Luke Nankervis was taken with the second selection in the preseason draft by Adelaide and St Kilda Next Generation Academy member Jack Peris was listed by the Saints as a Category B rookie.
Dragons Talent Manager Mark Wheeler was rapt for Nankervis, who played eight NAB League games this year, primarily as a half-forward while also showing promise when given a run in the midfield.
“It was massively unexpected, talking to him the last two days and with his manager, I reckon I’ve had more phone calls with his manager than I’ve had conversations with my wife,” Wheeler said.
“We just thought it was going to be a rookie and ten minutes before the draft today we were confident it would be pick two in the preseason and he went pick two in the preseason!
“Another great story, a late developer, 16 and still doing basketball, decides to give footy a go and had a bit of a growth spurt.
“He played his first NAB League game in round one, that was an eye opener. A slow start but finished off as well as the others and was probably just slightly behind the ‘[Josh] Sinns’ and [Campbell] ‘Chessers’ of the world so probably wasn’t getting the recognition he deserved but Adelaide saw something.”
Peris’ raw pace and skillset fills a list need for Brett Ratten’s Saints, according to list manager James Gallagher.
“Jack may be small in stature, but he has the capacity to pack a punch through all areas of the ground,” Gallagher said.
“He’s determined and competitive in his approach and his athleticism is a clear strength of his.”
2019 Sandy graduate Charlie Dean added more Dragons flavour to the AFL, taken by Collingwood at pick two in the rookie draft.
A key-position player, he played nine games for Williamstown Seagulls in the VFL in 2021 as an intercepting defender, claiming the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal for the most promising young talent in the competition.
He joins Charlie Constable (Gold Coast) as mature-aged Dragons that were drafted, while 2013 Sandy alumni Nathan Freeman, a former Magpie and Saint, will also train with the Suns in pre-season, hoping to earn a list spot.
Evaluating the success of this year’s draft crop, Wheeler labelled Sandringham’s haul “amazing”.
“We were sitting there midseason thinking we’d get these numbers but when you don’t get a season, you think you might get six to eight so to end up where we ended up [was] unbelievable.”
“We were talking to the boys when we finished up for the year about the culture and leaving this place in a better place than you come into, and they’ve put a footprint on this place and that’s what it’s all about.
“They’re strong characters and have just fallen in love with the jumper which is great. That’s what we’re trying to do, get them to be a Dragon for life.”
Dante Visentini and Luke Cleary, each selected on the second night of the national draft, were viewed as rookie prospects, so winning a spot on the main list was an excellent result.
“When [Dante] got his opportunity to become the number one key [position player] and the ruckman there, I think he showed what he could do. His last game was his best game so it’s a great story,” Wheeler said.
“We always thought he was potentially just a rookie chance but what we always say, you’re in the right place at the right time, a club will fall in love with you and your name gets read out.”
“’Clearz’ was a great story; as a 17-year-old he got told all the things he had to work on, didn’t get any games because of COVID and he’s come in as a leader in his 19th year and proved to everyone that his kicking efficiency was probably one of the highest in the NAB League competition and his fall off the ball and intercept marking is elite.
“He’s 191 centimetres, drafted as a 19-year-old shows what we’re all about – you’ve just got to dig in and do the work.”
2021 Dragons drafted:
Midseason draft Jacob Edwards: pick one, North Melbourne
Max Heath: pick seven, St Kilda
Finn Callaghan: pick three, GWS
Josh Sinn: pick 12, Port Adelaide
Campbell Chesser: pick 14, West Coast
Mitchito Owens: pick 33, St Kilda
Blake Howes: pick 39, Melbourne
Marcus Windhager: pick 47, St Kilda
Dante Visentini: pick 56, Port Adelaide
Luke Cleary: pick 61, Western Bulldogs
*Charlie Constable: pick 63, Gold Coast
Luke Nankervis: pick two, preseason draft
*Charlie Dean: pick two, rookie draft
Jack Peris: Category B rookie NGA listing, St Kilda
*Charlie Constable and Charlie Dean were listed with Sandringham in previous years