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Gun mids in race to be top AFL draft pick

AAP logoAAP 24/11/2016 Jason Phelan

D-Day has arrived for prospective AFL players around the country with the national draft to take place at Sydney's Hordern Pavillion on Friday evening.

Essendon are expected to take Sandringham's Andrew McGrath or North Ballarat's Hugh McCluggage with the top pick in one of the most even drafts in recent memory.

The Bombers have decided who they will select with the No.1 pick of Friday's national draft but are keeping their choice a closely guarded secret.

Barring a late change of heart, it is likely McGrath or McCluggage - both gun midfielders - will join John Worsfold's effort to propel this year's wooden spooner back up the ladder in 2017.

McGrath announced himself as a potential No.1 pick in a stunning season where he captained TAC Cup side Sandringham and school team Brighton Grammar to premierships and co-captained Vic Metro to a national championship.

"Obviously that pick carries a bit of weight and expectation but it's a massive honour too," McGrath said.

"If the cards were to fall that way I'd be really humbled and privileged to accept that responsibility.

"Hopefully I'd take it with both hands and represent myself and my club in the best possible way."

Both players have toured Essendon's facilities in recent weeks but say they are none the wiser as to the Bombers' intentions.

"They're keeping their lips shut pretty tight," McCluggage said.

"I don't think anyone has much of an idea. Whatever happens, happens.

"I've been pretty nervous ... it's been a pretty big build-up over the last few weeks without school to keep your mind off things.

"So I'm nervous but really excited at the same time to get stuck into things."

Unlike recent years when the likes of Jacob Weitering, Paddy McCartin and Tom Boyd have announced themselves as the best young player in the land a long way out from the draft, the race to No.1 has been much closer for this draft class.

"Most other years No.1 has ben declared from about July," AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheahan said.

"So it's been very tight at the top and then settled down to two or three most likely to go to Essendon."

But clubs who don't have a first round pick need not despair, according to Sheahan.

"We think up the front that the midfielders are as good as any year but it's down the back end that we reckon is special because our game is growing," he said.

"We're really buoyant about what's down the back. We've seen the likes of Adam Goodes, Dane Swan, James Hird and Rory Sloane (go late) in years past.

"There have been some wonderful players and we think there are a bunch of players who could be taken down the back of this draft that will end up champions of the game, such is the depth of talent."

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