2021 AFL Draft review: Carlton

WITH the 2021 AFL Draft done and dusted, Rookie Me Central takes a look through each clubs’ hauls to assess the areas they bolstered and what each fresh face promises to bring to their new side. Next under the microscope is Carlton, which brought in just one new player in an uncharacteristically slim national draft haul, before selecting a Next Generation Academy (NGA) graduate for the first ever time.

National Draft selections:

#27 Jesse Motlop (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
Matthew Kennedy (rookie promotion)
Josh Honey (rookie promotion)

Rookie Draft selections:

Lochie O’Brien (re-listed)
Matthew Cottrell (re-listed)

Category B Rookie selections:

Dom Akuei (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Carlton’s national draft intake was effectively a one-man band, with the senior list promotions of Matthew Kennedy and Josh Honey confirmed after the Blues nabbed Jesse Motlop with pick 27. A Fremantle NGA product, the son of Daniel (North Melbourne, Port Adelaide) was out of the Dockers’ reach within the top 40 under new bidding rules, so finds a home at Princes Park unimpeded.

Motlop played eight WAFL League games for South Fremantle in 2021, finding the goals in all bar one outing and turning out in this year’s grand final. He also proved his value inside 50 during last year’s PSA season with Aquinas College, leading the competition’s goalkicking. At his best, he brings flair, applies defensive pressure fitting of the modern game, and looms as the genuine small forward Carlton desperately needs in the long term.

The rookie draft was virtually identical in terms of method for Carlton, with hard runners Lochie O’Brien and Matt Cottrell re-listed to commence their last-chance saloons, before the Blues added NGA nominee Dom Akuei to their list as a Category B rookie. The Northern Knights graduate was Carlton’s first-ever NGA selection, coming right after nabbing one off another club in the national intake.

While quite raw, Akuei garnered plenty of attention for his early-season aerial feats, forced to roll through the ruck and seen soaring over much taller opponents. He leans on the same trait down back, where he is more often sighted, timing his leaps well to spoil attacks or chime in with intercept marks. A versatile player with plenty of upside to unlock, Akuei also provides some much-needed key defensive depth.

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