'Footy Factory' Has Rich Draft History
Story by Adrian Johnson
Calder Cannons, regularly referred to as the ‘Footy Factory’, have been one of the most successful TAC Cup teams in producing the AFL’s elite talent.
With the countdown to one of the biggest nights on the AFL calendar almost over - the 2016 National Draft - it would be fitting to take a look at some of Calder Cannons’ best draftees since their establishment in 1995.
Following their first year, Calder Cannons’ first AFL draftees were David Round (Father/son), Darren Milburn (Pick 48), and Ashley Fernee (Pick 70).
Milburn was drafted by Geelong before making his debut in 1997. A tall defender, Milburn became renowned for his competitiveness and decision-making. He played 292 games, including two premierships (2007, 2009) and also an All-Australian selection (2007).
A year later, Calder Cannons gun Jason Johnson was recruited by Essendon at Pick 28. Johnson, a tireless running midfielder, played 184 games, including a premiership (2000) and All-Australian honours (2001).
Jude Bolton was Calder’s first player to be drafted in the top-10, recruited by the Sydney Swans at Pick 8 in the 1998 AFL draft. The tackling machine’s 325-game career spanned 14 years in which he won two premierships (2005, 2012) and be the recipient of the Madden Medal (2013), recognising his outstanding achievements on and off the field throughout his career.
Better known as the “Super Draft”, the 2001 AFL Draft saw six Calder Cannons players recruited by AFL clubs: Brent Reilly (Pick 12), James Kelly (Pick 17), David Rodan (Pick 33), Andrew Welsh (Pick 47), Dane Swan (Pick 58), and David Johnson (Pick 81).
Rodan was the first player* to win the Morrish Medal twice (2000, 2001) – awarded to the best player in the Victorian TAC Cup Under 18 competition. (*The feat was matched by another Calder Cannons player Fortunato Caruso in 2005 and 2006). Rodan, known for his electric pace and strong physical presence, was initially recruited by Richmond, before being picked up by Port Adelaide in 2007. The 186-game veteran then announced his retirement from Melbourne in 2013.
Swan, one of the all-time best midfielders announced his retirement at the conclusion of this season – his career highlights include: Collingwood premiership (2010), Brownlow Medal (2011), three-time Copeland Trophy (2008, 2009, 2010), and five-time All-Australian selection (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).
Kelly, a courageous on-baller, played 273 games for Geelong, won three premierships there (2007, 2009, 2011) and received the Jim Stynes Medal in 2011 – awarded to the Australian team’s best player in the Gaelic series against Ireland. Kelly is the only active player remaining from the Super Draft and will line up for Essendon in 2017.
After being overlooked in the National Draft, Eddie Betts was recruited to the AFL with Pick 3 in
the 2004 Pre-Season Draft by Carlton. An incredibly lively player, Betts has turned into arguably one of the best all-time crumbing forwards, kicking 479 career goals. At the end of the 2013 season he was traded to Adelaide and has been their leading goalkicker (2014, 2015, 2016), while achieving two-time All-Australian honours (2015, 2016) and AFL Goal of the Year (2015, 2016).
In the years following, the “Footy Factory” have produced an extensive list of draftees, including Richard Douglas (2005), Daniel Talia (2009), Dion Prestia (2010), Mitchell Wallis (2010), Tom Liberatore (2010), Brandon Ellis (2011), Joe Daniher (2012), Jake Lever (2014), and Touk Miller (2014).
Calder Cannons have won six TAC Cup premierships (2001, 2003, 2004, 2007 2009, 2010); coach Andrew Johnston and talent manager Ian Kyte will be preparing for a successful 2017, in an effort to improve on finishing seventh this year.