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HomeSportsAFL 2023: Which draftees could debut in round one for your club?

AFL 2023: Which draftees could debut in round one for your club?

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AFL fans are just counting down the days to round one.

With the pre-season nearing an end, clubs are locked in to practice games that will play out as warm-ups acts for the 2023 season.

As coaches get a feel for who may line up in their 23, some draftees are making their lives difficult at the selection table.

The 2022 AFL Draft took place late November last year and the next crop of stars made their dreams come true.

Some have their sights set on debuting in round one while others are looking at replacing experienced teammates in the side.

The Sporting News goes through all 18 clubs and identifies draftees that will make an immediate impact (excluding rookie):


Max Michalanney

Michalanney comes to the club as a father-son selection, standing at 191cm tall.

The defender has plenty of attributes up his sleeve that coach Matthew Nicks could entrust him to use in the senior side.

Reportedly impressing during the summer months, Michalanney could easily be deployed across the half back as a creative and rebounding back-man.

The 18-year-old can play on all sizes and is AFL ready.


Will Ashcroft

No one has been more equipped to debut as an 18-year-old than Ashcroft.

Also a father-son selection, the youngster joined the Lions as a ready-made AFL player and his preseason has shown that.

Chris Fagan has placed Ashcroft alongside Josh Dunkley and Lachie Neale through the midfield in match simulations and could be expected to start there in round one.

Tipped to have the impact Sam Walsh and Nick Daicos had in their debut seasons, Ashcroft has talent that is unparalleled in his draft, which is why he’s the favourite for the Rising Star.


Oliver Hollands

Sam Walsh’s injury is unfortunate for Blues fans but it may open the door for Hollands to debut early in the season.

Taken with pick 11, the Murray-Bushrangers product hasn’t put a foot wrong since joining the club in November and his aerobic strengths haven’t gone unnoticed.

Hollands won the 2km time trial during the National Draft Combine and could replace Walsh through the wing and midfield.


Joe Richards

Mature-age recruit Richards joined the Pies as a 23-year-old after a glowing endorsement from former player Ben Reid.

In January, current winger Steele Sidebottom flagged the boy from Wangaratta as someone who could play senior football in 2023.

Only 177cm tall, Richards could be deployed as a small, pressure forward, adding more selection stress for Craig McRae.

The 23-year-old is in the mix alongside Jack Ginnivan, Bobby Hill and Beau McCreery.


Alwyn Davey Jnr

The injury to pick five Elijah Tsatas will have him missing the first few months of the season, leaving the Davey twins and Lewis Hayes to shoulder the load.

Alwyn Davey Jnr has been impressing at training and could slot into the forward line as a small.

Ben Hobbs and Matt Guelfi have been dealing with injuries to which could open the door for the pick 45.

There’s no doubt Davey Jnr has the talent to play AFL football but adapting to the size and speed of the game is his next step which comes from experience.


Tom Emmett

The Dockers went all in on securing Luke Jackson and gave up their top draft selections, meaning their first pick came at 33.

However, pick 41, Tom Emmett could be a possible early debutant as a mature-aged recruit.

Fremantle’s forward line has struggled to lock down consistent players due to injury and the departures of Rory Lobb and Griffin Logue.

Emmett could find himself in the front half as medium-sized forward at 186cm tall and has faith that he belongs at the level.

“Yeah, I do think I can play round one,” Emmett said.

“It’s that inner belief, the fact that I’ve overcome my obstacles in the past.”


Jhye Clark

A Joel-Selwood replica, Clark comes to the 2022 premiers as a tough, inside midfielder.

Unlikely to crack into the star-studded midfield, the Geelong-Falcons product could play as a high-half forward, rolling up into the stoppages.

As Chris Scott has done, he tends to rest some of his older players like Patrick Dangerfield and could do the same with Mitch Duncan and Cam Guthrie.

This would open up spots in the centre for Clark to step into.

The pick eight could still force his way into the side early after impressing over the summer.

Gold Coast

Bailey Humphrey

A lock for round one.

Humphrey overcame some initial injury woes but has quickly put that behind him to put his hand up for selection.

Seen as a mid-forward during the preseason, the pick six is quickly learning to add more features to his game.

“My main goal is to play Round 1, and a lot of the coaches have sort of made that pretty clear that that should be my goal,” Humphrey said.

“I do a lot of my training in the forward line more as a high half-forward/extra mid… it’s a very hard position to play and that’s something I’m getting used to because I’m normally a deeper forward.

“Obviously the AFL boys are a lot stronger than me now, so I‘ve got to try and work harder to get back to goal quicker.”


Aaron Cadman

Another lock for round one.

The Giants are confident that Cadman can make an immediate impact up forward, alongside Harry Himmelberg and Toby Greene.

An athletic and versatile tall, the Victorian has been one of the top trainers and has lived up to the hype as number one pick in last year’s draft.

Likened to Jeremy Cameron, Cadman should aim to play all 23 matches this season and hit the scoreboard frequently.


Josh Weddle

Weddle is likely to slot straight into the Hawks’ backline alongside James Sicily and Sam Frost as the key defenders.

Coach Sam Mitchell hasn’t been afraid to chuck the youngsters in the deep end and no one would imagine he’d stop now.

Weddle has plenty of attributes that are at AFL level and assistant coach Chris Newman believes that.

“He’s a really good size, great runner, shows a lot of speed with a great work ethic,” Newman said.

“He’s shown some things early on in the pre-season, we’re really excited by the way he attacks the game.

“He’s one of those players with really good size and good endurance that could fit it anywhere and any position that would suit the way we want to play.

“We feel like we’ve got some upside there and look forward to him progressing his journey.”


Matthew Jefferson

The Demons have a breadth of depth in the key forward department, which will make it hard for Jefferson to make an impact early.

Although a first-round selection (pick 15), he is behind Ben Brown, Tom McDonald, Josh Schache and untried youngster Jacob Van Rooyen.

Jefferson will struggle to get a look in to the senior side in 2023 but should bide his time as McDonald and Brown enter the twilight years of their careers.

North Melbourne

Harry Sheezel

Pick three in the 2022 Draft is as exciting as they come and the Kangaroos should be thrilled.

Sheezel has been a super professional since joining the club and is a lock for round one.

Playing as a forward-mid, the Sandringham Dragons product will slot straight into the side under Alastair Clarkson and will want to play as many games as he can.

“The aim is to probably play as early as I can, and Round 1 would obviously be the first game,” Sheezel said.

“So, yeah, I am looking towards that, and that would be a great opportunity if it is to happen.

“It feels like with every game we play I‘m feeling more comfortable and getting more used to the level.”

Port Adelaide

Thomas Scully

Joined the Power at pick 53, Scully comes into the club as a forward-ruck, standing at 203cm tall.

Played in the SANFL, the 18-year-old is used to the bigger bodies which will bode well for him if he gets a look-in to the senior side.

At training, Scully was noted to crash packs and presents well, giving defenders a tough time.

In the pecking order, Charlie Dixon, Jeremy Finlayson, Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades do sit in front of him.

However, Scully’s height could be used as a second-ruck behind Scott Lycett, especially if Finlayson doesn’t overcome his ankle injury in time for round one.


Steely Green

Green’s likely position is the midfield but will have to wait his turn before getting a crack.

As Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper joined the club, this pushed out Trent Cotchin and Shai Bolton from their usual midfield roles, meaning the scale for debuting got larger.

However, that hasn’t stopped Green putting his best foot forward during the preseason, attacking the ball with such ferocity, likened to Liam Baker.

St Kilda

Mattaes Phillipou

Luckily for Saints fans, Phillipou slipped to pick 10 and was quickly snapped up.

Easily a top-five talent, the South Australian comes in as a bigger-bodied midfielder but can also play across half back and forward.

Plenty of versatility, Phillipou is known for his self-confidence and ability to turn a game off his own boot.

Teammate Marcus Windhager gave a glowing endorsement to his new teammate as he has impressed during the summer.

“He‘s definitely a confident kid and he plays with that as well which is great to see on the track,” Windhager said.

“He‘s been unbelievable, he’s fitted right in and he doesn’t look out of place when he trains. It’s pretty exciting times.”


Jacob Konstanty

The small forward is a Tom-Papley replica: lively, goalsneak and loves to get under the skin of opponents.

Sydney’s forward line does need a revamp as the club slotted only eight goals in last year’s Grand Final loss to Geelong.

Coach John Longmire could opt to add more speed and fleet-of-foot inside 50, potentially pushing Isaac Heeney and Will Hayward further up the ground.

Taken at pick 20, Konstanty has impressed his new teammates and is ready to make an immediate impact.

“He’s been fantastic. Everything he is, he’s that,” Longmire praised.

“But he’s also got a bit of class. He’s not just a hard chaser. That stood out to our playing group in the first session, he’s actually got some class.

“The two of them (Konstanty and Papley) buzz around together. I grabbed both of them together last week and put my arm around them and said, ‘geez it’s good to see you two working together’. It’s really good.”

West Coast

Reuben Ginbey

Another lock for round one.

Ginbey can be deployed in a variety of positions and could be seen swapping with Elliot Yeo across half back and through the midfield.

A top-10 draftee, the West Australian had plenty of noise surrounding his talent in 2022 and his summer has lived up to the hype.

Standing at 189cm, Ginbey’s versatility has him playing multiple roles due to his athleticism and work ethic.

The Eagles believe he could be ready round one as the club tries to put the last year’s disappointing season behind them.

Western Bulldogs

Harvey Gallagher

AFL journalist Josh Gabelich believes Gallagher could debut early in the season.

“They’ve recruited a kid called Harvey Gallagher, who’s also showing quite a bit and could play and make a debut early in the season,” Gabelich said on SEN.

“They do have a lot of options down back, it is the midfield that is causing them a little bit of grief ahead of Round 1.”

The loss of Josh Dunkley and the movement into the midfield from Cody Weightman and Caleb Daniel has opened up potential spots over the ground.

Gallagher has played inside 50 and across half back during his junior days, which is why he was taken with pick 39.

The 19-year-old possesses an impressive work rate, accumulates the ball well and is electric off half-back.

Gallagher’s speed can also help add another layer of pressure up forward for the Dogs given Weightman’s likely push further up the ground.

Credit: sportingnews.com

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