Executive General Manager of Football Peter Bell says the Club is thrilled at the players brought through the door at the 2021 NAB AFL Draft, but said the four WA-based players were selected primarily for their talent and not due to a desire to draft only local players.
Fremantle added Matthew Johnson and Eric ‘Roy’ Benning on the second day of the draft, joining first rounders Jye Amiss and Neil Erasmus.
It comes after Fremantle selected West Aussies Heath Chapman, Nathan O’Driscoll, Brandon Walker and Joel Western in the 2020 National Draft.
“Drafting WA players is the way that it’s turned out. The fact that West Australian players have had the ability to play a lot more football certainly helps the case to draft West Australians and also put a weighting on them,” Bell said.
“We have a number of players from all around Australia, but it just turns out (drafting local) is the way we’ve gone in consecutive years.”
Selected at no.21, Bell said Johnson was a high-calibre player who could have easily gone earlier in the draft.
“We were very excited when it became apparent that Matthew Johnson was a chance to slide through to our pick,” Bell said.
“Whilst we rated him really highly, we also know we had to listen to what other clubs had to offer for that pick overnight, whether it was a trade or slide.
“We had some really attractive offers but when we weighed them all up, given how highly we ranked Matt, it became a pretty simple decision in the end just to draft him.
“We thought, ‘let’s just get him in’. It means we bring in another really good character and high talent player along with Neil and Jye and also Roy.”
Both Johnson and Erasmus add to Fremantle’s increasing midfield depth and Bell believes the skilful and quick 192cm player can contribute in a number of roles.
“He’s very skilful on both sides. That’s rare for a midfielder, especially with his size, speed and running ability,” Bell said.
“There’s no reason why we couldn’t see him play in a number of positions early in his career, whether it be wing, half back or even as a forward as he has done for Subiaco.
“In time, he’s going to be a really good midfielder when you put the athletic package together with his nous and game IQ.”
A passionate Fremantle fan, Benning comes in as a ruck/forward whose favourite player is Rory Lobb.
Bell said the Kununurra product and NGA graduate filled a need in a position that is hard to fill.
“They (ruck forwards) are hard to get and we’ve been really impressed with Roy’s application coming down from up north this year off a really low base at Claremont,” Bell said.
“His football just got better and better. He develops really quickly, he’s a great athlete. His follow up and ground balls are particularly impressive for someone who’s 198cm. We think he’s someone who will respond really quickly in an AFL program.
“We decided we’d draft him with one of our last picks and we can’t wait to get to work with him.”
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Fremantle’s draft is not over, having committed to select Connor Blakely and Mitch Crowden in tomorrow’s Rookie Draft.
Bell said Fremantle may add another new face should the right player be available.
“We have made the commitment to redraft Connor and Mitch, which we’ll do. But we also have the capacity to take another rookie selection, so we’ll just assess that over the course of tonight and tomorrow,” Bell said.
“We’ll have a look at how our list looks, given the additions we’ve made over the previous couple of days, and we might make a selection or we might leave the spot open for train on possibilities or supplementary players over the pre-season.”