Freo talent spread sign of the times
When West Coast won the 1992 premiership, it was quite literally a victory for WA over Victoria, with the entire 20-man Eagles’ team coming from west of the Nullarbor.
Those premiership stars were the cream of their WAFL generation in an age where draft science and national recruiting networks were only in their infancy.
Eighteen of Fremantle’s inaugural side that lost to Richmond by five points in Round 1, 1995, were West Australian, with Northern Territory recruits Scott Chisholm and the late Gary Dhurrkay and South Australian forward Chris Groom the exceptions.
But going into their 17th season in the AFL in 2011, for the first time the Dockers’ squad won’t be made up of a majority of West Australians.
After a national draft that netted three Victorian youngsters and this week’s rookie draft in which another two South Australians joined the club, the number of local products on the Dockers’ complete list of 46 has dwindled to 23 or exactly 50 per cent homegrown.
The other 50 per cent is made up of 17 Victorians, five South Australians and a Tasmanian.
The national feel about the Dockers is reflected from the top, with coach Mark Harvey a Victorian and former Essendon premiership player and skipper Matthew Pavlich hailing from SA.
The national nature of the modern-day AFL was underlined this week when West Perth product Nathan van Berlo became Adelaide’s new captain.
With fellow Sandgroper Domenic Cassisi set to remain skipper at Port Adelaide, both SA teams could be captained by West Australians and vice-versa in 2011.
SA recruit Beau Waters is the likely candidate to take over the role at West Coast if incumbent Darren Glass stands down.
The Eagles have more local products than the Dockers on their complete list, which is 65 per cent West Australian after a focus on adding WA footballers to their rookie list this week.
West Coast’s homegrown complement was boosted by the addition of Peel Thunder defender Blayne Wilson to the senior list and Claremont key-position prospects Anton Hamp and Jeremy McGovern to the rookie list. Five of the Eagles’ six rookies are from WA.
West Coast recruiting manager Trevor Woodhouse said while the state a player came from was not a consideration in the national draft, the Eagles deliberately targeted local players in Tuesday’s rookie draft.
“We tend to try and pick out of WA unless we see someone that’s significantly better,” he told the club’s website. “It’s not always a preference but in a rookie draft we see a lot of them as equal talents, so we give them more preference in the rookie draft than the national draft.”
While most of WA’s crop of draftees this off-season have had to move across the country, including 11 of the 13 rookies to go on Tuesday, one who is staying put believes he has hit the jackpot.
Hamp, who is studying an engineering/commerce double degree at the University of WA, said being drafted by the Eagles was the “perfect result”.
“For me it’s pretty big because I’ve got uni commitments, I’ve got family and we live about five minutes away from Subi Oval,” he said. “Just to have footy on my doorstep pretty much is great.”
Fremantle overlooked local options completely this week, opting instead for Norwood pair Nick Lower and Gavin Roberts.
Recruiting manager Brad Lloyd said the Dockers chose their rookie-draft selections based on needs and the best available players.
“It’s a national competition, so we work across every state in Australia,” he said. “If it’s a very close call you’ll always sway toward the local talent, but if there’s a clear distinction between one player over another you’ll take the better player you’d be negligent not to.”
Lower and Roberts will move to Perth to chase their dream, while 11 West Australians packed their bags this week after receiving rookie lifelines from interstate clubs.
WA Football Commission high-performance manager Craig Starcevich said the big number of rookies moving interstate had placed a drain on the WAFL system ahead of next season.
“The WAFL clubs have copped a little bit of an abnormal hit there where 11 rookies are leaving,” he said.
“The normal scenario is that the local teams tend to pick local rookies. It was good to see West Coast go with two locals, and a touch surprising for Freo to do what they did … but there must be good reason for it.”