My opinion as to whether Essendon deserve the number one pick has changed as much as Sam Newman’s face.
At the start of the year I supported the idea of Essendon receiving the first pick if they finished last and even opposed David Koch when he spoke out on the matter.
But the more I look at it, the more I disapprove. Essendon cheated and no matter how the club and players sugar coat it, the fact is, the club injected their players with substances, many, which they can not identify, all with the aim to enhance their performances.
Essendon have been poor this season but their on-field woes have nothing to do with list management or a lack of talent.
Take three All-Australian’s and a Brownlow medallist out of any side and you will see a dip in form.
If the Bombers had Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell, Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton, Heath Hocking, Travis Colyer and David Meyers in their side would they finish last?
The answer is a resounding no and we know this because the Bombers have stated that they believe with the return of these players, they will be challenging for the finals next season.
So if Essendon’s struggles this season were due to their best players being banned for cheating then why do they deserve the number one pick ahead of clubs who are truly deplorable?
Brisbane finished the season with three wins and 0.6% off the wooden spoon and, barring injuries they had a full list to choose from. The Lions were terrible this season, evident by an average of over 130 points conceded per game and by the sacking of their coach, Justin Leppitsch.
The Lions are a club in dire need of the best picks possible and ideally need the first pick in the national and preseason draft to rapidly improve their performances.
The last time a club was as bad as the 2016 Brisbane side was in 2009, when Melbourne were given a priority, along with pick one.
Essendon supporters will argue that their club has gone through enough in the past four years and that they had already been punished for their misdemeanour by being banned from the 2013 finals series, while also losing their first and second round draft picks in 2013 and 2014.
The AFL must always be wary when stripping clubs of draft picks and the effects it can have on clubs in the years to come, as Carlton supporters love to point out after being stripped of their picks in 2002.
14 years on and Carlton are still feeling the affects of the suspension, something that the AFL would not want to see repeated with the Bombers.
Essendon have to be treated as a normal club for the benefit of the fans and the greater good of the AFL.
But that does not mean they deserve the best pick in the land to secure the best young talent in Australia and possible a midfield star in Jaeger O’Meara.
In 2013 when Essendon were suspended from the finals series, they automatically finished in ninth spot on the ladder, instead of last, because the AFL did not want to hand the club their first wooden spoon since 1933.
While the club did deserve to play this season without any suppression, the AFL should have determined that the club be given the draft picks handed to the side that finishes ninth.
This ensures that the Bombers receive a decent pick, without hampering the other bottom nine sides who have ended the season wherever the have without the injustice of a club suspension.
Without any compromises from Free Agency compensation, Essendon would receive the ninth best pick.
Some players in the past 10 years who have been selected with pick 9 include; Darcy Moore, Nick Vlastuin, Adam Tomlinson, Dion Prestia, Jack Ziebell, Ben McEvoy and David Armitage.
The amount of talent that has been selected with pick nine shows Essendon would still be able to challenge for finals next season.
And giving Essendon the picks deserving of the ninth place side will let teams like Brisbane receive the picks they deserve.
No matter what Essendon has been through off-field in recent season, they have still played in more finals series than Brisbane, Gold Coast and Melbourne in the past seven years.