The COVID-19 hit 2021 NAB League season hasn't helped the AFL draft stocks for Bendigo Pioneers players, but coach Danny O'Bree still expects the club to enjoy some draft success over the next three days.
The AFL National Draft starts on Wednesday night with the first round of selections.
The remainder of the national draft will be held on Thursday night before the rookie draft is held on Friday afternoon.
"We had four players (Jack Ginnivan, Josh Treacy, Seamus Mitchell and Will Shaw) get picked up in the rookie draft last year and if we could have four players picked up again then I'd be extremely happy,'' O'Bree said.
"It will be a little bit of a compromised draft, unfortunately, in terms of games played in different states.
"There's been a lot of talk about WAFL and SANFL competitions because they got to play through.
"It will be interesting to see how many players get taken out of the NAB League.
"We've been honest with our players and told them to have plans B, C and D ready. They can't just pin their hopes on being drafted this year.
"We've had conversations about VFL programs and maybe a couple of them might stay with us to play as 19-year-olds.
"We're trying to get as many players drafted this year as we can, but it's not the be-all and end-all."
The headline act for the Pioneers is Colbinabbin teenager Cooper Hamilton.
The midfielder/half-back was a member of the AFL Academy and he turned heads with a blistering 2km time-trial at the draft combine for regional players in Bendigo.
While Cooper Hamilton is the most likely Pioneer to have his name read out over the next few days, there's a plethora of other players that have shown enough over the past 12 to 18 months to warrant interest from AFL clubs.
Cooper's twin brother Hugh Hamilton, Sam Conforti, Xavier Mitchell, Harvey Gallagher, Cobi Maxted, Jed Brereton, Cooper Smith, Jack Hickman, Caleb Ernst and Ryan O'Keefe are just some of the Pioneers' list that have the talent to go to the next level.
O'Bree said there'd been strong interest in Pioneers' players from AFL clubs.
"It (the interest) has been consistent all year, you just don't get a flourish of calls this week.
"Some clubs might want players to work on their fitness, or work on their skills or they might ask for a player to be played in a different position.
"That plays a massive part in what we do. I want to give these kids every chance to get to the next level, so if it's a case of giving someone more time through the midfield or playing them in a different position...we'll do it.
"You want to give them the best chance possible. You don't want to play players in a position where it showcases their deficiencies.
"You want to showcase their strengths so that AFL clubs can look at them and say "geez, we could use that player in our team".
"I wouldn't be shocked by any of our players getting picked up in the draft or the rookie draft."
The other central Victorian interest in the draft is former Maryborough junior Kai Lohmann.
The creative forward represented the Bendigo Junior Football League in inter-league football before joining St Patrick's College in Ballarat where he aligned with NAB League club Greater Western Victoria Rebels.
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