With no knock-it-out-of-the-park elite first rounders, it was a tedious AFL draft period for the Western Jets.
There was not a lot of movement on AFL lists this year with teams preferring to stand pat rather than delve deep into the draft pool.
Last year, 78 players were taken in the AFL national draft, but only 65 were taken this year, leaving players on the fringe to keep their fingers crossed for selection at the rookie draft.
For the first time since 2015, the Jets had no players taken in the national draft, but eventually had two chosen in the rookie draft.
Livewire forward Josh Honey was the first Jet off the board, taken by Carlton with pick three.
Key position player Emerson Jeka was later snapped up by Hawthorn with pick nine.
Surprisingly, there was no place on an AFL list for Darcy Cassar, the highest rated Jets player heading into draft week.
Western Jets football operations manager Matthew Dervan said it was not the end of the road for those who missed out.
“If you look at the dynamics, there was 65 taken in the national draft from around 400 to 500 players nominated, so it’s a very slim pool that actually get selected,” Dervan said.
“While it was disappointing for those boys missing out, I guess the famous saying is that it’s not the be all end all.
“The rookie draft provided a bit of comfort to Josh and Emerson getting picked up by Carlton and Hawthorn.
“We thought Darcy was our best chance, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be for him, so we’ll look to hopefully get him at least involved with an AFL club with training in some capacity.
“The biggest thing for all the nominees that missed out and we’re seeing now over the past few drafts is the rise of the mature aged recruits.
“There’s more opportunity in the state league now and it’s a credit to the pathway that’s being provided by our state league clubs.”
Honey will get to grow in a Carlton system that has prioritised youth in recent seasons.
The 18-year-old from Keilor is a dynamic medium sized forward with good burst away from the packs, an eye for goal and a willingness to defend.
“They’re really developing a great culture under David Teague that he’ll really enjoy and thrive in,” Dervan said.
“Eddie Betts has returned to the club, but there’s also a good developing group of small to medium sized forwards and midfielders at Carlton now.
“He’s got a really good base to work off in terms of players in a similar position at Carlton.”
Jeka has the potential to be the steal of draft week.
The 18-year-old from Altona Juniors was invited to the national draft on the assumption that a club would select him, but he left the room disappointed on Thursday night.
It was not long before Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson and former Jet-turned-Hawk James Sicily was on Jeka’s doorstep presenting him with a Hawks jumper.
Dervan would put no ceiling on Jeka’s potential in the big league because of his unique traits.
“A 197 centimetre key position player, that’s versatile, can play at both ends of the ground, they certainly don’t grow on trees,” Dervan said.
“He’s got some really good experienced coaches who are going to aid his development and I think next year you’ll see him feature in a lot of Box Hill Hawks games and that’s all part of the development and the learning process working in an AFL system.”
Meanwhile, Werribee forward Jake Riccardi will call GWS Giants home after he was taken with pick 51 in the national draft, while Williamstown midfielder Mitch Hibberd will have a second chance in the AFL system with Essendon, who took him with pick 10 in the rookie draft.