Paul Ahern reportedly played a decent year of NEAFL footy, missing only once as senior emergency, and once rested, in a 2015 side who finished the year with a percentage of 213.9% and clocked up several huge wins, including 192 points over Brisbane and 183 and 80 points over the Swans.
He seems to shape as a classy outside midfielder with pace and a big tank. He was drafted at pick 7 in the 2014 draft, indicating the quality recruiters saw in him.
After his solid 2015 he then tore his ACL before the 2016 season, and then tore it again this September. He will not play football in 2017, and his future after that is as uncertain as any multiple-ACL-injured player who has yet to play a senior game. Worryingly, both tears occurred in training drills. He may well never play again.
Ahern has no track record, so our standard valuation of draftees with no track record is to discount their draft pick for lost opportunity to contribute games due to ageing. Thus, his pick 7 valuation in 2014 becomes pick 9 ranging down to pick 20.
GWS are essentially giving Ahern away for a token pick to a North Melbourne presumably more willing to pay him to undergo an extended rehabilitation. For GWS this may be as much about clearing list space as about salary cap, and it’s also an indication of the depth of quality on their list that former high picks lose value so quickly, where other clubs might redouble their commitment to a prized selection.
Notionally, North Melbourne get a huge bargain here – pick 69 is a tiny down-payment on the long term potential of nearly an entire career of pick-7 quality output. It’s also the sort of risk a recruitment team loves – it will either pay off handsomely or be completely forgotten about as Ahern is quietly delisted at a later date.
It’s a ruthless business.