Since the players drafted in 2008 are only seven years into the AFL system, this redraft will be slightly different to my previous redrafts.
Instead of redrafting from a retrospective outlook, this redraft will combine the player’s achievements from their first seven seasons, as well as the prospective potential I see for the players future. It's important to weigh up both of these factors.
The key to this draft is midfielders. This draft is full of balling winning talent, with some steals at the small forward position and a ruckman whose athleticism and abilities actually makes you shake your head in disbelief.
If you’re a Melbourne or St Kilda fan, this wasn’t a rewarding draft for you. But if you’re a footy fanatic and love the game of AFL, these players drafted in 2008 are the future of our game. Remember, no rookie-drafted selections were included in this draft, ruling out the likes of Tom Rockliff and Luke Bruest.
Pick 1: Jack Watts (Melbourne)
Pick 2: Nic Naitanui (West Coast)
Pick 3: Stephen Hill (Fremantle)
Pick 4: Hamish Hartlett (Port Adelaide)
Pick 5: Michael Hurley (Essendon)
Pick 6: Chris Yarran (Carlton)
Pick 7: Daniel Rich (Brisbane)
Pick 8: Tyrone Vickery (Richmond)
Pick 9: Jack Ziebell (North Melbourne)
Pick 10: Phil Davis (Adelaide)
Pick 1: (Melbourne) – Nic Naitanui
Nic Nat was the second overall pick in the 2008 draft. He is electrifying. He is breathtaking. At times he is even inspiring. He represents everything about the AFL that makes it the best sport in the world. A 200-centimetre, 100-kilogram ruckman is not meant to evade tacklers, take on midfielders, display that kind of agility, kick goals from 50 metres on the run and take high-flying marks. But he does it all.
Naitanui is 25, he’s played 119 games, he’s had some setbacks and he’s also set the competition alight at times. He was an All-Australian in 2012 and has averaged 21 hit outs and 12 disposals a game over his career. With Cox gone, this is now his team. But he still needs to prove himself He isn’t elite yet; he needs to gather more disposals around the ground, takes more marks and push forward and kick a few more goals during the season.
We know he is special, but Nic Nat is on the verge of something we may not have seen before. The best talent in the draft and I'm confident he'll be one of the best players in the competition. Sorry Demons.
Pick 2: (West Coast) – Dayne Beams
Copeland Trophy winner. Premiership player. All-Australian. 120 games and 126 goals. Pick 29? Wow, what an incredible draft pick by Collingwood and what an incredible gift to Brisbane, who get him at the peak of his powers. Dayne Beams is what we call an AFL gem.
Beams is a hard-hitting, hard-running, hard-working player. He’s loves being in the middle, winning the contested ball and pumping the ball into his team’s forward 50. His career averages will blow you away – he’s averaging 24 disposals, four marks, four tackles and one goal a game. Brisbane should be sending Collingwood a thank you card because Beams will be the name we'll be hearing in Brownlow conversations for quite some time.
Don't forget about him just because he's up North. He had a great career with the Pies and will no doubt be hoping for some Lions success in the short-term.
Pick 3: (Fremantle) - Daniel Hannebery
Hannebery was a bargain for the Swans, who drafted him with pick 30 in 2008. Hannebery is a hard-nut footballer. He loves competing for the contested ball in the middle of the ground. He’s an explosive footballer and an outstanding young leader at the Swans.
Hannebery has played 131 games, is a premiership player (and almost a North Smith Medallist), an All-Australian and plays a crucial role for one of the most talented teams in the competition. He’s averaged 23 disposals and three tackles over his career but needs to become a goal kicker if he wants to take his game to the next level. A very courageous and consistent player who is another of the up-and-coming superstars in the AFL.
Pick 4: (Port Adelaide) – Rory Sloane
Sloane is one of those players that you look at and ask, how the hell did he slip to Pick 44 in this draft? He was drafted by Adelaide, where he has played just over 100 games. He is a brilliant on-baller, who tackles relentlessly, runs hard both ways, loves the contested ball and will bump or put on a solid shepherd for his teammates. Adelaide fans love him because he puts his body on the line.
Sloane was one of the acting co-captains for the Crows last year and had a career best season, averaging 24 disposals, five marks and seven tackles a game. I think he will be in the top three in Adelaide’s best and fairest this year and could very well push for an All-Australian selection either this season or next. A great young player with an outstanding attitude towards the game. It's great to see him getting the plaudits he deserves this year.
Pick 5: (Essendon) – Steele Sidebottom
Collingwood picked up a 'steele' when they drafted Sidebottom with their 11th pick. Sidebottom is the definition of consistent. Since his debut and before his thumb injury in 2015, he had played 128 games from a total of 140. He now sits at 132 games and also has a premiership medal around his neck. Steele is a very classy, but not a showy midfielder. He gets the job done, he can tackle, he can take an overhead mark and he can kick three goals a game if he wants to.
Sidebottom is a ball magnet who seems to always be in the right place at the right time. He’s kicked 102 career goals, which is an incredible stat for a second to third-tier midfielder. His disposal is almost faultless and he can finish on both sides of his body. I think he is one of the up and coming premier midfielders in the AFL but has often been underrated and overshadowed by Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury and Beams in the past. Steele is on the brink of a couple of Copeland Trophies and an All-Australian selection.
Pick 6: (Carlton) – Jack Ziebell
It's taken him a few years, but Jack Ziebell is finally delivering on his pick 9 expectations. In 2015, Ziebell could very well be one of the main breakout stars in the competition.
His first 111 games haven't been easy. There's been injuries, suspensions, concussions and doubt. But Ziebell has emerged as North Melbourne's future captain. Any team would happily take Ziebell and slot him right into their midfield.
He's got great size, he has a ferocious attack on the footy and his you'd have to love his competitive spirit. In a few years, Ziebell could very well be in the top three players drafted in 2008, along with a few B&F's and All-Australian selections beside his name.
Pick 7: (Brisbane) – Hayden Ballantyne
I don’t think many people will agree with me on this redrafted pick, but let me make a case for Ballantyne. Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way. Fremantle selected him with the 21st pick in the draft. Yes, he’s an annoying player. Yes, he’s a pest and at times, yes, he does have a face you want to hit (or at least that’s what Matthew Scarlett thought). But Ballantyne is a top three small forward/forward pocket threat and target in the AFL.
Ballantyne has played 115 games and kicked 188 goals in his career. Ballantyne is a pocket rocket, a firecracker, but most importantly, a game-changer and a game winner. His pressure acts and defensive work in the forward line are on Cyril Rioli’s level, it’s just not as exciting nor appreciated by the majority of AFL fans.
Last season was his year – he was named All-Australian, was Fremantle’s leading goal kicker and in 2011 and he won the Goal of the Year. Ballantyne is an exceptional player in a team that could very well be playing in the Grand Final this year.
Pick 8: (Richmond) – Stephen Hill
Fremantle selected Hill as the third draft pick in 2008, where he has played 139 games to date. I don't think he has lived up to a pick 3 yet, but there's plenty of time and plenty on offer for Hill. He is a beautiful footballer to watch. His kicking efficiency, his speed, his run and carry and his goal sense, when at his best, is why he was such a high draft pick. He is improving with every season at Fremantle and is a star in the making.
Last year was an excellent season for Hill, averaging 22 disposals and in career best form. Hill shows amazing poise and composure when under pressure and will more often than not make the best decision. He is a game changer when he is on, and he will be crucial to Freo’s finals surge this season. He has an amazingly high ceiling. Can he reach it?
Pick 9: (North Melbourne) – David Zaharakis
Zaharakis’ dream came true in 2008, when his beloved Bombers drafted him with the 23rd pick. Zaharakis is an excellent midfielder who has been one of Essendon’s best players ever since his debut. He is a very confident player, who knows how to use his skill, speed and balling-winning abilities to lead the Bombers week in, week out.
It's been a trying few years for the Bombers and 2015 isn't looking any brighter. But, Zaharakis is another midfielder who could slot into any team and star.
Like Sidebottom, he knows how to find the goals. He’s kicked 93 in116 games, including the infamous, heart breaking (for Collingwood) dagger that won Essendon the Anzac Day honours in 2009. Did you know that was his first career goal? What a goal. He’s a best and fairest winner, and Anzac Day Medalist and will no doubt elevate himself to the supreme midfielder status in the next two seasons.
Pick 10 (Adelaide) – Michael Hurley
Hurley was Essendon’s first pick in 2008, drafted fifth overall. In a draft dominated by midfield talent, I thought Hurley deserved some credit for being a quality and important key position player. He’s a versatile player. He can play up forward (where he’s kicked 103 goals in his career) and down back marking the best opposition player, and all in one game.
Hurley has had injury concerns over his career but that hasn’t stopped his physical, aggressive and confident approach to the game. Last season was a good year for him. He played the most games in a season for his career, averaged 20 disposals and six marks, and cemented his place in the Essendon team. 111 games in, and I think Hurley will continue to impress and improve on his young, yet impressive career. Don't sleep on him just because he is in a struggling team at the moment.
My next three redrafted picks
Pick 11: Daniel Rich (originally pick 7)
Pick 12: Hamish Hartlett (originally Pick 4)
Pick 13: Luke Shuey (originally Pick 18)
The 2008 draft was such a good one. Go back and look at how many of these draft picks are top players at their respective clubs in 2015. The midfield depth is just staggering.
Collingwood, Fremantle and West Coast deserve a lot of credit. Essendon and Port Adelaide also should be recognised, Port picked up Jack Trengove and Hamish Hartlett, who are apart of their best group of players.
Michael Walters and Steven Motlop will be the cream of the crop in two seasons, but they’re not there yet. Phil Davis, if not for the injury curse he constantly finds himself under, would be challenging for a spot in the top 10. Liam Shiels and Chris Yarran were also unlucky to miss out. Melbourne would be pretty disappointed, no offence to Jack Watts, but in hindsight there was a lot more talent on offer.
Do you think I got this right? Who would you redraft as the top ten picks in the 2008 draft?