Calder’s Great Draft Steals
Story by Alex Karavas
With draft night only a couple of days away, the anxious wait for the next batch of stars is on the lips of every recruiter and every supporter, while the hearts and stomachs of those young men will inevitably go overdrive.
Constant talk about who will be the number one, number two, number three and the top-10 selections has had us all talking.
The Calder Cannons since their inception in 1995 have had 90 players drafted to AFL clubs. A significant number of those have been high picks.
Although they offer a safer alternative, history has proven top-10 or top-20 draft selections don’t always work out.
We also know that lately there have been ‘steals’ in the draft.
For one reason or another these players have fallen down the pecking order in the draft and have gone on to become greats and even legends of their AFL clubs.
We have compiled our top five Calder Cannons draft steals.
In reverse order we have delved into the archives, picking the brains of my colleagues and friends unearthing some fascinating insight.
Ryan Crowley- No. 55, 2002 National Draft Fremantle
- Fremantle 2003-2015 188 games
- Essendon 2016 8 games
- 196 games/ 119 goals
- Australian International Rules Team 2006-2008
Yes, Ryan Crowley was a bargain in my eyes. If you weren’t a Dockers supporter, more likely than not you despised him because he would tag your teams best player and completely shut him down. Crowley became a tagger in 2008, though really rose to prominence when Ross Lyon moved across the Nullarbor in 2012.
Lyon’s tactics suited Crowley and Fremantle, which enabled the Dockers to make the 2013 Grand Final, though the Hawks accounted for them. The end of Crowley’s career was nigh, though he did manage to manage eight games for the Bombers this season as a top-up player.
Eddie Betts- No.3 Pre Season Draft 2004- Carlton
Carlton 2005-2013 184 games/ 290 goals
Adelaide 2014-Present 69 games/189 goals
- 253 games (479 goals)
- 2x Carlton leading goalkicker (2010, 2012)
- 3x Adelaide leading goalkicker (2014-16)
- 3x AFL Goal of the Year (2006, 2015, 2016)
- Australian International Rules Team 2013, 2015
Oh how the Blues would love to have Eddie back. His move across states to the Crows has proved a masterstroke from Adelaide. To be fair to the Blues, Eddie showed glimpses of talent in his eight years at the club.
Though no one could have predicted the player that Betts would become. His speed, the magician-like way he kicks goals from the pocket, weaves in and out of packs and taking speccies has seen him become one of the AFL’s most exciting players. He strikes fear into the minds of opposition defenders and coaches and catches the eyes of football fans wherever they may be watching. He could go down as one of the Indigenous greats of our game.
Ryan O’Keefe No. 56, 1999 National Draft, Sydney
- 286 games/ 261 goals
- Victoria 2008
- AFL Premiership 2005, 2012
- Norm Smith Medal 2012
- Bob Skilton Medal 2009
- All-Australian Team 2006
- Australian International Rules 2005-2006
Ryan O’Keefe comes in third and what a player he was for the Sydney Swans.
O’Keefe was originally drafted as a midfielder, though really came to the spotlight as the Swans made a charge to the 2005 premiership, all be it, as a small forward.
A brilliant overhead mark, as well as on the lead, his presence was instrumental for the Swans in the years after that 2005 premiership.
All-Australian in 2006 proved just how lethal he could be with the likes of Michael O’Laughlin and Barry Hall in that Swans forward line. The 2012 medal double of a premiership and Norm Smith Medallion in a brilliant display on football’s biggest stage showed the class O’Keefe had.
Given that he had numerous opportunities to return back home to Victoria, his loyalty to Sydney never wavered. O’Keefe really is proof that a diamond can be found. He forged a stellar career .
Darren Milburn 48th overall, 1995 Draft Geelong
- Geelong 1997-2011
- 292 games
- 2008 Victoria
- 2× AFL premiership player: 2007, 2009
- All-Australian team: 2007
- AFL Rising Star nominee: 1998
- Australia International Rules 2005
The man they nicknamed ‘Dasher’, the number 39 in the Cats hoops running around a footy field is a memory I never forget. Milburn comes in at number two purely for the way he was able to be a star in a position that demanded so much.
Never one to shy away Milburn from a contest, he was a key in defence as the Cats were building towards their 2007 drought-breaking premiership. What made Milburn all the more pivotal to the Cats was his versatility. He could play tall, he could play small, he could play third-man up.
The 2007 premiership year was clearly the best of his career as he was awarded All-Australian honours in a back-pocket. He tasted the ultimate success again in 2009 as Geelong were able to make amends for the year before and beat St Kilda by 12 points.
He never received the accolades that many who came before him would, but was unquestionably a key pillar of the Geelong backline.
Dane Swan 58th overall, 2001 Draft Collingwood
- Collingwood 2003-2016
- 258 games/ 211 goals
- AFL premiership player: 2010
- Brownlow Medal: 2011
- Copeland Trophy: 2008, 2009, 2010
- Leigh Matthews Trophy: 2010
- All-Australian Team: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
- Herald Sun Player of the Year: 2009, 2010
- Bob Rose-Charlie Sutton Medal: 2009
- AFLCA Champion Player of the Year: 2010
- Lou Richards Medal: 2010
- Bob Rose Trophy: 2010, 2013
- International Rules: Jim Stynes Medallist 2010
- AFL ANZAC Medal: 2012, 2014
- Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy: 2003
- VFL premiership player: 2003
- Australian International Rules 2010
Many thought Collingwood were drafting a player that would make up the numbers when it plucked Swan from Calder’s development system.
But Swan is proof what hard work and determine can help someone achieve.
Blessed with an ability to find the football, his CV is one to marvel at. A 2010 Collingwood premiership player, a Brownlow Medal in 2011, a three-peat of Copeland Trophies from 2008-10 (Collingwood B&F), All-Australian team for five consecutive years 2009-13, Swan has achieved nearly everything the game could bring.
He will be remembered for the way he would bust out of packs, run down centre wing on the MCG, and for the many tattoos that were be inked onto his body.
While he left the AFL in heartbreaking fashion with a career-ending foot injury, Swan will be talked about for generations to come as being one of the best players in the millennium era of football.
A very important part to Collingwood’s success, Swan was proof that hard work can make you one of the sport’s greats.