22 in 2022: A look ahead to next year’s top prospects

THEY say a week is a long time in football, and things sure are moving quickly just over seven days removed from the 2021 AFL Draft. As is the case every year, we take an early look at the next crop of hopefuls having seen them battle it out in improvised Under 17 National Championships and state-based competitions this season. Among the potential class of 2022, there is another father-son prospect vying for number one status, and a shift from this year’s midfield depth to an immense amount of tall talent. Without further ado, we list the top 22 for 2022, as featured in this year’s Rookie Me Central Draft Guide.

22 for 2022

TOP CONTENDER: Will Ashcroft
06/05/2004 | 183cm | Midfielder
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

Our number one choice for 2022 is Ashcroft, who is poised to follow in the footsteps of Sam Darcy and Nick Daicos as a father-son candidate with top five potential. The talented midfielder comes from famous footballing pedigree (son of Marcus) and is tied to the Brisbane Lions along with Jaspa Fletcher. While yet to debut for the Sandringham Dragons, Ashcroft has finished school and will be among the regions’ standouts in 2022. He is a clean and balanced player who offers grunt and class though the engine room, traits which see him considered the top prospect for the 2022 AFL Draft, 12 months out.

Harry Barnett
22/01/2004 | 202cm | Ruck/Forward
West Adelaide/South Australia

It is the land of the giants over at West Adelaide in 2022, and Barnett is one of many viable tall forward options at the Bloods’ disposal. For a player who measures up at 202cm, the Westies bigman moves incredibly well and can carry the ball forward, while also posing an obvious aerial threat.

Jackson Broadbent
02/12/2004 | 202cm | Ruck
Peel Thunder/Western Australia

One of the rare under-agers to have already experienced senior football, Broadbent is a ruck whose upside was unearthed across the course of the season. He managed three-consecutive League digs but looked most effective at Colts level, before also cracking Western Australia’s Under 19s.

Jedd Busslinger
11/03/2004 | 195cm | Key Defender
East Perth/Western Australia

A more unassuming player than others on this list, Busslinger strung together a terrifically consistent season which ended with a state Under 19s berth. The tall defender positions well to intercept and is rarely beaten both in the air and at ground level, while also distributing with composure.

Jhye Clark
23/07/2004 | 188cm | Midfielder
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

A classy midfielder who also blends hard ball winning into his game, Clark was a representative standout and made his mark across six NAB League outings. He works hard around the ground but also wins his own ball at the contest, proving an able user with both feet and a clean handler of the ball.

Lachlan Cowan
01/12/2004 | 187cm | Defender
Tasmania Devils/Tasmania

Arguably the standout Tasmanian prospect for 2022, Cowan has already proven his class among the Devils’ setup having found a home in defence. He reads the play well to intercept and is aggressive in his approach, taking the game on with his speed and damaging long kicking on the rebound.

Adam D’Aloia
09/04/2004 | 184cm | Midfielder
Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia

D’Aloia is a well known quantity to keen draft watchers having already stood out at Under 19s level. The mature-bodied ball winner wins mountains of possessions at the contest and is clean and quick by hand. He also stands up on the big stage and was best afield in this year’s SANFL Under 18s Grand Final.

Will Elliott
11/06/2004 | 200cm | Ruck/Forward
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

Elliott is the son of former Australian cricketer, Matthew. He provides great versatility and upside at 200cm, able to play on each line but looking most comfortable as a ruck/forward. He’ll be among Oakleigh’s very promising tall fleet in 2022 and could improve rapidly as he continues to fill out.

Sam Gilbey
14/05/2004 | 185cm | Defender
Claremont/Western Australia

A raw and rangy defender, Gilbey has some serious weapons at his disposal. He is capable aerially and cuts off opposition attacks across half-back, but also looks to make use of his long-range left-foot on the rebound. With plenty of in influence going forward, Gilbey turns defence into attack effectively.

Jed Hagan
15/10/2004 | 174cm | Midfielder/Defender
East Fremantle/Western Australia

There are few 2022 prospects who have earned the amount of plaudits as Hagan has throughout his junior career. The East Fremantle utility split his time between WA’s Under 17 and 19 squads, fitting in seamlessly among his elders at full strength, showcasing his clean skills and decision making with roles off half-back and either side of midfield.

Elijah Hewett
25/05/2004 | 182cm | Midfielder
Swan Districts/Western Australia

Hewett is arguably the best midfielder out of Western Australia in 2022, boasting a speed-endurance mix that recruiters will love. He is tough at the contest and loves to bustle out of tackles, but leans on his running capacity to impact around the ground. With sharper kicking to come, he looms as a top-end talent.

Oliver Hollands
16/01/2004 | 182cm | Midfielder
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

Fans will recognise the Hollands name from brother Elijah and father, Ben, but Ollie is the next in line ready to make a splash. He’s a smaller midfielder at 182cm but is growing quickly, and has some of the flair of his elder sibling with great balance, versatility, and drive on the uptake.

Isaac Keeler
23/04/2004 | 197cm | Key Forward
North Adelaide/South Australia

A product of Adelaide’s NGA, Keeler will unlikely end up there under the new bidding rules. Nonetheless, he looms as an exciting tall prospect with terrific athletic upside and great potential, having shown his wares for a couple of Under 18s seasons now. He’s effective both aerially and at ground level, with potential to pinch-hit in the ruck.

Harry Lemmey
30/01/2004 | 199cm | Key Forward
West Adelaide/South Australia

The leading key position prospect cracked the SANFL League in 2021 and was a state Under 19s spearhead. He draws comparisons to Nick Riewoldt with his blonde mop and marking prowess in attack, but can also pinch-hit in the ruck at 199cm. Another Westies top-fiver in the making.

Noah Long
23/08/2004 | 178cm | Midfielder
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country

A hard working inside midfielder who finds plenty of the footy, Long possesses some of the cleanest hands going around. He attacks the contest with ferocity and while he can sharpen up his kicking, is a fantastic exponent of the handball. He is a tough and consistent competitor.

Jaiden Magor
16/02/2004 | 185cm | Forward/Midfielder
South Adelaide/South Australia

A promising talent from South Adelaide, Magor is a player who piles on goals in attack. With a strong frame and clean handling, he is a constant threat inside 50 but also works well up the ground. His key traits also bode well for more midfield exposure in 2022, which could boost his value.

Paul Pascu
20/08/2004 | 183cm | Midfielder/Defender
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro

Pascu is a hardened midfielder/defender who blends tough contested work with class in possession. Having already cracked the Cannons’ side, he translated his strong representative form with bustling rebound running off half- back and very viable rotation through the centre bounce mix.

Kobe Ryan
17/02/2004 | 182cm | Midfielder
West Adelaide/South Australia

The midfielder among West Adelaide’s array of talls, Ryan is up there with fellow-Blood Lemmey as SA’s leading prospect. He runs all day and can accumulate touches across each third, proving poised in possession and efficient with his disposal. Versatility is another key trait, as he can impact on each line.

Jonti Schuback
18/03/2004 | 183cm | Defender/Midfielder
Gippsland Power/Vic Country

A classic rebounding defender who can also play on either side of midfield, Schuback offers sound use of the ball by foot over both short and long distances. He is clean and cool in a crisis, but catches the eye most when taking the game on with his run and proactive decision making.

Harry Sheezel
13/10/2004 | 183cm | Forward
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

A dangerous and dynamic forward who has shown great profciency in front of goal, Sheezel makes good things happen when the ball comes his way. At 183cm, he makes clever leads and can provide a marking target, but also showcases terrific evasive skills to create space and get shots away inside 50.

Elijah Tsatas
18/10/2004 | 184cm | Midfielder
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

Tsatas made good of what football he managed in 2021 after injury disrupted early on, and adjusted quickly to representative level play. He operated mostly off a wing but is capable of playing inside, with his burst of speed and elite kicking skills in full flight making him a player who hurts the opposition.

George Wardlaw
18/06/2004 | 181cm | Midfielder
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

A midfielder with grunt on the inside, Wardlaw bustles his way out of congestion with brawn but also offers great touch with his clean handling and effective release disposals. An incredible talent who is arguably right behind Ashcroft in terms of the number one billing in 2022.

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