Why top AFL draft prospect put a media ban on himself

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Key points

  • Daniel Curtin is WA’s top draft prospect and his future rests on West Coast’s No.1 pick call.
  • The Eagles have rejected all offers for the top selection, but still have time to trade it.
  • Curtin was an under-18 All-Australian and can play at both ends and through the midfield.

Daniel Curtin slapped a media ban on himself throughout September.

Western Australia’s undisputed best draft prospect – a 197-centimetre defender with intriguing upside as a big-bodied midfielder – wanted to focus on Claremont’s under-19 finals series, after spending the season barely out of the headlines.

Daniel Curtin was Western Australia’s MVP at the AFL under-18 Championships.Credit: AFL Photos

If No.1 pick-elect Harley Reid is the most talked about young footballer in the land, then Curtin is a close second. Welcome to the new pressure-soaked reality for prospective AFL footballers.

The two teenagers are intrinsically linked because if West Coast trade the top selection, which would almost certainly be used on Reid, then the plan is to grab Curtin with whichever pick they end up at.

That is a big reason why North Melbourne (picks two and three) and Hawthorn (four) are given the best chance of snaring the No.1 choice, although the always-aggressive Melbourne (six and 11) are within striking distance.

But the Demons’ hopes rest on either climbing the order, or the Eagles being willing to risk Curtin still being available at No.6.

All these calculations are playing out publicly, with fever pitch interest in West Coast’s intentions, which may not be known until draft night on November 20. Clubs can trade picks from Monday until November 10, then again during the draft.

“We kind of stepped away from doing any media throughout finals, and just focused on actually playing footy and hopefully winning the grand final, which turned out pretty good for me and the boys,” Curtin told this masthead.

“But I try not to buy into [the speculation] too much, and just try to switch off from it – but at the end of the day, you can’t actually escape it that much. A few mates talk to me about it, but they’re pretty supportive and don’t get in my ear too much.”

Curtin gathered a game-high 23 disposals, as well as five marks, four tackles and three inside 50s in Claremont’s Colts premiership, capping an excellent season that included All-Australian honours. He also sneaked in some senior WAFL appearances.

Vic Country’s Harley Reid (right) shakes Daniel Curtin’s WA teammate Riley Hardeman’s hand before their clash in June.Credit: AFL Photos

A left hamstring issue from the grand final ruled Curtin out of physical testing at the AFL draft combine, with his camp opting for a conservative approach, given his wretched recent injury history.

A serious finger tendon problem marred Curtin’s 2022 season – he returned in time to be best afield in the AFL’s futures game – before he also experienced an interrupted pre-season.

“I got a little reef cut on my foot in late December, which literally took a chunk out of my foot, so I wasn’t able to run, or do anything, for like a month or two,” he said.

“Then, when I came back, Perth had a bit of a COVID outbreak, so in my first week back training, I got COVID. I had a few weeks of training after that, then the week of the start of school footy and first state training session, I did my [left ring] finger.

“It was really annoying, but it is what it is, and I’m here now, which is all that matters.”

Curtin’s remarkable versatility is a major part of his appeal. He is the best key defensive prospect in this year’s crop, but turned recruiters’ heads with his midfield performances and has also enjoyed success as a forward.

The 18-year-old expects to play mostly as a defender in his early seasons in the AFL, but would like to eventually be a midfielder, the position he spent most of his junior career in before a 10-centimetre growth spurt entering year 10 at Scotch College Perth.

Curtin attempts to bring down Allies forward Jed Walter during the AFL under-18 championships.Credit: AFL Photos

One of the most captivating match-ups at this year’s AFL under-18 championships was Curtin’s showdown with Gold Coast’s hulking academy forward Jed Walter, who may be the first player picked after Reid.

“It was awesome. I got told early in the week I was going to be playing on him [Walter] but already had my sights set on him, anyway,” Curtin said. “It was a great experience, and I would love to have that kind of match-up again. I’m definitely a very competitive person, and I love competing against players like that.”

Eagles list boss Rohan O’Brien, at least publicly, says they are leaning towards retaining pick one, and was non-committal when asked directly whether he would consider taking Curtin at that spot.

Reid is the hot favourite to be the dux of the 2023 class, but Curtin wants to be “that guy”, especially if it means staying in Perth. At the same time, he said he would relish the chance to play weekly at the MCG.

“He’s a great player but me and him are very different, so I think it depends on what clubs want,” Curtin said of Reid.

“I did get to know him at the All-Australian camp, and he’s a great bloke, and I get along with them well, but since then, I haven’t had a lot to do with him.”

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