AFL recruiting is art, science and luck

Roger Vaughan

AFL recruiting is a potent mix of art, science, circumstance and pure dumb luck.

Events at the MCG and Adelaide's Alberton Oval this weekend will showcase the extremes of what that means.

When Port Adelaide's SANFL side runs onto their Alberton home ground to play Sturt on Sunday, their lineup will most likely feature three former top-four draft picks from Melbourne.

Jack Watts, the 2008 No.1 draft pick, heads the trio of ex-Demons.

He was dropped this week after up-and-down AFL form so far in his first season with the Power.

Jack Trengove, Melbourne's pick at No.2 in the 2009 draft, also joined Port this year but under vastly different circumstances.

The former Demons co-captain has only managed seven games in four seasons and is doing well to still be playing after recovering from a horror foot injury.

Like Trengove, Jimmy Toumpas is yet to play in the AFL this season.

Toumpas, the No.4 pick for Melbourne in the 2012 national draft, has only managed 10 senior games for Port in 2016-17.

In late 2009, a few weeks before Trengove joined Melbourne, Port Adelaide were part of a mega four-club trade that involved St Kilda, Essendon and Hawthorn.

Spectacularly, Essendon gave up the No.16 pick for Hawthorn star Mark Williams - he would play just four games for the Bombers before retiring because of injury.

The Bombers initially were patting themselves on the back because they'd offloaded the troublesome Andrew Lovett to St Kilda - he wouldn't play in the AFL again and St Kilda dumped him because of off-field issues.

Plenty of good came out of the complicated deal too - Port gained the No.16 draft pick and used it to recruit Jasper Pittard, now a 117-game player.

But no-one could have foreseen the biggest win.

When Port traded Shaun Burgoyne to Hawthorn - the No.16 pick was part of the deal - he was recovering from knee surgery.

"I did my (first) press conference on crutches and I said I'd play my best footy for Hawthorn," he recalled this week.

"A lot of people laughed in my face (and) there were some people saying I wouldn't play footy again."

On Saturday night at the MCG, all the laughs will be with Burgoyne and the Hawks when he runs out for his 350th AFL match.

The man nicknamed Silk is 22 games shy of Adam Goodes' indigenous AFL games record.

Burgoyne has played 192 games for the Hawks and been a key member of their 2013-15 premiership three-peat, making him a four-time premiership player.

It is the stuff of dreams for club recruiters, who suffer enough nightmares when trades and draft picks go south.