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Best Western rolls on

When one team has 11 of the first 14 picks in a draft, it's hard to get it wrong.

When one team has 11 of the first 14 picks in a draft, it's hard to get it wrong.

WHEN one team has 11 of the first 14 picks in a draft, it's hard to get it wrong. But that team also needs to make sure it gets it right. Last night was a big one for Greater Western Sydney, which hosted the draft and dominated it. The Giants finally - except for a few rookies - have their first team in place now, and a bunch of kids who grew up barracking for one of the AFL's 16 teams must now help turn its 18th club into a real, live, living, breathing football club. That list manager Stephen Silvagni had a croaky voice by pick 14 said a lot about how many top-rated names he called out. But that wasn't all he had to do.

The assumption is this: when you have so many first-round picks, it's impossible to muck them up. Any draft will tell you that it absolutely is. Should only six of the Giants' first-rounders become the players they hope, expect and will coach them to be, they will have a third of their starting line-up in place. But when you're putting together a team's first list, you're setting it on a path.

The Giants' first night was interesting in that they couldn't expect to get every player they loved or fill every gap on their list. They couldn't get too clever, but they did need to think about who they wanted most and who they could get at each choice, with Brisbane Lions' two picks at 8 and 12, and Port Adelaide's No. 6 choice bringing some tactics into play.

That they were calling out so many names meant a lot for the other clubs, too: shut out last year, when it was the Gold Coast's night, most clubs played fairly small roles again, a few taking only two or three ''live'' choices. The Suns took only one, upgrading two local players. Rookies were being upgraded by the third round and the first recycled player, ex-Crow James Sellar, went to Melbourne at No. 54, and Carlton picked a 24-year-old from the SANFL, Sam Rowe, in the second round. That's early. Only 66 players got their first chance at an AFL club, including Geelong's last pick, a 29-year-old ruckman named Orren Stephenson. That's not many.

Jonathon Patton heard his name called first, as the No. 1 pick, ahead of onballer Stephen Coniglio. Patton, who has grown up in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, was an appropriate choice as the Giants' first Giant. He is a giant. Enormous forwards like him don't come along often and the honour was reward for a season in which the teenager had presented himself as the likely top choice early, hung on through the hype and hung on against multiple opponents. He wants to be a player his team depends on.

''It's been a really long year. This has been my dream my whole life,'' said Patton on-stage at the Olympic Park convention centre, near where he'll be playing his home games next year, clutching the charcoal and orange guernsey he'll be wearing. ''To be the No. 1 pick is an amazing feeling.'' He said it standing beside his coach-to-be, Kevin Sheedy, who put a typical twist on his selection, noting that Silvagni, the full-back of the century, had chosen a full-forward with the most prized of his picks.

Three other onballers made their way into the top five - the bouncy Coniglio, who decided late in the year to pursue football ahead of cricket, Dom Tyson, who plays with almost X-ray vision among packs of arms and legs, and the dashing Will Hoskin-Elliott. Matthew Buntine filled the next spot, firstly as one of the year's most popular prospects, but more importantly to bolster what already seems the soft spot on the Giants' list: the back line.

The Giants could never get everyone, and they knew it. It was Northern Knights' ruckman Billy Longer they rolled the dice with, choosing Nick Haynes, a forward, and leaving Longer to get past Brisbane. He didn't, with the Lions making him their priority over defender Adam Tomlinson, and then choosing running defender Sam Docherty, after Tomlinson and another two midfielders, Liam Sumner and Toby Greene, went to the Giants with picks 9 through 11.

To overlook Longer was a huge decision: it left the Giants with Dean Brogan, fresh out of retirement, former Port Adelaide rookie Jon Giles and the rookie-listed Andrew Phillips, on its books, until they got back into the draft in the 50s. The club picked Tom Downie, who was playing junior basketball for Australia two years ago. They gave Setanta O'hAilpin a chance next, then made things official with James McDonald.

Taylor Adams and Devon Smith became the last of the Giants' first-round picks at 13 and 14, leaving the new club with two marking forwards (Patton and Haynes), another forward who runs his butt off all game and can also go into the back line (Tomlinson), a mid-sized backman who knows how to calm chaos (Buntine) and a bunch of seven onballers that offer plenty inside the packs (Tyson, Greene, Adams), in and outside the packs (Smith, Sumner, Coniglio) and one who loves to run (Hoskin-Elliott). It's a good, versatile mix.

Meanwhile, Fremantle took midfielder Tom Sheridan at pick 16, which led the Western Bulldogs to grab the in-and-under Clay Smith and avoid a tricky decision between skinny, crafty half-forward Hayden Crozier and the stronger body of midfielder Sam Kerridge.

North Melbourne grabbed a utility, Brad McKenzie, which saw Crozier sent on his way west to the Dockers at No. 20. St Kilda got a bargain, half-forward Daniel Markworth at No. 35, and later revived the career of Beau Wilkes, cut from West Coast a couple of years ago.

The winners, of course, will become clear in time, but Geelong's decision to trade one pick in the 20s for two in the 30s, and then grab the draft's biggest slider, could not have worked out much better.

Joel Hamling (pick 32) is an extremely exciting tall forward who just needs time to put some weight on. Shane Kersten (34) has a body that could see him play next year. So has the super quick Jordan Murdoch, who somehow made it through to pick 48.

At the start of the night, the Cats were congratulated by AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou for the premiership they won two long months ago. Giants aside, they might have finished on top for a second time.


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