PREVIEW | 2022 AFL U18 Academy vs. Collingwood VFL

THE 2022 AFL Under 18 Academy is set to mark the 25th annual intake in its showcase game against Collingwood VFL on Saturday. The 25-man squad includes all top-age (2004-born) invitees, as well as four squad additions which were made on the back on early-season form.

With the nation’s best draft eligible youngsters stacked into the one team, putting it together on paper is no mean feat. We gave it a shot, providing a potential taster into how the team may line up. The game is scheduled to bounce down at 3:00pm at Skybus Stadium (Frankston).

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B: Jed Hagan – Jedd Busslinger – Lachlan Cowan
HB: Luke Teal – Max Michalanney – Jason Gillbee

After last year’s 140-point thumping at the hands of Geelong’s VFL side, the Academy defence will likely be one of the team’s more important lines. The inclusion of Henry Hustwaite adds a bit of height and depth, and there are other utility types who could rotate behind the ball.

Forming the first bookend is East Perth’s Jedd Busslinger, a genuine key back who has been in top WAFL Colts form. He’ll likely form a tall partnership with Max Michalanney, an Adelaide Crows father-son candidate out of Norwood, while Bendigo Pioneers captain Jason Gillbee could provide a blend of aerial and rebound support at 192cm. Although, he can essentially play anywhere.

In terms of running power, Tasmania Devils standout Lachlan Cowan is a keen rebounder and his booming boot will likely see him take a few kick-ins. For neat skills over shorter distances, East Fremantle’s Jed Hagan is the Academy’s man, while Oakleigh’s Luke Teal is a dynamic type whose versatility should serve his side well from half-back.

Jedd Busslinger
Jedd Busslinger has been in top form this season | Image Credit: via The Sunday Times


C: Elijah Hewett – George Wardlaw – Elijah Tsatas
FOL: Jackson Broadbent – Will Ashcroft – Jhye Clark

As is always the case, putting together a starting midfield has proven near impossible given the depth on offer. Arguably the easiest decision was placing Peel Thunder tall Jackson Broadbent into the ruck, with the 200-plus centimetre bigman offering sound ruck service, good skills for his size, and the ability to impact around the ground.

At his feet, it is hard to go past an on-ball combination of Will Ashcroft, George Wardlaw, and Jhye Clark. Together, they offer a balance of offensive and defensive traits, with their well-rounded games putting them right up there in the top 10 conversation. In fact, Ashcroft and Wardlaw are arguably the top two talents in the country right now.

Pushing his case for that conversation is Elijah Tsatas, who will have no issue being squeezed out to a wing. On the opposite side is Elijah Hewett, who has showcased his running power at WAFL League level with Swan Districts. Hewett could just as easily have a go on the inside given his 186cm, 82kg frame and senior experience.

The midfield rotation should also be heavy off the bench, which we’ll get to later, with a bunch of depth on offer for both the inside and outside.

Will Ashcroft will be the Academy’s centrepiece in midfield | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central


HF: Adam D’Aloia – Harry Lemmey – Anthony Munkara
F: Harry Sheezel – Tom Scully – Matthew Jefferson

There’s a real West Adelaide feel to the attack, with three Bloods featuring in our hypothetical version. Two of the draft pool’s top talls take up the key position posts, in Harry Lemmey and Tom Scully. While the former has climbed the grades, the latter has stormed up draft board on the back of 37 goals in seven Under 18 outings.

They are joined by club teammate Anthony Munkara, a Northern Territory native and Essendon Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect. With unique athleticism, goal sense, and the ability to kick on both feet, he looms as an exciting watch. Adam D’Aloia is also named at half-forward, though will likely also roll through midfield given his size and stoppage nous.

There is a good bit of variation in the pockets, starting with Harry Sheezel. The Sandringham Dragons goalsneak can also play midfield, but is so crafty and prolific on all levels inside 50. Oakleigh’s Matthew Jefferson takes up a starting spot too, as an ideal third tall option at 194cm with his marking a real threat. He could also swing to defence.

Harry Lemmey is this year’s leading tall talent | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central


INT: Aaron Cadman, Alwyn Davey Jr, Jaspa Fletcher, Sam Gilbey, Oliver Hollands, Henry Hustwaite, Mitchell Szybkowski

There are some big names on the bench, and some handy recent inclusions to the squad. One of the stiffest to miss out on a starting spot is Mitch Szybkowski, a stoppage specialist who will almost certainly feature on-ball. Oliver Hollands could also play midfield, but would be just as suited on the wing and even showed his wares off half-back for Vic Country last week.

Jaspa Fletcher is another who can play both sides of midfield, but that will likely be on a wing if anything. His class also translates well to flanks at either end of the ground and he can hit the scoreboard too. Inclusion, Alwyn Davey Jr is another Essendon fans will be keen to see, and he looks like being another specialist small forward in this side.

The aforementioned Hustwaite looks like a deliberate defence bolsterer, with his clean skills and composure very handy traits against senior opponents. Fellow Victorian Aaron Cadman was another addition, and is another keen candidate for the third tall forward spot with his vice-like hands.

Rounding out the squad is Claremont’s Sam Gilbey. His availability is under a cloud due to glandular fever, but the classy rebounder earned selection in the initial Academy intake on the back of his lovely long kicking and strong upside as a defender.

Jaspa Fletcher is Queensland’s lone Academy representative | Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos


2JedHAGAN15-10-2004WAEast FremantleBrigades
3WillASHCROFT06-04-2004VIC MSandringham DragonsOld Brighton Grammarians
4JhyeCLARK23-07-2004VIC CGeelong FalconsQueenscliff
7GeorgeWARDLAW18-07-2004VIC MOakleigh ChargersSt Peters
8OliverHOLLANDS16-01-2004VIC CMurray BushrangersWodonga
9HarrySHEEZEL13-10-2004VIC MSandringham DragonsAjax
10JaspaFLETCHER24-02-2004QLDBrisbane LionsSherwood Districts
12ElijahHEWETT27-05-2004WASwan DistrictsCaversham
14AlwynDAVEY26-02-2004NTOakleigh ChargersPalmerston Magpies
17MitchSZYBKOWSKI09-01-2004VIC CDandenong StingraysBeaconsfield
18AnthonyMUNKARA03-10-2004NTNT Thunder /
West Adelaide
Tiwi Bombers
19ElijahTSATAS18-10-2004VIC MOakleigh ChargersSurrey Park
20AdamD’ALOIA9-04-2004SAWoodville-West TorrensHenley
21LachlanCOWAN01-12-2004TASTasmania DevilsNorth Launceston
22SamGILBEY14-05-2004WAClaremontWest Coast
24LukeTEAL20-05-2004VIC MOakleigh ChargersGlen Iris
25JasonGILLBEE15-05-2004NSW/ACTBendigo PioneersBalranald
29MatthewJEFFERSON08-03-2004VIC MOakleigh ChargersAshburton
30JeddBUSSLINGER11-03-2004WAEast PerthCoolbinia
33HarryLEMMEY30-01-2004SAWest AdelaideBlackwood
34AaronCADMAN03-03-2004VIC CGWV RebelsDarley
38HenryHUSTWAITE20-07-2004VIC CDandenong StingraysRosebud
39TomSCULLY02-11-2004SAWest AdelaideLockleys
40JacksonBROADBENT02-12-2004WAPeel ThunderCollie Eagles

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