Gifted Swan Districts teenager Dayle Garlett has become the wild-card in today's national draft as clubs weigh his talent against off-field issues highlighted on social media.
Garlett, 18, could be anything from a first-round draft selection to a player not picked, sources said.
All rate Garlett a top-10 player in this draft on talent. Two recruiters put him inside the top five.
But no one could say where he was likely to be picked and several expressed doubts over whether he would be drafted at all after pictures of him drinking and smoking in-season emerged to reignite concerns about Garlett's off-field life.
He was dumped from the AIS AFL Academy last summer, but gained All-Australian selection at this year's under-18 titles and dominated local rising star awards.
Garlett played 11 senior games at Swan Districts this year, averaging 15 touches a game and kicking 16 goals, including four in two finals.
But Garlett's Instagram page has become a pre-draft focus. It features pictures of him drinking, smoking and at Perth nightspots.
One picture, with him holding a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, was posted days before Swans played Claremont in the WAFL second semifinal.
The images have disappointed several clubs who were looking at drafting him, sparking the predictions that one of the most gifted players in the draft could even slide through untouched.
WAFC State Academy manager Raff Guadagnino urged AFL clubs not to be scared off. Garlett's off-field habits had improved dramatically and would improve further in an AFL environment. He was not a regular smoker, Guadagnino said.
"It's easy to look at a photo and make a snap judgment. Sometimes it's not that simple," he said. "He's got innate abilities. He knows how to gut-run, he knows how to work hard on the football field.
"But you are a product of your environment. His environment is not the norm.
"Sometimes we tend to forget people's backgrounds. From a development perspective, we need to understand our players better and their cultures. His behaviours would have to change over time, but that would take time."
National talent development manager Kevin Sheehan said clubs would weigh Garlett's talent against his suitability for the AFL.
"It is hard to know exactly where he falls," Sheehan said.
He regards Garlett as a top-10 pick on talent.
"I think that is fair to say," Sheehan said. "Probably on natural gifted ability he is that.
"I put him in my top 30 based on his talent and what he has shown.
"It will be an interesting call. Clubs will form their own view obviously, but just on natural talent he is a very gifted player. It is on the record that he had a falling out with the AIS AFL Academy that had him dropped from that squad at Christmas and replaced.
"I am not privy to interviews when clubs talk to players and do that in depth to form their views about their ability to adapt to a full-time culture and environment."
He thinks Garlett will be drafted."I think he would have been interviewed by virtually every club and they won't be giving much up about at what point they would back themselves with their coaching structure and player welfare structure to be able to handle any issue that might occur with these players," he said. "There will be a tipping point at some point - in my view - where the talent will prevail when a club takes a pick."
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