Yeah. if the old board is gone forever at some stage I'll get around to reposting all my match reports back here - I always post them on the BF draft board as well, and while many people have said unkind things about BF over the years (myself included!) one cannot deny their utility as a backup medium...
In the meantime, in the interests of having SOMETHING in here, below is my selections (and reasons for them) for Essendon's picks in the BF trial phantom draft. Just for clarity - no concession picks, lost picks due to penaties etc for Adelaide, priority picks, or f/s picks were taken into account. Strict 1-18 in reverse ladder order (using the ladder as of a couple of weeks ago), with no unnecessary complications. Not going to post the entire draft order here, but just for discussion, these are the blokes I ended up with...
15 - Ben Lennon
Northern Knights - 187cm - 79kg
There's a few blokes I could have gone for with this pick, and no guarantees if the same guys are on the board come draft day I'd jump the same way.
Lennon is an interesting prospect who I don't think is really getting to show off his full potential at TAC Cup level, and will likely do better in an AFL environment and game style. His big weapon of course is his kick - he can put it low, flat and accurate to 60-65m routinely, and spots his targets intelligently and with good vision. Very good at hitting a leading forward (which has been a problem for Essendon in the past, but which shouldn't be given their forward line stocks) and the sort of dangerous running goalkicker who can snag 3 from a wing in 5 minutes flat and turn a game if he shakes his matchup or if his side gets a bit of run happening. Set shots maybe not so much his forte, but that's something that can be worked on.
He's a long-limbed kid with a fair bit of pace (not explosive break-away-from-packs type pace, but he's very hard to catch once he gets moving), and tall enough and strong enough overhead that he's quite a difficult aerial matchup for most running players. He's spent a lot of time playing as a leadup forward target this year, with pretty reasonable (though not jawdroppingly spectacular) levels of success, but I'd be wanting him to develop his running game for an eventual role on a wing. His engine seems good and he's very capable of accumulating a lot of the ball, though most of the time he'll be looking for handball recieves or running to link rather than winning his own. His swerve while running is pretty good, but I've never really seen him pull dramatic changes of direction on the spot or dance through traffic - this is one of the reasons I prefer him running in straight lines threough the centre, as a leadup forward he always has to wheel around after a mark or gather, and his turning circle is a little wider than I'd like for someone doing that job. He doesn't mind getting stuck in, he runs well defensively and lays a lot of tackles, but his inside game is something that will need development. Rather than rush him into the ones straight away (though he could play a bit of AFL in his first year) I'd be giving him a year or two in the VFL, acclimatising himself to the midfield and trying to develop him into something kile a more forward-oriented Goddard.
33 - James Tsitas
Geelong Falcons - 180cm 77kg
It's easier to define Tsitas by what he isn't. He isn't lightning fast, he's not particularly big, doesn't kick it a mile, doesn't dance on a dime in traffic. I guess those are the main knocks on him.
Watching him last year I had him pegged as a solid outside linking prospect. He's been working a lot more on his inside game this year, to the extent I think his ability to find the ball in space is being undersold a bit. He hasn't got burst speed to get away explosively, but he'll run forever and wear you down over the course of a game. His inside work is hard, honest and disciplined rather than brilliant. He tackles well and puts in repeat attempts at the ball and man - he might not ever be your #1 clearance guy, but he'll sure as hell make your #1 guy's job a lot easier while posing a legitimate threat of his own. His disposal is generally good, and he works within his limitations. I like that he runs both ways - not all of the AIS/TAC/scouted-at-age-12 silver spoon types do, because they're so used to being the go-to guy. I'd probably compare him to someone like Luke Parker, if a bit less kamikaze. Not as flashy and spectacular as some, but will just inconspicuously rack up huge numbers of touches (he's a massive accumulator at his best) and you won't realise until the end of the game that he's quietly torn you a new one.
51 - Michael Apeness
Eastern Ranges - 199cm 101kg
Perhaps a little bit of a stretch here, but I've seen quite a lot of him this year and I've been impressed by his improvement. Started out as a spare-parts kpp for Eastern, played a bit back and a bit forward when Boyd was out, but was kept firmly out of the ruck by Dion Depace (who has potential and could be a late/rookie prospect) and Abraham Nyok (who is the rawest skinniest thing in the history of raw skinny things). By mid-season he was clearly VMs #1 ruck, and a regular contributor in front of goals as well.
Apeness is a big, powerful kid (and if he isn't nicknamed 'Ape' within 5 mins of coming a club then the standard footballers' sense of humour has changed a lot since I was running around...) and isn't afraid to use it. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, since he does monster smaller kids with pure brute force at times and as an AFL ruck he's a little on the small side and this won't work for him. But he is a genuinely good contested mark (he's not Boyd, but he's better than almost anyone else this year, and a 199cm kpf is big in any league), he'll cheerfully run through anyone who gets in his way, and he finishes well in front of goal. His ruck work is a work in progress. I'd be interested to know if he had a growth spurt over the past few years since he plays like a natural kpp and only an amateur ruckman, but surely a 199cm kid would be playing ruck pretty much anywhere? Regardless, his tap work is still rudimentary and will need development. His contested work with the ball on the ground at a stoppage, however, is really good. He's a reliable clearance-winner and a prolific tackler for his size. Again, some of this might be due to his size (not many blokes in the u18s can tackle him hard enough to stop him getting the handball away) but you still have to get your hands on it in the first place.
His development will be interesting. I wouldn't expect him to play much for a couple of years til he gets used to playing against men and perhaps gets some squats under his belt in the hope of improving his vertical leap and speed over the first 5m. When he does, I suspect whether he's developed primarily as a fwd or a ruck will depend on whether he can grow a couple more centimetres and on the needs of the side that picks him.
69 - Michael Gibbons
Murray Bushrangers - 175cm 69kg
Lewis Taylor is the one talked about as being the reincarnation of Brent Harvey, but I reckon this bloke has a bit of a claim on it as well. Nippy little mostly-outside-but-a-bit-inside runner, perhaps not really at the top of the lightning-fast spectrum, but certainly quick. Very creative with his running - rarely runs himself into trouble like some very quick guys do, always thinks a bit ahead. Very hard to tackle, I was going to use Dempsey as a comparison but Lewis Taylor is a better one. High hurt factor - he'll break the lines, swerve through your zone, and then make a good decision with the ball. Runs and runs, tackles like a maniac and never gives up, though he can be tagged out of it if a bigger body can match him for speed and sticks to their task (he's got the tools to be a handy small fwd but I think he'd struggle for a while - small backs are much more willing to sacrifice their own game to shut you down). Downside is of course his size - 175cm is marginal enough, but in the stats I have he's below 70kg as well, and that makes it hard. He'll need to put on a fair bit of muscle to compete at the top level, but if someone like Travis Colyer or Devon Smith can do it, I see no reason why this bloke can't too. I've heard some questionmarks on his disposal by foot - his kicking % in the TAC is pretty average, but I suspect (I haven't seen him play with Murray this year) that this is because he's forced to be the #1 clearance guy there, while at champs he had blokes like Perris and Barrett doing the shovel work so he could play to his strengths, swoop on the ball bobbling out of the pack, and accelerate away - efficiency was at a much better 71% in the state games. He certainly did something right - he was NSWs leading clearance winner at the champs by a street, and topped the tackling, possession count, and inside 50s too. Makes his size a chance I'm more than willing to take with such a late pick.
87 - Liam Byrne
Bendigo Pioneers - 184cm 84kg
One I've only seen a little of this year, and as such I probably shouldn't be picking him, but I think his name needs to be out there. I saw quite a lot of Byrne last year before he was seriously injured, and I was impressed with his anticipation, drive and damaging disposal running off half-back. He came back as an overager and had a slow start to the year, missing out on VC selection, but just judging purely on stats, he seems to have finally regained some form and has been a regular in the Pios bests over the last couple of months. From what little I've seen of his this season, he's cut his hair, stacked on muscle, and is playing as a crash-and-bash centre square brawler. I only saw him in the lowest part of his early-season form slump, and while he sporadically showed power, aggression and good ball use, he did look out of sorts, but if he can play his new position with the sort of pace and assurance that he showed last year, and if his injury (I think it was a badly broken elbow or something?) doesn't have any lasting effects, then I think he's a legitimate draft prospect. I certainly rated him as such last year. Unfortunately the Pios don't have any more Melbourne games this year (unless the TAC ar Cup is doing that ridiculous 'final 12' thing again, anyone know?) so it's unlikely I'll be able to form more of an opinion of him before the draft. But he's one worth bearing in mind.
105 - Karl Amon
Sandringham Dragons - 180cm 73kg
Perhaps a bit of a roughy for the last pick - a hff/mid, Amon has perhaps been somewhat in the shadow of the enormously well-credentialled Dragons midfield group (Kelly, Salem, Freeman AND Merrett, really?) and might have had a bit more of a go in the heat of the action in a weaker side. He is frustratingly inconsistent but just sometimes has that little bit of class that makes you sit up and take notice. Bit skinny, a bit of a seagull at times, but for a slim willowy kid he's got a very impressive work rate, a nifty change of direction, and an eye for a goal - very capable of slipping forward and kicking two or three in very short time. Smart opportunistic forward, not a crumber as such but just gets himself into scoring positions a lot. Reminds me a little of Blake Caracella.
Reasonably happy with the way things turned out. I approached it without considering likely trades - if we trade off any of our tall stocks then another kpp prospect might be advisable from a list depth point of view. But I managed to address our ruck depth issues by grabbing one of the better ruck prospects with a third rounder, and draft basically an entire midfield of varied and dangerous types with the other picks to address the slight bulge in the midfield age profile in 3-4 years time when Watson/Stanton/Goddard start heading into the 30s. Would probably have preferred a specialist inside clearance type with my first pick but the ones that were still on the table I didn't quite rate highly enough - that type are in high demand at the best of times! I'd still be looking to grab a mature ruckman in the rookie draft to add extra depth (at least while Apeness develops - and he will need some time), and I didn't really address the need for a crumbing forward with genuine pace, but again, there's normally a few of those types available as rookies. TIPPA!
Still, centre-square prospects in Tsitas and Byrne (both of who should be able to play relatively soon), a smallish but quick takeaway/run and carry player in Gibbons, and outside pace plus long, pinpoint delivery into the fwd line from Lennon. They're not all going to make it, but it's a good selection and covers most bases while not resorting to pick-for-needs all the way through. Amon as a roughy, I just think he's one who's got more to offer than he's been able to show so far.