LITTLE more than 24 hours from the national draft, Collingwood and Richmond are still weighing up their position on one of the most talented players in the pool — Eastern Ranges forward/midfielder Jaidyn Stephenson.
The Magpies and Tigers were understood to be still awaiting medical clearance to select Stephenson, who has a heart condition that has seen some clubs rule him out of selection in the first round — a stance that the Stephenson camp feel is alarmist and not justified.
The Tigers, indeed, have been considering whether they can pick Stephenson, in part because they think there is a chance that the speedster will slide down to Pick 17 — the premiers’ first of three picks inside the top 25.
But West Coast and Sydney are believed to have cleared Stephenson medically with both interested in drafting him. The Eagles have Pick 13, which would give them first shot before the Swans at Pick 14.
A number of clubs with picks in the first 20 have ruled out selecting Stephenson, including Carlton, while St Kilda is also considered unlikely to pick him at either Pick 7 or 8 and GWS is keen on other players at Pick 11.
With Brisbane certain to nominate forward Cameron Rayner at Pick 1, Carlton locked in on midfielder Paddy Dow at Pick 3 and poised midfielder Adam Cerra increasingly likely to be picked at either Pick 2 (Fremantle) or Pick 4 (North Melbourne), Collingwood appears to be the only club in the top dozen still considering Stephenson with their first selection at Pick 6.
There was a small chance that Andrew Brayshaw would fall through to Collingwood at Pick 6, but sources suggested on Thursday that he was still most likely to be picked inside the top five, meaning Collingwood’s call on Stephenson shapes as the biggest question mark on the first round of the draft.
North Melbourne is interested in both Cerra and South Australian utility Darcy Fogarty at Pick 4, along with Luke Davies-Uniacke, and are believed to rate both ahead of Brayshaw, whose father Mark is an ex-North player and board member.
The most likely scenario, however, has Cerra going to Fremantle at 2 and Dow to Carlton at 3, with Davies-Uniacke and Brayshaw rounding out the top five. The Dockers have Stephenson on their draft board, but are likely to look elsewhere inside the top five.
Stephenson’s heart condition — first detected at a routine draft screening — has prompted a risk-averse reaction from several clubs and his selection shapes as perhaps the biggest question of the draft. Some within clubs note that this condition — however potentially serious — has never been evident in his distinguished Under 18s career.
The Saints are believed to be looking seriously at running defender Nick Coffield and midfielder Hunter Clark at Picks 7 and 8, while the Western Bulldogs are favoured to select West Australian key defender Aaron Naughton at Pick 9.
In an outcome that would annoy Collingwood people, archrival Carlton is a serious chance to draft Oakleigh’s quick defender Ed Richards, the grandson of Magpie legend Ron Richards and grand nephew of Collingwood and media giant Lou Richards, at Pick 10, with Lochie O’Brien also in the mix for the Blues.
Athletic forward Aiden Bonar, who will not be picked by Carlton, is a major chance to be taken by GWS at Pick 11, assuming he is not picked by the Saints. GWS also likes Richards.
The Lions like Lachie Fogarty, a small forward, and could well choose him at Pick 15.