PROFILED | 2023 AFL U18 All Australian Team

THE 2023 AFL All Australian team was announced last week, featuring 23 of the nation’s brightest draft prospects. After taking out a historic undefeated title, the Allies dominate the side with eight players including captain and Larke Medal winner Ryley Sanders. We profile each AA squad member.

>> Announced: 2023 AFL U18 All Australian Team

Back Pocket: Will Patton
South Australia | 193cm | 04/01/2005

The South Australian captain was steadfast down back, forced to showcase more of his defensive acumen to support his ability to set up play. Whether matching up on tall or small opponents, Patton found success for averages of 17 disposals and six rebound 50s, while also using the ball to good effect at 90 per cent efficiency.

Full Back: Connor O’Sullivan (MVP)
Allies | 198cm | 19/05/2005

Taking out the Allies MVP from a truly talented field, O’Sullivan was the focal point in his side’s defence and just about everything went through him. He leant on his mobility to work from contest to contest, impacting aerially, but also got busy in transitional play and made great decisions with ball in hand. His dynamism was shown in stats of 18 disposals and eight marks per the four games.

Back Pocket: Ollie Murphy (MVP)
Vic Metro | 200cm | 16/09/2005

Vic Metro’s MVP and a steady performer throughout each outing, Murphy has cemented his status as a first round prospect. He was composed on his side’s the last line, balancing offence with defence by choosing the ideal times to intercept or spoil. At 200cm, he’s another athletic tall who impacts in the air but is also comfortable distributing the ball by foot.

Half Back Flank: Riley Hardeman
Western Australia | 185cm | 27/02/2005

The West Australian captain and National Academy member is a classic half-back who loves to run and carry. He often sparked the Sandgropers’ attacks with a blend of speed and endurance, linking play up the ground and complimenting that offensive flair with his defensive reading of the play. Hardeman, who has senior experience with Swan Districts, averaged 19 disposals and six marks.

Centre Half Back: Daniel Curtin (MVP)
Western Australia | 195cm | 08/03/2005

Curtin can play just about anywhere, but fits into the All Australian team at centre half-back having also thrived in midfield and pinch-hit in attack. He boosted his standing among the top five prospects and took out Western Australia’s MVP award, proving a shining light with his versatility, decision making, and wand-like left-foot kicking. Curtin averaged 24 disposals and seven marks per game.

Half Back Flank: Archie Roberts
Vic Metro | 182cm | 18/11/2005

An attacking defender who set up countless transitional forays for Vic Metro, Roberts’ style of play saw him do his best work facing forward. The left-footer used his weapons to advantage and found the target more often than not with his average of 21 disposals, proving a shrewd decision maker and key part of his side’s ball movement through the lines.

>> Recap: 2023 AFL U18 National Championships

Wing: Jake Rogers
Allies | 170cm | 02/03/2005

Named on a wing, Rogers is capable of playing on both sides of midfield but is arguably most effective on the inside. The diminutive ball winner is incredibly well-rounded, proving clean at the coalface but agile enough to break creatively to the outside, while also using his speed and core strength to contribute defensively. He notched up averages of 23 disposals, six clearances, and five tackles.

Centre: Ryley Sanders (Larke Medal & Captain)
Allies | 186cm | 21/01/2005

The Larke Medallist and All Australian captain, Sanders also skippered the Allies’ title-winning victory over Vic Metro. Averaging 15 contested possessions and five clearances per his 35 disposals, the Tasmanian is a clean inside ball winner who has significantly expanded his game this year to have a say going both ways, and on the outside. He was simply dominant in each outing.

Wing: Colby McKercher
Allies | 182cm | 12/04/2005

Placing second in the Larke Medal voting behind fellow Tasmanian, Sanders, McKercher was just as prolific for his averages of 33 disposals and six clearances. He often started on the wing but had a significant say on the inside too, carving through traffic with a sharp turn of speed and hurting the opposition with darting left-foot kicks. His two goals in game four against Vic Country were crucial.

Ruck: Ethan Read
Allies | 202cm | 07/07/2005

The ruck who fed the Allies’ dominant ball winners, Read was somewhat of a fourth midfielder himself. His incredible dexterity, running capacity, and clean skills at over 200cm make him a unique prospect with all the upside recruiters could ask for. He put it all on show, along with strong marking around the ground, for averages of 22 disposals, eight grabs, and 13 hitouts per game.

Ruck Rover: Clay Hall
Western Australia | 188cm | 12/05/2005

Hall came into the carnival with senior experience and is right back at the level having been one of Western Australia’s more consistent performers. He added size and a bit of bite to the on-ball group, averaging 27 disposals (11 contested), six clearances and five tackles across the four games. Hall also showed some outside nice traits with his smooth movement and silky left-foot kicking.

Rover: Caiden Cleary
Allies | 182cm | 05/03/2005

The Swans Academy’s standout talent, Cleary was a bull on the inside and hard worker on the outside. He averaged 11 contested possessions and seven tackles to go with 29 disposals per game, mixing his time on both sides of midfield but thriving at the contest. Cleary’s clean extraction ability is his best trait, though he also showed good improvement elsewhere.

>> Remember the names: 2023 AFL U18 MVPs

Half Forward Flank: Sid Draper (MVP)
South Australia | 180cm | 05/07/2006

A rare bottom-age MVP at Under 18 level, Draper was impossible to overlook for the honour and was among South Australia’s best two or three players in each game. He was also his side’s leading ball winner with an average of 25 touches, showcasing elite speed and agility to break from the inside, out. The brother of Arlo recently made his senior debut with South Adelaide.

Centre Half Forward: Jed Walter
Allies | 195cm | 08/06/2005

Arguably the closest contender for top prospect status, Walter bullied opponents with his power and aggression in the air and across the ground. He crashed packs and poured on defensive pressure, throwing his strong frame around across an imposing campaign. Walter booted 11 goals overall to become a two-time All Australian and was captain in the Allies’ first ever win over Vic Metro.

Half Forward Flank: Koen Sanchez
Western Australia | 176cm | 19/01/2005

Having suffered a slew of injury setbacks last year, Sanchez recaptured some of the form which had him so highly touted throughout the pathways. The quick and hard working small midfielder took to his role up forward nicely, finding his groove with some electric play on the attack. He found the goals with frequency, including thrice in a heavy loss to Vic Metro, and averaged 18 disposals per game.

Forward Pocket: Zane Duursma
Vic Country | 189cm | 28/08/2005

Duursma left his best game for the championships until last, snaring four goals to turn the game in Vic Country’s favour against Metro. Having previously had a significant role in midfield, he proved his value as a more natural forward with exciting athletic upside, one-touch marking, and great goal sense. Zane is the brother of Port Adelaide’s Xavier and Yasmin, and looks set to be the highest draft pick of the lot.

Full Forward: Harley Reid (MVP)
Vic Country | 185cm | 17/04/2005

This year’s top talent, Reid was Vic Country’s co-captain and MVP and now becomes a dual All Australian. Having earned the same honour in defence last year, Reid had an interrupted run into the champs and camped in the goalsquare against South Australia before showcasing his contested ball craft with more midfield minutes. He rounded out the Larke Medal podium with averages of 20 disposals, seven clearances, and plenty of fend-offs along the way.

Forward Pocket: Nick Watson
Vic Metro | 170cm | 24/02/2005

A mercurial small forward with enormous talent, Watson booted 14 goals across the championships from an average of 12 disposals. The pocket rocket owned his space inside 50, looking dangerous each time the ball came his way with constant movement and superior forward craft. He booted five goals in a half against Western Australia and four in Vic Metro’s opening game, scoring in each outing.

>> Profiled: The title-winning Allies U18 squad

Interchange: Levi Ashcroft
Vic Metro | 179cm | 18/12/2006

Another bottom-age selection, Ashcroft is the brother of Brisbane’s Will and is thus a father-son prospect for next year. He played three games and would have been an MVP contender had he turned out in all four, averaging 27 disposals. Ashcroft is a natural ball winner who accumulates with ease, balancing enormous smarts with clean possessions and great work rate.

Interchange: Will Green
Vic Metro | 204cm | 08/09/2005

A developing tall pushing into the top 20 frame, Green showcased his potential with three promising performances as Metro’s go-to. He proved hard to move in the ruck, displaying outstanding craft while also expanding his game around the ground. There, he clunked clean marks at the highest point and was mobile enough to lay tackles. The Northern Knights captain averaged 12 touches and 24 hitouts.

Interchange: James Leake
Allies | 188cm | 02/10/2005

A real surprise packet from the fruitful Apple Isle, Leake quickly locked down a role in the Allies’ defence having just snuck in for game one selection. He averaged 16 disposals and five marks per game, proving hard to beat one-on-one with his attack on the ball and athletic traits. With good closing speed and a springy leap, he competed aerially and covered ground aggressively with ball in hand.

Interchange: Finn O’Sullivan
Vic Country | 181cm | 30/05/2006

The MVP of last year’s Under 16 championships, O’Sullivan did not look out of place in his three outings as a bottom-ager during the 2023 Under 18 carnival. Hailing from Koroit but playing for Metro region, Oakeigh Chargers, O’Sullivan is an incredibly well rounded midfielder who does few things wrong and so much right. He’s arguably the leading prospect for next year’s crop, albeit a long way out.

Interchange: George Stevens
Vic Country | 189cm | 14/04/2005

Having missed his entire bottom-age season due to injury, Stevens has made an emphatic return to action in 2023. He cut his teeth as a defender but looks most at home in midfield, utilising his big frame and clean handling on the inside, but also distributing the ball beautifully by foot on the outer. Stevens averaged 19 disposals and six tackles as one of Vic Country’s most consistent performers.

Coach: Mark McVeigh (Allies)

The title-winning mentor and easy choice as All Australian coach, McVeigh steered his Allies side to a historic undefeated campaign. Ask any player under his tutelage and they’ll say he instilled the side with great confidence, while also allowing them to showcase their best traits with an attractive style of play. He helped ensure the Allies’ performance was the sum of all their parts.

>> June Top 20: AFL Draft Power Rankings

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