Harley Reid would prefer to not play for West Coast, reaction, wants to stay in Victoria, No.1 pick

A number of AFL greats have reacted with frustration to top draft prospect Harley Reid’s reported preference of staying in Victoria over being picked at No.1 by West Coast.

Reid, the consensus top pick in the 2023 draft pool, has not said he wouldn’t be drafted by the Eagles – only that he would prefer to stay in his home state. Other players, including the Bulldogs’ Bailey Smith, have shared this with clubs during the draft process before.

But the fact Reid is the No.1 prospect – one of the best ever seen by at least one recruiter – has sparked concerns about whether the draft could become further compromised by his preference. (The draft is already somewhat compromised by academy, father-son and next generation academy players.)

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Eagles list manager Rohan O’Brien said neither Reid nor his management had told the club they didn’t want them to select him.

“I did start to hear this yesterday, which was a bit surprising because we’ve had nothing along those lines. I did touch base with his management out of courtesy but we were both a little bit bemused how it came about,” O’Brien told Ten Perth.

“No player or no player’s management team in this year’s draft pool has indicated any reluctance to us to come to Western Australia, or any other state than their home state, it’s all been fine.

“We assess the boys individually and we’ll pick whoever we think is best for our footy club, and back our club to do the right thing and eventually keep them.”

Brownlow medallist Gerard Healy is concerned what it could mean if players are able to reject being drafted by certain clubs, whether due to their location or the likelihood of them continuing to struggle.

“It’s going to be the same with pick two, pick three, pick five,” he said on SEN’s Sportsday.

“Whoever turns up there (at West Coast) is going to be faced with the same issue.

“What about if everybody in the first round said the same thing? Then the draft just falls over.

“If you’re saying the number one pick doesn’t want to go, what about the number two, three, four, five pick? All their managers are saying, ‘no, no, you’ll be better off. It’s going to be a hard rebuild over there, it’ll be a hard rebuild at North Melbourne.

“It’s the same for every other kid. You can’t distinguish between what’s good for him and what’s good for every other kid coming up in the first round. Someone’s got to go to the bad clubs.”

Harley Reid’s reported preference to remain in Victoria has rankled many.Source: FOX SPORTS

But Port Adelaide champion Kane Cornes believes he’s right to try and avoid the Eagles because of just how terrible they are.

“I’d be doing everything I can to avoid the Eagles for him,” he said.

“Sometimes you are unlucky with the situation you are drafted to and that can really hurt you. Considering the Eagles are going backwards again and not forwards, not an ideal scenario to find yourself in.

“Perth’s a long way away from his home town.

“You’ve got to understand how bad the Eagles are. This is all-time bad.

“They’ve said, ‘we’re getting younger, we’re going to get worse’ and the instability of that, he could take five years before he is at a club that wins five-six games a year. How is that good for your development?

“He is the marquee guy. Horne-Francis, his decision to get out of that joint at North and go to the club he’s in now is what I’d be looking at. Harley Reid can essentially do that and avoid going to West Coast just by planting the doubt that he’s going to leave after a year or two. Just by planting that doubt, it means he could stay at home.

“It’s happened before, it’s happened in all sports – Archie Perkins said the same thing and because he wasn’t the number one pick, it wasn’t the profile around it that happened with Horne-Francis.

“I’m purely focused on that kid and what is the best situation for him to be put into and that’s not the West Coast Eagles.

“Not everyone’s like that (not wanting to leave their home state) – Rory Sloane was happy, Travis Boak … it depends on the player a little bit. Rachele, Soligo just signed until 2029… it’s not every player. But this is unprecedented how bad West Coast are.”

Many players have gone the other way, remaining in Victoria despite their links to Western Australia, such as Carlton gun Patrick Cripps.

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But Bulldogs games record holder Brad Johnson also rejected the idea of players having their say in where they’re drafted.

“I’m not a big fan of it (declaring a club you don’t want to go to) because you just don’t know what you don’t know,” he said.

“Matty Pavlich didn’t want to go to Freo and he becomes an all-time superstar at that football club.

“I understand the aspect around the West Coast Eagles, but are you saying a similar thing going to North Melbourne? Or is it up to West Coast now to make a deal with a club to get pick one away from them?

“All the clubs at the bottom of the ladder aren’t great at the moment and will be for years.

“What if he goes to another club for example and they’re in a (premiership) window and he doesn’t play?

“You may as well just draft by state. What do we do around the country then?

“West Coast have to just focus on WA talent at this particular point of where we’re at and the same with South Australia and I don’t agree with that.”

“Now it’s going to be put on the kid or his management to say something now… the next people we’ve got to hear from is either Harley or his management.”

Eagles premiership player Will Schofield, who grew up in Victoria and made the move west after being drafted by West Coast, delivered an impassioned message for Reid to reconsider his feelings.

“You don’t get to do that. That’s draft tampering. You don’t get to say where you want to go – I’m guessing, where do you want to go? Collingwood? Melbourne? Good luck with that,” Schofield said.

“And if you don’t go to West Coast, you’re going to North Melbourne … look at those two lists. Just think to yourself, who’s further away from a premiership? Where do you want to be to win a flag?

“At the end of your career when it’s all said and done, nobody cares how many kicks you’ve had, no-one cares what your hair looks like, how many goals you’ve kicked, how many games you’ve played – that shit doesn’t matter mate. Winning flags does.”

He added: “And just think of Perth as a place. I’ve done this – interstate draftee, from Geelong, went to Perth, I’ve never left mate. Wife and two kids, best state in Australia, and that hurts me to say as a Victorian but it’s a fact.

Schofield told Fox Sports News’ AFL Tonight he was initially unsure about leaving his home state.

“I was a little bit like Harley, I was unsure about getting over the West Coast or anywhere,” he said.

“But once that moment happens and your name gets read out, you get on an AFL list and you get to a place like Perth, it’s the best place in the country and that hurts me. I am a Victorian. Perth’s a special place.

“I know I was no number one draft pick but I was pretty happy to get anywhere. I think most kids around the country would be the same.”

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