Posted in Featured News , Front Page News

The AFL Draft Combine has arrived again with each of the 18 recruiting teams converging on Melbourne this week to put the finishing touches on their talent identification ahead of November’s National Draft.

From an original article on written by Josh Gabelich.

Formerly known as the Draft Camp, the Combine has been held annually since 1994 to assess potential recruits for not only their athletic attributes but their mental capacity to cope with the demands of being a full-time footballer in the modern landscape.

Plenty has changed since the early years of the Combine at Waverley Park more than two decades ago. The screening shifted north to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra in 1999 where it grew in stature and significance, before returning to Melbourne where it has been hosted in Docklands since 2011 and blossomed in commercial appeal and scrutiny in line with the NFL equivalent.

St Kilda Pro Scout Wayne Hughes has spent a lifetime in the recruiting business, starting back with the Saints as Recruiting Manager in 1989, before he joined Fremantle ahead of their inception in 1994.

After more than a decade with the Dockers, Hughes was then lured to Carlton to manage their recruiting in 2004, before returning to where it all began at St Kilda in 2014, albeit in a slightly different area, mining for undervalued talent already on AFL lists.

During his time scouring the land for talent, Hughes has seen recruiting evolve dramatically in a range of ways, particularly when it comes to the Combine, which has leapt in professionalism, player accessibility and importance over time.

“The major difference over the journey would be the ability that you now have to interview players in-depth. Initially, you sat around the change rooms at Waverley and the kids sat down and you just had a two-minute chat. Now it’s a lot more than that,” Hughes told ahead of the 23rd edition of the AFL Draft Combine.

“And it’s normally not the first time you’ve interviewed them because you might have interviewed them as part of the national championships program or through the Academy program or anyone that you might be interested in you might have interviewed them at their house.”

For Hughes and the rest of the recruiting fraternity who will congregate inside corporate suites and sit dotted sporadically around Etihad Stadium this week, the purpose of the Combine is to add the finishing touches to the dossier they’ve been compiling for up to three or four years in some players cases.

“It’s probably the five per cent that you’re missing. You’ve watched them with their footy, but they physically do the testing in front of you so you can see the results from that,” Hughes said.

“A person can tell you they are a good aerobic runner, but they actually physically do a 3km and a beep test and you watch it. It just puts that last bit to the information that you’ve already gathered. At the end of the day, it comes back to how they play their footy but it’s an important component of it.”

81 players have been invited to the 2016 AFL Draft Combine, which commences at St Kilda’s home ground, Etihad Stadium, from Thursday, October 6 until Sunday, October 9.