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No pressure on AFL draftees for 2009

By Guy Hand And Roger Vaughan 30/11/2008 01:45:51 PM Comments (0)

The coaches of the AFL's top three draft picks have refused to put pressure on their new recruits to play in 2009, despite their clubs' desperate need for the trio to be up and running as soon as possible.

Melbourne took key forward Jack Watts with the No.1 selection in Saturday's national draft - coach Dean Bailey earmarking the 196cm marking forward as the long-term replacement for retired star David Neitz.

West Coast chose ruckman Nicholas Naitanui at No.2.

His Fijian heritage, dreadlocks, and sensational high leap make him a marketer's dream for a club struggling on-field and off to fill the vacuum left by the departure of their two biggest names - Chris Judd and Ben Cousins.

Fremantle selected midfielder Stephen Hill with pick three - the Dockers desperate for midfield talent to replace a raft of retirees headed by ex-skipper Peter Bell.

The top picks follow a 2007 draft of rare quality, with nine of that year's top 10 picks playing senior football in 2008.

Fremantle's Rhys Palmer, Richmond's Trent Cotchin and Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer all proved themselves likely 10-year players, while No.12 pick Cyril Rioli starred for Hawthorn in their run to the premiership.

But the AFL's bottom three clubs warned against any instant gratification from their draftees, saying none of the top trio would be fast-tracked just because of their draft position.

"You look to not just what the player can do next year, but hopefully for a long career," Fremantle coach Mark Harvey said.

"(Hill's) probably not as advanced in his body as Rhys was, it remains to be seen. But we've got three months to work on him, and we'll see what happens."

Melbourne would appear to have the most need to fast-track top pick Watts.

With few options up forward after Neitz's retirement and a list brittle in both age and ability, the Dees look to have no choice but to blood Watts early.

But Bailey and West Coast coach John Worsfold admitted development during the pre-season would be the key to whether their draftees played senior football.

"We certainly won't be fast-tracking them, but if their bodies can cope with the training, if they develop quick enough... the opportunity's there for them," Bailey said.

With the cream of the nation's under-18 talent now snapped up, the last opportunity for delisted AFL players to find new homes will be the pre-season draft on December 16.

Port Adelaide and Brisbane have kept one spot on their lists open, suggesting they will dip into the December 16 draft.

Port are understood to be keen to re-sign veteran midfielder Josh Carr, who was delisted by Fremantle.

Brisbane have had ex-Sydney forward Nick Davis training with them and, after shunning Ben Cousins, look set to take the former Swan.

Cousins remains the most intriguing possible draftee.

But much will depend on whether the few clubs with spots remaining on their list have the salary cap room to take part in the pre-season draft and are willing to take the punt on the troubled star.

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