The NAB AFL Draft is fast approaching and with the next batch of future stars ready to walk across the stage and accept the rigours and responsibilities of life as an AFL footballer, we take a look back at the Brisbane Lions all-time best picks, value for money, and what could have been.
Hitting the double – 1997
Pick 5 – Luke Power (Oakleigh Chargers)
Pick 31 – Simon Black (East Fremantle)
If you were to ask any AFL team if they’d take a 280 plus game, triple-premiership player you’d hear a resounding ‘yes’ and then be hounded with questions about the identity of this 18 year old football prodigy. For the Brisbane Lions, 1997 proved to be a the flash point of the golden era of 2001-2004 with the drafting of both Luke Power and Simon Black within the first 31 picks of the draft.
Power and Black were two of Brisbane’s most prolific ball-winners in all-time great teams and combined for 604 games and 397 goals.
To put the enormity of these picks into perspective, of ten clubs with at least two picks in the first 31 of the 1997 draft, the highest amount of combined games for their club was Chad Cornes and Nick Stevens who played 366 games for Port Adelaide. That’s a whole 238 games less than what the Lions received from Power and Black.
Bang for Brisbane’s buck
Pick 1 - Des Headland (52 games)
On paper, receiving only 52 games from a number one overall pick may be seen as somewhat of a disappointment but what Des Headland lacked in quantity he more than made up for in quality. Headland only played 12 games in his first two seasons at the Lions before hitting some consistency in Brisbane’s first premiership year, playing 20 games in 2001.
While many footy pundits would look at the likes of Voss, Lappin, Akermanis, Black and Power (and rightly so) as the key cogs of the Lions triple-premiership, Headland’s improvement from years three to four can’t be understated. Headland’s average disposals per game jumped from 9.9 in 2001 to 19.4 in 2002, while also adding a scoring element with a career-high 34 goals.
Headland’s finest hour came in his penultimate appearance as a Lion when he finished with 33 disposals and three goals against Port Adelaide in the 2002 preliminary final.
2008, Pick 5 – Pre-season Draft – Tom Rockliff (134 games)
With one remaining spot on their senior list, the Lions earmarked the country Victorian and eventually drafted him with their first selection (Pick No.5 overall) in the 2008 Pre-Season Draft in December .
Rockliff has proven to be one of the Lions' greatest success stories in recent times. The once clever and creative midfielder/forward has become an elite runner who can accumulate plenty of the ball.
Rookie Draft Steals
2000, Pick 66 – Robert Copeland (Northern Eagles, QLD)
It wasn’t just the cream of the Under-18 crop that caught Brisbane’s eye, with one rookie draft pick coming to mind in recent memory.
Robert Copeland was taken with pick 66 in the 2000 rookie draft and forged himself a role in the powerful Lions teams of the early 2000’s as a hard-nosed midfielder and part-time tagger on route to 143 games and two-premiership medals to his name in 2001 and 2003.
What could have been
In alternate universe the reigning Brownlow Medallist could have started his career as Lion. Granted, when you still possess a midfield consisting of Simon Black, Luke Power and Nigel Lappin, drafting a midfielder doesn’t seem like as much of a priority.
The Lions selected Lachie Henderson with pick eight in 2007, and while the key position player has forged out a respectable career with Carlton and Geelong after being traded away in 2009, Dangerfield has firmly entrenched himself as the game’s best player.
Footy history is awash with hits and misses for all teams in the draft process, and we’ll never know if the allure of Moggs Creek, Victoria would have been too much for Dangerfield no matter where he landed.