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HomeSportsAFL Phantom Draft 2022: Clubs battle for the land's best football talent

AFL Phantom Draft 2022: Clubs battle for the land’s best football talent

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The AFL Draft is coming.

On November 28 some of the best young talents in the country are set to live out their lifelong dream of becoming professional footballers.

Going through rigorous trainings and cut-throat selections from early in their junior careers, there are names that have stood out above the rest.

Performing in the recent Draft Combine as well as their respective local and state clubs, recruiters have the difficult job of identifying talent that will help their cause.

In saying that, The Sporting News is attempting to predict how the top 20 picks will look.

Taking into consideration the indicative draft order, club needs and father-son/Academy selections here are the first 20 draft picks from the 2022 AFL Draft:

(Picks are subject to change due to trades and swaps up until draft night.)

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1. Brisbane (Matching GWS’ bid)

Will Ashcroft (father-son selection)

Position: Midfielder

Height: 182cm

Clubs: Sandringham Dragons/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Consistency, Endurance, Stoppage work, Midfield craft

Weaknesses: Defensive mindset, Versatility

Clearly a standout in this year’s draft and would be a shock if the Giants don’t force Brisbane to match their offer at pick one.

Ashcroft is a ready-made player who received all individual accolades in his draft year such as Larke Meal, NAB League premiership captain, best on ground in NAB League Grand Final and NAB League Team of the Year captain.

Averaged 35 disposals for Sandringham Dragons throughout the season, the 18-year-old has likened his game to that of former number one pick Sam Walsh.

He also took the field for Brisbane’s VFL side and was very comfortable at the level, gathering 28 possessions, seven tackles and five clearances.

The Lions will need to use 3000 draft points to secure the gun midfielder minus the father-son discount (20 percent).

2. Greater Western Sydney

Aaron Cadman

Position: Key Forward

Height: 195cm

Clubs: Greater Western Victoria Rebels/Victoria Country

Strengths: Contested marking, Mobility, Scoreboard impact

Weaknesses: Set shot goalkicking, Ground balls

Cadman has forced his name into top five calculations as one of the premier forwards in this year’s draft.

Likened to Jeremy Cameron and Harry McKay, the 194cm has proven to be a noted goal-kicker, slotting 34 majors in 12 NAB League games.

Named at full-forward in the team of the year, Cadman could help straighten up the Giants forward line.

With impressive leading patterns and forward craft, the Greater Western Victoria Rebels product continues to find himself in the right positions.

From a needs basis, GWS struggled to hit the scoreboard and require another option in attack, which makes Cadman a likely choice.

3. North Melbourne

Harry Sheezel

Harry Sheezel.jpg

Position: Forward/Midfielder

Height: 185cm

Clubs: Sandringham Dragons/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Footy IQ, Forward craft, Goal kicking, Overhead marking

Weaknesses: Midfield craft, Speed

The first of two picks in the top five, the Kangaroos are bound to select Harry Sheezel.

Another Sandringham Dragons product, the crafty forward shot up the rankings and would slot in nicely at Arden Street.

Kicked 36 goals in 14 outings throughout the NAB League as well as assisted many teammates.

Sheezel’s footy IQ is second to none and is very clean around goal. 

Standing at 184cm, a range-y type forward who works up the ground and provides the link from defence into attack.

Only knock would be his midfield presence but would be behind Luke Davies-Uniacke and Jy Simpkin initially at North Melbourne.

Similar to Izak Rankine and has the capacity to go through the centre in bursts.

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4. North Melbourne

George Wardlaw

Position: Midfielder/Forward

Height: 182cm

Clubs: Oakleigh Chargers/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Competitiveness, Contested work, Tackling, Explosiveness

Weaknesses: Endurance, Outside game, Soft-tissue injuries

Injury hurt his chances of being selected earlier but could join Sheezel at North Melbourne.

Managed only three games for Oakleigh Chargers, Wardlaw showed glimpses of his talents which revolve around his explosiveness and contested work.

Also participated in the Australian-Collingwood VFL game, taking on some of the Pies’ young talents.

Similar traits to that of Clayton Oliver, Wardlaw will slot nicely into the Kangaroos’ lineup and will join a young and developing midfield.

Will learn so much from Ben Cunnington, who at 31 years of age is nearing retirement.

5. Essendon

Jedd Busslinger

Position: Key Defender

Height: 196cm

Clubs: East Perth/Western Australia

Strengths: Intercept marking, Kicking, Footy IQ, Decision making

Weaknesses: Speed, Strength, Ground balls

Potentially not seen as a top five talent but Busslinger is exactly what the Bombers need going forward.

They’ve got a strong midfield and are building some key pillars up forward with Sam Weideman and Peter Wright.

However, their defence has lacked and Busslinger can help rectify that.

The intercept defender has been linked to the way Jake Lever plays and could fill the void.

Definitely a problem area is Essendon’s tall defensive stocks and the Western Australian has proven to be one of the best in this year’s crop.

Only thing holding the Bombers back is the potential of homesickness but with a new coach and renewed culture, that can be wavered.

6. Gold Coast

Lewis Hayes

Position: Key Defender/Ruckman

Height: 199cm

Clubs: Eastern Ranges/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Aerial ability, Decision making, Intercept marking, Mobility

Weaknesses: Contested work, Strength

Gold Coast’s midfield and forward line look strong when fit and healthy and proved to be a problem for the leading teams in 2022.

However, Stuart Dew was forced to shuffle round the magnets in the backline, including Jack Lukosius. 

Lewis Hayes will immediately add another key defender to their list and provide some much needed help for Sam Collins and Charlie Ballard.

This will free up Lukosius but add some more certainty in the air against the game’s best forwards.

Averaged 16 disposals and five marks for Victoria Metro and has the ability to find his own ball once he’s beaten his opponent.

7. Hawthorn

Elijah Tsatas

Elijah Tsatas.jpg

Position: Midfielder

Height: 186cm

Clubs: Oakleigh Chargers/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Clean hands, Athleticism, Kicking, Run-and-Carry, Composure

Weaknesses: Strength, Tackling

Arguably a top-five talent, Tsatas could slip to the Hawks if rival clubs select players in positional needs.

Injury crippled his season but showed plenty of promise in the games he did feature.

Standing at 187cm, a modern-day midfielder that can will the football both in and outside the contest.

Could join a youthful mix of Hawthorn guns like Josh Ward, Jai Newcombe and James Worpel.

Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell’s departure would indicate a need for some midfielders and Tsatas suits that pick.

But expect other clubs to target the Oakleigh Chargers product.

8. Geelong

Jhye Clark

Position: Midfielder

Height: 181cm

Clubs: Geelong Falcons/Victoria Country

Strengths: Contested work, Consistency, Leadership

Weaknesses: Speed, Explosiveness, Outside game

There’s not much the 2022 premiers need but an injection of more youth to keep them in contention wouldn’t go astray.

Clark is a Geelong Falcons boy and the Cats would more than likely have been scouting his work for a while, as they normally do.

He’s tough, unrelenting and gives his all. Does this sound like someone else we know?

Like Selwood in 2006 who slipped to pick seven, the midfielder isn’t seen as the best talent in the draft but can easily forge one of the greatest careers in the AFL.

Clark does all the hard things: Tackling, smothering, blocking and all the one percenters.

Chris Scott would love knowing this youngster is on his side once he crosses that white line.

9. West Coast

Reuben Ginbey

Position: Midfielder/Defender

Height: 189cm

Clubs: East Perth/Western Australia

Strengths: Clean hands, Contested work, Power, Toughness

Weaknesses: Kicking, Outside game

A local boy, Ginbey is one of the bigger-bodied midfielders in this year’s draft.

Could sneak into the top 10 as the Eagles could be eyeing off a West Australian talent.

Performed extremely well in the NAB AFL Draft Combine, showing off his jumping ability (both standing and running verticals) and came top 10 in both the 20 metre sprint and 2km time trial.

Ginbey has also shown he can play as a tall defender where he’ll peel off and intercept the ball.

West Coast are at the beginning of a rebuild and could use a player like Ginbey to slot into the senior side whilst veterans like Shannon Hurn and Luke Shuey are still playing.

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10. St Kilda

Cam Mackenzie

Position: Midfielder

Height: 188cm

Clubs: Sandringham Dragons/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Athleticism, Decision making, Stoppage work

Weaknesses: Consistency, outside game

Mackenzie has been part of Saints’ Next Generation Academy and will most likely go to the club if he slips to pick 10.

Previously, St Kilda could match any bid but new rules stipulate they can only match Academy players after pick 40, meaning they’re hopeful the Sandringham Dragons product is still available.

Mackenzie has been impressive in the NAB League and for Vic Metro, averaging well over 20 disposals a game.

Along with Ashcroft, the pair dominated throughout 2022 and is worthy of a top 10 selection.

Hopefully for Saints fans he slips to 10.

11. Carlton

Josh Weddle

Position: Key Defender

Height: 192cm

Clubs: Oakleigh Chargers/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Athleticism, Intercept marking, Rebounding, Versatility

Weaknesses: Composure

Given Carlton’s current list, a position they should target in the draft is a defender. We saw in 2022 that when Jacob Weitering went down and Caleb Marchbank struggled to find consistency, the club failed to win crucial games and ultimately miss the finals.

Weddle was super impressive in the Combine and would suit the Blues going forward.

Standing at 192cm but with immense pace, the Oakleigh Chargers product has the ability to play on a range of opponents and has proven his versatility throughout the year.

12. Western Bulldogs

Ollie Hollands

Position: Midfielder

Height: 183cm

Clubs: Murray Bushrangers/Victoria Country

Strengths: Accumulation, Competitiveness, Endurance, Work rate

Weaknesses: Strength, Kicking

The Bulldogs’ tall stocks are in good shape for the minute, adding Rory Lobb and Liam Jones to the side. However, the departure of Josh Dunkley and Lachie Hunter has now opened up some midfield spots, with the need on the outside coming to fruition.

Hollands has shown throughout 2022 of his ability to spread from the contest, highlighted by him taking out the 2km time trial.

Has an ability to play off the half back, which could be a good introduction to AFL football but will eventually play along the wing and through the midfield.

Similar to Bailey Smith’s hard-running ability, Hollands can add some speed and pace to the Dogs and could be a great selection at pick 12.

13. West Coast

Elijah Hewett

Elijah Hewett.jpg

Position: Midfielder

Height: 185cm

Clubs: Swan Districts/Western Australia

Strengths: Agility, Strength, Explosiveness, Contested work

Weaknesses: Consistency, Kicking

Another local WA boy, Hewett will suit the Eagles and could join his teammate Ginbey if they are selected together.

A big-bodied midfielder, the youngster played in the WAFL for Swan Districts and proved to be up to the level.

Hewett also performed very well at the Combine, coming top five in the vertical jump and agility test.

Will learn a heap from Luke Shuey and Tim Kelly.

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14. Melbourne

Harry Barnett

Position: Ruck/Forward

Height: 202cm

Clubs: West Adelaide/South Australia

Strengths: Athleticism, Mobility, Contested work, Strength

Weaknesses: Disposal consistency, Scoreboard impact

Not much needs to be added to the 2021 premiership team but a thought for the future.

Max Gawn (31) and Brodie Grundy (29) will be starting to near retirement, with the pair experiencing a troublesome 2022 with injuries.

However, arguably the two best ruckman in the competition, drafting another tall to fill in that position wouldn’t be the worst move.

Barnett has proven to be a mobile ruckman, running strong in the 2km time trial (6:32) and the 20-metre sprint (3 seconds).

A strong-marking ruckman and tall forward who shows a real physical presence around the ball, as well as impressive ruck craft and strong hands overhead.

Would benefit from Grundy/Gawn’s teachings.

15. Sydney

Matt Jefferson

Position: Key Forward

Height: 195cm

Clubs: Oakleigh Chargers/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Aerial ability, Mobility, Scoreboard impact

Weaknesses: Set shot goalkicking, Overhead marking

Although they still have Lance Franklin and Sam Reid, both won’t have many years past 2023 so the Swans will need to look at mobile key forwards.

Logan McDonald has shown something but would benefit from more help around him.

Jefferson appears to be the second-best key forward in the draft (behind Cadman).

It would be wise for Sydney to look at key talls and hope someone like Jefferson slips to pick 15.

Slotted 27 goals in the NAB League Championships and also claimed All-Australian honours.

16. GWS

Mattaes Phillipou

Mattaes Phillipou.jpg

Position: Midfield/Forward

Height: 190cm

Clubs: Woodville West Torrens/South Australia

Strengths: Aerial ability, Overhead marking, Athleticism, Versatility

Weaknesses: Consistency, Kicking

The Giants are bound to look at some talented midfielders following the departure of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper to Richmond.

Phillipou immediately adds that bigger body into the centre, standing at 190cm tall.

A modern-day prospect of what a midfielder looks like but has been known to hit the scoreboard at will.

Performed extremely well in the Combine, coming fifth in the running vertical jump (87cm) and ninth in the 2km time trial (6:25 minutes).

Has strength in the air, on the ground and is dangerous up forward as well.

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17. Collingwood

Max Gruzewski

Position: Key Defender/Forward

Height: 193cm

Clubs: Oakleigh Chargers/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Composure, Versatility, Skills, Marking

Weaknesses: Agility, Forward craft

One of few swingman in this year’s draft, Gruzewski could be on the radar for the Pies.

With strong aerial skills and good ball use, the versatility he has displayed makes him an intriguing prospect and is something Collingwood needs.

The Pies recently added Billy Frampton to their list and will also welcome back Charlie Dean from a long-term injury. 

However, at times the club struggled with presence up forward, as Mason Cox and Darcy Cameron didn’t always perform against the better sides.

Gruzewski could help at both ends of the ground and that will be pivotal for the future.

18. Sydney

Lachlan Cowan

Position: Defender/Midfielder

Height: 187cm

Clubs: Tasmania Devils/Allies

Strengths: Athleticism, Leadership, Intercept marking, Consistency

Weaknesses: Versatility, Short kicking

Cowan has the ability to play across the half back and through the midfield, adding another dynamic to the Swans if they select him.

John Longmire’s side struggled at time to put speed on the ball from the back half and were hemmed in by some of the better sides.

Alike Nick Blakey, Cowan can be daring from the backline in his disposal but also determined to do his job.

Plays a lot like Dane Rampe and Brayden Maynard with the versatility to play on a variety of forwards.

Can also be a like-for-like replacement for Josh Kennedy who recently retired as an inside midfielder.

19. GWS

Olli Hotton

Position: Midfielder/Forward

Height: 182cm

Clubs: Sandringham Dragons/Victoria Metro

Strengths: Evasion, Impact, Stoppage work, Athleticism

Weaknesses: Contested work, Forward craft

Can play forward and through the midfield, Hotton would be a good selection for the Giants.

Was dominant in Sandringham’s Grand Final win over Dandenong, gathering 25 possessions and a goal.

Displayed plenty of power and poise, using his speed to break away and hit the scoreboard or set up his teammates.

Will help fill the void left by Hopper, Taranto and Bobby Hill.

Hotton will complement the toughness of Tom Green on the outside and could hold a wing position down to allow Josh Kelly to play more centre.

20. GWS

Jacob Konstanty

Jacob Konstanty.jpg

Position: Small Forward

Height: 177cm

Clubs: Gippsland Power/Victoria Country

Strengths: Evasion, Footy IQ, Tackling, Work rate

Weaknesses: Composure, Consistency

The Giants lacked any real pace up forward as Brent Daniels and Hill failed to make it onto the park consistently.

Konstanty has a strong work ethic and is not afraid to ruffle the opposition’s feathers in his bid to get under their skin.

The small forward prides himself on his defensive efforts which is usually rewarded with hitting the scoreboard frequently.

Joining Toby Bedford in the line-up, GWS will now have an impressive fleet of dangerous small forwards that will hold the club in good stead.

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