When Fremantle landed pick 19 in the Will Brodie trade with Gold Coast, there was a brief moment of excitement before Freo's social media accounts started receiving a stream of messages imploring the Club not to mess it all up and send the pick to Geelong in the Jordan Clark trade.

It's because, paradoxically, many in the industry would agree that pick 19 holds more value than 18.

As the first pick on the second day of the draft, it allows its holder almost 24 hours to make a decision on who the best possible player is to select.

Or to negotiate with another club looking to move up the order.

So when top-10 fancy Matthew Johnson was still on the board at the end of proceedings on Wednesday night, it was understandable that Freo fans once again made their voices heard.

The best example was from friends of the Freo media team Duck and Oz, who in their draft podcast were (tongue in cheek) threatening to microwave their memberships if Freo didn’t get Johnson.

These concerns are understandable, as we haven’t always got it right through our 27 years, but the talent on the Club's list shows the recruiting team has runs on the board.

While the Purple Army should have slept soundly on Wednesday night, Head of Player Personnel David Walls didn’t.

“I didn’t really get much sleep…sorry my phone’s ringing again,” was how the conversation started with Walls on Thursday morning.

“We were up late just thinking through all the different scenarios.

“After the draft was over (at 9.30pm AEDT), we met with a fair few clubs at Marvel Stadium, we had some early discussions about their thoughts and where they were at.

“We then went back to the office and we looked at our order with what's left, how many names left that we're really keen on.”

There were two questions for Walls. Who would Fremantle take if they held on to 21 (previously 19 before the bids), and what would it take to make a trade?

“If we held 21, we would take Matty Johnson,” Walls said.

“Like Neil Erasmus, Johnson is an inside mid, but we also think he's a versatile mid that could play anywhere around square. He's also capable of going forward and taking a mark, so he’s got more than one dimension.

“But if we could get an unbelievable future first, we would entertain that.”

02:30 Mins
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Becoming a Freo Docker | 2021 Draft

It was a huge week for our draftees as they officially settled into the Freo family.

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Night two of the draft started how day one ended, with Walls and the recruiting team at Marvel Stadium linked to Peter Bell, Simon Garlick, Justin Longmuir and Bob Murphy at RAC Arena in WA.

Fremantle had two options on the table.

Take Johnson, or accept an offer of a future second round pick while sliding down the order slightly from 21.

“We probably ended up with three serious offers from different clubs, essentially offering a future second and a slide from our second round pick for 21,” Walls said.

“We decided that we rated Johnson really highly and we just thought - let’s pick him, we rate him highly, we're rapt that he's still there.

“It was a really tempting offer but we just wanted to get a player in that we really rate.”

So with the decision made, conversation turned to Justin Longmuir’s plans to visit Johnson on the way home to Karrinyup, as they both live in the same area…and the WA team teasing Melbourne-based Walls about his inability to pronounce Karrinyup correctly.

With Fremantle on the clock, Fox Footy host Leigh Montagna starts ripping into Bob Murphy for changing seats to move away from Justin Longmuir on night two, and Longmuir is unable to hold in his laughter while on screen.

Walls unmutes from Victoria, “we’re hitting submit.”

“Let’s do it,” Bell responds.

Attention turns to the screen for Johnson’s reaction. After hearts broke around the country as we watched him go unselected in round one, everyone wanted to see how he would take the news.

The Johnson living room erupts.

Murphy: "That’s awesome."
Bell: "He’s so relieved."
Garlick: "That’s great emotion."
Longmuir unmutes WA’s zoom call to Victoria: "Well done lads, that’s a great get!"

Montagna pipes up on the broadcast to credit Fremantle for picking the three best WA talents in the pool.

As Johnson’s highlights play, the room can’t help but commentate over it.

“He’s a big boy.”
“Neat kick.”

Then comes a graphic to describe Johnson as a player.


The draft moves slowly to Fremantle’s next selection at 54, with Longmuir ducking outside every so often to try and get a hold of Johnson, who’s understandably turned his phone off after a tough 24 hours.

“He’ll have nine missed calls from me when he eventually turns his phone on,” says Longmuir.

03:18 Mins
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Johnson becomes a Freo Docker

Watch the moment Matthew Johnson found out he had been drafted to the Fremantle Dockers

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If Fremantle fans were to submit a consensus wishlist for the Club’s two top 10 picks at the draft, it probably would have read like this.

  • Go local
  • Get a key forward, hopefully Jye Amiss
  • Get a midfielder, either Neil Erasmus or Matthew Johnson

It meant the main topic of debate leading into the draft was around Erasmus v Johnson.

It was also a debate that happened at length inside the walls at Fremantle.

“Our recruiting team in Melbourne, we had Erasmus slightly ahead of Johnson. But then a number of our part time recruiters and scouts had Johnson ahead,” Walls said.

“It was close, but when the full time guys sat down to finalise the draft order we settled on putting Erasmus ahead of Johnson.

“Erasmus is still growing as he’s only 17, but he’s a strong body that went through the midfield and he just impressed us with his work rate.

“He gut runs from contest to contest, he’s really competitive, plays well every week, doesn’t have a bad game and that’s on the back of his work rate and his competitiveness.

“But within our team it wasn’t unanimous. Even the WA talent people from the WAFC like ‘Jonesey’ (Adam Jones, State Talent Manager) had Johnson as the number one player from WA.

“So it’s fair to say it was pretty split by people in the industry about who was ahead.”

It was a situation that, in the minds of the Fremantle media team, was best summed up by this highly memeable Old El Paso advert.

As the video gained traction online, it eventually made its way to the mobile phones in the WA and Victoria draft rooms.

“That was very good, the guys were watching and killing themselves laughing,” Walls said.

With arguably the three best West Aussies locked in at Freo, attention turned to the next pick at 54.

Fremantle had made no secret about their interest in NGA product Roy Benning, who they could have let slide through as a Cat B rookie if they wanted.

The problem was, they weren’t the only club interested in the forward/ruck.

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