The only exemptions – AFL hopefuls pushing for mid-season call-up
THE number of exemptions granted for AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft qualification has reached double digits, after league headquarters reconsidered the applications of another eight hopefuls. With the list now sitting at 11 players, covering a range of ages and leagues, the pool of potential draftees is now building ahead of the June 1 intake. We take a look at those in line to earn a call-up, and which clubs will be in line to make selections.
Three unique names were jotted down by recruiters around the country, headlining the exemptions granted for this year’s mid-season draft. The youngest of the trio was Sandringham Dragons over-ager Hugo Hall-Kahan, a dynamic 188cm forward who has booted 11 goals in his last three NAB League outings.
With the mobility and speed to compete at ground level, while providing an apt marking target, the 18-year-old has proven a handful among his peers. His exploits earned him a place in the recent Young Guns squad, where he continued to find the goals in wins over Vic Metro and Vic Country Under 18 outfits.
Next on the list was Josh Carmichael, who could complete a remarkable journey having been recruited from country footy this year. The 22-year-old completed his first state league preseason with West Adelaide this year and has hit the ground running with averages of over 24 disposals, five clearances and a goal per his six League games.
The big-bodied ball winner makes great decisions in possession and can impact around the ground with his marking, which was showcased in the latest state game between South and Western Australia. Turning out for the SANFL, he notched 17 touches, five marks and a goal in the four-point win.
Port Melbourne’s 194cm defender Will Reinhold rounds out the initial candidates, and looms as another who could complete a steep rise to the top flight. The Temora native is a former GWS Academy member, and was recruited to the VFL for the current season. He can also play further afield, and is averaging 11 disposals and four marks in 2022.
THE ADDITIONAL EIGHT
On the back of significant club interest and request, the AFL has added another eight names to the pool of exemptions ahead of the June 1 rookie intake. One name will be particularly familiar to West Coast fans, with recent top-up player Jake Florenca in the mix. He will will hope for a more permanent AFL spot after collecting 19 touches in the Eagles’ Round 8 loss to Brisbane.
Florenca’s South Fremantle teammate Zac Strom is also among the additions. The 28-year-old opted against nominating for last year’s National Draft, fearing the dream was over, but remains in the running. The 198cm bigman auditioned for a spot on Fremantle’s list during preseason, and is the brother of Dockers Women’s tall Mim Strom.
Seeing out the contribution of three WAFL prospects is one of particular interest – 20-year-old Peel Thunder newcomer Wade Derksen. The Northern Territory native has undergone a massive growth spurt to hit 197cm, and after overcoming injury last year, has shown plenty of promise as a dynamic tall who can play in multiple key position posts.
The VFL is also well represented on the list of exemptions. Three players are in line to have their names called out, with James Blanck (Box Hill), Kallan Dawson (Williamstown), and Liam Reidy (Frankston) all doing enough in the early stages of the season to catch recruiters’ eyes. Blanck, a 21-year-old Eastern Ranges graduate, may be the frontrunner of the Victorian lot.
Ticking the list up to eight names are a couple of potential SANFL coups. Glenelg’s Brett Turner looms as a strong chance, having clocked up notable state league experience at both West Adelaide and the Bays. A 38-disposal, four-goal outing against Adelaide is the highlight of the 25-year-old’s season thus far.
He is joined by South Adelaide recruit Kim Kantilla, who is a known quantity up in the Northern Territory for the talent he has shown for Waratah and the Tiwi Bombers. He continued a family tradition with the Panthers this year, putting his hand up after two Reserves and League games.
IN THE MIX
Some players come in without the need for an exemption this year, and have gone about stamping their claims with improved or continued form at high levels of football around the nation. The consensus ‘locks’ thus far are Dandenong Stingrays mid-forward Jai Culley and Sandringham Dragons ruck Max Ramsden, who have been standout junior candidates in 2022.
The Victorian Young Gun showcases have allowed a bunch of 19th-year players to accelerate their chances. Of particular note, Oskar Faulkhead (Bendigo Pioneers) and Massimo D’Ambrosio (Western Jets) have come back strongly after being overlooked in 2021. Another potentially on the radar is GWV Rebels wingman Jamieson Ballantyne, who was considered unlucky to miss out by some recruiters.
With Kantilla putting his name in the hat, South Adelaide’s Jye Menzie and Mitchell O’Neill are a couple of Tasmanians pushing their case. Menzie, in particular, has improved on his exposed form at NAB League level, booting 15 goals in six League appearances. Both players were selected in the SANFL’s representative squad.
Speaking of, Casey Voss was a standout in the state game and took home the Fos Williams Medal as best afield. While the son of Carlton coach and Brisbane Lions champion, Michael will not end up at the Blues, he could be one who finally becomes too difficult to deny at 21-years-old.
Staying in South Australia, Jacob Bauer is a bolter being monitored by the likes of Carlton. The 191cm forward was recruited to North Adelaide out of the Sydney Swans Academy. Displaying remarkable improvement, he was gifted a League opportunity after a bunch of forced changes, and booted five goals against an Adelaide side with 21 AFL-listed players. He has bagged another eight goals in three games since.
Over in Western Australia, West Perth’s Noah Pegoraro is a name which remains in contention. The mature-age key defender has earned multiple draft combine invites and was outstanding in last week’s state game for Western Australia. 203cm East Fremantle tall
A pair of youngsters with links to New South Wales may also be on the lips of top level staff. Delisted Sydney Swans rookie Malachy Carruthers has returned to Sturt in the SANFL with something to prove, while GWS Giants Academy member Ethan Grace is a clever forward who is pushing his way into the frame.
WHO WILL MAKE PICKS?
Carlton, Fremantle, Geelong, Hawthorn, and Sydney are the clubs who currently hold at least one free spot ahead of the mid-season draft, though a bunch of others may enter the mix. Adelaide, Collingwood, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Richmond, and St Kilda could also make space by moving players with long-term injuries onto the inactive list.
The order of picks will be determined on ladder position, meaning North Melbourne (17th) could be in line to make consecutive number one picks having selected Jacob Edwards first off the board in 2021. For a run-down on the rules for eligibility for the annual mid-season intake, click here.