Phoenix Gothard never thought he’d be drafted in the first round, let alone at pick 12 in the 2023 AFL draft.
But for the new GWS Giants recruit, he received the shock of a lifetime on Monday night.
In attendance at the draft event at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne simply as a guest of best friend and eventual No.11 pick, Geelong recruit Connor O’Sullivan, Gothard was stunned when his name was read out one pick after his mate.
AS IT HAPPENED: Every pick from the first round of the 2023 AFL draft
READ MORE: No.1 pick’s mum reveals hilarious McDonald’s habit
READ MORE: Head’s ton clinches sixth World Cup title for Australia
Surrounded by his friends, who were also guests of O’Sullivan, Gothard was quickly mobbed and had his Murray Bushrangers polo ripped off by his ecstatic mates in a draft celebration for the ages.
Gothard eventually had to borrow O’Sullivan’s as he walked up on to the stage to meet former Giants skipper Phil Davis.
Gothard and his mates continued to jump around in delight, well after AFL CEO Andrew Dillon read out the 18-year-old’s name.
Accepting his jumper from Davis, Gothard was extremely emotional on stage, with his mother and sister also last-minute invitees to the event.
Where are they now: Looking back at every AFL No.1 draft pick since 2000
His best friend, Geelong’s newest key defender O’Sullivan, was even seen ditching Cats legend, four-time premiership champion Joel Selwood, right after being drafted, to rush over and celebrate Gothard’s shock selection upon hearing his name on the speakers.
Giants recruiting manager Adrian Caruso praised Gothard, who was predicted to go as low as pick 30 by some draft experts, saying the club is excited to see what tricks he can bring on field.
“Phoenix is a small forward that we feel is a great fit for us,” Caruso said via the Giants website on Monday night.
“He plays in a way that suits the style we have adopted over the past 12 months, and he has attributes to succeed at the next level.
“Given it was his first year in the program this year we feel he will go to another level when in a full-time environment.
“He’s a player of talent in the front half, he can dazzle and weave his way out of trouble as well as anyone.”