If you’re a West Coast Eagles fan, you’ve pretty much seen it all since 2001. They’ve seen their club win a premiership, whilst also falling second best. They’ve watched on as three of their players have won Brownlow Medals. They witnessed Ashley Sampi take Mark of the Year in 2004.
There was devastation when Chris Judd left, but celebration when Josh Kennedy started to show his value. There has also been what feels like ten name changes of their home ground. They watched as Dean Cox passed on the torch to rising star, Nic Naitanui. And finally, there has been very sweet draft picks, and also very sour ones.
If you’ve read my previous scouting reports on the some of the other AFL clubs, you’ll know the draft selections below will be labelled either sweet or sour depending on how that player’s career turned out. This could include playing 250 games, asking for a trade, captaining the side or being delisted after two games.
So lets get started.
Top five sweets
1 – Chris Judd
West Coast drafted Chris Judd with pick 3, in what is now known as the ‘super draft’ in 2001.
It must feel pretty sweet knowing West Coast drafted Judd, who has been dubbed one of the best to ever play in the modern era.
He split his career between two clubs, but his greatest success came with the Eagles. 134 games, 138 goals, a premiership (as captain), a Brownlow, a Norm Smith (in the losing Grand Final), two best and fairest medals, two All-Australians, Goal of the Year (2005), an AFLPA MVP and the title as the best player in the competition throughout the mid 2000’s.
With Carlton, he added another Brownlow to his CV, three B&F medals, four All-Australian selections, another MVP and 145 games to bring his total to 279.
He brought a lot of sweetness to the Eagles over the years, and perhaps a little sourness when they had to try stop him from tearing the game a part as a Blue.
The whole AFL community were pretty gutted when he was forced into early retirement a few weeks ago, but Judd will go down as one of the best players our game has ever seen.
2 – Matthew Priddis
By the end of his career, Matt Priddis will be marked as one of the greatest rookie draft selections ever in the AFL. Yes, you read that correctly; Matt Priddis was originally a rookie selection (pick 31 in 2006 rookie draft) for the West Coast Eagles.
Priddis is an elite, quiet-achieving, hard-working, ball-magnet of a midfielder, who was rewarded last year by winning the Brownlow Medal.
In his 185-game career, Priddis has proven to be one the best ball-winners in the AFL. Since 2007 (his second season in the AFL), he’s averaged at least 24 disposals a season. He tackles relentlessly and works tirelessly.
He won his first best and fairest with the Eagles in 2013, and has been runner up in three other seasons. It’s still bizarre to me that Priddis, the Brownlow Medalist of 2014, failed to make it into the All-Australian squad. Staggering...but still very sweet!
A special mention to Quinten Lynch, who was also a rookie selection for the Eagles in 2001. He went on to play over 200 games with the Eagles, led their goal kicking twice and was a part of their premiership side in 2006. Two stunning rookie draft choices by the Eagles.
3 – Shannon Hurn
West Coast drafted their current captain, Shannon Hurn, with the 13th pick in the 2005 AFL draft.
It seems the Eagles have a knack for drafting hard-working, quiet-achieving and reliable players who go out and get the job done. Shannon Hurn is the epitome of that.
Hurn has been a consistent and damaging weapon off halfback for the Eagles for 164 games. He is the general of the Eagles defence and provides his team with important rebound football.
He is the captain of the club and is leading one of the best teams in the AFL right now. He goes about his business without a fuss, and he could slot into any team and make an immediate impact.
We would talk about him more if he did play for a Victorian side, but you get the feeling he enjoys being out of the spotlight anyway. A very sweet pick up who has rewarded the club for picking him at number 13.
4 – Mark LeCras
Mark LeCras joined the Eagles via the 2004 AFL draft; when the club selected him with pick 37.
It’s been a tough journey for LeCras, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. However, he has still managed 142 games and has kicked a remarkable 317 goals.
If you’re out in the West, you’d know just how valuable LeCras is to the Eagles. But unfortunately for the rest of the AFL, he has been completely underrated over the journey.
He’s a creative, smart and dependable small forward who gets the job done when he’s on the field. 2010 was his career best season. He was named All-Australian, best and fairest at the Eagles and led their goal kicking with 63 goals (finishing 3rd in the Coleman).
He also holds the record for the most goals kicked in an individual performance at Etihad Stadium, kicking 12 against Essendon in 2010.
5 – Nic Naitanui & Luke Shuey in 2008
It’s an early call, but I think in ten years, the AFL will look back on the careers of Nic Naitanui and Luke Shuey, and think, how did the Eagles scoop both of them up in 2008?
Nic Nat was infamously drafted after Jack Watts, with pick 2 in the 2008 AFL Draft. The naysayers can criticize, argue and provoke as much as they like, but one thing can’t be denied; Nic Naitanui is exhilarating, breathtaking and he represents everything about our game, which makes it the best in the sport in the world.
He is a supernatural talent. At 200cm, 100kg, he takes high-flying marks, he tackles, he takes on players who are half his size and he works hard. I honestly feel like he is two or three magical games away from breaking this competition apart.
There are elements of his game that need work, but at 25 years old, this is the time where ruckmen are primed to dominate. 120 games in and it’s been a thrilling ride so far.
He was named All-Australian in 2012, and there should be a few more accolades coming his way.
Luke Shuey, another exciting player at the Eagles, was also drafted in 2008 with pick 18. Injuries have limited him to 98 games, but Shuey is a quick, damaging, goal-kicking and ball-winning mid who will play a significant role in the Eagles hunt for a top four finish this year.
Mark Seaby (#22, 2001 ND), Ashley Hansen (#38, 2001 ND), Quinten Lynch (#19, 2001 RD), Brent Staker (#37, 2002 ND), Adam Selwood (#53, 2002 ND), Mark Nicoski (#25, 2002 RD), Beau Waters (#11, 2003 ND), Sam Butler (#20, 2003 ND), Brett Jones (#9, 2003 RD), Matthew Rosa (#29, 2004 ND), Mitch Brown (#16, 2006 ND), Eric Mackenzie (#29, 2006 ND), Will Schofield (#50, 2006 ND), Scott Selwood (#22, 2007 ND), Jamie Bennell (#26, 2013 RD), Andrew Gaff (#4, 2010 ND), Jack Darling (#26, 2010 ND), Scott Lycett (#29, 2010 ND) and Jeremy McGovern (#44, 2010 RD).
Top five sours
1 – Ashley Sampi
Unfortunately for the Eagles and for Ashley Sampi, his Mark of the Year in 2004 was the sweetest moment of his career.
Drafted with pick 6 in the 2001 AFL Draft, Sampi managed only 78 career games. He was an exciting small forward who ultimately failed to reach the heights of his pick 6 expectations.
It’s pretty sour for Eagles fans who could have had Jimmy Bartel (pick 8), Nick Dal Santo (pick 13), Stevie J (pick 24), Sam Mitchell (pick 36) or Dane Swan (pick 58) in their team for all of these years. And the list goes on...
2 – Brad Ebert
The Eagles drafted the South Australian with the 13th pick in 2007. His three years at West Coast were decent; he played 76 games and was a valuable midfielder, but was dropped in and out of the side due to his form. However in 2012, he asked for a trade back home to Port Adelaide, where his cousin Brett was playing.
Since the move, Ebert has developed into a quality midfielder and has carved out a remarkable career considering the doubts on his form early on at the Eagles.
He’s now put together 159 games, and is well recognized for being one of Port’s most professional players.
Callan Ward and Jack Steven were other midfielders who were still available at pick 13 in the 2007 draft.
3 – Tony Notte
Tony Notte was drafted to the Eagles in 2007, with pick 20. Pick 20 was one of the valuable picks the Eagles received in exchange for Chris Judd.
Notte was a key position player (mainly forward) who played in only two AFL games over his career. He was delisted in 2010. Sam Reid, Chris Mayne and Taylor Walker were other forwards still available.
4 – Tom Swift
Tom Swift, after 34 games with the Eagles, sensationally retired at age 22, after deciding he wanted to quit football and study medicine at university.
There’s no sourness about his decision. It’s his life and it’s his choice. The sourness comes from the fact that Swift was a high draft selection (pick 20) in a draft that was filled with talent.
Here are few names that were drafted after him – Zaharakis, Beams, Hannebery, Shiels, Motlop, Sloane and Walters. If the Eagles had their time again, I’d like to think they would be doing things differently.
5 – Gerrick Weedon
Drafted with pick 22 in the 2009 AFL Draft, Gerrick Weedon joined the Eagles after two solid years with Claremont. Unfortunately, the small forward failed to make an impression, and made only one senior appearance with the club, and was delisted in 2012.
There were big hopes for Weedon at West Coast, but ultimately, there was no sweet ending.
(Not) Worthy Mentions
Paul Johnson (#24, 2002 ND), Daniel McConnell (#26, 2003 ND), Mitch Morton (F/S #44, 2004 ND), Ben McKinley (#29, 2005 ND), Matthew Spangher (#34, 2005 ND), Ashley Smith (#36, 2008 ND), Koby Stevens (#23, 2009 ND), Jarrad Oakleigh-Nicholls (#53, 2009 RD) and Brad Dick (#68, 2011 RD).
Both sweet and sour – Chris Masten & Brad Sheppard
There comes a time in each of these sweet and sour drafting reports, where I’m unsure about a player’s sweet or sour status. That’s where I turn it over to you, the football world, to make the decision.
For the Eagles, there are two players in which the verdict is still out on.
Firstly, there’s Chris Masten. When you are drafted with pick 3 in the AFL Draft, the expectations rise immediately. Masten hasn’t had a superstar career, but he’s been a contributor over his 130 games. Is he sweet or sour? Would you redraft him with pick 3 again in 2007? Dangerfield, Rioli and Ward were all still available.
Now onto Brad Sheppard. He’s another player whose expectations are high because of where he was drafted. Taken with pick 7 in 2009, Sheppard has had a slow and steady rise to playing consistent football with the Eagles. He’s 71 games in and looks like he could be starting to have an regular impact within the Eagles line-up. But pick 7? Was he worth it?
Are they sweets or sours? You decide.
One thing that stands out about the West Coast Eagles’ drafting since 2001 is their ability to draft a group of quality players within one draft class.
Most notably, in 2006, they pretty much drafted the core of their backline. When healthy, Mitch Brown, Eric Mackenzie and Will Schofield are all playing in the back six for the Eagles.
In 2008, Nic Nat and Shuey joined the helm. Whilst 2010 may go down in history for the club, after they brought in Gaff, Darling, McGovern and Lycett.
As a result of the Judd trade, 2007 was a big opportunity, but did they waste it? Picks 3, 13 and 20 were all in their possession. Two of those picks aren’t with the club anymore, as I mentioned above.
If the Eagles haven’t had high draft picks, they’ve made up for it by drafting gems deeper into the national draft, as well as the rookie draft.
West Coast are definitely on the rise and are legitimate contenders in 2015. And don’t forget about their most recent draft choices. There’s Newman, McInnes, Sinclair, Sheed, Lamb and especially Liam Duggan, who looks right at home in his first season.
Their drafting has been solid, smart and daring. There have been mistakes, but I think the sweets outweigh the sours.