AFL Draft Watch: Riley Hardeman (Swan Districts/WA)

SWAN Districts draft prospect Riley Hardeman is one of four West Australians included in this year’s National Academy, and the first of the quartet to have earned a WAFL League debut. The hard running top-ager turned out at the top level today, ticking off another milestone in his storied junior career. He’s the player under the microscope in the return of our AFL Draft Watch series.

>> Ones to Watch: WA U18 summer squad

Riley Hardeman

Height: 185cm

Weight: 75kg

DOB: 27-02-2005

>> PREVIEW: 2023 WAFL Colts season


Hardeman burst onto the scene as a double under-ager in the 2021 WAFL Colts season, quickly cementing his spot in the Swans’ premiership side. He averaged 12 touches across 14 games that year and even got to represent his state at Under 17 level.

His bottom-age campaign in 2022 saw another step up in competition, with Hardeman accumulating whopping numbers in his half-dozen Colts games. He was subsequently promoted for five Reserves digs at the back-end of the season.

The running machine also played up at state level once more, representing WA thrice at the Under 18 National Championships. Hardeman’s accolades saw him deservedly earn a spot in the AFL Academy for 2023, and he was a lock for his League debut after two senior appearances in preseason.


Hardeman was named at half-back for Swan Districts, thrown straight into the fire as a starter for his maiden League appearance. He got to showcase some of his best traits from behind the ball, a relatively friendly role, en route to collecting 10 disposals (five kicks, five handballs) and six marks. The game was a belter too, though Hardeman’s Swans went down by a point to East Perth, 12.8 (80) to 11.13 (79) at Leederville Oval.


It doesn’t take long to recognise that Hardeman is an elite runner, suited mostly to the outside. While certainly capable of racking up possessions at the centre bounces, the versatile talent has mostly cut his teeth on a wing and at half-back. There, he works hard both ways to penetrate either arc and spread the play from side to side with his booming left foot. He’s also handy overhead. In essence, Hardeman is effective in transition and suits the modern game with his willingness to take it on.


Naturally, one of the areas for such a prolific outside runner to improve is his inside game and contested acumen. Though, Hardeman isn’t afraid to have a crack and will likely play in roles which suit his style. His kicking can be a weapon, but the teenager plays at speed and can look to polish up his pinpoint passes when moving at full tilt. Otherwise, he plays to his strengths well.


“The Swan Districts standout was productive as a rebounder in the first half, working back to the last line and setting off as soon as he won possession. He began to get more involved at the contest in term three and got his typically sharp left-foot kicking going, while also rising for a brave overhead mark at full stretch in the corridor.” – 2022 Under 17 Futures match

“Hardeman was a constant out on the wing. He put his running power on show with a mix of speed and endurance, chasing up loose balls in the expanses of Princes Park and driving the ball forward on the outside. Possessing a raking left-foot kick, Hardeman also looked to switch the ball and be aggressive with his decision making to shift the angles as Western Australia transitioned.” – WA vs. Vic Metro, 2022 AFL U18s

“Hardeman had his hands full but fought his way into the contest. He was worked over in the early stages before getting his own back, using his patented pace to break on the counter and carry Swan Districts out of defence. The 2023-eligible prospect can refine his disposal at speed, but showed good intent to take on risky kicks and get his side looking dangerous on the rebound.” – Swan Districts vs. Claremont, 2021 WAFL Colts Grand Final

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