A quietly-spoken, ultra-professional 18-year-old from Perth’s western suburbs is now suddenly central to the biggest AFL trade storyline of the year.
For months, recruiters gossiped and experts dissected the prospect of the West Coast Eagles trading away Pick 1 – and therefore first access to Bendigo Pioneers prospect Harley Reid – to acquire multiple early draft selections that would help accelerate their rebuild.
North Melbourne, Melbourne and Hawthorn in the past two months all put forward offers for Pick 1, yet none persuaded West Coast.
Now the Eagles seem destined to hold the prized selection and take Reid.
But Reid mightn’t be the only player the Eagles take in the first round on Monday night, despite the fact West Coast doesn’t a hold another first-rounder … yet.
Claremont key defender Daniel Curtin – widely considered the best WA prospect in this year’s draft pool – has been heavily linked to West Coast all season. Rival clubs initially believed a big reason why the Eagles were open to trading Pick 1 was because West Coast could still draft Curtin without trading too far down the order.
But in the past week, a potential scenario has emerged that would see the Eagles select Reid and Curtin on the same night.
Rival clubs last week were made aware of West Coast’s interest in parting with its future first-round selection in exchange for another top-10 pick so it can acquire a second top prospect at the pointy end of this year’s draft.
That prospect is understood to be Curtin – WA’s MVP at this year’s national championships after averaging 24 disposals, nine contested possessions and five tackles while going at an efficiency of 82 per cent by foot.
A 197cm player from the West Coast Saints junior footy club, Curtin has class, leadership and versatility that appeals to AFL clubs.
He played across all three lines for WA at the carnival, including two full games as a tall on-baller where he covered the ground with a Marcus Bontempelli-like presence.
Then he played six WAFL league games for Claremont in the back-end of the season, impressing as a key defender.
Curtin came in at No. 5 on the final foxfooty.com.au Draft Power Rankings for the year – and it’s probable the Eagles have him higher on their board.
But some clubs have him much lower than that, as they have doubts over his ability to be consistent at AFL level and what his best playing position would be.
Industry sources spoken to by foxfooty.com.au widely believe that after West Coast takes Reid, North Melbourne will draft Tasmanian midfielder Colby McKercher then bid on Suns academy forward Jed Walter, before taking Gippsland Power forward Zane Duursma.
The curveball is that North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson is a big Curtin fan, having kept in close contact with the West Australian since last month’s draft combine and even spending two-and-a-half hours at his house on the weekend while in Perth for a wedding.
But Roos list boss Brady Rawlings and recruiting manager Will Thursfield will make the final call, which most rival clubs believe will ultimately be McKercher and Duursma.
Hawthorn at Pick 5 would then weigh up selecting Curtin or Eastern Ranges small forward Nick Watson, with the expectation they’re leaning towards taking Watson.
The Western Bulldogs, who’ve taken key-position players with their early picks in the past three consecutive drafts, are next to no chance to take Curtin, with the club strongly linked to Tasmanian ball magnet Riley Sanders at Pick 6.
Melbourne, which would select next at Pick 7, has been circling Curtin, but has warmed quickly to speedy Eastern Ranges winger Caleb Windsor as the club looks to fix its efficiency when kicking inside 50.
It means Curtin is now being tipped to still be on the board come Pick 8, which belongs to the GWS Giants.
Cue the biggest AFL trade decision of the year.
The Giants on the field in 2023 were the hunters, storming into a shock preliminary final berth and falling one point short of a Grand Final appearance.
On Monday night, they’ll be the hunted, with several clubs eyeing their first pick, which is tied to Richmond’s finishing position following the 2022 Jacob Hopper deal.
And if they part with their selection, it’d be the earliest pick swapped on draft night since live trading was introduced.