Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dockers snap up SA talent in rookie draft

Gavin Roberts
Nick Lower
Last year the Fremantle Dockers raided the VFL for mature age rookie coups in Michael Barlow and Alex Silvagni – this year the club has targeted the SANFL to top up talent on its rookie list.
South Australian club Norwood produced both the Dockers' first two picks in the rookie draft - utility Gavin Roberts (19), with its first selection, pick 20 overall, then former Port Adelaide on-baller Nick Lower (23) with pick 37.
After picking up Jack Anthony with pick six in the pre-season draft, these were the club's last two spots left to fill after the Dockers guaranteed Ben Bucovaz and Tim Ruffles would be retained as rookies, duly picking them up with picks 53 and 68 respectively.
Fremantle general manager of player management Brad Lloyd said he was 'rapt' to get Roberts in to the club.
“We're pretty excited about bringing him in – he's got really good skills, he's an elite runner with his speed, and he's 188cm – so he's a good size,” Lloyd said.
Norwood football operations manager Mark Ross said Roberts' career to date had been badly hampered by injury, but he was “very gifted, skilful, a beautiful kick and a smooth mover”.
“He's had a lot of back-related hamstring problems, and in the SANFL we just haven't had the time or resources to get his body right,” Ross said.
Ross felt given the treatment a professional AFL club could offer him, Roberts had the talent to shine as a forward, on the wing or across half back.
“I anticipate he'll be eased into the system as a medium to longer term player at Fremantle.”
Fremantle now employ six development coaches full-time, including former AIS/AFL academy coach Jason McCartney, so Roberts will be in good hands.
While Gavin Roberts may be one for the future, Lloyd said Nick Lower was a mature-bodied player capable of making an immediate impact in season 2011.
“Nick was on Port Adelaide's list for a couple of years, he's had a really strong year at Norwood in the SANFL and just deserves another opportunity,” he said.
Lloyd said Lower would complement the club's younger rookies and added depth to the club's midfield and half-back line.
Mark Ross said Lower had enjoyed an outstanding year at Norwood – winning both the club's fairest and best and the Woods' Medal for most outstanding club member, as well as finishing runner-up in the Magarey Medal for the fairest and best player in the SANFL.
“He was a bit unlucky to be de-listed by Port in my opinion – he's very tough over the footy, very strong in the air for his size,” he said.
Ross said while Lower had flourished as a genuine on-baller, he could match up on taller or smaller opponents and so could play forward or back too.
Fremantle will hope Bucovaz and Ruffles, both formerly on the senior list, will be able to overcome their injury woes of past seasons and push for opportunities as rookie-listed players in 2011.