Peel Thunder's Blayne Wilson could be the major beneficiary of West Coast's decision to axe premiership forward Ashley Hansen after the young defender was overlooked in the draft.
Hansen agreed to retirement terms with the club yesterday afternoon and will quit the game after 78 matches, including the 2006 premiership.
The Eagles had been expected to invite Wilson to join them for pre-season training in the lead-up to the pre-season and rookie drafts. He could now be picked at either draft because of the extra spot created by Hansen’s departure.
Wilson had not given up hope of finding his way into the AFL despite being overlooked in Thursday’s national draft.
He was still coming to terms with missing out yesterday but remained positive about his chances of being selected in the rookie or pre-season drafts.
He had vowed to keep working to show the doubters he was capable of getting to the next level.
“I will put my head down and do my best to show everyone that I’m capable of playing at the highest level from now on,” he said. “There is only one way to go and that’s forward. I will keep working hard and, hopefully, I will get my opportunity one day.”
Named in the All-Australian under-18 side this time last year, Wilson battled groin and hip injuries in 2010 which forced him to miss matches and training.
“I had that last three weeks off with injuries which was frustrating,” he said.
WA Football Commission high performance manager Craig Starcevich said Wilson’s injury concerns had not helped his chances.
“Blayne’s had osteitis pubis rumbling along for about 18 months now,” he said.
“That hasn’t helped in terms of his performance and he was actually quite good at the under-18s carnival in the medium/tall defender role that he plays.
“But coming back and playing footy at Peel, his condition degenerated to the point where he was really pretty ineffective.”
When Jamie Cripps came back from the 18s he stepped up in a big way but Blayne went the other way.”
Starcevich said talk of a possible early move to the Gold Coast for the 2010 season, an offer taken up by No.1 draft pick David Swallow, had also had an impact on Wilson.
“Blayne’s really suffered from what transpired last year when he, David Swallow and Jack Darling were touted as the possible early ones to go to the Gold Coast,” he said.
“Both he and Jack were in a bit of a holding pattern and either consciously or subconsciously wrestling with the fact that they were close to going last year and this year, all they had to do in their mind was repeat last year’s effort and they would be home and hosed.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily worked well for either of them.
“For Jack, it didn’t end up that catastrophic because he’s ended up at West Coast. For Blayne I really think, combined with his injuries, it’s had a major negative effect.”
Starcevich backed Wilson to beat the disappointment of missing out in Thursday’s draft.
“He’d be really disappointed but there are other ways in and it’s not over yet for Blayne.”
“He’s a good player. He reads the play really well coming into the back 50, backs himself to mark rather than spoil, which is real Brian Lake type asset.
“He delivers the ball well, has a penetrating kick, good skills, makes good decisions and is a good player when he is fit and well.”