Image For many of the early years of the draft, the Carlton Football Club was synonymous with success. With success, generally comes later picks in the draft, but it must be said that it seemed to take many years for the Blues to embrace the power of the draft, particularly after the lack of success from some of our first 'Top Tenners' selections. In fact, for the first time in Carlton’s proud history, 2006 - some 20 years after the draft was initiated - was the first year in our history that in which we would have 4 or more Top 10 Draft picks on the list, and now, in Season 2010, the Blues have 7 such selections on the list, with the addition of #6 pick Chris Yarran and Captain Chris Judd who was himself a Top 3 pick.

But first, a little history lesson. Carlton has had 13 Top 10 Draft Picks since the introduction of the National Draft, with the twelfth player in Matthew Kreuzer picked for the 2008 Year and Yarran our lucky 13th such selection.

The playing performances of our Top Tenner’s are summarised as follows:

YearPickPlayerGames (End of 2010)
19897Stephen Edgar14
19902James Cook25
19907Damian HampsonNil
19977Kris Massie43
19986Murray Vance5
20004Luke Livingston46
20032Andrew Walker103*
20049Jordan Russell93*
20051Marc Murphy102*
20054Josh Kennedy22 (For Carlton)
20061Bryce Gibbs89*
20071Matthew Kreuzer56*
20086Chris Yarran22*

In the early years of the Draft, the Blues were a powerful team. With top finishes in 1986 and 1987, Carlton’s first actual top ten entitlement would not be earned until the 1989 National Draft. Carlton’s first picks in each of 1986 – 1988 was Pick 12, which collectively was utilized for Dom Fotia (1986), Peter Bubner (1987) and then traded for Glenn Hawker of the Bombers (1988). Our first Top Ten selection in 1989 was utilised for Stephen Edgar, a centreman from East Fremantle. Edgar would play 14 games for the Blues through 1990 and 1991, before returning home.

Despite the lack of success in the draft to this point, the Blues embraced the 1990 draft and made our next two ‘Top Tenners’ selections in James Cook and Damian Hampson. In fact, 1990 was the first year in which Carlton had traded into earlier rounds of the Draft, trading Warren McKenzie to the Swans for the second pick. Unfortunately for the Blues, these 2 top selections would only yield 25 games for Carlton, with Cook making his mark in 1994 before being traded in 1995 for Footscray’s Ben Sexton, and Hampson not playing a senior game for Carlton.

Whether it was this slow start to the success of Carlton’s Top Tenner’s or not, combined with some strong performances by the Blues, then followed a long period of time before our next Top 10 choice. In 1991, the Blues loaded up on talent and used Pick 5 for Earl Spalding from the Demons, in a year in which we traded heavily to secure top-notch talent. Both Spalding and Greg Williams, also recruited that year, would go on to be Premiership Players in 1995.

Image Over 1992-1994 our earliest choices were in the early-teens, and in our Premiership year of 1995 our top choice – selection 19 – was sent to St Kilda for Craig Devonport who would play 2 games for Carlton. In 1996 another selection 19 was sent away – this time to Collingwood for Mick McGuane in a disturbing trend of Carlton ‘giving away’ top picks for those who would barely play a handful of games in Navy Blue.

In 1997 and 1998 respectively, the Blues would earn and utilize Top 10 picks, selecting Kris Massie and Murray Vance. Massie would play over 100 games of AFL football, including 43 at Carlton, whilst Vance would follow the earlier trend of Carlton’s Top Tenners by failing to make an impact. Carlton’s first 5 Top Tenners would in fact average less than 20 games each for the Navy Blues. Such a poor games return for these initial high draft picks prevented the ability of the Club to get a string of these players playing together in any meaningful ‘replenishment’ of the list – in fact, Round 18, 1999 was the first time in our history that Carlton had two Top Ten Draft picks run out in the seniors, with Vance and Massie both playing against the Bulldogs in Vance’s debut game.

With the Blues advancing in 1999, and being a top team through to 2001, Luke Livingston was our next Top Ten selection in the year 2000 – much like 1990 before it – where Carlton embraced the draft. Despite Livingston’s best efforts, he would finish up in 2006 playing 46 games for Carlton. Who can tell what impact his constant injuries truly had on ‘Livo’, but at the end of the day this output only compounds Carlton’s lack of return from the top of the drafting ladder.

After Season 2001, Carlton fell dramatically down the ladder, and it must be said that the lack of talent secured for the long-term by the Club to this point was a contributing factor. In the dark years that followed, it was patently clear that the Blues needed an infusion of talent to help them climb the ladder. In fact, given our performances over 2002-2005, one would expect Carlton to have more Top Tenners currently running around in the Navy Blue. Bottom or near bottom finishes in 2002, 2003 and 2005, plus the availability of priority picks for winning less than 5 ½ games (although this rule appears to change every time Carlton seek to benefit from it), should have given the Blues a huge resource of Top Tenners to choose from as we bounced along the bottom of the ladder.

It was not to be. After our first wooden spoon performance in 2002, but a few days before the National Draft, Carlton was to be found guilty of salary cap breaches up to and including the 2001 year and was penalised with a succession of lost draft picks in both the 2002 and 2003 National Drafts (in addition to some of the minor drafts). In effect, the entire ‘benefit’ (if you can call it that) from coming last in 2002 was lost to the penalties, with our first pick being Pick 45 (Kade Simpson), plus Round 1 and 2 selections in 2003 also evaporated. The only saving grace was the retention of the 2003 Priority Pick which delivered Andrew Walker to Carlton.

It took until Round 11, 2006 for the 5 remaining Top 10 Draft Picks on Carlton's list at that stage to take the field in Navy Blue. Russell, Kennedy, Livingston, Walker and Murphy all played important roles in our close loss to West Coast.

And now.... Season 2009, the Carlton Football Club has 7 Top 10 picks on the list, with 6 taken by the Blues since Walker's arrival and one - our Captain Chris Judd - being traded for at least partially with another pick.

SeasonTop Ten Picks on Our List
2005Luke Livingston, Andrew Walker, Jordan Russell
2006Luke Livingston, Andrew Walker, Jordan Russell, Marc Murphy, Josh Kennedy
2007Andrew Walker, Jordan Russell, Marc Murphy, Josh Kennedy, Bryce Gibbs
2008Andrew Walker, Jordan Russell, Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Matthew Kreuzer, Chris Judd*
2009 Andrew Walker, Jordan Russell, Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Matthew Kreuzer, Chris Judd*, Chris Yarran

NB * denotes player was drafted elsewhere

The hope remains that Carlton’s ability to convert our top selections into long-term players for the Club. As the science of recruiting through the draft has improved, so have the average games played by the Top Players over time, and with so much top-notch talent on the list, Blues fans are hopeful of a developing core of stars from which to build our next finals team. And with 3 #1 Draft Picks in a row in Murphy, Gibbs and Kreuzer, can anyone really doubt those hopes?

A summary of Carlton's 'First Picks' over the years