The South West began this season with seven players on AFL lists and while it was a difficult season for most, they produced plenty of highlights. Three of them, Isiah Winder, Tobe Watson and Damon Greaves kicked their first goal at the level, while Connor Blakely found a niche new role. One of them was not offered a contract for next season, and there may be more list news to come, but with four South West hopefuls invited to this year’s draft combine, it appears this list will grow next year. Tobe Watson (Fremantle) During the final period of the season, it appeared Watson had established himself in Fremantle’s back-line, stringing strong performances together as the club pushed for finals. But apparently that wasn’t the case, with Watson yesterday becoming one of four players axed as list changes continued. The wiry defender wasn’t a constant in the Fremantle back-line this year, but dealt with the rigours of being in and out of the season nicely, always playing a role at the senior level when required. He was given a working over by Charlie Cameron at the GABBA early in the year, but was otherwise rarely beaten through four quarters this season. Despite being a surprise omission for the round 21 return fixture with Brisbane, his last month of the season was the most impressive stretch of performances of his young career. In Fremantle’s derby drought-breaker, he kept resting ruckman Nathan Vardy goalless and to just five touches, despite playing nearly 10cm undersized. He can now choose to re-enter the draft in a bid to keep what looked to be a promising career alive. Connor Blakely (Fremantle) We are no closer to knowing where Blakely sits in the pecking order at Fremantle than we were this time last year. Used eight times, more than anyone else as a replacement player under the league’s new medical substitute rule, Blakely spent the year riding benches around the country rather than toiling in the WAFL. When he finally earned his spot back towards the back end of the year, his season came to an abrupt end after a round-22 hamstring injury and he took no further part in his team’s push for finals. His final few games of the season saw him take up a new role as more of an impact player running on the outside, and while he isn’t blessed with exceptional pace, his ball use has improved to a point where he can be a damaging kick. Contracted to the end of the season, he is unlikely to be shipped off during this trade period, but will need to do something right during preseason to get back in the good books and the starting 22. He finished the year with 13 games under his belt, with his best performance a 17-disposal, seven-mark effort in a famous win against the Tigers in round 20. Ethan Hughes (Fremantle) Hughes was not only a lock in Justin Longmuir’s Fremantle side for the period of the season, but went from whipping boy to prolific intercept and rebound defender. Early season injuries to Alex Pearce and Joel Hamling, who were expected to free Hughes up on their return from long lay-offs, changed his role somewhat, before an injury in the season’s first western derby led him to miss 11 weeks. He managed just one game on return from the shoulder injury before being dumped during Fremantle’s quarantine period late in the season, which made earning his spot back almost impossible. Once AFL-listed players returned to the WAFL, he managed three games, averaging 16 disposals and sneaking forward for a goal. If Fremantle enter next season bolstered by a fully fit defensive unit, Hughes might find himself on the outer again. Rebounding half-back Hayden Young established himself as one of the most damaging kicks in the competition during the last month of the home-and- away season, and 2019 draftee Heath Chapman would also be given precedence given their investment in youth. Trade talk surrounding Carlton’s Sam Petrevski-Seton in a potential deal involving Adam Cerra would also likely hinder the former Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault player, with the Dockers likely to give the former No.6 draft pick ample opportunity in a similar role should he land at the club during the off-season. Isiah Winder (West Coast) Winder’s golden moment came early in the season after an impressive run of WAFL form earned him a surprise debut, but his first season at the club was ultimately one hampered by injury. His debut as a substitute against St Kilda in round four did produce a goal which will go down as one of Bunbury’s most memorable AFL moments, however. Ending up on the end of a loose ball in the pocket, Winder kicked his first goal in AFL football with his first kick, before famously leaping into the arms of teammate Josh Kennedy. His debut came after a five-goal haul against Perth in the WAFL the week before. A knee injury meant he missed the bulk of the season altogether and wouldn’t be seen in the AFL team again, but while this wasn’t the season a draftee dreams of, it puts him front-of-mind at a club about to refurbish its ageing forward line. The Eaton Boomers product was also the first selection in last year’s draft at a club which hasn’t had a top-10 National Draft selection since Andrew Gaff in 2010, so he will be given the time and resources to develop in coming years. He finished the season with seven goals in the WAFL from as many games. Damon Greaves (Hawthorn) In his second season at Hawthorn, former Busselton Magpie Damon Greaves showed he could become a serviceable long-term option for the powerhouse club. It was a chaotic season all-round for Hawthorn, who announced a two-year succession plan between legendary coach Alistair Clarkson and former skipper Sam Mitchell, before Clarkson announced a premature exit. It means Greaves’ future is uncertain, although Mitchell is likely to tend towards youth, with his club set to embark on an extensive rebuild in coming years. The defender managed seven games this season, building on the three he played in his debut season last year, but was very much used as a stopgap by Clarkson, including a three-week stint during which more experienced defender Kyle Hartigan was suspended. Greaves also sneaked forward for a debut goal against the Gold Coast at the SCG in round 11, taking an intercept mark just outside 50 and nailing a set shot in a silver lining to a disappointing loss. Neville Jetta (Melbourne) While Jetta’s season is not strictly over, with his Melbourne side the only one featuring a South West export to qualify for finals, he has not featured at league level since round seven, and his days at the Demons appear numbered. A dramatic after-the-siren victory over Geelong at the weekend meant the Demons won their first minor premiership since 1964, but Jetta is unlikely to feature in his second finals series. The Bunbury-born small defender was a key player for the Dees the last time they played finals in 2018, but has since been surpassed by Christian Salem, and more recently Jake Bowey, in a backline which has conceded less points than any other this season. He was among the best this season, however, in a Casey Demons side pushing for a premiership in the expanded VFL. He has averaged just under 20 disposals a game in the State league from eight games, but a second Victorian lockdown this season has put a halt to the competition. At 31 years old and having managed just 18 games in the past three seasons, this year could spell the end of the line for Jetta after a commendable 13-year, 159-game career at the Demons. Marlion Pickett (Richmond) Pickett’s second full season at Richmond is sure to have brought the 2019 grand final hero and dual premiership player back to earth with a bang. On a personal front, he played 18 games, mostly on a wing, but he missed the finals at a senior level for the first time since the 2015 season with South Fremantle. While still being deployed as an impact player rather than an accumulator, he did collect nearly 50 more touches than last season from one less game, but fell out of favour at a couple of points during the season, including a three-week period on the outer before a final-round recall. He also improved his disposal efficiency to a career average of 67.2 per cent with a season average of 73.4 per cent — an above-average efficiency. He probably lacked the impact he would have liked this season, but many of his teammates found the going particularly tough, while he was a solid contributor throughout. Next year will decide what sort of long-term future he has at the highest level.