Jaidyn Stephenson says he expects to pay Collingwood back for trusting in him after the Pies opted to take the freakish Victorian at pick six in last night’s national draft in Sydney.
The Magpies’ decision to select the high-flying midfielder/forward with their first overall selection despite his well-publicised heart concerns perhaps typified a night of significant intrigue and drama, with surprises coming early.
As expected, the Brisbane Lions took powerful forward Cameron Rayner, who has had to live with Dustin Martin comparisons, from the Western Jets at pick one.
But by 7.15pm there was a shock. There had been immense uncertainty in the days leading up to the draft about which Victorian midfielder Fremantle would take.
Luke Davies-Uniacke had been the favourite from a way out, but in recent days Adam Cerra had bolted into the conversation.
In the end, they didn’t take either at that selection, opting for the Sandringham Dragons’ Andy Brayshaw, who had been in the mix for the No.1 spot until this week. The Dockers still got their hands on Cerra, landing him with their other top-five pick (No.5 overall).
In between those selections, Carlton took Swan Hill product Paddy Dow at pick three, while North Melbourne opted to bolster their midfield with the well-built Davies-Uniacke from Rye at pick four.
Several clubs had decided not to take Stephenson due in part to the associated risks, and during the week it appeared there was a strong chance he could slide to West Coast at pick 13, or even Richmond at pick 17.
But the Pies hadn’t shut the door on the 189-centimetre Eastern Ranges product.
Stephenson said it had been an emotional moment when his name was called out.
My grandparents support them, my mum supports them, it’s a surreal experience.
Jaidyn Stephenson“I’m not much of a crying sort of person but I definitely teared up,” Stephenson said in AFL website interview.
“To be given the opportunity by the Collingwood Football Club is just amazing.
“My grandparents support them, my mum supports them, it’s a surreal experience, I’m still quite speechless.”
He said he had been aware of the heart issue for a couple of years, with his younger sister Tegan – a promising netballer – having a similar issue.
“The heart issue actually came up when I was 16. I knew about it. But I’m not really in a diagnosable area for the disease, or whatever it is,” he said.
“So they said ‘you could play, no worries.’
“But then my sister [who] also plays a high standard [of] sport, she was borderline as well.”
He insisted his football would not be affected by the health concern.
“It’s all just precautionary stuff. I’m on some medication, but I’ve just got to make sure I take that. I’m also careful of what I put in my own body which could affect the condition. But it certainly doesn’t affect my performance in any way,” he said.
“I can understand why [clubs] are trying to be diligent in what they’re doing.
“But I’m rapt to be at Collingwood and I think I’ll pay that back for trusting in me.”
The surprises subsided for a while, with St Kilda, courtesy of the future draft pick they gained in last year’s trade week, taking midfielder Hunter Clark at pick seven, and versatile 191-centimetre Nick Coffield at pick eight.
As widely tipped, the Western Bulldogs grabbed tall West Australian defender Aaron Naughton at pick nine, while the Blues added another top-10 pick, taking outside midfielder Lochie O’Brien from Bendigo.
The Eagles took former GWS academy player Jarrod Brander at pick 13, the Dogs nabbed Ed Richards – grandson of Collingwood great Ron – at pick 16, and Richmond added another small forward with Jack Higgins at pick 17.
Both Richmond and Collingwood landed their father-son nominees.
The Tigers took Patrick Naish at pick 35 after a bid from St Kilda, while the Pies grabbed Tyler Brown at pick 50 following a bid from Port Adelaide.
Sydney took Tom McCartin – the younger brother of St Kilda’s Paddy – at pick 33, with the Pies taking ex-cricketer Nathan Murphy at pick 39.
Brisbane grabbed Toby Wooller – grandson of 1963 Geelong premiership captain Fred – at pick 41, while Port Adelaide drafted ex-Melbourne player Dom Barry at pick 61.
Pick 68 drew a loud cheer as West Coast took Hamish Brayshaw.
The older brother of Andy, Hamish was overlooked last year but is headed with his brother to Western Australia, although they will be on rival teams.
North Melbourne picked up delisted Hawk Billy Hartung at pick 77.
Carlton also gave another AFL chance to former Gold Coast player Jarrod Garlett (pick 78), a first-round choice only three years ago.
THE 2017 AFL DRAFT
1 Cameron Rayner
18, 187cm, 87kg
Hunts the ball and explodes from congestion to kick goals with his raking right foot. Hard to tackle and with clean hands, he will give opponents nightmares.
2 Andrew Brayshaw
18, 184cm, 82kg
The younger brother of Melbourne midfielder Angus is equally at home inside or outside the contest and his work rate is solid. He likes to bring teammates into the game and is agile enough to find space.
3 Paddy Dow
18, 185cm, 78kg
A busy player, Dow has quick feet and uses them to advantage in traffic. He is a good kick and fights hard to win his own ball. His grandfather Peter played 18 games for North Melbourne.
4 Luke Davies-Uniacke
18, 187cm, 85kg
The inside midfielder can push forward and kick goals. Laid back, but kicks precisely inside 50.
5 Adam Cerra
18, 186cm, 80kg
The prolific ball-winner with silky skills is highly rated for his poise. He has quick hands and is willing to put himself into the contest.
6 Jaidyn Stephenson
Eastern Ranges, Vic
18, 189cm, 75kg
A competitive animal who runs hard to present at stoppages and has a long kick.
7 Hunter Clark
18, 186cm, 80kg
A tough competitor who wins his own ball. He could eventually play as a tall midfielder. Could be an automatic flanker at AFL level.
8 Nick Coffield
18, 191cm, 82kg
Speedy, rebounding defender who impressed as Northern Knights skipper with his ability to give direction and organise teammates.
9 Aaron Naughton
18, 194cm, 84kg
Competitive defender who not only scraps hard to stop the opposition scoring but is prepared to make the play and create run from half back.
10 Lochie O’Brien
18, 184cm, 77kg
Long-kicking left-footer who can play on a wing or half-back flank. His grandfather Denis played one game for Collingwood in 1971. An oustanding athlete, he models his game on Andrew Gaff.
11 Aiden Bonar
18, 190cm, 89kg
Despite two knee-reconstructions he matched the all-time standing vertical leap test by jumping 89cm at the draft combine. A real bull, he competes hard, is powerful and is capable of dominating games.
12 Darcy Fogarty
18, 192cm, 92kg
Knee surgery to fix a meniscus tear ended a relatively disappointing 2017 early but he is good mark who can bust open a stoppage with his strength and dominate games.
13 Jarrod Brander
18, 194cm, 89kg
Excellent kick and mark, he is the classic third tall who could play either end. Shapes however as a natural forward.
14 Matthew Ling
18, 182cm, 74kg
The modern day dashing defender, Ling loves to intercept the ball in the air and turn attack into defence. He shapes as a player suited to the rebounding game.
15 Zac Bailey
18, 180cm, 81kg
Explosive midfielder who will blossom in an AFL program. Hard nosed and desperate.
16 Ed Richards
18, 184cm, 77kg
The grandson of Collingwood’s 1953 premiership player Ron Richards (Lou Richards’ brother). Exciting, with his crop of red hair, he explodes off a standing start.
17 Jack Higgins
18, 178cm, 76kg
A good mark for his size, he is lightning off the mark and harrasses opposition defenders. Won the Morrish Medal and is known for his diligent preparation.
END-OF-FIRST-ROUND COMPENSATION PICKS
18 Brandon Starcevich
18, 187cm, 84kg
The nephew of Collingwood premiership player Craig Starcevich is an exciting forward who will develop into a tall modern-day midfielder.
19 Wil Powell
18, 184cm, 65kg
Lightly framed wingman who has huge upside. Good mark who impressed at Colts level as a player with AFL traits although he flashed in and out of games at times. Has good pace.
20 Callum Coleman-Jones
21 Oscar Allen
22 Lachlan Fogarty
23 Will Walker
24 Tim Kelly
25 Noah Balta
26 Liam Ryan
27 Brent Daniels
28 Sam Taylor
29 Charlie Spargo
30 Tom De Koning
31 Bayley Fritsch
32 Brayden Ainsworth
33 Tom McCartin
34 Patrick Naish
35 Oscar Clavarino
36 Charlie Constable
37 Harrison Petty
38 Jack Petruccelle
39 Nathan Murphy
40 Andrew McPherson
41 Toby Wooller
42 Charlie Ballard
43 Connor Ballenden
44 Hugh Dixon
45 James Worpel
46 Ben Paton
47 Sam Hayes
48 Oskar Baker
49 Jordan Houlahan
50 Tyler Brown
51 Kane Farrell
52 Brayden Crossley
53 Ryley Stoddart
54 Jack Payne
55 Connor Nutting
56 Zac Langdon
57 Gryan Miers
58 Jake Patmore
59 Mitchell Crowden
60 Joel Garner
61 Dom Barry
62 Kyron Hayden
63 Ben Miller
64 Nicholas Shipley
65 Tom North
66 Brandon Zerk-Thatcher
67 Dylan Moore
68 Hamish Brayshaw
69 Lloyd Meek
70 Angus Schumacher
71 Jackson Ross
72 Tristan Xerri
73 Sam Switkowski
74 Callum Porter
75 Scott Jones
76 Matt Guelfi
77 Billy Hartung
78 Jarrod Garlett