The Doc loves this time of year – the “what ifs…”of the AFL Draft intrigue him, and he keeps a very close eye on proceedings.
With that in mind, we defer to him at The Mongrel when it comes to his draft knowledge – both in the form of his Phantom Draft and the Post-Draft Review. This time around, we focus on his Draft Rankings. Let’s jump in.
St Kilda Draft Haul: Mattaes Phillipou (Pick 10), James Van Es (Pick 31), Olli Hotton (Pick 35), Isaac Keeler (Pick 44)
Given where the Saints ended up at the end of the 2022 season, they couldn’t have done any better with their selections, and whilst these players may not reap the immediate rewards, I can sense that most of these boys will be in the Saints’ next assault at the flag down the line. Mattaes Phillipou is a top 10 talent out of this pool – some had him in the top five, such is his athleticism, impact with the footy and his belief to be the best player in the competition, the Saints fans should be chuffed to have a player like him on board.
Going later down the order, the Saints addressed some depth issues in the key defensive spot with James Van Es, I saw a couple of his games for St Patricks College in the Herald Sun Shield and looked rock solid in the defensive half – he’s a good one-on-one player and aerial capabilities are there. Then landed the steal of the second night with Olli Hotton with pick 35. A player who is light on his feet and got a great knowledge of the game and a skill set that is already advanced in the under-18s, and then rounding out their draft by taking ruck/forward Isaac Keeler, who has got great potential to be the Paddy Ryder replacement – such is his ability to impact in dual positions.
West Coast Draft Haul: Reuben Ginbey (Pick 9), Elijah Hewitt (Pick 14), Harry Barnett (Pick 23), Coby Burgiel (Pick 29), Noah Long (Pick 58)
Plenty the Eagles did right in this draft as they begin to stockpile for their future. Trading pick two away for two picks later down the first round was always going to be a risk, but they addressed exactly what they needed by selecting two on-ballers that will be mainstays for the next decade. Reuben Ginbey’s work in the midfield for WA propelled him to a top-10 selection, whilst Hewitt has the talent and the athleticism to be a star in the big-time.
With two picks inside the second round, they looked towards ruck depth and speed. With pick 23, they nabbed the best ruck prospect in the draft in Harry Barnett, a guy who can cover ground as well as he can compete in the ruck contests. With Nic Naitanui getting on in his career, and no standout ruck below him, this is a great get for the Eagles. With pick 29, they took Coby Burgiel; a player that has proven to be an impact player in multiple positions, but personally, I think he looks at his best in the forward line, where he can be a menace with that speed and with 12 goals in nine matches for Gippsland, is a proven finisher.
Noah Long rounding out the selections is a small midfielder/forward type who had a rough run of injuries this year, but is a proven ball-winner at ground level and is incredibly sharp around the goals – could be a bargain if he stays fit.
Western Bulldogs Draft Haul: Jedd Busslinger (Pick 13), Charlie Clarke (Pick 24), Harvey Gallagher (Pick 39)
With what they had in their draft capital, the Bulldogs can come away with this draft happy that they’ve got players who will be in the mix of their best 22 in the not-so-distant future. They addressed needs that hampered them severely this year and in due course, should aid them back in the premiership chase sooner rather than later.
Jedd Busslinger at 13 is a quality pick. He won’t play right away as he continues to nurse a bad shoulder and will be back running in January, he doesn’t need to as the Dogs have got good key defensive depth and given what he managed to produce this year, will be a genuine talent in the years that come. Charlie Clarke at Pick 24 fills a need at the small forward spot, and some might call it a steal, considering there was some interest within the first round. He’s got great energy, has got fantastic nous for the goals and has got the capacity to play a little further up the ground as well, but in the meantime, Dogs fans can get used to seeing Clarke and Cody Weightman be absolute pests up forward for the opposition. Harvey Gallagher at Pick 39, doesn’t necessarily fill a need for the Dogs, considering he excelled as a small rebounding defender, but has the versatility to play at either end of the ground and won the Bendigo Pioneers’ best and fairest on the back of accumulation, composure and neat ball use.
North Melbourne Draft Haul: Harry Sheezel (Pick 3), George Wardlaw (Pick 4), Brayden George (Pick 26), Cooper Harvey (Pick 56)
With four picks in this year’s draft, it was important for North Melbourne to nail their first picks and surprised nobody when they went after the best general forward in the draft with Harry Sheezel with their first selection. He is an elite player that can get into the right spots and is a proven finisher in front of goal. With the next pick in the draft, they went for George Wardlaw, who – aside from Will Ashcroft – is widely regarded as the best midfielder in the draft. He’s a proven competitor and an elite ball-winner and can be seen as the heir apparent to Ben Cunnington when he eventually hangs up the boots.
Continuing on their theme with guys that can hit the scoreboard, North selected Brayden George with their third pick at 26. On talent alone, he’s cutting close to a top 10 talent – he’s powerful, good on the lead and a brilliant overhead mark and is consistent with getting on the scoreboard. Him going to North makes sense – patience will be required, because he won’t play next year due to injury and North are currently on that slow build back to being a competitive side again. Rounding out their selections is Cooper Harvey at 56 – the son of AFL games record holder Brent Harvey, Cooper is a mid-sized player who is a solid competitor and a decent overhead mark for his size, but will need plenty of work.
To the surprise of nobody, the Lions walked in with picks 34, 35, 36, 38 and 55 and matched their bids without having to go into a points deficit and matched the bids on both Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher. The Lions will be stoked that they didn’t need to match GWS’ pick 1 on Ashcroft as there is a bit of a gap in the points system between the top two picks, although they would’ve been a little disappointed a bid came for Fletcher as early as it did at pick 12.
But nonetheless, the Lions were a winner from the draft night. Ashcroft is considered widely as the best player of the crop this year and it should be criminal for him to go with the second pick in the draft, Fletcher is a highly touted youngster in his own right. Both should see some time in the Lions’ 22 next year.
Carlton Draft Haul: Oliver Hollands (Pick 11), Lachlan Cowan (Pick 30), Jaxon Binns (Pick 32), Harry Lemmey (Pick 47
Loved Carlton’s draft haul. Mostly because they’ve addressed perhaps their two biggest deficiencies in their list – that being outside run and key position depth. All in all, they’ve brought in players that should add plenty in their side after missing out on the finals on the last day of the home and away season.
Oliver Hollands is a player that many expected the Blues to pick up, given his credentials as the best two-way player in this year’s class. Lachie Cowan was a steal with the Blues’ next pick at 30, given that there was potential for him to land late in the first round with his drive off the half back by foot. A couple of picks later saw the Blues nab another running player in Jaxon Binns – a player that is similar to Hollands in the fact that he is a very good two-way running midfielder and finished their selections by taking Harry Lemmey at 47 – a tall forward prospect who was highly touted at the start of the year, but wasn’t able to back up the heights of last year. He’s athletic and is a good overhead mark; good depth to have at either the ruck or the key forward spot.
Essendon Draft Haul: Elijah Tsatas (Pick 5), Lewis Hayes (Pick 25), Alwyn Davey jnr (Pick 45), Jayden Davey (Pick 54)
In a very stiff seventh-place here is Essendon, who would be very happy to walk away with their draft selections. On my draft rankings, all three of Tsatas, Hayes and Alwyn Davey were all inside the top 25, so to get them all with the picks they had should be considered quite an accomplished draft haul. There was much intrigue with Essendon’s first pick – whether they trade it to gain more selections, or to pick either Tsatas or Mattaes Phillipou with the selection. Whilst Phillipou has more upside, Elijah Tsatas has the runs on the board and looms as the safest of the two. He’ll add an exciting layer to Essendon’s midfield and give him the time to work on his strength, he’ll be worth the investment.
Lewis Hayes at 25 was a shock considering there were suitors in the first round and the potential for him is enormous. He’s a great interceptor and has the speed to match on either tall or small forwards. It took until pick 45 for a team to bid on Alwyn Davey, which is later than most would’ve had him – he’ll add plenty to Essendon’s small forward stocks which is seen as a bit of a deficiency, as will twin brother Jayden, taken nine picks later.
GWS Giants Draft Haul: Aaron Cadman (Pick 1), Harry Rowston (Pick 16), Darcy Jones (Pick 21), Max Gruzewski (Pick 22), Toby McMullin (Pick 34)
A mixed bag from the Giants, with some minor hiccups in their recruitment, but all-in-all it’s a draft hand that the orange team should be pretty happy with, addressing areas around the ground with some solid under-18s talent. With Aaron Cadman at pick 1, the Giants sought after the next key forward that will lift them back out of the mire and back into the finals calculations in due course. He’s an elite contested mark and is a proven scoreboard impact player.
They were forced to cough up their next pick to take Harry Rowston after the Sydney Swans opted to bid for him. He’s a tough, nuggety on-baller that is still raw in skill set, but he’s not one to shy from a contest. They got back on track by taking Darcy Jones with their next pick, a small player who is a consistent threat in the forward half and is blessed with great pace and athleticism. In their later picks, they took Max Gruzewski – another key tall who can play either end, but will need to put in the work to flourish at the top level. They rounded out their draft by taking Toby McMullin – a speculative selection considering who was left on the board, but he offers good work rate and defensive pressure in the forward half of the ground.
Collingwood Draft Haul: Ed Allan (Pick 19), Jakob Ryan (Pick 28), Joe Richards (Pick 48)
The Pies just missed out on the top eight, but Collingwood supporters should feel chuffed with what they walked away with. They secured the steal of night one by taking Ed Allan, a player that was flagged to go as high as the top 10. With his height and his elite aerobic capacity, if he can keep himself healthy, the potential for him is extremely enormous. He has already had experience in a lot of areas around the ground, but I’d like to see him either on half back or on the wing to start off his career, but there is scope for him to be a full-time midfielder.
With their next selection, they managed to take Jakob Ryan, who was seen as a potential choice for their first round before Allan became available, so they’ll be pleased to get him with this pick. At 188cm, he is around that height where he can play third tall, but just as well, he’s a strong player when he’s running and rebounding the ball out of half back. With their final selection, they chose small mature-ager Joe Richards from Wangaratta in the Ovens & Murray League, He can play midfield, but is also a proven goalkicker, having slotted 29 goals in 11 games this year, including a bag of 11 in one match. Despite his size, he’s got great speed and is an impact player with the ball in hand.
A mixed bag for the Hawks. They started off by going after midfielders, as they probably should’ve after offloading their two better midfielders over the past three or four years, by selecting Cam Mackenzie. He’s a midfielder that will complement the likes of Josh Ward and James Worpel nicely in the years that come. This was then followed by a strange decision to draft up the order to select tall defender Josh Weddle. The Hawks gave up pick 27, a future second and a future third to get him. Whilst key defensive depth is alright, the fact they overlooked Ed Allan, who’d be better suited to the Hawks’ needs is what loses them some spots in the rankings here.
They did get a tick for Henry Hustwaite at pick 37 – a tall player that has got a high ceiling in terms of high-end football IQ and decision-making abilities. He will most likely start off as a half-back flanker, but the scope to be a midfielder is certainly there. With their two later picks, they drafted Jack O’Sullivan – a small, yet tough inside midfielder who has shown clean hands around the coalface, and Bailey Macdonald – someone who came onto the scene late in the NAB League but showed plenty with his dash off the half back line.
Port Adelaide Draft Haul: Tom McCallum (Pick 36), Tom Scully (Pick 53), Kyle Marshall (Pick 59)
Port Adelaide needed to go tall with this draft, and given they sold the farm to get Jason Horne-Francis across during the trade period, was always going to be a bit difficult with the selections that they had, but should be walking out of the draft very pleased with their selections. Their first selection was Tom McCallum – an athletic 192cm defender that has got the ability to play above his height, but with his speed, aerial prowess and endurance abilities, can provide a few roles in defence, from lockdown, to intercepting, to rebounding out of the backline.
West Adelaide key forward Tom Scully at Pick 53 can be a dangerous selection if he gets the chance to develop properly. He started off the year on fire, kicking 37 goals in the first seven games of the season, but tapered away late. He is a late bloomer, being a soccer convert, but still to this point, is a raw prospect. With the last pick, they opted with key defender Kyle Marshall – a player that has a great leap and very impressive speed for his height, but will need some time in the gym as he’s lightly framed.
Melbourne Draft Haul: Matthew Jefferson (Pick 15), Jed Adams (Pick 38)
With only two live selections, the Demons opted for two players that play key positions at either end, and whilst that’s good for the Demons to look at planning for their future, these two players are going to take some time to properly develop, but given Melbourne are right in the premiership window, that’s something they can afford at the present time.
They were expected to land Matthew Jefferson with their first pick and didn’t disappoint. Speaking about their long term, he’ll be a perfect partner-in-crime for Jacob Van Rooyen, who was starting to come along quite nicely in the VFL this year. Jefferson is a good contested mark and loves to split the packs open and has kicked bags of goals in the past. With their second pick at 38, they selected Jed Adams, a key defender who, despite an injury-riddled history, has showed great promise as a lockdown defender, playing two games for WA in the national championships and relished in the role. Like Jefferson, he’s going to need time to work into his body, but could be a nice value pick if he remains healthy.
Fremantle Draft Haul: Hugh Davies (Pick 33), Tom Emmett (Pick 41), Max Knobel (Pick 42), Corey Wagner (Pick 57)
After a very solid trade period by the Dockers, they entered the draft late and walked out of this draft with more questions than answers, going after players that are more speculative than proven to this point. They went after a key defender with their first pick and selected Claremont product Hugh Davies – He wasn’t in many experts’ top 40 players and considering that Tom McCallum and Jed Adams were still on the board at this point, it’s a bit of a confusing selection.
They then pulled off another shocker with pick 41 and selected Tom Emmett – a mature-aged forward out of Sturt. A great story, when he was 16, he was diagnosed with a rare subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system. He also battled injuries over the past couple of seasons, but when he played, he showed a lot up forward, kicking 15 goals for Sturt in the SANFL in his last seven games. The next pick saw them take Max Knobel – a ruckman that still has plenty of room to grow, but has the skill set and the versatility to make it in the AFL. With their last selection, they gave ex-Melbourne and North player Corey Wagner a lifeline – deservedly so, given his form at Port Melbourne in the VFL this year.
This is where the rankings can get a bit stiff for clubs, like Geelong for instance. We expected the Cats to take Jhye Clark with their first pick and lived up to one of the worst-kept draft secrets when Geelong pounced on him with the eighth pick overall. He’s a player that has proven himself to be a leader at the under-18s, and is a tough midfielder who is brilliant in the source. I get the feeling we’ll be talking about the comparison between him and Joel Selwood for the years that follow.
But with one other pick in the 50s, Geelong have often made the habit of plucking gems out of the wilderness. Phoenix Foster will be a work-in-progress for a few years yet. Athletically speaking, he’s got a good leap and competes well aerially and as a key forward, his ability to pluck contested grabs and kick goals in the SANFL under-18s was very consistent this year. He could be further developed into a second-string ruckman. This is one of the more speculative picks, but the upside in him is definitely there.
Gold Coast Draft Haul: Bailey Humphrey (Pick 6)
It’s often said that people will take quality over quantity, but I’m not too big on teams that just draft one player over the two nights, but Gold Coast’s selection in Bailey Humphrey was more than enough to ensure that they stayed off the bottom of the rankings. They traded out 43 to the Crows in return for Adelaide’s future second round pick and a future third round pick, that is tied to Collingwood, in hopes that they can get good returns for their academy talent next year.
In terms of what Humphrey will add – he will most likely start his career within the forward half of the ground, whilst he builds on his endurance running, which some have seen as a hindrance to his game. But he has proven for both Gippsland and for Vic Country that he is a very powerful unit around the stoppages, as well as being a proven goalkicker in the forward line. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops in this Suns’ side.
Adelaide Draft Haul: Max Michalanney (Pick 17), Billy Dowling (Pick 43), Hugh Bond (Pick 50)
We expected the Crows to land Michalanney as the father/son prospect, and whilst they had the picks to match a bid for him, they’ll be disappointed that a bid didn’t fall a little later. But nonetheless, Michalanney is a great talent in the defensive half; he has that ability to play on both tall and small forwards and has proven to be a good rebounder out of the defensive half – but like many others in this class, will need some time to grow into his body.
They then made deals with both the Gold Coast and Brisbane to get up the order to picks 43 and 50 and with these picks – decided to go with speculative selections in Billy Dowling and Hugh Bond. Dowling is seen as a possession-accumulating midfielder that can impact the scoreboard, averaging 1.5 goals and just under 31 disposals per game for North Adelaide in the SANFL under-18s. Bond is an incredibly competitive midfielder who, despite the lack of poise, has an insatiable desire to hunt the opposition and the ball, averaging over nine tackles for the GWV Rebels in the NAB League this year.
Sydney Draft Haul: Jacob Konstanty (Pick 20), Cooper Vickery (Pick 27), Caleb Mitchell (Pick 40)
Every year there always seems to be a list manager that acts like a total jerk and makes menacing moves for the sake of being a menace. Adrian Dodoro at Essendon made that habit over the past few years, but it seems like Kinnear Beatson at Sydney wanted a crack at it this year. With their first pick (Pick 14 before the bids came in), they forced GWS and Adelaide to match bids for Harry Rowston and Max Michalanney respectively before trading the pick to Hawthorn. Whilst the Swans don’t have any pressing needs currently, I wasn’t impressed with what was picked up overall.
I do like the pickup of Konstanty in the first round – If there is a need, it’s an understudy for Tom Papley and Konstanty is the kind of player that can be that small forward menace that Papley has been over the past five or so years. He’s a good crumbing forward and has got that scoreboard impact already. Cooper Vickery at Pick 27 is another ‘up yours’ to Hawthorn as Vickery was tied to the Hawks as an academy prospect – many had him going later, but showed great signs this year as a rebounding defender in both the NAB League and nationals. Their last pick saw them nab Caleb Mitchell – a player who put together some solid form on the wing for Murray in the NAB League.
Richmond Draft Haul: Kaleb Smith (Pick 49), Steely Green (Pick 55)
Whilst it was always hard for the Tigers to grab quality draft talent on the basis that they basically sold their entire draft capital to get Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper over from GWS, the Tigers selections are players that will be seen as players that might benefit from the system at the club, will take some time to get into this team and potentially lock in a spot in the best 22.
There were some suitors for Kaleb Smith earlier – especially from the Western Australian clubs – He’s a brilliant ‘impact-per-possession’ type of player that has slotted in for East Fremantle’s colts side in the defensive half and has had some performances that captured the eyes of recruiters. He did have some injury concerns throughout the year, which was a big reason for his relative unknown status as a draft prospect. Steely Green is a sub-180cm player who has seen time in the midfield for South Fremantle’s senior side and has been tough and tenacious for South Fremantle this year, headlined by a 31-disposal performance against Perth late in the season. However, I’m not sure about what his ceiling looks like in the AFL space.