After a few months (yes, months, okay? I tried – it wasn’t easy) I finished The Draft by Emma Quayle and it wasn’t what I expected – to say the least.
A very wise man told me that no one in the sports industry says anything about the AFL draft until Emma Quayle has her say. I’m sure that’s true… but Emma Quayle is a reporter – not an analyst. And the book makes that clear.
Don’t get me wrong – I liked the book (although I did find myself, inexplicably, getting jealous of Trent Cotchin’s high school girlfriend – weird, considering I’ve never really been a big Cotchin fan). I just read it because I expected analysis and that’s not what I got.
The book follows a few AFL players – Cotchin, McEvoy, Veszpremi, Ebert and Rioli – through their experience in 2007, the year they were drafted. It also provides insight into how Hawthorn handled that year’s draft which, the book says, is what won them the flag the following year.
The story reads like a few biographies. Quayle discusses the guys, their families and friends and how they handled the year leading up to their draft. It’s interesting. And at some points… really emotional (Veszpremi’s dad? Rioli moving to Melbourne on his own? McEvoy’s sister his first year with St Kilda? So many feels!). To be honest… there were a lot of times I got a bit angry – which is why I took so long to finish the book – because these guys say they want to play in the AFL but complain about who wants to draft them. At one point, one mother says that she’s upset that no agent has asked her where her son should end up. I mean… really? Your ADULT son needs to make his own choices. But I digress. Other than the frustrating families (and borderline Electra complexes, if I’m being honest) the stories are good. But that’s not what I read the book for. The subtitle of the book says ‘Inside the AFL’s Search For Talent’ and I wanted to know about the search – not the talent. I felt a bit mislead. Bait and switch, I believe it’s called?
Furthermore, the book said inside the AFL’s search for talent, yet, the it only focused on Hawthorn. To be fair, the best parts are the parts from Hawthorn’s rooms – the meetings with the scouts where they discuss who they’re going to draft. In those parts, I felt like I was reading the book I had wanted to read. The scouts talk about different aspects of the players and prioritize which aspects are more important and will be more beneficial to the club. Those conversations are interesting because you never know what a club’s strategy is going to be (it’s usually between ‘best available player’ or ‘player we need for this club’ but still).
And the part about the draft combine? Golden. That’s another area you don’t really hear about and getting the behind the scene action was great.
The only problem with the book? No analysis. I should have known – like I said: Emma Quayle is a reporter, not an analyst. But when I heard that Emma Quayle is THE authority on the draft, I imagined that she would have more to say about it than just a report of what’s happened.
So. Worth the read? Yes. An actual analysis of the draft? Nah.
If you want to read it, then you have to read it because you’re curious about the STORY behind the draft. Not the analysis.