ON the eve of the 2022 AFL Draft, Rookie Me Central has nailed down its final Phantom Draft order. Though the complexities of bidding and live trading will likely throw most predictions out the window once clubs are put on the clock, recruiters and fans alike will have an idea of where each prospect has interest and might land.
Though the list is admittedly ever-changing, we take you through some of the possibilities across the first two rounds of this year’s intake. For the sake of simplicity, live trading variables has been removed and each club will go in holding its current selection of picks, with only the bidding process having an affect on the order.
Pick 1 (GWS GIANTS) – Aaron Cadman
Key Forward | 195cm | 91kg | 03/03/2004
Much of the mystery surrounding pick one revolves around whether GWS will bid for Brisbane father-son nominee Will Ashcroft, though that seems an unlikely path for the Giants. That being the case, it will come as a surprise to absolutely no one when they read out Aaron Cadman’s name. A prospect who draw comparisons to former-Giant Jeremy Cameron for his mobility, vice-like hands and booming left-foot kick, the NAB League leading goalkicker has the lack of ‘go home factor’ GWS has been searching for. His steep rise this year has seen him evolve from a tall wingman to a genuine spearhead, and his feats inside 50 have yielded many esteemed accolades in his top-age campaign, including the inaugural Rookie Me Central Medal. Lock this one in.
Pick 2 (Brisbane) – Will Ashcroft (bid matched)
Midfielder | 181cm | 78kg | 06/05/2004
North Melbourne seems the team most likely to pull the trigger on a Will Ashcroft bid, and that is the case in our hypothetical draft. Should the Kangaroos do so, and Brisbane duly match, Ashcroft would draw level with Sam Darcy as the earliest father-son selection in draft history. The Lions have already mobilised to ensure they have the resources to cover two potential first round bids, and know exactly what they are getting with Ashcroft. The Sandringham Dragons and Vic Metro midfielder led both sides to titles, and his list of individual accolades is eye-watering. The Larke Medallist and All Australian captain only adds to Brisbane’s strong engine room, headlining what has been a ridiculously prolific offseason for the Queensland club. He’s a polished, readymade ball winner.
Pick 3 (North Melbourne) – George Wardlaw
Midfielder | 182cm | 80kg | 18/07/2004
With the inevitable bidding out of the way, North Melbourne is put on the clock again for the first of its two consecutive live picks. Having skipped bidding last year to select Jason Horne-Francis, only to lose him during trade period, the Roos have a near-direct replacement for him in the form of George Wardlaw. Offering similar hardness and competitiveness in midfield, the explosive Oakleigh Chargers onballer missed most of his top-age campaign through repeat hamstring injuries, but is a well-known quantity to many clubs. Having been relatively cautious in his recovery this time around, Wardlaw should be ready to hit the ground running on his first AFL preseason. Though this link has been well made for some time, North could well take Harry Sheezel first.
Pick 4 (North Melbourne) – Harry Sheezel
Medium Forward | 185cm | 80kg | 13/10/2004
Whether it be with pick three or four, many people in the know have long thought North Melbourne would inevitably snare Harry Sheezel with one of these two selections. The Sandringham Dragons forward has been a reliable goalkicker in the NAB League for two seasons now, and translated his match-winning traits to the national stage in 2022. Though he may not boast the speed associated with many medium-type forwards, Sheezel is fleet of thinking and has the endurance to play high, or the smarts to wreak havoc deep. He kicked multiple goals in nine of 14 NAB League outings this season en route to 36 overall majors, and even showed his wares in midfield with two 30-plus disposal efforts. To put the cherry on top, he ticks the character box, too.
Pick 5 (Essendon) – Mattaes Phillipou
Midfielder/Forward | 190cm | 89kg | 27/12/2004
Essendon’s pick five looms as a key pivot point in the early stage of this year’s draft. South Australian midfielder-forward Mattaes Phillipou could be there man, though there remains an array of options in the Bombers’ midst. The likes of Elijah Tsatas, Bailey Humphrey, and Reuben Ginbey will also come into consideration, and a move down the order for someone like Elijah Hewett may also be viable. Though, Phillipou himself said this would be a great fit for club and player, and the self-assured talent offers plenty of exciting traits. Hailing from a basketball background, he covers the ground beautifully and is aerially apt, while proving an effective goalkicker both when running through midfield or rotating forward. He’s comfortably the best South Australian available.
Pick 6 (Gold Coast) – Bailey Humphrey
Midfielder/Forward | 185cm | 86kg | 11/09/2004
Bailey Humphrey is a player who quickly endeared himself to recruiters, both on and off the field in 2022. The powerful midfielder-forward had his national carnival scuppered by an untimely knee injury, but returned to the NAB League with a bang and skippered the Gippsland Power to a minor premiership. He also managed to turn out for Vic Country in the championship decider, utilised mostly as a forward. That’s where his improvement has come from, with Humphrey an explosive stepper on-ball, and viable marking option inside 50. Gold Coast could also look at the likes of Ginbey, Jhye Clark or Elijah Tsatas with pick six, but Humphrey seems like the ideal fit. He’ll be highly sought after too, with many clubs in the frame for his services.
Pick 7 (Hawthorn) – Elijah Tsatas
Midfielder | 186cm | 79kg | 18/10/2004
Hawthorn is in the market for a bit of size in midfield, and while Elijah Tsatas may not exactly fit that description in a contested ball winning sense, the 186cm speedster is hard to deny on pure talent. Able to play both inside and outside, Tsatas is another top talent whose season was interrupted by injury, though he came out the other side of a foot fracture in immense late-season form. He, too snuck in a single representative outing and recaptured the high-disposal production seen early in 2022, making him a genuine top five chance. Here, he lands at seven, though Hawthorn seems to be locked in an internal battle between selecting Tsatas and Cameron Mackenzie.
Pick 8 (Geelong) – Jhye Clark
Midfielder | 181cm | 76kg | 23/07/2004
The Jhye Clark to Geelong link is somewhat of a cliché at this point, but has been made for good reason – it makes sense. The Cats may still look elsewhere with key defender Jedd Busslinger a possible fit, while fellow West Australian Ed Allan looms as a long-term Mark Blicavs replacement. Of course, any of the above selections would also be in Geelong’s wheelhouse. But Clark is their man in this scenario, likened to retiring Cats champion Joel Selwood for his leadership quality and uncompromising competitiveness. The Geelong Falcons and Vic Country skipper may not boast the athletic upside of others, but has few weaknesses and does a range of things well – from running both ways, to marking overhead and kicking off both feet. A 250-gamer in the making.
Pick 9 (West Coast) – Reuben Ginbey
Midfielder/Defender | 189cm | 82kg | 10/09/2004
Local talent is said to be a best case scenario for West Coast, and local talent is what the Eagles get in our version of this year’s draft. Reuben Ginbey has suitors further up the order, but was still available at pick nine and duly snapped up by the West Australian club, ahead of the likes of Jedd Busslinger, Elijah Hewett and Ed Allan. A bolter into East Perth’s League side for Round 1, Ginbey originally cut his teeth as a defender capable of locking down and intercepting, but shone in midfield as his state’s MVP during the National Championships. His size at 189cm and all-round athletic quality compliment the hard edge he offers in contested situations, making Ginbey a desirable asset around the top 10 range.
Pick 10 (St Kilda) – Cameron Mackenzie
Midfielder | 188cm | 83kg | 21/01/2004
Given his ties to St Kilda as a Next Generation Academy member, it would be no surprise to see Cameron Mackenzie end up in the red, white and black with pick 10. The Sandringham Dragons and Vic Metro midfielder won’t be available to the Saints via bidding, but they could well snap him up anyway – and not at a stretch. Mackenzie, at 187cm, is a well-balanced ball winner with a handy burst of speed which helps him jet to the outside. From there, he makes great decisions going forward by foot and has proven reliable in his output as a top-ager. If the picks before St Kilda’s first pan out differently, a slider could be in the Saints’ midst, otherwise this seems a natural fit.
Pick 11 (Carlton) – Oliver Hollands
Midfielder | 183cm | 71kg | 16/01/2004
Another club and player who have been linked heavily for some time, Carlton and Ollie Hollands seem like an ideal match. Hollands is a Blues supporter and suits the club’s need for more outside midfielders, with his running capacity proving a massive selling point. The Murray Bushrangers accumulator can play both sides of midfield and on flanks at either end of the ground, showing great application and scope for great versatility. The Blues may also be interested in the likes of Elijah Hewett, and could monitor the likes of Tsatas and Phillipou should they slip outside of the top 10. Don’t count Carlton out of live trading either, given the Blues’ history of dramatic draft moves. They could settle nicely with this pick, though.
Pick 12 (Western Bulldogs) – Jedd Busslinger
Key Defender | 196cm | 82kg | 11/03/2004
Having been overlooked by the likes of Geelong and West Coast within the top 10 of this hypothetical draft, Jedd Busslinger won’t last too much longer with the Western Bulldogs lurking at pick 12. Though the Bulldogs are well stocked from a young key position standpoint, Busslinger may be a best available choice despite missing much of his top-age year. Nonetheless, the rangy defender impressed enough in two of a possible four National Championship outings to earn All Australian honours, having previously cracked East Perth’s League side. Busslinger’s season ended early as he went under the knife to repair a shoulder which had troubled him until that point, though he remains arguably the pick of the tall defenders. Ed Allan and Hollands may also be on the radar here.
Pick 13 (West Coast) – Edward Allan
Utility | 194cm | 83kg | 26/05/2004
There is no greater bolter in this year’s draft class than Ed Allan, who only needed a handful of WAFL Colts games and a blistering National Draft Combine to convince clubs of his first round potential. He has attracted interest from the likes of West Coast and Geelong further up the order, as well as the Western Bulldogs and Sydney in this range. He lands in the Eagles nest in our eyes, offering high upside and massively versatile scope for development for the rebuilding side. At 194cm, he can play just about anywhere and has a ridiculously good athletic profile, making him somewhat of a recruiter’s dream. If it’s not Elijah Hewett, Allan seems a good fit given his local status and long-term potential.
Pick 14 (Melbourne) – Matthew Jefferson
Key Forward | 195cm | 84kg | 08/03/2004
The equation is simple. Arguably Melbourne’s most identifiable list need is for a developing key forward, and Matthew Jefferson is one who can fill that chasm in this range. Though the Dees are likely to get busy when it comes to live trading, they could do worse than address their needs first up with a highly developable tall like Jefferson. The Oakleigh Chargers goalkicker impressed during the National Championships, where a bag of seven goals against Western Australia solidified his first round chances. He still has some filling out to do but is already an impressive contested marker and high-impact type inside 50. Elsewhere, Melbourne may look at other long-term prospects like Ed Allan, Jakob Ryan and Brayden George, or trade down for talls Max Gruzewski and Isaac Keeler.
Pick 15 (Sydney) – Elijah Hewett
Midfielder | 185cm | 85kg | 27/05/2004
Elijah Hewett will likely be high on the wish list of West Coast, but he lands in Sydney here after being overlooked to stay in his home state. The West Australian came into 2022 as a highly touted midfielder, and went on to play as much senior footy as any other junior draft prospect. He battled through Covid and its long-term effects to compile a strong season overall, showcasing his explosive streak through the middle while also rolling to the outside and up forward. The Swans are usually a difficult side to pick for but Hewett would be difficult to look past. Otherwise, Allan and Hollands may be prospects to trade up for, while Brayden George and Lachlan Cowan are potentially also in the frame. The Swans have tabled their two first rounders in any case, with Josh Weddle and Harry Barnett others in the frame.
Pick 16 (Brisbane) – Jaspa Fletcher (bid matched)
Midfielder | 183cm | 76kg | 24/02/2004
It seems more likely than not that Brisbane will be made to match two father-son bids within the first round, with Jaspa Fletcher being the second of them. Clubs like the Western Bulldogs and Sydney may be ones to pull the trigger, but GWS does so in our hypothetical draft. The top Queensland talent is a balanced midfielder who featured both on the inside and out on a wing in his duties this year, for the Lions Academy and Allies. A leader in both sides, he stepped up with big goals and catches the eye when unleashing from long range. He’s classy in possession and Brisbane will not give a second though to matching for him, having gained the resources to just about do so.
Pick 17 (GWS) – Brayden George
Medium Forward | 186cm | 87kg | 13/01/2004
It is entirely possible that Brayden George slides into the second round, but many clubs within the first would be itching to get a talent like him through the door. The obvious drawback is the facto George is currently recovering from an ACL tear, and will likely sit out his entire first year at the top level. Though, when he got on the park in 2022, the powerful forward proved his best is up there with many of the top 15 talents, able to kick goals from all angles and distances. The Murray Bushrangers forward is a medium size but can play taller with his lead-up style and springy aerial game, though will requires plenty of faith from clubs given his current status. A potential bargain.
Pick 18 (Adelaide) – Max Michalanney (bid matched)
Defender | 190cm | 78kg | 26/02/2004
Having been pegged as a potential top 20 selection by other clubs for some time now, there has been late word that such evaluation may well come to fruition on draft night. In this scenario, it is Collingwood who comes in as a potential suitor, with fellow South Australian Jakob Ryan also in the Magpies’ midst, if not who we’ve gone with at the very next selection. Sydney is another club in this range which will weigh up a bid, which looms as a considerable thorn in the side of Adelaide’s recruiting team. Nonetheless, there is next to zero doubt that the Crows will match this bid, and welcome their own father-son gun. The Norwood defender is versatile enough to lock down or rebound, playing tall and small across the backline. He’ll be a reliable asset having already cracked senior footy in South Australia.
Pick 19 (Collingwood) – Lachlan Cowan
Medium Defender | 187cm | 81kg | 01/12/2004
Plenty of clubs will be in for Lachlan Cowan at the end of the first round. Selecting the standout Tasmanian comes with a side of caution given his state is soon to be granted an AFL licence, though his talent speaks for itself. In the case of Collingwood, recruiting a rebounding half-back who breaks the lines not only suits the Magpies’ style, but would free up plenty of players to venture into midfield. Cowan himself is an excitement machine, catching the eye with his aggressive runs and booming left-foot kick. If not him, then the Magpies would consider Brayden George or tall defenders like Jakob Ryan, Josh Weddle and Lewis Hayes, or perhaps a livewire midfielder-forward in Charlie Clarke. Though, ball winners will be available in round two.
Pick 20 (Sydney) – Josh Weddle
Tall Defender | 192cm | 91kg | 25/05/2004
Josh Weddle is a player who seems destined to be snapped up by one of GWS, Collingwood or Sydney in the 15-21 range. The athletic Oakleigh Chargers defender has a powerful all-round game, capable of rising for clean intercepts before hitting the ground running with serious speed on the rebound. He could do with some polish in his decision making, but has the kind of upside that clubs will jump at towards the back-end of the first round. Of course, Sydney has already made its intentions clear in that its current picks are on the table, with a stronger 2023 hand in the Swans’ sights. Should a deal evade them, Lewis Hayes, Brayden George, and Lachlan Cowan could be in contention, among a slew of others.
Pick 21 (GWS) – Jacob Konstanty
Small Forward | 177cm | 73kg | 09/11/2004
Capping off our version of the first round is Jacob Konstanty, who has been heavily linked to GWS. The Giants have back-to-back picks here, but may put this one on the table if a club like Melbourne, Carlton, or Essendon comes calling. The first round may also be extended by bids on Giants Academy member Harry Rowston, or Essendon father-son Alwyn Davey Jr. If that’s not the case, Konstanty is a great fit for GWS as a genuine small forward who offers a blend of punishing tackling pressure and attacking creativity. Brayden George and Josh Weddle would also be good fits if available, while Charlie Clarke is another Victorian who is seemingly willing to make the trip north. It looms as an exciting haul for the Giants either way.
Pick 22 (GWS) – Charlie Clarke
Forward/Midfielder | 182cm | 80kg | 04/01/2004
Justification: Has been heavily linked with GWS as early as the first round, adds flair as a small forward with potential to develop through midfield.
Pick 23 (West Coast) – Darcy Jones
Midfielder | 174cm | 63kg | 03/04/2004
Justification: Will have suitors like GWS in round two, but is a local talent who could fill a gap in any third of the ground with his line-breaking speed and skill.
Pick 24 (Western Bulldogs) – Olli Hotton
Midfielder/Forward | 181cm | 77kg | 06/09/2004
Justification: Could look for a more genuine small forward, but will likely go with a Clarke, Jones, or Hotton type with Busslinger linked at pick 12.
Pick 25 (Essendon) – Lewis Hayes
Key Defender | 197cm | 81kg | 17/12/2004
Justification: Genuine key defensive depth and one of the best available on talent, best case scenario for the Bombers to select before a bid on Alwyn Davey Jr.
Pick 26 (North Melbourne) – Max Gruzewski
Tall Defender/Forward | 193cm | 84kg | 21/07/2004
Justification: After bringing in a midfielder and forward, the Roos go tall in round two and snap up a highly developable one at that – aerially eye-catching and can play at both ends.
Pick 27 (Hawthorn) – Harry Barnett
Ruck | 202cm | 93kg | 22/01/2004
Justification: Potentially a best available pick, though the Hawks may look for talls here given they ticked the midfielder box in round one.
Pick 28 (Essendon) – Alwyn Davey Jr (bid matched)
Small Forward/Midfielder | 181cm | 77kg | 26/02/2004
Justification: Collingwood plays villain again with a father-son bid but the Dons won’t mind too much given it comes after their second round pick.
Pick 29 (Collingwood) – Isaac Keeler
Key Forward/Ruck | 198cm | 88kg | 23/04/2004
Justification: The Pies require some long-term ruck-forward depth and Keeler provides it with potential more indicative of first round status.
Pick 30 (West Coast) – Coby Burgiel
Midfielder | 183cm | 80kg | 09/09/2004
Justification: Would add a bit of grunt, flair, and goalkicking potential to the Eagles’ midfield mix in the long-term. Possibly ranked higher on many clubs’ boards.
Pick 31 (Collingwood) – Jakob Ryan
Medium Defender | 189cm | 77kg | 20/09/2004
Justification: The Magpies would be jumping up and down if Ryan fell to this pick, given their interest in him much earlier and the fact many other clubs are courting him.
Pick 32 (St Kilda) – James Van Es
Key Defender | 197cm | 99kg | 07/08/2004
Justification: Really solid key defensive depth in the long-term whose athleticism and contested prowess make for an exciting blend.
Pick 33 (Carlton) – Jaiden Magor
Midfielder/Forward | 184cm | 75kg | 16/02/2004
Justification: Adds power and goalkicking flair Carlton needs in the small-medium department, with potential to pinch hit in midfield down the line.
Pick 34 (Fremantle) – Tom McCallum
Tall Defender | 192cm | 82kg | 15/05/2004
Justification: A ruck or key defender is in Fremantle’s midst, and despite the local talent on offer, McCallum is a highly athletic and versatile option who would be considered if available.
Pick 35 (GWS) – Hugh Bond
Inside Midfielder/Defender | 185cm | 82kg | 25/09/2004
Justification: The Giants will likely snap up some speedy smalls, so why not add a bit of grunt later in the piece? Bond does that as a midfielder who can also lock down in defence.
Pick 36 (St Kilda) – Henry Hustwaite
Midfielder/Defender | 195cm | 82kg | 20/07/2004
Justification: One who would be a bargain in this range, he’s essentially a best available selection who compliments the tall midfielder and key defender already taken – fittingly as a mix of both.
Pick 37 (Port Adelaide) – Joe Richards
Midfielder | 176cm | 71kg | 23/05/2000
Justification: Some clubs have shown interest even further up the order, and Port may be the one to snap Richards up as the first mature-ager off the board.
Pick 38 (Melbourne) – Mitch Szybkowski
Inside Midfielder | 186cm | 86kg | 09/01/2004
Justification: You can never have enough midfielders, and Szybkowski looms as a value pick should he slide out of the top 30. He’s reliable and a hard worker the Demons would love.
LEFT ON THE BOARD:
There remains plenty of talent yet to be picked across what is such an even first couple of rounds. GWS will anticipate a bid for Academy product Harry Rowston around this range, and could consider a player like Noah Long depending on what occurs earlier.
Among those who will also attract second round interest are running machine Jaxon Binns and classy small Harvey Gallagher, while West Australian bolter Kaleb Smith seems to be on a few clubs’ wish lists. Same goes for tall defender Jed Adams.
Elsewhere, the likes of Sam Gilbey and Jed Hagan are other West Aussies who offer great value. Blake Drury and Oakleigh teammate Luke Teal may come into the fold around this range, as well as Bendigo’s Jason Gillbee. Luckily for Essendon, NGA talent Anthony Munkara looks like sliding past pick 40.