2021 Rookie Me Central AFL Phantom Draft

FOR AFL Draft fans, it is the equivalent of Christmas Day. After 12 months of speculating, watching, analysing and compiling, the day – or in this case days – is here. Across the next two nights, around 70 players will find their way onto AFL lists. Rookie Me Central will be providing bucketloads of live content and interaction over the next 48 hours, so be sure to follow our social media pages as we answer your questions live.

The AFL Phantom Draft market is saturated with content now, and for the most part it is largely guess work, particularly outside the first round. So to mix it up a little differently, the 2021 Rookie Me Central AFL Phantom Draft will instead have a full detailed first round, and then answer key questions and summarise possibilities. Rather than produce an arbitrary list, we will tell you, the fans, what we know, what is being said and what could happen based on the former.

Buckle in, because this year’s AFL Draft is set to have plenty of spice.

Ben Hobbs Nick Daicos
Ben Hobbs and Nick Daicos battle for the ball during the Victorian Challenge match. Picture credit: Rookie Me Central


PICK #1 – NORTH MELBOURNE – Jason Horne-Francis

South Adelaide-logoSouth AdelaideInside Midfielder, Medium Forward

Jason Horne-Francis

Height: 184cm

Weight: 78kg

DOB: 21-06-2003

The consensus number one selection. Horne-Francis is a readymade player who has that ‘wow factor’ having proven himself against senior players in the SANFL competition. Earning the tag of outright first, the South Adelaide talent has already considered himself a Roo for sometime and it is easy to see why.


PICK #2 – WESTERN BULLDOGS (Matched) – Sam Darcy

Key Position Utility

Sam Darcy

Height: 204cm

Weight: 75kg

DOB: 19-07-2003

The Western Bulldogs father-son prospect will be quickly matched by the Dogs here, with the GIANTS making them earn it. The Oakleigh Chargers tall becomes the first Victorian player picked in the draft, and becomes the second Dogs top two pick in as many seasons, and one who could play in any role.


PICK #3 – GWS GIANTS – Finn Callaghan

Balanced Midfielder

Finn Callaghan

Height: 189cm

Weight: 82kg

DOB: 26-04-2003

Despite many believing a few weeks back that the GIANTS would bid for both father-son prospects, it has become clear that from a midfield perspective, GWS will hone in on the Dragons’ Callaghan. Having had a phenomenal season, Callaghan is the first non-attached Victorian to be picked up.


PICK #4 – COLLINGWOOD (Matched bid) – Nick Daicos


Nick Daicos

Height: 183cm

Weight: 72kg

DOB: 03-01-2003

The Suns tried to coax the son of Peter up to the Sunshine State to no avail, but their efforts in vain will not stop them bidding here. The GIANTS may have overlooked Daicos, but Gold Coast certainly won’t. Though like the Bulldogs, the Magpies – who have added an extra two years to the prodigy’s contract – will quickly match.


PICK #5 – GOLD COAST – Mac Andrew

Ruck Forward

Mac Andrew

Height: 200cm

Weight: 70kg

DOB: 12-04-2003

The pick was thought to be down to just two players, both key position options. Key defender Josh Gibcus was looked at as a real possibility, but in the end the Suns have opted for the Dandenong Stingrays ruck/forward in Andrew, a member of the Melbourne Next-Generation Academy, to add depth to their tall stocks.


PICK #6 – ADELAIDE – Josh Rachele

Midfielder, Small Forward

Josh Rachele

Height: 180cm

Weight: 78kg

DOB: 11-04-2003

Another pick which is more of a mere formality at this stage, it appears the exciting Bushrangers forward is Adelaide-bound to add some spark inside 50. The Crows are keen on Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, and could look to trade down the order with the possibility of snagging both, but it appears tricky to do so without losing Rachele.


PICK #7 – HAWTHORN – Josh Ward


Josh Ward

Height: 181cm

Weight: 79kg

DOB: 15-08-2003

The Northern Knights talent is a classy player who new coach Sam Mitchell would love, and whilst the Hawks would ideally add a bit of speed at this pick, Ward is able to move well through traffic, and find plenty of it. Possessing clean skills and a knack for setting up his teammates, Ward is the choice pick at this selection. He’s also a Hawks fan.


PICK #8 – FREMANTLE – Ben Hobbs

Inside Midfielder

Ben Hobbs

Height: 183cm

Weight: 80kg

DOB: 16-09-2003

The Dockers sit in a precarious situation with Richmond in between their two picks. It seems the Dockers will go tall with one selection (Jye Amiss) and a midfielder with the other. The Tigers have more sights set on Josh Gibcus, though would look at Hobbs as a more likely option than Amiss, so the Dockers would need to pull the trigger here if so.


PICK #9 – RICHMOND – Josh Gibcus

Key Defender

Josh Gibcus

Height: 195cm

Weight: 84kg

DOB: 04-04-2003

The best key position defender in the draft slides down to the Tigers, and whilst it is not set in stone, appears more than a likely bet given their recent departures and the fact the key defender is a long-term option there. Hobbs is the other option with this selection, though the fact they could get a midfielder with their next selection leans more towards Gibcus here.


PICK #10 – FREMANTLE – Jye Amiss

East Perth-logoEast PerthKey Forward

Jye Amiss

Height: 195cm

Weight: 85kg

DOB: 31-07-2003

The local key position forward had a remarkable season this year, and would fill a need for the Dockers up the forward end. There is still some chance Fremantle opt for another midfielder at this selection – or go Amiss at 8 and either Hobbs or perhaps Matthew Johnson here – but Amiss should be available and a good pick.


PICK #11 – ST KILDA – Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera

Glenelg-logoGlenelgOutside Midfielder

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera

Height: 188cm

Weight: 70kg

DOB: 22-02-2003

The silky wingman from Glenelg, Wanganeen-Milera is another “lock it in” choice based on all the evidence. The Saints were tracking him well, sighted in South Australia, and he fits the need they are looking for with his brilliant skills and decision making. He is one the Crows have been keeping an eye on too, and West Coast would love him as well, but the Saints will pounce here. If Gibcus is on the board then that would change their mind.


PICK #12 – WEST COAST – Neil Erasmus

Subiaco-logoSubiacoMidfielder, Forward

Neil Erasmus

Height: 188cm

Weight: 80kg

DOB: 02-12-2003

This selection is more of a needs-type pick, and one that just seems to fit well. The Eagles will be right into Erasmus who did not manage to get as much of an opportunity as some of his peers, whilst fellow clean midfielder Campbell Chesser is another player West Coast has put time into of late. Matthew Johnson is the other potential option here.


PICK #13 – ESSENDON – Matthew Johnson

Subiaco-logoSubiacoBalanced Midfielder

Matthew Johnson

Height: 192cm

Weight: 80kg

DOB: 16-03-2003

This is where it really gets interesting. The Bombers pick opens up the draft, with Johnson still on the board, but the red and black have also been right into Sandringham Dragons teammates Josh Sinn and Blake Howes. Both will be off the board shortly thereafter, but Johnson fits a need and has produced the most consistent season of the trio.


PICK #14 – PORT ADELAIDE – Josh Sinn

Balanced Midfielder, Medium Defender

Josh Sinn

Height: 186cm

Weight: 82kg

DOB: 07-01-2003

The penetrative boot of the half-back who could progress into the midfield could land at Alberton, with his upside very impressive and happy to move interstate. Port would also be right into the likes of Josh Goater and Mitch Knevitt at this selection, with the possibility of Johnson slipping through another one to consider.


PICK #15 – GWS GIANTS – Blake Howes

Outside Midfielder, Tall Forward

Blake Howes

Height: 190cm

Weight: 79kg

DOB: 07-04-2003

Childhood best friends Finn Callaghan and Blake Howes could very well team up at the elite level, with the GIANTS right into the pair. If Howes is on the board, expect the GIANTS to try and continue that close bond in western Sydney, whilst this pick could be traded into next year’s draft potentially. Sam Butler and Darcy Wilmot are other ones here to watch with interest.


PICK #16 – BRISBANE – Darcy Wilmot

Medium Defender

Darcy Wilmot

Height: 183cm

Weight: 75kg

DOB: 31-12-2003

The Lions are right into the running defender who would add some great dash and skill to the back half of the ground. Possessing natural leadership potential, the Lions are weighing up a few options, including packaging up the picks to move up the order and potentially grab Josh Sinn. Dragons teammate Campbell Chesser is another one who could be considered here, though likely at their second selection.


PICK #17 – RICHMOND – Tyler Sonsie

Balanced Midfielder

Tyler Sonsie

Height: 181cm

Weight: 77kg

DOB: 27-01-2003

The Eastern Ranges midfielder has not had much luck this year, but is a smooth-mover who should still land somewhere in the first round. He might be considered as high as Port Adelaide’s Pick 14, or GWS GIANTS’ Pick 15 if Howes is off the board, but is right in the hitting zone for the Tigers here. Sydney is also super keen, and will select the Ranges talent if he is available.


PICK #18 – SYDNEY – Josh Goater

Midfielder, Medium Utility

Josh Goater

Height: 190cm

Weight: 79kg

DOB: 02-06-2003

The Swans are eyeing off a high-upside player at this pick, with the choice between Goater and Geelong Falcons’ midfielder Mitch Knevitt. Goater has terrific athleticism and can play multiple positions. If Sonsie is still on the board he is the pick here, with Jacob van Rooyen and Arlo Draper the two others on Sydney’s wish list should all the above be gone, and neither of the West Australian mids slide.


PICK #19 – MELBOURNE – Tom Brown

Medium Defender

Tom Brown

Height: 186cm

Weight: 71kg

DOB: 30-07-2003

The almost Geelong father-son will not quite make it to the Cats, with Brown coming into play around this pick. Rumours swirled he might be headed to the Harbour City, but it seems unlikely, with the Swans having others they are focusing on. The Dees on the other hand would be targeting Brown, with Campbell Chesser the other potential pick here.


PICK #20 – BRISBANE – Campbell Chesser

Medium Defender, Outside Midfielder

Campbell Chesser

Height: 186cm

Weight: 83kg

DOB: 27-04-2003

Rounding out the Top 20 is the smooth-moving Chesser who adds that touch of class and skill to complement the Lions’ outfit. The Lions are keen on him and Dragons’ teammate Josh Sinn, as well as Northern Knights rebounder Darcy Wilmot, but may package up their picks to move up the order to snag Sinn before Essendon and Port.



Who are the others clubs are considering in the first round?

They have been mentioned in passing above, but here are some names clubs are considering in the Top 20:

Claremont-logoClaremontKey Defender, Key Forward

Jacob van Rooyen

Height: 194cm

Weight: 88kg

DOB: 16-04-2003

The key position swing man is likely to be the second key position tall taken from outside Victoria, having worked his way into the number two spot from Western Australia’s talls. Clubs that are keen include Brisbane and Richmond, with van Rooyen eyed off by the Tigers if they opt to pass on Gibcus.

Balanced Midfielder, Medium Forward

Sam Butler

Height: 184cm

Weight: 73kg

DOB: 02-10-2003

The GWV Rebels forward/midfielder is one who has risen right up the boards and could give clubs plenty to think about on night one. The GIANTS are a side mostly eyeing him off, particularly if Howes is off the board, though the likes of Richmond and Brisbane are also possibilities.

South Fremantle-logoSouth FremantleOutside Midfielder, Small Forward

Jesse Motlop

Height: 177cm

Weight: 77kg

DOB: 23-11-2003

This is definitely more unlikely than likely, but Motlop is the kind of talent a club might pounce on late in the first round. Though more than anything, he will likely only go Top 20 if there is a live trade, with the likes of Brisbane, Richmond, Sydney and Melbourne all fairly stocked in the small forward area.

Where will the bids come in for the remaining Academy and father-sons?

It was initially thought for a long time that Mitch Owens was destined to pull on other colours over the red, white and black, but now it seems all but a certainty he ends up at Moorabbin. The main team that was keen was GWS GIANTS who have since opted not to bid for the Sandringham Dragons prospect. Essendon remains the last major threat, but they will only take him if they trade back down the order, with Brisbane the team potentially trying to grab the Bombers’ pick and reach a mutual agreement.

The next in line will be GWS GIANTS’ Josh Fahey who will receive a bid somewhere in the 20s. The defender is one who has terrific ball use and could develop into a midfielder in the future, and the GIANTS will comfortably match a bid having secured two Top 20 players. With the GIANTS keen on Sandringham duo Callaghan and Howes, Fahey fits the other third of the ground.

St Kilda’s second Next-Generation Academy player in Marcus Windhager is a curious case, and the hardest to place from a bid perspective. Some clubs rate the talent with poor luck as high as the second round, whilst others see him as much further down the draft board. That considered, it means the Saints should only see a bid post-Pick 30, and possibly into the early third round.

From the third round onwards, there are a number of father-sons who could follow in their father’s footsteps. Melbourne-aligned Taj Woewodin is next off the board, with a bid set to come in the third round, potentially prior to 50. With Melbourne having some picks in there, the Dees may opt to move up the order to avoid copping a bid right before their next selection. They will likely match regardless.

Port Adelaide is stoked that Jase Burgoyne will not receive a bid until later in the draft, set to be post-Pick 50. The Woodville-West Torrens ball-winner is one who has plenty of upside, and will end up at Alberton for limited cost later on, with still the possibility that the Power might be able to take him with their last selection. More than likely a team will still bid, but it will cost Port peanuts to match.

North Melbourne has nominated Northern Knights’ Jackson Archer as the other father-son prospect, and the hard-nosed defender will be a free hit at the end of the draft for the Roos who love his defensive accountability and work rate.

Of the Next Generation Academy players who have been nominated but not yet mentioned, Fremantle’s Eric Benning is likely the only one to receive a bid in the AFL National Draft, with the remaining six nominees set to land at their chosen clubs. Dominic Akuei (Carlton), Paul Haasbroek (Hawthorn), Josiah Kyle and Jack Peris (St Kilda), and Cody Raak (Western Bulldogs) are all likely Category B players, with the Saints able to allow that many options thanks to the fact Owens and Windhager will cost them senior list spots.

What about live trading?

The AFL Phantom Drafter’s ultimate nightmare. Predicting where players will go on AFL Draft night has never been easy, but this spanner in the works has meant a whole new difficulty level. There will be live trading both nights, so what could go down?

Those likely to move

Brisbane and Essendon are a couple of sides who could find a mutual solution on night one, with the Lions keen to add running Sandringham defender-midfielder Josh Sinn, whilst the Bombers have a number of players they have talked to lately and could slide back down the order. What that would trigger is it could well change the second half of the first round, with the Bombers far more likely to bid on Mitch Owens, whilst the Lions are still a big chance to snap up tall Jacob van Rooyen.

Sydney is a club that is eyeing off both Josh Gibcus and Ben Hobbs as potential sliders. If both slide to St Kilda’s first, or Essendon’s first, then the the Swans will be busy trying to do a deal. That means the Swans could try and trump the Lions offer, or at the least create a bidding war. Adelaide is set to take Josh Rachele with its selection, but might come to the table and slide back a few spots – though not too far as other teams are keen – in order to gain an advantage later on or next year.

The Swans’ state-based rivals GWS GIANTS are one side potentially able to trade out of the first round into next year’s and in the process do a deal for Collingwood to grab another pick once the Nick Daicos bid has come in. The Magpies could tempt them with their first rounder next year for a couple of firsts across the two, but it will come down to whether or not the GIANTS believe the Magpies will remain low. Collingwood could also deal with the Saints and Lions, triggering a three-way where the Lions move up to St Kilda’s spot, and the Saints ontrade one of those picks to the Pies.

Though not in the first round, the Geelong-Western Bulldogs trade – which would see the Cats package up a couple of picks for the Bulldogs’ Pick 23 – is basically waiting for the green light and to sign on the dotted line. Naturally Richmond and Hawthorn are also sides with multiple picks in the second round that will be watching with interest how the first round pans out.

Those unlikely to move

Whilst they might try and make a couple of clubs earn their aligned players, Carlton is happy to sit on their first pick – Pick 25 – rather than make too many moves. The Blues are content with who will fall to them, which will be outlined in the next section.

Port Adelaide is another side set to take its chances with Pick 14, given a number of players the Power like will be there at the selection. At the top of the order, North Melbourne fought off a ton of suitors to welcome Jason Horne-Francis in at that pick, with West Coast at Pick 10 another side that seems happy enough to see what unfolds.

What happens after the first round?

Fremantle has the coveted first pick of the second night, and if their local tall in Jacob van Rooyen is there, expect them to pounce. They will have ticked off a key position player at each end – though van Rooyen can play up either end – as well as a midfielder with their first three picks. The coveted Pick 21 is likely to have plenty of interest given the fact that a slider tends to survive night one, and a team such as Geelong or Richmond could look to boost themselves up the order.

The other huge link is Dandenong Stingrays’ Connor Macdonald to Carlton with Pick 25 – which will drop back a few picks with bids – though Campbell Chesser is another player the Blues will take if he still on the board. Geelong has also put plenty of work into West Australian Angus Sheldrick, whilst Richmond could go tall with Toby Conway or Rhett Bazzo if the latter is not snapped up by the Hawks. South Adelaide’s Arlo Draper could be that slider who makes his way into the mid 20s after being a potential Top 15 pick, with the Hawks a potential suitor.

Who are the potential bolters?

It has been mentioned, but GWV Rebels’ Sam Butler is the one most likely to shake up the first round, though Sandringham Dragons’ Blake Howes could go as high as Essendon. Though seen as a Top 10 pick for most of the season, Dandenong Stingrays’ Mac Andrew locked in at Pick 5 is still incredibly high for a raw prospect.

From a second round perspective, Peel Thunder’s Brady Hough is one who has his fans and could go inside the Top 30. A high-upside forward with plenty of growth, Hough could be one who forces a club to pull the trigger on early, with fellow excitement machines Kai Lohmann and Judson Clarke among those right in contention for a Top 25 selection.

Williamstown’s Charlie Dean is another name to just keep an eye on, as he could well push Central District’s Leek Alleer as the first mature-ager selected in this year’s draft. Another name to remember is Northern Knights’ Anthony Caminiti who came from the clouds late and could land at a club like the Pies who have the interest. Eastern Ranges’ Jake Soligo and Oakleigh Chargers’ Lachlan Rankin are other names who might land early.

Who are the potential sliders?

The discussion around Matthew Roberts has been done to death, and unlike many sliders, Roberts’ drop has been done far more publicly than most. The South Adelaide prospect is too good not to be drafted, and similar to a James Worpel, the focus on what he cannot do, rather than what he can do, has taken centre stage. He could be taken in the third round onwards, but will be far more likely to have a greater impact earlier in his career thanks to his senior experience.

Others who could be touted sliders include East Fremantle’s Jack Williams who is a late second to third round talent. It might not sound like a slide of late, but Williams was a potential Top 20 player earlier in the year. Northern Knights’ Ned Long is another player similar to Roberts who has his fans, but could be rated anywhere from second round to undrafted, so it is a watch this space for the strong, tall talent.

Final thoughts

The 2021 AFL Draft crop has certainly been one of the more even draft crops, with plenty of depth beyond the top group, and clubs are likely to jostle ahead of others just to grab a player they rate. With so many differing opinions on players from different clubs, it will be interesting to see who might use live trading to advantage once they have sussed out which clubs have a similar board or though to the prospect they are after.

If you have any questions for the Rookie Me Central team in the lead-up to, on the night/s or post-draft, be sure to message us on our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


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