The Western Bulldogs' recent success on draft night has been well documented. Jake Stringer and Jack Macrae (Pick five and six in 2012) and Marcus Bontempelli (Pick four in 2013) are fast becoming stars of the competition.
But the one thing I love the most about the draft is that any club can find a diamond in the rough with late draft picks, and the Dogs ability throughout the years to sniff one of those out has been remarkable. Today I've gone through all the drafts and have picked out the best players selected from the third round or lower.
Tory Dickson (2011 AFL Draft, Pick 57)
Dickson was drafted to the Dogs in 2011 as a mature-aged selection at the age of 24. Before being drafted, Dickson had been playing in various leagues around Victoria. In 2009, he had won a best and fairest for VFL club Frankston. He then played for Noble Park in the Eastern Football League, where he kicked a bag of 100 in 2010, a premiership year for the Bulls. He then came back to the VFL to play for the Bendigo Bombers and kicked 48 goals in 19 games.
A mid-sized forward who is a highly regarded set shot, Dickson made his debut in Round 1 of 2012, but struggled to make an impact. After kicking 45 goals in his first 30 games, Dickson struggled in 2014 due to injury and form, but bounced back in explosive fashion under Luke Beveridge in 2015. He played every game of the season and kicked 50 goals for the year, including a career-best seven against Fremantle and a bag of five against Adelaide in the Elimination Final.
Perhaps a big call, seeing he's only had one good season, but at 28 years of age, Dickson is in the prime of his career and looks set for another few big years at the kennel.
Luke Dahlhaus (2010 AFL Rookie Draft, Pick 22)
The 2010 draft was better known to Bulldogs fans as the draft that saw us take Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore as father/son selections and boy have they flourished into genuine midfielders
But there was one other little gem of a player waiting to be unearthed in the form of a 177cm tall, dreadlocked kid from Leopold called Luke Dahlhaus. Taken as the Dogs' first pick in the rookie draft, Dahlhaus was recruited as a small forward, but has slowly developed to become one of the elite midfielders of the Bulldogs' engine room.
2015 saw the coming of age for Dahlhaus. Cementing his spot in the centre square, he averaged 25 disposals, five tackles, three clearances and kicking 17 goals across all 23 games. His excellent season did not go unrewarded, as Dahlhaus was selected in the All-Australian squad of 40.
And the most exciting part about this guy is that he is only 23 years old, and still has plenty of room to grow.
Liam Picken (2008 AFL Rookie Draft, Pick 30)
Another mature-aged selection. Picken was drafted at the end of 2008 to the Bulldogs at the age of 22, having previously been a best and fairest winner at Williamstown in the VFL.
Picken made his debut in the second round of the following season and has become one of the more revered taggers of the game. Shutting out the likes of Gary Ablett, Brent Harvey, Leigh Montagna, Joel Selwood and Cyril Rioli.... Until this year that is.
Season 2015 saw another side of Liam Picken we had really seen only a handful of times throughout his 150-game career. He has become a more offensively-minded midfielder and his 2015 stats prove this. He averaged five more disposals than last year which included four games with 30 disposals or more. He also kicked 13 goals as opposed to a combined four goals in the last two seasons. Picken also averaged career-highs in tackles, clearances and marks this season.
Picken will be 30 next August, but has what it takes to go around a few seasons more.
Easton Wood (2007 AFL Draft, Pick 43)
In a draft that people will remember for picking up much-maligned player Jarrad 'Spindleshanks' Grant at pick five ahead of names such as Patrick Dangerfield, Cyril Rioli, Alex Rance and Jack Steven as well as Callan Ward, a star that was taken away too soon by the vultures from Western Sydney, Easton Wood has become a name that Dogs' fans are blessed that he got through to such a low-pick.
An athletic prospect from Geelong Grammar, Wood struggled with both injury and form for years, but broke through for a stellar 2015 season which saw him earn his first All-Australian selection as well as taking home the Charles Sutton Medal.
After multiple seasons of being a running defender, Wood has utilised his athelticism to full effect to now become an intercept marking specialist, ranked inside the AFL's top 20 in marks, averaging seven a game in 2015, and at 26 years of age, is in the prime of his career and is without a shadow of a doubt, a crucial key in the Dogs' back six in years to come.
Dale Morris (2004 AFL Rookie Draft, Pick 19)
Recruited from Werribee as a mature-aged draftee, not much was expected of 22-year old Dale Morris when he arrived at the Whitten Oval at the end of 2004. but he worked as hard as anyone and in no time he got his debut the following year, and from there, he became a regular feature in the Bulldogs' back six.
A rugged and reliable defender who always makes his opponents earn their touches and their goals, Morris was awarded a spot in the back pocket in the All-Australian team in 2008 for his consistent efforts in the back six.
He has had his fair share of setbacks. A severe leg injury forced him to miss the entire 2012 season and missed a chunk of 2015 with a pectoral injury, but since his return from that horrific leg injury, he has not skipped a beat and managed to reach the 200-game milestone in 2015.
Matthew Boyd (2001 AFL Rookie Draft, Pick 23)
Recruited from VFL side Frankston and TAC Cup side Dandenong Stingrays, Boyd did not get his chance to play until 2003, where he found himself in and out of the side constantly for eight games.
From there, he went from being a run-with midfielder to a contested ball-winner and one of the games more renowned midfielders. A three-time Charles Sutton Medal winner (2009, 2011, 2012) and a two-time All-Australian (2009, 2011), Boyd's best football was when he was captain of the Western Bulldogs from 2011-2013. His disposal averages were at an all time high (31 per game in 2011 and 32 per game in 2012) as were his clearances and tackles (7 clearances and five tackles per game in 2011).
A move from the midfield to the back-flank in 2015 has seemed to have rejuvenated Boyd's career at the Dogs after a couple of seasons on a slide. Now 33, you'd be easily mistaken that Boyd was still playing in his mid to late 20s after the season he's just had.
Brian Lake (2001 AFL Draft, Pick 71)
Brian Lake may be better remembered for being a three-time premiership player at Hawthorn, but his career started as a Bulldog and displayed some of his best football was as a Bulldog.
Recruited from Woodville West-Torrens in the SANFL, it took some time for Lake to adjust to the AFL, and after a couple of seasons, became the key component in the Bulldogs' back six during the Rodney Eade era. He won his only Charles Sutton Medal at the Bulldogs in 2007 and became an All-Australian in 2009 and 2010, cementing his spot as one of the games premier full backs.
After playing 197 games at the Dogs, Lake was offloaded to Hawthorn for picks 21 (Nathan Hrovat) and 41 (Koby Stevens) at the end of the 2012 season, and became a premiership player and a Norm Smith Medallist in his first season as a Hawk. He went on to win two more premierships before announcing his retirement at the end of the 2015 season.
Daniel Cross (2000 AFL Draft, Pick 56)
Another late developer from the Murray Bushrangers, Cross only managed 24 out of a possible 66 games in his first three seasons at the Dogs, but when Rodney Eade took over as coach in 2005, Cross flourished, averaging 25 disposals a game. Cross was more known to give the ball off by hand than by foot, and led the competition that year in handballs, averaging a staggering 17 a game. In most of his years at the Dogs, you'd see his name amongst the league's best in handballs, tackles and disposals.
Season 2008 was defining moment in Cross' career, stepping up for the injured Scott West and took home the Charles Sutton Medal. Along with his preference to handball than kick, Cross' hardness was a feature of his game, often going back with the flight of the ball to take courageous marks and you'd always find him in the bottom of the pack fighting to get the ball.
Despite continuing to show consistency in his game, Cross was told that he would no longer be required at the Dogs at the end of 2013, in a move that upset many supporters as he was amongst the fan favourites. Melbourne through him a lifeline and Cross signed on with the Demons. He played on for an extra two seasons, showcasing his professionalism and leadership before announcing the end of his 249-game career at the end of 2015.
Lindsay Gilbee (1999 AFL Draft, Pick 43)
1999 was a banner year for the Bulldogs in terms of drafting. They picked up two modern-day legends in Robert Murphy and Daniel Giansiracusa with their first two picks (13 and 32 respectively) and a very serviceable Mitch Hahn at pick 37.
The final two picks are the ones though that absolutely nailed the draft of '99. Lindsay Gilbee was their second-last live selection. A defender from the Eastern Ranges Football Club with exceptional kicking ability, It took some time for Gilbee to emerge as a valuable asset to the Dogs lineup, finding himself in and out of the side in his first few seasons.
But like many others, he found his best football under Rodney Eade when he took over in 2005, averaging just over 14.5 kicks a game that year, amongst the top 10 in the AFL, and always knew how to kick a goal, particularly from beyond the fifty metre arc.
A year later he found himself in the All-Australian side along with team mates Scott West and Brad Johnson, being named in the back pocket, and was a regularly featured in the back six for the next few seasons, until injury and form ended his 206-game career.
Ryan Hargrave (1999 AFL Draft, Pick 66)
Hargrave was the last pick in the draft class of '99 but certainly not the least valuable. Recruited from WAFL club Perth, it took a few seasons for him to develop into a handy defender who could play on either talls or smalls, but when he got his chance, he took it with both hands, playing 19 out of 22 games in his debut year in 2002, earning a rising star nomination in the process.
From that season, Hargrave had become a mainstay in the Dogs' back six for the remainder of the '00s, his ability to play on talls or smalls a feature of his game, with 2009 statistically being his best season, averaging 24 disposals, seven marks and four rebound 50s a game.
2011 was the beginning of the end as continuous foot and ankle problems ruined his season, only managing five games for the year, and he managed to play 12 games to reach the 200 game milestone in his final year as a Dog before calling it quits on his 203-game career.
Chris Grant (1988 VFL Draft Pick 105)
Didn't think I was going to leave this one out did you?
Perhaps the greatest draft selection of all time, key position prospect Grant was recruited from his hometown of Daylesford and in 1990, made his debut as a 17-year old with a two goal effort against St. Kilda, from there he exploded with a 51 goal haul in his first season, and from there you knew he was going to be something special.
I'll let Grant's accolades do the talking here. A three-time All-Australian (1997-99), a two time best and fairest winner (1994 and 1996), a Bulldogs captain from 2001-2004, a club games record holder from 2006-2009 with 341 games a member of the Bulldogs' team of the century and an AFL Hall of Famer. Grant should've been a Brownlow medal winner as well after polling one vote more than St. Kilda's Robert Harvey in 1997, however due to being suspended during the season, was ineligible to win the medal.
After 18 seasons, 341 games and over 500 goals, Grant announced the end of his proud and illustrious career at the end of the 2007 season.