Adelaide landed the slider at pick 9, Essendon snared its power forward in at 10, and Geelong got the man it really wanted all along at 11. But beneath the surface of this crucial point of the draft were a half-dozen clubs scrambling to get up the order and pounce on Dan Curtin.
This is the inside story of the trades that shaped the first round of the AFL Draft.
The Giants’ pick 7 (9 after bids) was built as the selection that would flip the first night on your head. And once intercepting key defender, West Australia’s Dan Curtin slid through, the calls came flooding in.
Curtin had been a consensus top-five prospect across the year. His slide was n’t due to a flaw on his part of him, but he clubs up the order being wed to others.
West Coast put their future first-rounder on the table for him, a pick that’s as likely as anyone to become the No.1 selection in 2024. It wasn’t a decision made lightly, but the Eagles had Curtin rated as the second-rounder. best player in the open pool behind Harley Reid. His slide was rumored, but still a shock for Rohan O’Brien’s team, and with no WA prospect rated in the top handful next year they were prepared to go all in on Curtin to fast-track the biggest rebuild in club history.
The Crows had also caught wind of his slide, but they hadn’t interviewed Curtin and didn’t foresee the imposing defender tumbling down the board. Justin Reid had holes to fill in defense with Tom Doedee jetting off to Brisbane and Nick Murray facing a year on the sidelines with a torn ACL. It was a no-brainer to inquire about the Giants’ pick, but first they needed to meet the man they were trying to acquire.
The Crows set up a last gasp chat with Curtin in Melbourne just hours before the draft. They asked what made him tick, where he wants to play his footy and who bases his game off. They found out he has extended family in Adelaide, and they walked away with a pick 7 play in formation.
As the clock ticked down, on the other side of the phone sat GWS recruiter Adrian Caruso. The Giants were content with their key defensive stocks, spearheaded by Sam Taylor. Clubs knew they wouldn’t call out Curtin’s name. So when he fell to their selection, calls came from everywhere.
North Melbourne offered up two picks in the teens, Essendon was willing to part with its future first-rounder or picks 9 and 31, Hawthorn was willing to trade its future first and West Coast had its coveted 2024 first dangling. But Adelaide’s offer of picks 10, 14 and a future second-rounder trumped the lot.
It allowed the Giants to cash in on their ‘right place, right time’ fortune and target crafty forward Phoenix Gothard and utility James Leake. With the club in the premiership window, GWS wasn’t willing to trade out of the first round for West Coast’s selection.
Giants recruiting boss Adrian Caruso spoke exclusively to ESPN about the offers GWS canvassed.
“We had a great discussion around the West Coast future first because there’s potential for that pick to be really valuable next year, but we wanted to hit the draft this year,” he said.
“It was more ‘How far could we move back from 7?’. Essendon was throwing stuff at us, obviously Adelaide, and we had a few discussions with other clubs.
“The Adelaide one worked well to get us from 16 to 14, and in the end that was the difference in us being able to record James Leake.”
That was the first blow for the Eagles, but they went again.
O’Brien was on the phone to the Crows after the GWS trade, offering up the potential pick 1 in 2024. But he knew the Eagles ‘were up against it’ to pull off the trade. Curtin fit the list need and talent at this stage to the point where Adelaide wouldn’t have even bothered answering, if not for their own 2024 conundrum.
Crows father-son Tyler Welsh is set to be a top-10 pick in 12 months time, and South Australia’s MVP Sid Draper would be there for the taking if they accepted West Coast’s offer. It would allow them to draft two top-10 SA prospects.
But the Crows had quickly become in love with Curtin as their interceptor of the future. Reid put the phone down and called out Curtin’s name, who’s now a red hot chance to feature in defense for Adelaide in Round 1.
With Essendon unsuccessful in their bid to trade up with the Giants, they turned their attention to their next target in Nate Caddy, the key forward boasting an abundance of aggression and power. The Cats were keen on key defender Connor O’Sullivan, but the Dons still needed to get up to secure Caddy.
West Coast kept his future first on the table after Curtin was gone, with Caddy in their sights. It was a tempting prize for the Cats, but their list retool called for an immediate influx of talent which the Bombers could help.
Pick 31 was all the sweetener Geelong needed to trade down one spot. Caddy was a Don, and country boy O’Sullivan was a Cat. Neither player had a clue the trade was coming, but neither cared how they became AFL players.
“We thought long and hard about not doing it, but that pick 31 we secured in that trade was important to us,” veteran recruiter Stephen Wells told ESPN.
For Adrian Dodoro, the Dons had to get aggressive to claim the player their list needed.
“We did it because we were really looking to improve our front half this year… [Caddy is] an extroverted guy up there that can attract the ball.
“We targeted him and we wanted him, so why not?”
Those were the trades that flipped the first round, and there was always going to be an odd man out with the Giants’ pick 7 up for grabs. West Coast missed on Curtin and Adelaide pounced. The Eagles went again for Caddy but were beaten out by the Bombers. As Rohan O’Brien put it on Monday night, it was ‘disappointing’ for the club.
But at least they have Harley Reid under lock and key.