Ones to Watch: 2023 AFL National Draft Combine

ATHLETICISM is becoming an increasingly pertinent trait at AFL level, and the way players move has always been a good measure of how they may fare in elite systems. Put simply, if you can’t keep up with the speed and intensity of the game or run it out strongly, you’ll be left behind.

Though the eye test is most important to recruiters when assessing talent, the annual draft combines and preseason testing events provide great insight into each prospects’ athletic profile. With this year’s National Combine list recently announced, we run through a few players likely to catch the eye.

>> All 61 players: National Draft Combine invitees


The team at Rookie Me puts players from each state and territory through their paces on the eve of season proper, and top 10 lists are collated across each event from the nationwide pool. Needless to say, many top-end talents put their name in lights before hitting the field this year.

Perhaps the most highly touted of the lot was Darcy Wilson, who achieved the equal-sixth best Yo-Yo Test score of 21.8. He’s a consensus first round prospect who easily made the cut for the National Combine invite list.

Joining him with enough nominations was Sandringham Dragons wingman Tarkyn O’Leary, who got to level 22.1 alongside state combine invitee Harvey Thomas, out of the Giants Academy and Oakleigh Chargers. Both were among the five players place equal-first nationwide.

It is no secret that Nathan Philactides is a supreme athlete with his impressively sharp turn of speed. The run-and-gun defender was seventh-best overall in the preseason agility test, completing it in a rapid time of 7.898 seconds.

A couple of West Australian speedsters also showcased their searing pace. Small forward Lance Collard clocked a second-best 20m sprint time of 2.840 seconds, while 194cm defender Zane Zakostelsky was fourth at 2.850 seconds.

State teammate Aiden O’Driscoll has a good all-round profile, but starred in the running vertical jump despite his 175cm standing. The brother of Fremantle’s Emma and Nathan soared to 99cm, while title-winning Allies forward Phoenix Gothard hit 78cm in the standing jump.

>> Rolling Rankings: The top 40 AFL Draft prospects


Recruiters will be keen to see how the likes of Jed Walter, Nick Watson, and Nate Caddy test given none of them participated in the preseason event. Walter will also likely miss the rest of the season through injury, but all three are terrific and powerful athletes in their own unique ways.

Speedsters are usually the types who capture the most attention at combine events. The likes of Caleb Windsor and Harry De Mattia are sure to keep timekeepers on their toes in the 20m sprint, with Windsor also excelling in the agility test.

A couple more Victorians have that fabled speed-endurance mix. Joel Freijah, an early season bolter, is definitely in that category having impressed on the wing all year, while Vic Country teammate Angus Hastie ticks both boxes and tests well for agility to boot.

There are a few players who will likely prove to be impressively quick for their size, too. The prime example is South Australian ruck Taylor Goad, who ran 20m in under three seconds during preseason. His mobility at 205cm a big reason why he is right up there in the draft frame.

In terms of the high leapers, few players use it better on-field than Zane Duursma. He, and South Australian forwards Ashton Moir and Jack Delean are among the spring-heeled medium types who promise to impress across each vertical jumps.

Needless to say, there are also many good runners in the draft class. Watch for West Australian on-baller Clay Hall to test well for endurance, though the event is slightly different to preseason Yo-Yo Test. Instead, players will undergo a 2km time trial.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments