23 in 2023: A look ahead to next year’s top prospects

WITH the 2022 AFL Draft now behind us, it is time for clubs and fans alike to turn their attention to the 2023 crop. Hailed as a potential super draft, next year’s prospects look like an exciting bunch with a typically strong top-end, and a good blend of smalls and talls. Without further ado, we list our top 23 to watch in 2023, as featured in this year’s AFL Draft Guide.

23 for 2023

TOP PICK: Harley Reid
17/04/2005 | 185cm | Utility
Bendigo Pioneers / Vic Country

There is no more impressive bottom-ager in the country than Reid, so much so, that many say he would be a top five lock as early as this year. While he looks most comfortable as a midfielder-forward, the game-winning utility has shown his wares behind the ball and can genuinely play on every line. He is already powerfully built and looked as accomplished as anyone throughout his NAB League and National Championship campaigns. With strong athleticism and a knack for remarkable feats both in the air and across the ground, Reid will quickly become a fan favourite.

Nate Caddy
14/07/2005 | 190cm | Forward
Northern Knights / Vic Metro

One of the standout prospects in next year’s crop, Caddy comes from good pedigree out of Melbourne’s north. He has arguably grown far past his 190cm listing, presenting as a key forward who attacks aerial contests with vigour and eye-catching athleticism. He may also have eyes on more midfield minutes.

Daniel Curtin
08/03/2005 | 195cm | Key Defender
Claremont / Western Australia

Curtin has been a top performer at representative level over the last two years, shining for Western Australia’s Under 17 side and in the recent Futures showcase. He was best afield in the latter game, displaying his poise in possession and sound intercept marking down back. With the potential to swing forward, there’s plenty to like.

Jack Delean
15/04/2005 | 181cm | Small Forward
South Adelaide / South Australia

Delean has long been on the radar of those who pay attention to the SANFL Under 18 competition, having consistently proven himself as a dangerous goalkicker. The crafty small can also push further afield, but looks most at home close to goal with his smarts and innate finishing ability.

Zane Duursma has top 10 potential | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Zane Duursma
28/08/2005 | 188cm | Forward
Gippsland Power / Vic Country

The third in line from the Duursma clan, Zane is a natural forward who translates his traits when pinch-hitting in midfield. At 188cm and growing, he’s an aerial asset with wonderfully clean hands and a springy leap, while also looking smooth across the ground. Has top 10 potential.

Mitchell Edwards
02/06/2005 | 205cm | Ruck
Peel Thunder / Western Australia

One of the top rucks for next year at this early stage, Edwards has established himself at high levels in 2022. He played up as a bottom-ager for Western Australia, and formed a terrific tall partnership with Jackson Broadbent in Peel Thunder’s Colts premiership team. Moves well for his size with huge upside, and is part of Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy.

Riley Hardeman
27/02/2005 | 185cm | Wing
Swan Districts / Western Australia

Another bottom-ager who got a run in WA’s Under 18 squad, Hardeman is an absolute ball magnet on the outside. Whether it be on the wing or off half-back, the Swan Districts standout loves to break the lines with his speed-endurance blend. Though a touch light-on, he has already cracked the Reserves grade and will have eyes on the top flight of WAFL footy.

Will Lorenz
19/05/2005 | 186cm | Midfielder
Oakleigh Chargers / Vic Metro

Part of the prolific Oakleigh Chargers talent region, Lorenz is another who tore it up in representative games and looks every bit the top 20 talent. His deft agility, lethal left foot, and ability to hit the scoreboard are all factors which make him a damaging type through midfield or forward or centre.

Hawthorn may have a father-son on its hands in Will McCabe | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Will McCabe
29/09/2005 | 195cm | Key Defender/Forward
Central District / South Australia (HAW F/S)

Hawthorn fans are eagerly awaiting the potential arrival of McCabe, a father-son candidate and the son of Luke. The South Australian remains a raw type, but proved his potential as SA’s Under 16 MVP this year. He possesses impressive athleticism and aerial ability which are applicable at either end of the ground.

Colby McKercher
12/04/2005 | 181cm | Midfielder
Tasmania Devils / Allies

McKercher shapes as the Tasmania Devils’ top talent in 2023, having already established himself as a key member of the squad. A speedy mover through midfield, the prolific 17-year-old takes ground in front of him and loves spearing passes inside 50 off his favoured left side. Has Allies Under 18 experience.

Ashton Moir
15/04/2005 | 186cm | Forward
Glenelg / South Australia

A potential challenger for the number one mantle, Moir’s sheer breadth of traits is enviable. He kicks with uncanny fluency off both feet, has the athleticism to fly for marks overhead, and can adapt his game to multiple roles. As it stands, he looks most dangerous inside 50 where he’s a real match winner.

Will Patton
04/01/2005 | 191cm | Defender
West Adelaide / South Australia

Patton is a player who took little time to establish himself at Under 18 level, doing so with hardly a hitch for West Adelaide. ‘The General’ in Westies’ and South Australia’s defence, he is capable of playing tall with his intercept marking, but also looks comfortable in possession on the rebound.

Nathan Philactides’ speed is a damaging asset | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Nathan Philactides
10/01/2005 | 180cm | Defender
Oakleigh Chargers / Vic Metro

A run-and-gun type of defender who stamped his claims in Oakleigh Chargers’ stacked lineup, Philactides was also part of Vic Metro’s championship-winning squad. He takes the game on with speed and power, not afraid to bite off as much as he can on the rebound. A move further afield into midfield or onto the wing may be in his midst.

Archer Reid
19/09/2005 | 201cm | Key Forward
Gippsland Power / Vic Country

The brother of Essendon’s Zach Reid, Archer shapes as an opposite bookend. He has all the traits of a high-upside key forward/ruck, displaying clean skills below his knees, aerial nous, and a good deal of mobility. Reid was part of a strong Gippsland side which won the NAB League minor premiership.

Archie Roberts
18/11/2005 | 183cm | Defender
Sandringham Dragons / Vic Metro

Roberts is another rebounding defender who racks up plenty of possessions, and will potentially end up on the opposite flank to Philactides for Vic Metro. He has some filling out to do, but positions well behind the ball and is gutsy enough to intercept, before using his foot skills to swiftly set up attacks.

Ryley Sanders
21/01/2005 | 185cm | Midfielder
Sandringham Dragons / Allies

A second Tasmanian in our 23, Sanders has long been considered one of his state’s best prospects for 2023. The midfielder isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty on the inside, using his size and clean hands to feed others with great frequency and efficiency. He made the move to Melbourne in 2022, boarding at Melbourne Grammar.

Cooper Simpson is super classy in possession | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Cooper Simpson
13/02/2005 | 181cm | Midfielder/Forward
Dandenong Stingrays / Vic Country

Simpson proved undeniable across what ended up being a highly successful bottom-age campaign. In helping Dandenong reach the NAB League grand final, he showcased great ball winning nous, smarts and speed as a midfielder who can also snare goals when rotating forward.

George Stevens
10/08/2005 | 190cm | Defender
GWV Rebels / Vic Country

Somewhat of an unknown heading into 2023, Stevens is a strongly-built defender who looked terrific while representing Vic Country’s Under 17s as a bottom-ager. Unfortunately, he missed all of 2022 after an ACL tear, but has the talent to suggest he can easily push into this kind of range next year.

Koltyn Tholstrup
28/06/2005 | 188cm | Forward
Subiaco / Western Australia

A super dynamic and flashy utility who looks most damaging in the forward half, Tholstrup is an easy one to remember by name value at the least. He also lets his footy do the talking, possessing explosive athleticism, aerial ability, and good skills as a primary forward who can impact through the middle of the ground.

Jed Walter
08/06/2005 | 194cm | Key Forward
Suns Academy / Allies

The standout key forward in next year’s AFL Draft crop, Suns Academy talent Walter has drawn comparisons to Charlie Curnow with his all-round forward craft. In three NAB League games, he booted six goals from 10 disposals and four marks a pop, and looms as the first club-attached player to be bid on in 2023.

Nick Watson is electric in possession | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Nick Watson
24/02/2005 | 169cm | Small Forward
Eastern Ranges / Vic Metro

Another early challenger for top spot in his draft class, Watson has all the swagger and skill that fans love. Though small in stature, the pocket rocket is wickedly clean and clever at ground level, but can take overhead marks and finish his work with eye-catching goals. Can play midfield too, despite his size.

Patrick Weckert
23/01/2005 | 190cm | Forward
Woodville-West Torrens / South Australia

Having famously turned down a League debut to complete his college football commitments with PAC, Weckert eventually cracked the SANFL’s top flight after an eight-goal Reserves outing. The well-developed key forward attacks the aerial ball with vigour and is no stranger to absorbing heavy contact en route to goal.

Darcy Wilson
18/10/2005 | 184cm | Midfielder / Forward
Murray Bushrangers / Vic Country

Wilson rounds out the list as a well-established NAB Leaguer who quickly became a mainstay for the Murray Bushrangers. The smooth-moving midfielder/forward can play inside or out, in the air and at ground level, but will look to add some size before he attacks his top-age campaign. Has high-end potential.

Sam Frangalas is a prospect in the mix | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central


In a draft already touted as being high-end and deeper than the one just past, limiting the list to just 23 players would not do it justice. There’s a blend of some who already have plenty of runs on the board, others who have been named in the AFL Academy, and those who have the potential to break through.

Vic Country promises to produce another strong crop, with Dandenong Stingrays teammates Sam Frangalas and Kobe Shipp among their top talents. The former is a powerful midfielder-forward, and the latter made great strides this year as an intercept/rebound defender.

The pair will be joined in the Stingrays setup by Riak Andrew, the brother of Gold Coast Suns ruck, Mac. Though he is yet to play a NAB League game, his rawness is poised to be met by a strong rate of development in 2023.

Others to get excited about include Luamon Lual, who captained Vic Country’s Under 17 side from defence this year, and electric Murray Bushrangers forward Joeve Cooper. Bendigo is also high on Malik Gordan, a powerful midfielder-forward with traits similar to Reid.

On the Metro side of things, a couple of talls have nice upside. William Green looks like a ruck to monitor having established his place in the Northern Knights side and earned an AFL Academy spot, while Will Brown had a strong finals campaign as Sandringham took out the NAB League premiership.

Speaking of the NAB League, the Allied states will have a good bunch of players take hold as they represent the Northern Academies. Sydney has access to speedsters Caiden Cleary and Lachlan Cabor, and Gold Coast will be buoyed by the talent of ruck Ethan Read and crafty small Jake Rogers.

Joining Cleary and Cabor in the NSW-ACT side of things are Murray Bushrangers tall Connor O’Sullivan and classy Giants Academy product Harvey Thomas, who is also tied to the Oakleigh Chargers. In Tasmania, Jack Callinan is another lively type who already has plenty of runs on the board.

South Australia will have a reliable state side, with the likes of Sturt teammates Alex Holt and Luca Slade among it. North Adelaide’s Kane McAuliffe and Glenelg’s Ben Ridgway have also been prolific in the SANFL Under 18s and make for a strong midfield duo.

After producing five first round selections in 2022 and boasting a superb quartet in the list above, Western Australia may well produce some more talent yet. Peel Thunder wingman Clay Hall is one to watch, while Koen Sanchez has some tricks as another creative small.

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