Up until two years ago, the draft was simple.
In the weeks leading up to each year’s draft, recruiters were able to get a firm grasp of where each prospect would land based off opposition club’s wants, needs and various interest levels of certain players.
That annual grasp has now been loosened considerably.
Draft night has been turned on its head with the introduction of live pick trading.
In the 2019 edition, there were 17 pick trades over the course of the two-night national draft.
That’s 17 times that 16 clubs were caught unaware of an imminent re-shuffle.
A total of 56 picks were exchanged between clubs - some that were transformed into players within minutes, others that could change hands multiple times before next year’s draft.
56 is a significant number, particularly when you consider the fact that just 65 hopefuls actually found themselves a home through the 2019 national draft.
At 6:57pm on Wednesday the 27th of November, Alastair Clarkson hurriedly enters Hawthorn’s Marvel Stadium draft room with minutes to spare before kick-off, completing the eight-man group set to find the club’s next batch of youngsters.
His reason for the head coach’s slight tardiness? He couldn’t find the room. If anything is a reflection of the Hawks’ first round inactivity in previous years, it’s that.
In fairness, the master coach had been racing around the city checking in with the players at their various work place locations.
The draft gets underway and the room watches on in silent anticipation, as if it’s the final episode of their favourite TV show.
But, at Pick 5, it becomes apparent the silence symbolised a lack of surprise when a curveball is thrown upon the group’s projected order.
A level of panic, albeit controlled, pervades the room.
But the group quickly levels.
Carlton’s two bids for academy-aligned pair, Liam Henry and Tom Green, see the Hawks’ first pick pushed from 11 to 13 and a joke is made that the pressure is off the club’s opening pick now that Cyril Rioli’s number 12 slot in 2007 has been surpassed.
Finally, after almost exactly an hour after the draft started, the Hawks secure South Australian Will Day.
There is genuine delight pasted across South Australian-based Recruiting Manager Geoff Morris as Day’s name is read out.
He has watched years of Day’s work and he lauds the character and work ethic of the newest Hawk, while gleefully talking about how happy the family would be.
That is what the draft is all about.
Again, the inception of pick trading means there’s an outside chance that the Hawks’ night could, likely, maybe, probably, be over. But not definitely. Who knows.
As the night nears its final pick, calls and text messages between recruiting managers continue to flow.
When McKenzie drops out of the conversation to tend to a message he’s just received, the group questions him in a way reminiscent of a suspicious high schooler sniffing out gossip.
The first night comes to an end and, quickly, the stage is set for 24 hours’ time.
The group is visibly ecstatic with how the opening stanza has played out and father-son prospect Finn Maginness is now set to become a Hawk within the initial 10 picks of night two.
At Pick 29, North Melbourne usher Maginness through to the brown and gold by placing a bid on the youngster which the Hawks are all too happy to match.
Following that is what seems like an eternity.
In reality though, it is a two-hour period which is, from a Hawks perspective, made up of many pick trade negotiations that, for a variety of reasons, don't quite come to fruition.
Hawthorn did strike a deal with Collingwood when it gave the Pies Pick 43 in exchange for Essendon's future third-round pick.
Nevertheless, the lull is a grind for the recruiting group and you can only imagine what it would be like for prospects sitting at home pleading for their name to be called out.
The pleas of a pacey, young South Australian Josh Morris are finally answered by the Hawks at Pick 57.
And then, just like that, the night is done.
The pre-season and rookie draft looms the following day as Hawthorn’s 2020 campaign continues to take shape.