Ten Players To Keep An Eye On

One of the best things about covering the entire pre-season is that you get to become familiar with players you wouldn’t normally.

Over the past week, I have had the privilege of watching each and every club run around, and as a result have a few players that have caught my eye.

Here are the ten players for you to keep an eye on as we head towards the 2024 AFL season.



Just what everyone needed, right; a Collingwood forward starting to find his feet after a premiership season?

Watching McInnes in the match sim, his overhead ability was on show, as he put in a solid four-quarter effort as the number one forward. With Brody Mihocek and Jamie Elliott returning for the AAMI Series, he will be relegated to a lesser role, but he has the ability to hurt teams, especially if inserted into a role where his opponent is looking to zone off.

He is listed on the bench for the match against the Tigers, but I expect the Pies to give him ample opportunity to play himself into the Round One team. Entering his fourth season on the list, and with just 11 games under his belt, this is the time in his career he needs to take a step forward.

The AAMI Series gives him this chance, and Collingwood is the type of club where you really don’t want to be squandering opportunities.



He was almost the forgotten man last season, as he battled illness and was pretty close to being lost to footy. 

To his credit, Waterman returned this year in excellent nick (he was a perennial time trial winner before last year and won again this year) and looked really solid in the match sim against the Dockers. This was doubly impressive due to the fact the Eagles were trounced and didn’t give their forwards many decent looks.

Waterman is just about the perfect fit as a third marking forward, and whether Jack Darling is right to play or not, he will relish the opportunity to get out into open space when Oscar Allen draws all the attention.

Waterman is now 25. There have been expectations on him for years, but as a more mature young man, the situation now seems cherry ripe for him to have a career-best season. And the Eagles need him to have just that.



Ooooooh, a couple from the Cattery. I couldn’t just pick one.

Neale first – he is a lump of a lad, but with a forward setup comprising Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron, and Ollie Henry, I fear it will take an injury before we get to see much of him in 2024.

At 203 centimetres, his reach and contested marking provided a highlight in the heat as the Cats knocked over the Blues, with the big fella also roosting one from outside fifty with apparent ease. The tools are all there for him – he just needs the opportunity.

As for Dempsey, his 2023 season was cut short by injury, but with another preseason under his belt, he will be pushing hard for a senior berth, early on.

What impressed me in the match sim?

His tenacity, his flair for the spectacular, and his follow up work were all on display. He would make a pretty potent half-forward, but this Cats team is a tough one to break into in its current form. Like Neale, he may be reliant on another being hurt before he gets a run.

I’d like to see him stake a claim in the AAMI series.



Well, he was the next big thing a few years back, and now he is just a big… thing.

Wing? Half-back? Where will this bloke finally make his mark?

Looked his best when permitted to drift across half-back in the match sim, and if I am going to be brutally honest here, I reckon this season has to be the one he pulls his finger out and starts having the type of impact everyone suggested he’d have back in his rookie campaign. Yes, injuries have impeded his progress, but he has not looked confident other than in that floating half-back role.

Time to change that and prove that he is a unicorn, and not just a horse with an ice-cream cone stuck to his head.



Looks like I am not the only one to see the oak tree in this acorn.

Played the entire match sim in the middle as Ross Lyon continued to see just what his budding young star could produce. As all teenagers do, he found the going a little tough, but the experience he gained will hold him in good stead.

Has a lot of x-factor about him, and as he adds a little more strength to his frame, he is going to emerge as one of the premier mid/forwards in the competition.

Put your house on this one – Phillipou, either this season or next season, will make people sit up and take notice.



We heard the rumblings all Summer – Sanders was going to start Round One. 

I reserved judgement, but it was a lesson to trust avid track watchers over those who pontificate from a studio. Eyes on him in the match sim indicated that Ryley Sanders is the real deal.

He had nine touches and a goal in the first quarter against the Hawks, and will likely do what a few others have failed to – push his way straight into the mix of midfield talent at the kennel.

An elite runner with clean hands and precise delivery… he will be right in the mix for the Rising Star award in 2024.



He’s going to get his opportunity because Hawthorn need him to get an opportunity.

With James Blanck gone for the year, and the perpetual question mark – Denver Grainger-Barras out for a couple of months, the Hawks need a big man to step into a key defensive slot.

The 24-year-old won the ridiculously long named Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal in the VFL in 2023 and will need to make the big leap into the AFL very quickly to give the Hawks some help in the tall timber department. Didn’t put a foot wrong in the match sim, but much bigger challenges await. His future is in his own hands – a good place for it.



Flew under the radar in 2023, looking a bit lost at times as a forward, but his match sim form gave a solid indication that he will likely be getting better in a hurry.

Led the team in scoring despite not being the first option (he was behind Jesse Hogan and Jake Riccardi) but could excel in a team.with multiple scoring threats (Toby Greene to return).

Good hands, nice second efforts, and with a second full preseason under his belt, we’ll see a very different Aaron Cadman in 2024.



If I had a pet turtle, I’d call it Angus Sheldrick. 

Just sayin’.

Sometimes, a dark cloud has a silver lining, and whilst I am sure every Swana supporter would love to have Luke Parker fit and firing for Round One, a broken arm suffered in the match sim against GWS will keep him on the sidelines for a little while.

This is Sheldrick’s big opportunity. And it could become a wonderful.silver lining for the Swans in the process, as they genuinely find a replacement for the ageing Parker.

With both Parker and Callum Mills out for a while, Sydney need someone in the guts ready to crack in. That’s Sheldrick’s forte. 

Taylor Adams will carry part of the load, but I fully expect my imaginary turtle friend to hold up his end of the bargain. And it should commence this weekend in the AAMI Series.


I’m sure you’ll have a few of your own to add – by all means, do so. I’ve only covered half the league, and there are plenty of talented players out there eyeing off 2024 as the season they kake the big step.

Who you got?


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