I'll admit that on Thursday night I let out an audible "WHO!?" when the name Jordan Gysberts was read out as our #3 pick. Suffice to say he wasn't fancied to go that high, and most of us probably expected a forward with that selection.
Not such a big deal, after all you have to put some faith in the recruiters who are paid to analyse these things but from the reaction of our fans, and various knobs from other clubs, afterwards you'd think that we'd called out the name of the Jordan who married Peter Andre and sported some of the most ludicrous hooters in world history. Cue radio and forums being deluged with "I'm happy we got Scully and Trengove but....."
Now, explain to me what exactly is the point of stressing over the draft order at this stage? How many careers have been made and unmade before the kid has even walked into a training session? Gone are the days when kids would celebrate being drafted first by ripping into the lines and dying.
It's bad enough that people continue this insane obsession with Watts "not being worth it", but have we reached some sort of sick point in our 'cycle' that we're this desperate for instant gratification? If anyone should know about patience it's the fans of a side that has won seven games in two years. And Richmond supporters. It's like people are unable to accept a vision that doesn't include a name they're not comfortable with.
I blame the internet. Years ago you'd just sit back and deal with whatever happened. If they picked a dud they picked a dud, and if they somehow scooped up a star at number 70 then bust out the champers. Gary Moorcroft at #39? Sure, why not. Now we (myself included) spend six months plus trawling draft boards and reading phantom drafts. We read the articles in the paper and listen to endless talkback callers all recycling the same shit. Come draft day we've changed our minds on who and what we want a hundred times, and somebody has always gone ridiculously early on registering forum usernames of the predicted top picks. Then somebody you didn't expect comes out and it's the end of us. We're rooted because we didn't pick some forward that some bloke in a phantom draft said was good.
Undoubtedly we would have taken Butcher if he'd got to 11, but it was never going to happen with Port having two picks in front of us and a rancid forward line.
So with the Butch gone all the talk moved to Talia and Black. Are they any good? Fucked if I know. They're good enough to be in the top 20 of the national draft, which is well better than 1000 other people who nominated - and about 15 million of us fat porkies on their couch. Did our recruiting staff believe they met our needs? Apparently not. So move on. The future might show it as a gigantic cockup, or a stroke of genius. Right now you don't know. What you do know is that the odds of a player in the top twenty of a draft being at least half decent are fairly high. The high priest of phantom draftery Matt Burgan had Gysberts in the 13-29 range - so I'm relatively happy that he's no Luke Williams. Talk to me in two years and I'll decide whether or not to join your in dumping a truckload of chicken manure outside the club offices, but until then deal with it.
Chances are none of us have seen the kid play live, and other than a few clips here and there we probably didn't know he existed. Sometimes we've got to go along for the ride instead of trying to second guess everything. I dare say that if you went back to this time at any year since internet forums became popular there'd be similar threads about our drafts. James Frawley and Colin Garland are poster children for the phenomenon of writing somebody off because they don't dominate in their first year. Injuries aside I don't think many would criticise them now, but a couple of years ago it was on like King Kong. And we're all potentially about to be proven wrong about one C. Sylvia - one time that I'm dying to admit to having stuffed up.
One thing I'll tell you about Luke Tapscott is that he already has a stalker. Twice before the draft, and once immediately afterwards, some guy rang up SEN demanding that Richmond flick Dustin Martin at 3 and pick Lt. LT Smash instead. After explaining how he'd been calling and emailing the club to tell them about his masterplan (surprisingly to no response), he went on to say how Tapscott would be better than both Trengove and Scully. Bizarre claims, and bizarre manlove for an 18-year-old boy but at least somebody cares. About an hour after the draft he was back on saying how filthy he was that Richmond hadn't picked the Taps, and how he was sure they were going to come to regret it. That guy is going to be proven to be a genius, or will have a restraining order slapped on him a'la that bird who ran on the ground to touch Greg Stafford.
The argument really comes down to whether you believe Watts, Jurrah, Miller, Bate, Jamar (!?), Johnson (!!!!), Spencer (just testing) etc.. can kick goals in the future. Does Lynden Dunn finally get sent back to where he might get some respect? Or is he going to be lost to an ill-defined tagging role forever? Will Addam Maric pay off on his undoubted talent? Does THE CELEBRATOR return from a year off and pick up more crumbs than a vaccum cleaner? Who knows. What I am worried about is the Jurrahcane suffering from over-inflated expectations next year, see for instance the story on Channel 7 calling him "the most exciting player in the league"? I think Cyril Rioli would have spat out his cornflakes hearing that. Also realistically next year is Watts' rookie year - I expect him to be a regular, but he's not going to be the full Dial W for Watts sensation yet. Maybe the idea is to go early on a tall next year? Realistically we won't finish any higher than tenth in 2010, and even with the Gold Coast bonanza that gets us pick 17. We're more likely to be at the top end of the bottom four - meaning pick 12/10/8. So don't stress that we're trying to break into the eight next year. Maybe you'll get your monster forward in a year's time - after a season when SCULLGOVE, Gysberts and Tapscott have gained valuable experience. Maybe we'll prove that we don't need one? Who knows. That's the beauty of football. Lie back and think of Waverley.
I understand if people have reservations about what we did. Deep down maybe I do too, but it's enough to make you throw your computer through an upstairs window when you see people who think they're the great undiscovered recruiters of the millenium because they've read the trade boards and a few newspaper articles. At least wait until they get on a training track before you reach for the knife drawer. I imagine that no matter how much they deny it these kids do sneak onto BigFooty and the like for a look at what's be said. It's hard to imagine what an 18 year old, about to embark on an experience that none of us can have any understanding of, must think when they read that ZOMGPIES101 thinks that the club has made a massive error in picking them.
Another ridiculous subplot on the night involved Luke Ball. By Thursday it became abundantly clear that he was going to get his way and land at the Pies. Like a swinging voter I'd gone from not wanting him, to thinking about it, to convincing myself that it wasn't such a bad idea and back again before finally landing at a position of dread that we were going to go into the slave trade and pick him anyway.
When Jordie G's name was read out it seemed even more obvious than ever that we weren't going to pick another midfielder at 18. Which we then proceded to do anyway, and in true dramatic fashion it was somebody called Luke. Barry Prendergast, not previously known as a master of the dramatic arts, even put a pause in there just long enough to make us all - pro and anti - sweat a bit.
So, what's the difference between having a nervous breakdown over taking midfielders and having a nervous breakdown about taking a midfielder? More than you'd think. I've got faith in our recruiters that they're onto a winner - and at least you know that Tapscott has some interest in playing for us and won't be a sook about it. In the end everybody won. We got a good youngster, the Pies got a good senior player and Ball got to pose in front of a Collingwood trophy cabinet that has seen only marginally more action than ours in the last fifty years.
Our refusal to select him, lest he burst into tears and tipped over a table, did lead to one of the most ridiculous pieces of "special comments" in history. Nathan Thompson, speaking on SEN straight afterwards, suggsted that it was a disgrace that we didn't pick him because he would have slotted straight into the leadership group. Pardon? I'm no guru but at what point does refusing to meet a club and all but declaring you don't want to play for them earn you the respect of walking straight into a leadership group? Even Chris Judd's parachuting into the Carlton captaincy was done with some hesitation - and he's a modern champion who made a conscious decision to join the club. I know we've had a rough trot, but we're not so badly devalued that "pretty good but with scant interest in actually being there" gets you into our upper echelon.
The other major highlight of draft night was Michael Voss uttering this very phrase immediately after when quizzed about Matt Maguire and the prospect of him returning to his best. "I know what it's like when I got my rod out" Vossy said, obviously too caught up in the moment to phrase it in a way that perves such as myself wouldn't snicker perversely over.
Lowlight of the evening was the absolutely putrid Fox Sports coverage. How many kids expected to go in the 20's and 30's weren't in the room that night, and instead saw their AFL career launched by a graphic coming up on the bottom of the screen while Jason "Dickhead" Dunstall asked Tom Scully what he was going to do with all his money. That was when I reached for the off button (of the dodgy internet rebroadcast) and went back to trusty SEN. Apparently later they had an indepth chat with Lindsay Gilbee about the 1999 draft while the real thing was going on in the background. As an advert for shelling out for Foxtel it was right up there with the Thigh Blaster and Jamster Mobile Club.
So, the moral of this story is.. Well, I'm not sure. Most of the above seems to contradict itself every second paragraph. All I'm saying is that in this age of instant gratification, email, Farcebook, Twitter (that's @demonblog) and porn at your fingertips 24/7 there are some questions that you can't answer straight away. You can't just look up Wikipedia and find out if we're going to be any good next year or if a player is going to be a champion. Sit back, enjoy the ride and let's wait until somebody gets described as "training the house down" (aka: 'Doing a Meesen') before jumping to ten years worth of conclusions.