Eight Pioneers in the mix for AFL National Draft

The Bendigo Pioneers could have up to eight players selected in Friday night’s AFL National Draft in Sydney.

The Pioneers are a chance to match or break their 1997 record of seven players drafted.

Swan Hill’s Paddy Dow is a lock to be selected in the first five picks, while Mildura duo Lochie O’Brien and Jarrod Brander are expected to be top 20 selections. All three players have been invited to attend the national draft in Sydney.

Nyah’s Brent Daniels is widely-regarded as a second or third round selection.

Castlemaine’s Kane Farrell, Strathfieldsaye duo Bailey Henderson and Angus Schumacher and Mildura’s Derek Smith Jr have been spoken to by AFL clubs and are seen as possible selections in the second half of the draft.

 “We’re quietly confident we’ll get at least six (players drafted),’’ Bendigo Pioneers talent manager Steve Sharp.

“Paddy Dow, Jarrod Brander, Lochie O’Brien and Brent Daniels should all get picked. I reckon Kane Farrell will go and then it’s down to Angus Schumacher, Bailey Henderson and Derek Smith Jr.

“You need a bit of luck… fingers crossed for the boys.”

Dow, Brander, O’Brien, Daniels and Farrell have long been regarded as potential draftees, while 19-year-old Smith Jr played for Richmond’s VFL team this year and could be selected by the Tigers under the new Next Generation Academy program.

Henderson and Schumacher are the late bloomers for the Pioneers.

“Bailey (Henderson) wasn’t even on our list at the start of last year, but he came to us and said he wanted to train,’’ Sharp said.

“From that he got an opportunity to play a game with us in June. 12 months later he was running around Etihad Stadium playing for Vic Country. Bailey has made an enormous improvement.

“Angus has always had the talent, but he went through a big growth spurt when he was 15 and it took him a while to grow into his body.

“He had a very good year this year.”

If the Pioneers do have seven players drafted on Friday night, Sharp said the whole club would feel proud.

“It means a lot to everyone because everyone in the club has contributed,’’ Sharp said.

“We have people in Mildura, Swan Hill and Echuca plus the guys in Bendigo. 

“Obviously, Rick (Coburn) is the head coach and his coaching team have done a massive job, but we share everything at this club and everyone will sit back and enjoy the moment when some of our players’ names are read out.

“Some people outside of the program judge our success on the wins and losses.

“If we get seven players drafted on the back of winning three games it shows the program is working.

“Internally, we know the program is working anyway, but it would add enormous credibility to the club.”

The Bendigo Pioneers had four players – Joseph Atley, Kobe Mutch, Kayle Kirby and Fergus Greene – selected in last year’s AFL national draft.