RECAP | 2023 AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft
THE 2023 AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft went down last night, with 11 clubs making selections and as many fresh faces hitting the big leagues. Two former AFL-listed players – Caleb Poulter and Quinton Narkle – also earned second chances in the 13-player intake. We recap what went down.
HOW IT WENT DOWN
There was little doubt that Gippsland Power forward was considered the consensus number one option, and West Coast followed through with that notion by taking him first off the board. It caps a spectacular rise for the 193cm prospect, who becomes the Eagles’ second consecutive mid-season pick one.
North Melbourne was a side linked with talls at pick two but the Roos instead added to their small forward brigade, snapping up the highly sought after Robert Hansen Jnr. The Subiaco speedster would have otherwise turned out for Western Australia’s Under 18 state squad this year.
That left Hawthorn to select a third over-ager in as many picks, opting for Eastern Ranges ruck Clay Tucker. The 204cm recently made his VFL debut with Box Hill Hawks. Richmond then nabbed a bolter in Glenelg forward Matt Coulthard, who only just qualified within the state league three-game minimum.
After GWS made the first of two passes, Sydney got their man in Brisbane VFL defender Harry Arnold. Fellow 2022 grand finalist Geelong also went readymade with Woodville-West Torrens midfielder Mitch Hardie, before Fremantle pounced on another Box Hill Hawks gun in wingman Ethan Stanley.
Essendon opted to boost its key position stocks with Perth forward Jaiden Hunter, who made full use of his final audition in front of Bombers recruiters, booting five goals. He has come a long way back after being overlooked as a top and over-age prospect, and suffering multiple long-term injuries.
A pair of former-AFL players got their lifelines to see out the first round, with Poulter being promoted by the Western Bulldogs from their reserves, while ex-Cat Narkle now moves to Port Adelaide via Essendon’s VFL side.
Hawthorn was again on the board with its second pick, again going tall with Northern Bullants big man Brandon Ryan. Richmond also picked up an aerialist in its own VFL defender James Trezise, and Sydney made it three talls in as many selections with Claremont ruck-forward Jack Buller.
PICK BY PICK
1. West Coast – Ryan Maric (Gippsland Power)
193cm | Tall Forward | 18yo
It was no surprise to see Maric taken first off the board, with West Coast essentially going for the best available talent. Many clubs pegged the Gippsland Power product as exactly that, with his ability to cover the ground and kick neatly at 193cm considered two of his key strengths. He fits a similar mould to 2022 mid-season pick one Jai Culley, whose knee injury opened up another list spot for the Eagles.
2. North Melbourne – Robert Hansen Jnr (Subiaco)
180cm | Small Forward | 19yo
The first of three players taken out of the WAFL, Hansen was overlooked as a top-ager but has rapidly risen throughout his maiden senior campaign with Subiaco. The fleet of foot forward loves taking the game on and plays the typical small forward role, adding even more competition for that spot in the Roos side. He’ll be exciting to watch.
3. Hawthorn – Clay Tucker (Eastern Ranges)
204cm | Ruck | 18yo
It’s typically a tall’s draft and Tucker was the most highly touted ruck available. He has been on the radar but made notable improvements after not being selected at last year’s draft, showcasing strong ruck craft and developing his work around the ground. Having shifted forward in the second Young Guns game, he only cemented his chances and adds some long-term tall depth to the Hawks’ list.
4. Richmond – Matt Coulthard (Glenelg)
176cm | Small Forward | 22yo
Richmond pulled off the first surprise of the draft, snapping up a bolter in Coulthard. He swaps the yellow and black of Glenelg for Richmond, having only just qualified under the measure of having played exactly three state league games this season. The forward’s third may well have got him over the line, booting four goals to join the side notorious for successful mid-season selections.
5. Greater Western Sydney – PASS
6. Sydney – Harry Arnold (Brisbane Lions VFL)
194cm | Defender | 24yo
Sydney was clearly after key position depth at either end of the ground and identified Arnold as a readymade option out of the Brisbane Lions reserves. The 24-year-old defender is a capable interceptor with good organisational awareness behind the ball, while also being able to take on the opposition’s best forward. He breaks through after being hampered by injury over the last couple of years.
7. Geelong – Mitch Hardie (Woodville-West Torrens)
185cm | Midfielder | 25yo
Geelong went for a more readymade talent and picked up 25-year-old midfielder, Hardie. He started the SANFL season like a house on fire for the Eagles, going on to average 26 disposals and six clearances in seven games. Woodville-West Torrens has been a happy hunting ground for the Cats, having also selected Tyson Stengle from there.
8. Fremantle – Ethan Stanley (Box Hill Hawks)
188cm | Wing/Forward | 19yo
Considered a chance to go to Hawthorn with pick three, Stanley instead heads west to Fremantle. The speedy wingman was playing local Under 19 footy last year with Frankston YCW, but enacted a steep rise once he earned a VFL contract with Box Hill. He takes good ground in front of him and has a booming kick, both of which he showcased in the second Young Guns game recently.
9. Essendon – Jaiden Hunter (Perth)
196cm | Key Forward | 21yo
Hunter did everything he could to ensure Essendon recruiters saw the best of him while in Perth, booting five goals in his most recent outing. The athletic key forward broke through to the WAFL top flight after undeniable reserves form, going on to claim 11 goals in his three League games. He, too was overlooked as a top-ager and suffered repeat injuries thereafter, but just needed an extended run at it.
10. Western Bulldogs – Caleb Poulter (Footscray VFL)
193cm | Wing | 20yo
The first of two former AFL-listed players to earn a second chance, Poulter is yet another promotee from the Footscray VFL ranks. There was intrigue when Collingwood delisted the athletic midfielder last year and he only needed half of a state league campaign to prove his capabilities to the Bulldogs. He could well play this season.
11. Port Adelaide – Quinton Narkle (Essendon VFL)
182cm | Midfielder | 25yo
The 41-game former Cat landed at Port Adelaide with the final pick of the first round, as the Power signalled their intentions as a finals contender. A mature-age recruit with experience and the potential to play straight away, Narkle adds class to his new side’s midfield depth having stuck at it with Essendon’s VFL outfit this year.
12. Hawthorn – Brandon Ryan (Northern Bullants)
200cm | Key Forward | 25yo
Another highly touted tall headed to Hawthorn, Ryan may also be somewhat of a slow burn despite his ripe age of 25. The cousin of Fremantle’s Luke Ryan, Brandon is a key forward who can roll through the ruck, proving mobile and having a good eye for goal. He recently served a three-match suspension, which only disrupted his breakout VFL season en route to the AFL.
13. Richmond – James Trezise (Richmond VFL)
188cm | Defender | 20yo
Richmond’s VFL side has been a prolific producer of talent over the last few years and Trezise marks another homegrown product to earn senior promotion. The intercept defender is another who isn’t far removed from playing local football, but impressed upon entering the VFL system and gets his chance in yellow and black. The Tigers get a player at either end.
14. Greater Western Sydney – PASS
15. Sydney – Jack Buller (Claremont)
199cm | Forward/Ruck | 22yo
Buller was one of the most talked about mid-season hopefuls but was made to sweat on his selection, nabbed by Sydney with the very last pick. The Swans were in dire need of key position depth and got a readymade man in Buller, with the Swans filling posts at either end of the ground. He, too had a breakthrough state league season this year and represented WA in the recent State Game.