It could be an agonising wait for Western Jets prospects at this week’s AFL national and rookie drafts.
Unlike previous years, when a number of Jets players were considered as locks for first round selections, there is a chance that no Jets will be taken on night one of the two-night draft when the cream of this year’s crop are picked.
Last year, Zak Butters was taken at selection 12, with Xavier O’Halloran going 10 picks later, while in 2017, the Jets had the shortest wait of all with Cam Rayner snapped up with pick one, but this edition there is no clear-cut standout players.
Jets football operations manager Matthew Dervan said it makes for a more uncertain draft period for the young guns of the west.
“There’s a few boys who’s next journey in football really depends on what happens on Wednesday and Thursday night,” he said.
“It’s an exciting and nerve-racking time knowing the outcome will dictate what their next path in their football journey is.”
Western Jets have best prepared the players to make the transition to the AFL.
The players have put their best foot forward in the NAB League.
While there is little more that either party can do to improve an individual’s draft prospects in the days leading into the draft, the Jets will still have a role to play in the wellbeing of the players, some of whom will live out their boyhood dreams, while others will venture on a different path to the AFL.
“The AFL clubs have waded away for so long – list managers, football managers and recruiting managers – and have an idea of players they are after and they’ll try and rank all of the players,” Dervan said.
“For us, it’s just putting our support behind the boys who are in contention, looking after their wellbeing and ensuring they’ve got a good network around them on the night.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll see at least three get drafted, but the reality in football and life is that not everyone’s dreams get realised, so we’ll make sure we’re liaising with the players and make sure they’re well looked after this week.”
Three players have emerged as the Western Jets’ top prospects heading into the draft.
Darcy Cassar, Josh Honey and Emerson Jeka have been touted as potential second or third round selections.
“I believe they should all get drafted,” Dervan said. “They’ve got characteristics that AFL clubs can develop.”
Cassar has shown tremendous versatility in his football in his time with the Western Jets.
The Keilor product excelled as a driving force from defence, was a classy ball user in the midfield and has shown sound forward craft.
“He’s creative, innovative, really smart, got good goal sense and game sense,” Dervan said.
“He would thrive in an AFL system.”
Honey, also from Keilor, has worked both as an inside midfielder and damaging mid-sized forward. He is strong for his size and will not get easily pushed off the ball at the next level.
“He’s really solidly built for his height, really strong above the hips,” Dervan said.
Jeka was the best physical specimen at the Jets this season.
A tall, imposing 198-centimetre key position player, he could be the steal of the draft late on if he can get it all together at AFL level.
“An AFL club would kick themselves not to take a chance on a player that can kick the ball well on both feet and is a key position versatile player who can play at the defensive and forward ends,” Dervan said.
The best of the rest for the Western Jets seem to be midfielder Daly Andrews, Morrish medallist and captain Lucas Rocci and NAB League leading goalkicker Archi Manton.
The draft will take place on Wednesday and Thursday night this week with television coverage on Fox Footy