Best On Ground: 2020 AFL Draft drags out but wide smiles worth the wait

SEALED WITH A KISS: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with mum Alice and dad Aaron after being selected at pick one in the 2020 AFL draft. Picture: Getty Images
SEALED WITH A KISS: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with mum Alice and dad Aaron after being selected at pick one in the 2020 AFL draft. Picture: Getty Images

SPARE a thought for Jacob Wehr, the last player selected in Wednesday night's marathon AFL draft.

The mature-age defender from SANFL club Woodville-West Torrens had to wait until 11.25pm AEDT to hear he'd landed at Greater Western Sydney Giants.

Wehr's name was read out almost three-and-a-half hours after the telecast started.

It was a long, drawn-out process for those watching at home. One can only imagine time stood still for those hoping to be selected.

Only 59 players were chosen with 2021's reduced list sizes playing a part in clubs' planning.

Each club had five minutes to lodge their selection, too long after months and months of planning for different scenarios.

Throw in live pick trades and bids for academy prospects - there were 11 in total - and it made for a long night.

But there were positives. The draft was planned, due to potential COVID-19 restrictions, as a virtual event.

It meant players, including those in first-round calculations, were scattered across the country surrounded by family and friends.

It felt more personable. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, the number one pick, was at a Melbourne pub.

Other draftees in his player manager's stable were there too. The emotion was raw, real.

Sometimes it feels like the top-10 stifle their emotions on draft night which is usually held in a large venue.

Not in 2020.

The smiles were wide, genuine, and the hugs in abundance. There was joy for friends too as teammates became opponents and lifelong dreams were fulfilled.

This week's edition of Best On Ground was written by Warrnambool Standard journalist Justine McCullagh-Beasy.

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This story Draft drags out but wide smiles worth the wait first appeared on The Standard.