He was widely tipped to not be swept up until pick six, but North Melbourne have nabbed midfield bull Will Phillips with pick three in a move that’s stunned the footy world.
Most credible phantom drafts had projected Phillips to be the sixth selection, with Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Riley Thilthorpe, Logan McDonald, Elijah Hollands and Denver Grainger-Barras all forecast to be snapped up earlier.
But Ugle-Hagan – who the Western Bulldogs landed with pick one – and Thilthorpe – who Adelaide scored with pick two – were the only players drafted ahead of the Oakleigh Chargers product.
Draft experts were left stunned when the Kangaroos passed on both McDonald and Hollands to draft the hard-nosed midfielder.
North Melbourne’s selection of Phillips at No.3 had a ripple effect on the rest of the top 10, with the Swans landing with McDonald, while Hollands fell all the way to Gold Coast at pick seven.
After being drafted by the Kangaroos, Phillips also seemed in shock, admitting that he had little idea where he would end up in the lead-up to the draft.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into tonight,” he told Fox Footy.
“I had no idea who was going to pick me up until now.”
Despite the apparent reach from North Melbourne, AFL talent ambassador Kevin Sheehan offered a sparkling report of the new Roo.
“He’s a boy that plays with zest and courage,” he said on Fox Footy’s draft coverage.
“He plays with outstanding leadership, he’s in the game the whole time and he steps up in big games.”
North Melbourne national recruiting manager Mark Finnigan also piled on the praise.
“He is an elite ball-winner with good skills and was an attractive player to us for numerous reasons,” he said.
“He’s a relentless competitor who has leadership and a first-class character.”
Phillips is set to play a significant role in North Melbourne’s rebuild, and will wear the famous No.29 jersey, which was handed to him by AFL and Kangaroos games record holder Brent Harvey, who visited the draftee’s home.
Not only did the Roos lose gun midfielder Shaun Higgins and spearhead Ben Brown in the trade period, both the quality and age profile of their list has drawn widespread criticism from experts.
Phillips and fellow midfielders Tom Powell (pick 13), Charlie Lazzaro (36) and Phoenix Spicer (42) all became Roos tonight.
The top-10 players drafted were Ugle-Hagan (Bulldogs), Thilthorpe (Adelaide), Phillips (North Melbourne), McDonald (Sydney), Braeden Campbell (Sydney), Grainger-Barras (Hawthorn), Hollands (Suns), Nikolas Cox (Essendon), Archie Perkins (Essendon) and Zach Reid (Essendon).
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