I T'S just like any shopping expedition. You look for bargains, hoping you don't buy a dud. Welcome to the AFL national draft.
Today in Melbourne the game's 16 clubs go shopping, looking for talent they hope will enhance their club and help them climb a rung or two of the ladder.
A total of 85 players will be selected, mostly talented youngsters, the rest will be experienced players looking for a new home.
The elite almost pick themselves. Since the draft began in 1986, just 11 top-10 selections have failed to play senior football. But there have been plenty of bargains.
James Hird waited to be picked by Essendon until selection 79 of 94 in 1990, Chris Grant was selected at 105 of 112 by Footscray in 1988, Ashley McIntosh - who would play 242 games for West Coast - was 112 of 116 in 1989, and Fitzroy picked Hobart youngster Alastair Lynch at No.50 of just 65 in the first draft in 1986.
Sydney, too, have picked up bargains in recent times, most notably Adam Goodes (43 of 86 in 1997) and Ryan O'Keefe (56 of 93 in 1999).
Over the past few years, the day has been very different to many young men, including Swans draftees Goodes, top-five pick Jarrad McVeigh, and the club's first pick in 2007, Patrick Veszpremi.
THE BARGAIN Goodes was worried on draft day in 1997. It wasn't concern over whether he would be drafted, nor where he might end up, his anxiety related to English.
An English exam, that is.
"I do remember the stress that day, but for me it wasn't stress about the draft, I was a more worried about my English exam which I had to do on the morning of the draft," he said. "As far as the draft was concerned I was a 17-year-old so if I didn't get drafted that year, I still had another year in the under-18 competition.
"I remember I got out of my English exam a little bit early and met the family down in Westside Horsham and we watched the draft on TV."
He had been best on ground in the TAC Cup grand final that year, kicking six goals in North Ballarat's win over Dandenong, but a broken hand in the opening game of the national under-18 titles meant Goodes slipped out of the spotlight. The only interest was from the two Wests Australian clubs.
One-third of the way through the draft, Goodes conceded he would not be selected. He explained that every club was entitled to one 17-year-old as a priority pick, and by pick 30, he had worked out those selections had been exhausted.
"I had a list of all the clubs and whenever they picked someone who was 17, I just ticked that club off," he recalled. "After about pick 30 I turned to mum and said, 'All the picks are gone'.
"I didn't realise that some of the guys picked were 17 at that time but were turning 18 in the next couple of months, and after pick 38, they announced on the telecast that St Kilda, Sydney and West Coast were the only three clubs with their 17-year-old priority picks left."
Sydney had the next pick at 40, and went with Fred Campbell (who would play five senior games), but they also had one more pick before the other two clubs, and with selection 43, they chose Goodes.
"It was a good feeling hearing your name come out, and to have my brothers, my mum, and my aunty all there watching, it was a real family day and everyone was really proud, and I was really happy to know I had just finished school - and hoping that I had done well at my English exam - and now the next chapter of my life was going to start in Sydney."
He made his senior debut in round one 1999, and would miss just six games over the next 10 seasons, winning a premiership and two Brownlow Medals. Certainly a bargain buy for the Swans and yes, he also did pass that English exam.
THE LATEST PURCHASE
Two words rose from the throat of Veszpremi when his name was called at last year's draft "Oh no!" The teenager and his family had gathered around the radio at home in Melbourne, listening intently to the AFL's draft, and commotion swept the room when the count reached No.10, the player's number was announced, followed by the name "Patrick "
"I didn't know what [draft] number I was, but we heard the name Patrick and the noise levels went up around the room, and then the next thing I heard was 'Adelaide'. I was like: 'Oh no'," Veszpremi said, recalling his reaction of heading to Adelaide.
"We found out straight away though it was actually Patrick Dangerfield who had been selected at 10, by Adelaide and while everyone was having a chat, a joke and a laugh about that, the next number and name came out and I almost didn't hear it. This time it was me. I still get tingles thinking about it."
Veszpremi was No.11, a surprise first-round pick to some, but the Swans believed he was worth their top selection - a decision vindicated this year when he impressed in six senior appearances - and drafted the youngster.
"The night before the draft Paul Roos and John Longmire had come over to just meet me and see what I was like in person and it was really positive, and after that night I got a good vibe off them. I guess I hoped that for a club to do that the night before the draft they must be keen, so I started thinking I would be a pretty good chance to go to Sydney, but you never really know.
"I didn't get much sleep at all that week. I was talking to a lot of clubs during the week, and each time a club would contact you you'd think: 'this could be the one.'
"The whole week is just a big build-up to that day. This is what your whole football life to that point has been all about, this one day and hoping someone calls out your name. Once it was over, you are so relieved."
Veszpremi does not feel any additional weight of expectation because he was a first-round pick. "Really, it doesn't matter where you go in the draft because everyone starts on the same bar. It doesn't matter where you are picked in the end you have got to show it on the field. I'm just glad I got drafted, and got lucky coming to the Swans."
THE HIGH SELECTION There was no chance the McVeigh family would be able to find live coverage of the draft on the television on the NSW Central Coast. So they huddled around the computer, and followed the draft on the internet. The huddle would last a matter of moments, as 17-year-old Jarrad was chosen by the Swans just five selections into the draft, joining his brother Mark as an AFL player.
Jarrad had thought there was a chance he might join Mark at Essendon after they showed interest in the lead-up to the draft, but the Swans had an earlier pick.
"Like any kid I just wanted to be drafted by someone," said McVeigh, who remains the most recent top-10 selection by the Swans. "I didn't play that year because I had a shoulder reconstruction so I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen in the draft.
"I remember they [the Swans] rang me straight after they picked me and asked me if I was happy. I said, 'yes, of course', and it's worked out perfectly for me."
McVeigh admits it was difficult at times during his first season in Sydney watching fellow players from his draft play senior football while he was in the reserves, but patience paid off, and he is now considered one of the Swans' elite, winning the club's best and fairest last season. "I think it's worked out well for me," he said.