Draft night at Marvel Stadium. Young men full of hope and dreams wander onto the red carpet on the outside concourse, surrounded by family and friends.

Some have a pretty good idea of which club will call out their name; of which polo they will slip over their heads as they dispense with their 18s team’s version. Others are just hoping they hear their name announced.

The select group of youngsters invited are the cream of the talent pool but they stride into the function as nervous as they might be going into a grand final. There has been a long, long build-up to this night. Years in fact.

Among this group is Harley Reid, touted as far back as 12 months ago as the best prospect in 2023 talent pool. He’s a kid from country Victoria, as assured as anyone who has come through the system. He has balance, poise, versatility and an appetite for the contest.

The West Coast Eagles held the coveted No.1 draft selection and had been linked to Reid for much of the year. As the Eagles hovered around the bottom couple of positions on the AFL table throughout 2023 speculation was fierce that on draft night the formality would be completed.

And so it was. The club had long been set on using the selection to secure Reid, the young dynamo from Tongala, with blond locks split by a part down the middle of his scalp.

Just as it had been a long wait for this young prodigy to find an AFL home the lead-up was drawn out for the club. The lag between the AFL season and draft night was an open window that allowed the winds of speculation to blow freely.

Many theories were offered. The club would trade pick 1; it wouldn’t draft Reid anyway; Reid would be reluctant to head west. Myriad guesses were proffered.

For their part the Eagles recruiters said it would take something extraordinary to convince them that they should by-pass an extraordinary talent. Strong offers did come but the Eagles remained resolute.

Finally last night Reid officially became an Eagle. He had been informed earlier in the day the club would take him at No.1. But even getting to the point where it could be formalised was drawn out.


Arrivals were around 5.30pm. After a long wait the Fox broadcast started about 7pm. A 20 minute preview where a panel analysed the talent and possible landing places and finally Nic Naitanui was able to present the #9 guernsey to Reid.

Reid was thrilled. So confident was he that he would be an Eagle that he had gone shopping on Saturday to buy a pair of casual West Coast Eagles socks. For today’s media call he wore those socks with a pair of bright yellow Croc-like slip ons.

He also wore his Eagles jumper. He hadn’t taken it off overnight. Any doubts about a reluctance to head west were completely extinguished.

Reid is a young man with a bubbly personality. Eagles fans are going to love him. Many thousands have already expressed it on social platforms.

While Reid did the obligatory media rounds after being selected, the Eagles’ recruiting staff got to work on the next priority in night one. The club was keen to get back into the first round and was prepared to offer its first round selection next year.

There were a couple of players they were keen to access.

While several clubs entertained the prospect of doing a deal to facilitate that opportunity they ultimately decided against it.

There were a couple of issues at play. Opposition clubs, broadly speaking, were happy to shuffle in the order but wanted to remain in the draft. A speculative future first round selection did not appeal when they could see talent before their eyes.

And the club’s second selection at #19 was always going to push out with the number of next generation academy and father-son selections that would attract bids from rivals. Its currency was devalued. To the extent that in the end the pick slid to #30.

Disappointed at being unable to negotiate their way back in on Monday, they have the comfort of knowing they start night two with the first selection. They’re ready to kick back into action to continue this build.