Some clubs believe next year could prove a “super draft”, with many very exciting top-end prospects available.“We’re all really optimistic for this group and hopeful of what can come,” AFL Academy coach Tarkyn Lockyer said.“We know, as with any group, there’s going to be ups and downs and players are going to develop at different rates. But we feel like we’ve got a really good mix of talls and smalls and really good representation from across the country as well.“They all bring slightly different things so one of our messages to the players is, ‘Embrace the fact you are unique and bring all of yourself’. “There’s a long way to go before draft night in 11 months’ time, but we’re really looking forward to getting stuck into the journey with them.”Here are the early names to watch — and what they can do. A DOZEN TOP DRAFT PROSPECTS IN 2023Harley Reid (Tongala/Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country) Some recruiters said they would have picked Reid with the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft had he been available. A powerful and versatile 185cm player from the Bendigo Pioneers, Reid showed an ability to play through the midfield, up forward or down back this year. He featured in 12 NAB League games as well as starring for Vic Country during the under-18 national championships. In the final game of the championships against Vic Metro, Reid logged 17 disposals playing in defence during the first three quarters before being thrown forward in the final term where he kicked two goals in the space of seven minutes. Reid is tough, composed, skilful and a strong overhead mark. Nick Watson (East Ringwood/Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)Watson was referred to as ‘The Wizard’ by some commentators after a stellar bottom-age year which left recruiters very excited. A 170cm small forward, he split his time between playing NAB League football with the Eastern Ranges and school football with Caulfield Grammar. From seven NAB League matches, Watson averaged 2.6 goals and 6.9 score involvements. In three of those matches he kicked four goals or more, including a bag of five against Gold Coast in Round 2. Watson also caught the eye for Vic Metro in the national championships, including when he kicked 3.2 from just nine disposals on a wet day against South Australia, showing what a high-impact player he can be. He is incredibly quick, agile and smart, which makes him a difficult match up.Colby McKercher (Launceston/Tasmania Devils/Allies)Recruiters believe McKercher is a faster version of Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett. The 182cm midfielder from Tasmania possesses dazzling burst speed from stoppages and has a penetrating left-foot kick. McKercher averaged 22.7 disposals, 3.7 clearances and four tackles from 13 NAB League games this year win the side’s Toby Nankervis Medal as its Rising Star. He also featured in two under-18 national championships matches for the Allies and logged 20 disposals and seven marks to be named among the best for Team Houli in the under-17 Futures game at the MCG on Grand Final day. Ashton Moir (Plympton/Glenelg/SA) Described by recruiters as a “high-level talent”, Moir shapes as the top draft prospect from South Australia next year as well as one of the top prospects across the country. A 186cm half-forward, Moir impressed with his exciting aerial ability and innate goal sense this year. From 10 SANFL under-18 matches, he averaged 15.4 disposals, 5.3 marks, 8.5 score involvements and three goals. Moir booted four or more goals in five of those matches. He has clean hands, is clever in congestion around stoppages and is an effective kick on both sides of his body. Moir was named as South Australia’s best player in its final game of the under-18 national championships against Western Australia this year after he kicked 4.2 from 11 disposals, showing he has plenty of tricks in his bag.Daniel Curtin (Claremont/West Coast/WA)A 196cm key defender from Western Australia, Curtin put his name up in lights when he won the best-on-ground medal while playing for Team Houli in the under-17 futures game at the MCG on AFL Grand Final Day. He played across halfback and collected 22 disposals and nine marks in that game, but he also showed an ability to have an impact as a key forward for Claremont in the WAFL Colts this year. A nice left-foot kick, Curtin regularly makes good decisions with ball in hand and also has strong agility. He was part of Western Australia’s squad for the under-18 national championships but didn’t feature for his state after battling a nasty finger injury during the middle part of the year.Will Lorenz (Boroondara/Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)He didn’t win the medal, but some recruiters rated Lorenz as the best player on the ground in the under-17 futures game at the MCG on AFL Grand Final Day. He showed good speed and agility that day as he racked up 24 disposals, nine marks and one classy goal on the run in that game. The left-footed midfielder has drawn comparisons to Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli, who also came through Marcellin College. Lorenz comes from good bloodlines, being the grandson of Hawthorn great Graham Arthur who played 232 games for the club and was a premiership captain in 1961. Mitchell Edwards (South Mandurah/Peel Thunder/WA)A towering 205cm ruckman/forward, Edwards is hard to miss but he certainly caught the attention of clubs this year. Part of Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy, Edwards not only gets his hands on the ball in the ruck but is also extremely athletic and follows up his work well around the ground. He featured in all four matches of the under-18 national championships for Western Australia this year, averaging 11 disposals and 18.5 hit-outs. He was named in Western Australia’s best in two of those matches. Nate Caddy (Yarrambat/Northern Knights/Vic Metro)A 191cm mobile forward, Caddy presents well in attack with strong hands overhead and natural speed. He can be a physical presence, not only with his contested marking but also with his contested possession wins at ground level. Caddy averaged 14.5 disposals and kicked 18 goals from 13 NAB League matches for the Knights this year, while also featuring in two under-18 national championships matches for Vic Metro as a bottom-age player. In the second of those matches, Caddy caught the eye with 3.1 from eight disposals and four marks against South Australia. As well as playing forward, Caddy was used as a tall midfielder at stages this year. He is the nephew of two-time Richmond premiership player Josh Caddy. Zane Duursma (Foster/Gippsland Power/Vic Country)The younger brother of Port Adelaide young gun Xavier Duursma is a very exciting prospect who showed plenty in his bottom-age season this year. The Gippsland Power product averaged 15.5 disposals and 2.2 goals across 14 NAB League matches, while also playing two games of the under-18 national championships for Vic Country. He has “pure ability” and his highlights reel is already quite special. Standing 189cm tall, Duursma is predominantly a forward but has also spent time playing as a taller midfielder. Archer Reid (Inverloch-Kongwak/Gippsland Power/Vic Country)A versatile tall with a great overhead mark, Reid shapes as one of the top key position players in next year’s draft. Standing 201cm, he is the brother of Essendon defender Zach Reid but is much better suited as a forward at the other end. He reads the play well and is good for a big man below his knees. Reid featured in 12 NAB League games for Gippsland Power this year, averaging 1.4 goals from 9.9 disposals and 4.1 marks. Jed Walter (Palm Beach Currumbin/Gold Coast Suns Academy/Allies)A 195cm key forward, Walter is a member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy and is one of the leading draft prospects for next year. He is an athletic big man who works hard and has a physical presence in the air which sees him able to take some big contested marks. Walter managed just eight disposals and four marks in the under 17 Futures game on the MCG on AFL Grand Final Day, but had averaged 9.3 disposals and 2.3 goals across four under 18 national championships games for the Allies.Nathan Philactides (Blackburn/Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro) – A quick 180cm rebounding defender, Philactides generates plenty of drive and rebound off halfback. His pace is no surprise given he has an athletics background and has competed in the 110m hurdles at a national level as well as being a state champion in Victoria. Philactides had 15 disposals for Team Houli in the under 17 Futures game this year. The left-footer also played two games for Vic Metro at the under-18 national championships, averaging 19.5 disposals. OTHERS TOP PROSPECTS TO WATCHJake Rogers (Gold Coast Suns Academy) – A small midfielder who finds space and had 14 disposals and took seven marks in the under-17 Futures game. Part of the Gold Coast Suns Academy. Koltyn Tholstrup (Subiaco) – A powerful half-forward from Western Australia who brings great work rate and footy smarts and is a penetrating kick. Jack Delean (South Adelaide) – A goalkicking small forward from South Australia who is quick on the lead, strong overhead and has an uncanny goal sense. Booted three goals from eight touches in the under 17 Futures game this year.Riley Hardeman (Swan Districts) – An outside midfielder from Western Australia with elite speed and a penetrating kick. Will Patton (West Adelaide) – A versatile utility who primarily played as a defender this year, where he was shown to be a strong reader of the play, is composed and generates plenty of intercepts. Ryley Sanders (Sandringham Dragons)A 185cm midfielder who hails from Tasmania, Sanders relocated to Victoria this year where he is attending Melbourne Grammar and has played NAB League football with the Sandringham Dragons. He is a composed player who is good in congestion and generally uses the ball well.Ethan Read (Gold Coast Suns Academy)– A towering developing ruckman who is a Gold Coast Suns Academy member and is also part of the AFL Academy squad.Caiden Cleary (Sydney Swans Academy) – A speedy midfielder who was the leading ball-winner in the under-17 Futures game this year with 32 disposals. He is a Sydney Swans Academy member and is also part of the AFL Academy squad.Lachlan Cabor (Sydney Swans Academy) – A quick player who can generate some drive off halfback. He is a Sydney Swans Academy member and is also part of the AFL Academy squad.Cooper Simpson (Dandenong Stingrays) – A midfielder-forward who averaged 18.9 disposals across 14 games for the Stingrays this season. Can also go forward and kick goals. William Green (Northern Knights) – A developing mobile ruckman who already stands 202cm tall and has great ruck craft and can take a mark. Also a talented cricketer with Victorian Premier Cricket club Northcote. Kane McAuliffe (North Adelaide) – A tough inside midfielder who wins plenty of the ball and is a solid clearance player. Connor O’Sullivan (Murray Bushrangers) – A 197cm defender or forward with a natural leap and good hands overhead. Tied to the Allies as an Albury product. George Stevens (GWV Rebels) – A medium defender with good intercepting ability and a precise kick. Missed the 2022 season after suffering an ACL injury playing basketball in late 2021, but had starred as a 16-year-old.Orlando Turner (West Adelaide) – Primarily an outside forward. Hails from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Darcy Wilson (Murray Bushrangers) – A half-forward or midfield who played senior football for Wangaratta Rovers as a 16-year-old. He covers the ground well and is a creative and clean ball user.Archie Roberts (Sandringham Dragons) – A classy 182cm halfback who provides good run and rebound. Had 21 disposals for the Dragons in the NAB League Grand Final this year. FATHER-SON PROSPECTSWill McCabe (Central Districts) – A versatile and athletic key position player who can play at either end of the ground. A father-son prospect for Hawthorn, as the son of Luke McCabe who played 138 games for the Hawks in the 1990s and early 2000s. Featured in the under-17 Futures game this year.Kynan Brown (Oakleigh Chargers) – A ball-winning midfielder who can also go forward and impact the scoreboard. He is a father-son prospect for Melbourne, as the son of Nathan Brown who played 146 games for the Demons from 1998-2007. Featured in the under-17 Futures game this year.Jordan Croft (Calder Cannons) – A 199cm key forward who kicked three goals on two separate occasions in the NAB League this year. A father-son prospect for Western Bulldogs, as the son of Matthew Croft who played 186 games for the Bulldogs between 1991 and 2004. Part of the Vic Metro squad for 2023. OTHER SONS OF FORMER STARSJack Callinan (Tasmania Devils) – A small forward or midfielder who was a late call-up for the under-17 Futures game and kicked two goals. Is the son of Ian Callinan, who played 32 games for Adelaide from 2011-2013. Part of AFL Academy squad for 2023.Sam Frangalas (Dandenong Stingrays) – A powerful midfielder who can also go forward and kick goals. Is the son of Gary Frangalas, who played 51 games for Sydney from 1983-85 and 17 games for Richmond from 1986-89. Part of the Vic Country squad for 2023. Kobe Shipp (Dandenong Stingrays) – A 186cm defender who reads the play well and was one of the Stingrays’ best in this year’s NAB League Grand Final. The son of former Fremantle forward Andrew Shipp, who played 35 games for the Dockers from 1999-2002. Part of the Vic Country squad for 2023.
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