to join Adelaide. Sydney is currently the only club with two first-round picks this season – No.16 (tied to Melbourne) and No.17 – but clubs can also dip into their futures market to make a deal work. 

Last year North Melbourne rejected big back-to-back bids for the No.1 choice from Adelaide and Melbourne as it was locked in on Jason Horne-Francis. This time around, as the Roos make a play for an assistance package of priority picks, they should see what's on offer.