JACK Watts has decided to nominate for the November national draft, which makes you wonder whether Melbourne has assured him he won’t be headed for West Coast, Fremantle or Port Adelaide.

But while the bright, bubbly forward is odds-on to play for the Demons next year, recruiting manager Barry Prendergast will not have an easy decision on his hands.

All year, West Australian duo Nick Naitanui and Dan Rich have proven themselves worthy No. 1s, and Sandringham ruckman Tyrone Vickery has pushed into contention for a top pick.

Two recruiters told The Age yesterday they would use No. 1 on Vickery if they held it.

While such names as Steele Sidebottom, Jack Ziebell and the gifted Chris Yarran may have a bit to say, here’s a bit more about the draft’s current hot four.


NICK Naitanui doesn’t know which player should end up the No. 1 pick, and he’s unsure why he’s still at the top of some lists.

"I don’t think I should be the No. 1 draft pick," he said yesterday. "I think everyone’s here to prove themselves. They’re all here to do their job and everyone wants to do their best."

Naitanui, 18, has sampled several positions this year — playing at full-back and on a wing for Swan Districts, and putting his exceptional spring to use in the ruck. He has worked hard on his kicking and hopes to fi nd a club that can help him with all parts of his game.

"I just want to find someone who can help me with my ruck work and even all the other parts of my game, skills and the physical side of it as well," he said.

"In my first year I just want to try and build that foundation and get a bit bigger as well, I’m not really expecting to play a game or anything. I think playing a game in your first year is a bonus."

Naitanui will join David Rodan and Alipate Carlile as players of Fijian extraction in the AFL next year, but isn’t quite sure how he turned out such a perfect size and shape for it.

"I’m kind of abnormal in my family; everyone’s kind of short and stocky, and I came out a bit wrong, a bit tall and skinny," said the 197-centimetre Naitanui, who has an 184- centimetre twin brother, Mark.

"I didn’t really fit the rugby mould, so footy was the way to go."


JACK Watts will nominate for this year’s draft — as soon as someone gives him a form to fi ll out. Having only just decided to focus on football over basketball, the 17-year-old was unsure mid-season whether to throw his name into this season’s mix or wait one more year.

But Watts said yesterday he wanted to take his chances this year.

"I’ll definitely nominate . . . I just don’t know how to," he laughed.

Watts looms as a pack-marking forward, but has some defensive potential, too, and excellent speed off the mark.

"Mid-year I really didn’t have any idea what was going to happen and I sort of wanted just to leave my options open. Now that I’ve found out a little bit more about it and I’ve talked to a few people, it was a pretty easy decision. You never know what could happen next year, I could go down with a knee and I wouldn’t be in the same situation, so I’ll take it while it’s here."

Whether he winds up in red and blue or in another state at pick two, three or four, the idea of joining a down-on-its-luck club appeals to him.

"I love a challenge and I love to win, and hate losing," said Watts, who hopes to finish school at Brighton Grammar next year.

"I wouldn’t like to be down the bottom; that would be a massive challenge, just to lift the club and get a bit of success and start winning some games."


THIS has been a strange year for Dan Rich, a hard-at-it midfielder with a divine left-foot kick. Since he was a kid, he has supported West Coast, and gone to all its home games.

At the start of this year, he thought it would be good, which meant that he would probably end up in an eastern state on draft day. Watching it lose, he became less sure.

"It was funny because my emotion and support of the team would take over and I’d want them to win, but I suppose in the back of your head you’re thinking, ‘If I’m lucky enough to firstly get drafted and then be in the top 10 or so, maybe it’s a good thing that they’re losing’," said Rich.

"I’m keeping an open mind. It would be nice to stay at home, but it doesn’t bother me to move. The whole idea of playing AFL is just incredible, and that’s the main goal."

Rich played in his second premiership for Subiaco this year while working for a friend’s dry cleaning business after having finished Year 12 last year.

He has high expectations and is looking forward to getting into a full-time football environment.

"Hopefully if I get the chance to go to an AFL club it will be footy, footy, footy all the time, which I love, so I’ll be able to improve my fitness and improve everything else with it."


TYRONE Vickery was shattered when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee midway through last season.

But the injury came at a good time — he was ineligible for last year’s draft — and gave him time to work on some things he might otherwise have let slide.

When he returned, the Haileybury College student was bigger, stronger and quicker off the mark, thanks to a lot of weights work. It helped that two of his teammates suffered the same injury within two weeks of him, giving him some training partners, and that his father, John, is a boxing, weights and rehab coach at Richmond.

"I knew I was going to be back and able to play this year, and that kept me going," he said. "Had it happened this year, it would have been really shattering."

Vickery fi nished the season in contention for one of the top few spots, but it wasn’t until this year’s national under-18 championships that he felt truly confident in both his knee and his ability.

The teenager also used his time out to watch how other, big-time ruckmen did things.

"I tried to watch all the good ruckmen I could. A running ruckmen is what you need to be now, with a lot of tackles and clearances, and that’s something I’ve been trying to work on."