Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin, draftees Kozzy Pickett and Luke Jackson, and recruiting boss Jason Taylor
THERE was no panic in Melbourne’s recruiting team this year as the Demons nose-dived.
This long-term rebuilding project began, in some ways, when Jason Taylor crossed from Collingwood at the end of the 2013 season to be Melbourne’s national recruiting manager.
REBUILDING MELBOURNE The ‘behind-the-scenes guy’ with the blueprint
Taylor and co., under then-list boss Todd Viney, honed in on fixing the Dees’ contested-ball woes – and did so with trading creativity that continues unabated.
Taylor (far right) with the Demons’ football brains trust at the 2013 draft.
They set about bringing in draft quality in bunches, benefiting from various scenarios, including free agency compensation and the new freedom to trade future selections.
It meant Melbourne manufactured situations where the club picked twice in the top 10 in 2014 (Christian Petracca and Angus Brayshaw) and 2015 (Clayton Oliver and Sam Weideman).
Sam Weideman and Clayton Oliver joined the Demons in the 2015 draft.
Having bulk-drafted at the top end in back-to-back years, the next step was to start using those early selections to bring in established talent.
In came defenders Jake Lever and Steven May, the latter – effectively – in a swap for gun forward Jesse Hogan that involved the No.6 draft pick.
The May-Hogan-pick six package followed the Demons’ charge to a preliminary final in 2018 but also the thrashing out west that day from eventual premier West Coast.
Steven May was Melbourne’s big off-season recruit at the end of 2018.
As this year unfolded, starting with a staggering 17 post-season surgeries and descending into 17 defeats from 22 games, Taylor, Viney and pro scout-turned-list manager Tim Lamb realised there was still work to be done.
To them, few list renovations are completed quickly and without a bump in the road, although this was a rocky one.
Melbourne subsequently turned to all of the AFL’s player movement mechanisms.
There was a future pick swap with North Melbourne for a second top-10 pick in 2019, a player trade (Ed Langdon), free agency (Adam Tomlinson) and the pre-season supplemental selection period (Harley Bennell and Mitch Brown).
New Demon Ed Langdon (r) with coach Simon Goodwin.
The Dees then traded down from pick eight to 10 with Fremantle, in a deal that delivered them a second-round selection, which became West Australian defender Trent Rivers, to strengthen their draft hand.
DRAFT TRACKER Every pick, every player
They’ve never been risk averse in Taylor’s time, from the brave Oliver selection, to offloading Hogan and bringing in May, to picking 199cm Luke Jackson at No.3 on Wednesday night.
Not to mention the potential recruitment of Bennell, who will start training with Melbourne on Tuesday.
Former basketball prodigy Jackson is a tad undersized for a ruckman, but could morph into the game’s tallest midfielder – or maybe a key forward.
Rather than that uncertainty being a concern, it’s what excites Taylor most about Jackson, who began firming as the Demons’ man as far back as early July.
“That’s the beauty of it … he has the ability to settle into all three of those (positions), particularly the first two roles (ruck and forward),” Taylor said.
“So we can just build his craft forward – we have the luxury of doing that – and he can come in and support Max (Gawn) in that role as well.
“They’re different types and together they’d be really dangerous, I think.”
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE TAKEN AT PICK NO.3? We ask the recruiters
In Kysaiah Pickett, he of that thunderous bump, Melbourne identified and potentially solved a deficiency every bit as necessary as improving the club’s contested ball problems years ago.
The Demons desperately need a small forward: Jeff Garlett was delisted at season’s end, and a series of others simply haven’t worked in that role.
Taylor thinks Pickett’s already famed aggression, which went viral on social media, has pigeon-holed him as a certain type of player and masked his other qualities.
He’s the nephew of Byron Pickett, terrorises defenders and takes huge speccies.
Meet 2019 NAB AFL Draft bolter Kysaiah Pickett: https://t.co/tk4rSsg73y pic.twitter.com/ESpJoRsSvb
— AFL (@AFL) November 13, 2019
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