Adelaide: In their first ever father-son selection, the Crows matched Sydney’s bid to get Max Michalanney to the club. The 191cm defender has the ability to shut down both tall and small forwards whilst providing drive from half-back. Will be right in the mix to play round 1. Luke Pedlar had an excellent pre-season for the Crows and looks to have cemented his spot in the side.
Brisbane: No surprises to see Will Ashcroft at Winx-like odds to win the Rising Star in 2023. The father-son selection plays like a veteran, hard-working with an excellent footy brain. In a Lions midfield already stocked full of talent, expect Ashcroft to slot in effortlessly with his ability to win the ball inside and outside one of his many strengths.
Carlton: Elite runner Elijah Hollands has impressed over the pre-season for the Blues. Was labelled by many as one of the best two-way runners in the 2022 NAB AFL Draft. He may have a chance to play early in the season with the absence of Sam Walsh. Whether he plays off half-back or on a wing, his high work-rate should allow him to play well at the top level. Lachie Cowan has also been a standout for the blues throughout the pre-season. With Sam Docherty likely moving into the midfield to cover Sam Walsh, there looks to be a spot off half-back for Cowan on Thursday night against the Tigers.
Collingwood: After Nick Daicos’ domination in his first year, don’t expect the Pies to have back-to-back winners in 2023. Ed Allan was taken with pick 19 in the 2022 NAB Draft and has impressed over the pre-season for the Pies. The 194cm midfielder was chosen as a high-upside selection that may take a few years to reach his potential but expect Allen to get games this year, maybe on a wing where he can use his supreme athleticism.
Essendon: The Bombers were delighted to get Victorian midfielder Elijah Tsatas to the club with Pick 5 at last year’s NAB Draft. Although suffering several injuries in his draft year, nearly every game he played he had 25+ possessions and several clearances, highlighted by a 29 possession and 10 clearance game for Vic Metro alongside Will Ashcroft. Unfortunately Tsatas suffered a knee injury in the pre-season and it is yet to be announced when he will return. Alwyn Davey Jr has been promising throughout the pre-season games and could be set for an early season debut alongside Jye Menzie.
Fremantle: Despite being drafted at the end of 2021, Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson are still eligible for the Rising Star in 2023. The two midfielders may find it tough to break into a stacked Dockers engine room but expect them both to get game time throughout the season. Jye Amiss may also have to bide his time in the WAFL over the early rounds but will only get better with age as he continues to build his frame for senior football.
Geelong: The Cats were thrilled to select Jhye Clark with their first pick in the 2022 NAB Draft. Many have labelled the former Geelong Falcons captain a clone of outgoing Cats skipper Joel Selwood. Clark rarely plays a bad game and from all reports is full of leadership potential. Clark may struggle to get a game early for the reigning premiers but expect him to cement his spot when he finally gets his chance.
Gold Coast: Former Pick 7, Elijah Hollands is still eligible having struggled with injuries in his debut year. Hollands had his best pre-season to date, wiping 6 seconds off his 2km time trial last year as he looks to cement a wing spot for the Suns in 2023. Last year’s Pick 6 Bailey Humphrey has impressed over the pre-season and has been tipped for an early season debut by captain Touk Miller.
Greater Western Sydney: Some players get the second-year blues, this doesn’t look to be the case for tall midfielder Finn Callaghan. Fresh off signing a new 2 year deal with the Giants, Callaghan impressed on a wing over the pre-season, highlighted by an exciting performance against the Suns where he gathered 22 disposals and kicked 2 goals. The 1st pick in the most recent draft, Aaron Cadman will likely be in and out of the side a bit as he adjusts to football at the highest level. Key forwards take time and the Giants will be smart with the future superstar.
Hawthorn: Where do we start with the Hawthorn young stars? Cam Mackenzie looked like a star in the making in his only pre-season game against the Pies. Expect him to get plenty of midfield minutes as the Hawks rebuild in 2023. Josh Weddle looks like he could be a star in the future, the athletic defender has impressed over the pre-season but unsure on the number of games he will play this season.
Melbourne: After a successful year in the VFL, Jacob Van Rooyen will be eyeing off a spot in the forward line for Melbourne. With the return of Tom McDonald, Van Rooyen may have to play the waiting game and force the selectors hand with strong early VFL performances. The Demon’s first selection at the 2022 Draft was long-term project Matthew Jefferson. The 195cm key forward, isn’t likely to play many games in 2023 primarily due to his light frame.
North Melbourne: It didn’t take long for Harry Sheezel to give hope to the North Melbourne supporters. Throughout both pre-season games, Sheezel showed the ability to play both forward and defence effectively. Sheezel oozes X-Factor and could prove to be one of the Kangaroos most important players in his first season. Fellow top draft pick George Wardlaw won’t be ready for AFL level until Round 3 at least. Missing a large a chunk of the pre-season, the Kangaroos have decided to put him on a conditioning program to get the powerful midfielder at full fitness as quick as possible.
Port Adelaide: The Power’s first selection in 2021, Josh Sinn looked to have an excellent pre-season but looks unlikely to play Round 1 at this stage in time. Sinn looked solid in the few games that he played in 2022 but struggled with injury throughout the season. The mid/fwd has speed to burn and a penetrating left foot kick.
Richmond: 2021 draftee, Tyler Sonsie was impressive when given the chance for the Tigers in 2022. The 19 year-old averaged 18 possessions over his 7 games and looked right at home at the elite level. Tiger’s fans will be hoping Sonsie will take his game to a new level in 2023, however he may find it a harder side to break into with the inclusion of Giants pair Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper.
St Kilda: Although 2023 may not be their year, Saints fans have plenty to look forward to in the future. Mattaes Phillipou looks right at home at the elite level with X factor galore and a lethal left foot to match, expect big things from the South Australian in 2023. Mitch Owens has had an outstanding pre-season and looks set to fill the big shoes of Max King early in the season as a key forward target for the Saints.
Sydney: The Swans young side had an excellent year in 2022 and should be around the mark again this year. The Swans best 22 looks quite set at this stage with not many players eligible for the Rising Star in 2022. Angus Sheldrick was selected with Pick 18 in the 2021 AFL draft and had a great first season in the VFL last year, gaining 20 possessions or more in 7 games (9 played in total). If Sheldrick gets his chance expect the contested ball-winner to thrive at the elite level.
West Coast: The Eagles were over-joyed when they read Reuben Ginbey’s name out with their first selection in the 2022 draft. The big-bodied West Australian midfielder should have no problems slotting straight into the Eagles midfield, impressing against Adelaide in their latest pre-season game. Jai Culley slotted in well in the latter half of the season after being a mid-season rookie selection and by all reports has returned to the Eagles in fantastic condition. Expect him to have a big impact for the Eagles this year.
Western Bulldogs: Sam Darcy joined the Bulldogs as a father-son selection in 2021. He was made to bide his time last year but the 205cm giant impressed late in the year when given a chance. With Rory Lobb joining the club in the off-season it’s left many wondering what end of the field the young superstar will line up. Expect a big year from Darcy as he starts to fill out his rangy body.
Top 5 Predictions
- Will Ashcroft
- Harry Sheezel
- Finn Callaghan
- Reuben Ginbey
- Mattaes Phillipou
Smokie: Luke Pedlar