2023 AFL Draft | Big winners, bolters & sliders

ANOTHER AFL Draft is in the books, with 64 players taken across an intriguing National intake, before 13 more fresh faces landed in the big leagues as rookies. Now that the dust has settled and clubs have finalised their hauls, we take a look at the draft’s big winners, bolters and sliders in 2023.

>> UPDATED: Every pick in the 2023 AFL Draft


Wielding the first pick of the opening two rounds, West Coast was the centre of attention to start both nights of the National Draft. Much of the discourse surrounding this year’s intake revolved around whether the Eagles would trade pick one, and in the end, they held firm to select Harley Reid – the consensus best player available.

The need for Reid extended to West Coast’s next selection, with tall forward Archer Reid called out at pick 30. Local midfielder Clay Hall (pick 38) and Victorian mid-forward Harvey Johnston (49) rounded out a strong quartet, before Next Generation Academy product Coen Livingstone and South Australian speedster Loch Rawlinson made it a haul of six fresh faces, all of the minimum draft age.

Geelong ended up with the biggest National Draft intake, selecting six players ranging from picks 11 to 63. The Cats traded back one spot and still landed Connor O’Sullivan, before addressing their ruck needs with Mitch Edwards and stealing George Stevens and pick 58. The latter had played in Geelong’s VFL side this year and had as large a projected range as any other prospect.

The biggest story though, was how the Cats pulled the trigger on three mature-agers. Shaun Mannagh, the 26-year-old midfielder-forward from Werribee, was called out with pick 36, while Barwon Heads boy Oliver Wiltshire and Lawson Humphries popped up this year to be taken within three picks of each other, very late in the draft. Both are classic Geelong picks, out of relative obscurity.

North Melbourne‘s haul will be spoken about for some time, with concessions allowing the Roos to make five first round selections, before trading out of night two. While Colby McKercher and Zane Duursma are nailed-on guns, Taylor Goad and Wil Dawson project as very raw, yet highly developable key position players. The sheer variety of North’s selections was rounded out by running defender Riley Hardeman.

It would be remiss not to mention Gold Coast, whose haul of Academy graduates stirred controversy among supporters and recruiters alike. Along with the four bids matched on night one – for Jed Walter, Ethan Read, Jake Rogers, and Will Graham – the Suns brought in three rookies and re-listed Sam Day to hit a high of eight new list lodgements.

Northern Territory native William Rowlands was also technically tied to the club via its access to the Darwin zone, while Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medallist Sam Clohesy also spent time with the Suns Academy before turning out for the Calder Cannons, and eventually Werribee in his elongated journey to the AFL.


Carlton picked up the big slider of last year’s draft in Harry Lemmey, and by coincidence was also incredibly happy to land a former top five prospect this year in Ashton Moir. Both South Australians, they were highly regarded as bottom-agers but couldn’t quite recapture the magic across frustrating top-age campaigns – for respective reasons.

Moir’s elite traits – dual-footed kicking, speed, and aerial ability – make him a highly desirable talent, and the Blues are backing their strength and conditioning team to ensure he gets his body right after repeat setbacks this year. He looms as a handy point of difference up forward and could surpass the value of pick 29, which he was selected with.

There’s also the Billy Wilson selection. Despite having cut his teeth mostly as a running defender, Carlton was most impressed by his work through midfield towards the back-end of the Coates Talent League season. With speed and the ability to hit targets by foot, the Blues see him as a point of difference among their current on-ball group. He’ll train with the mids this preseason.

St Kilda was one of a few teams to bring in five players through the National Draft, and pulled the trigger on a couple who could prove to be bargains. First round draftees Darcy Wilson and Lance Collard were both linked with clubs as many as 10 selections higher than where they ended up, so could quickly repay the faith from St Kilda’s recruiting team.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

One of the draft’s biggest sliders was Arie Schoenmaker, who proved too good to refuse all the way down at pick 62. The Tasmanian superboot hit his straps after serving an off-field suspension early in the year and was touted by some as a top 30 chance. Hugo Garcia was also a big surprise at pick 50, while Angus Hastie landed at pick 33 which is arguably spot on for his value.

Between both clubs, there was the bravery shown to pull the trigger on players they rated highly, while the Saints also swept up a slider to round out their National Draft haul. Add to it the pre-season draft signing of Riley Bonner, and there could be some serious return for investment in the short-term, though, it could just as likely go the other way with such a big and diverse intake.


Adelaide, Essendon, and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) utilised live trading to sneak in and nab some top-end talent on night one. The Crows made arguably the biggest move of the first round by trading in for Daniel Curtin at pick eight, while the Bombers and Giants snuck up a spot each to secure Nate Caddy and James Leake respectively from Geelong and St Kilda.

GWS was particularly shrewd with its draft strategy. The Giants were heavily linked with Leake and could have jumped at him with their first pick, but instead opted to take Phoenix Gothard after getting word that another team may be in for him. It all worked out in the end, with both Allies representatives coming through the door alongside night two additions Joe Fonti and Harvey Thomas.

Sydney, renowned for its bidding tendencies, lived up to the ‘Bidney’ tag once again with consecutive digs on Jake Rogers (Gold Coast) and Jordan Croft (Western Bulldogs). Instead of trading out like last year, the Swans then nabbed their man Will Green with pick 16. In a good bit of business, Sydney also secured Lions Academy product Patrick Snell, who did not meet the eligibility criteria for Brisbane.

Image Credit: AFL Photos

The Swans got their own back when Caiden Cleary was bid on by Collingwood at pick 24. While slightly peeved, Sydney matched and the Pies were then able to swoop on Harry De Mattia. After missing out on Cleary, another club-tied player was in Collingwood’s midst and this time he was gettable. Hawthorn NGA prospect Tew Jiath was selected just before the pick 40 deadline, marking some very handy recruiting from the Pies.

Clubs were made to get creative on night two and Richmond proved among the most shrewd of the lot. The Tigers traded down twice and still managed to get powerful ball winner Kane McAuliffe at pick 40, before packaging up the South Australian with state teammate and tall forward Liam Fawcett. In doing so, they add some midfield grunt and address the need for key position depth.

The Tigers bolstered their hand of future picks in the process, while Port Adelaide‘s thinned out after trading into night two. The Power turned a very lean hand into three high forwards with great running capacity, craft, and versatility between them. Having targeted key backs and rucks during trade period, Port executed its recruiting strategy to a tee by addressing another need at the draft and getting creative to do so.


GWS called out the first genuine bolter of the draft in Phoenix Gothard, who was ecstatic to land at the Giants with pick 12. It meant they were able to bring in another bolter of sorts in James Leake, who had once been linked with the club’s opening selection.

Adelaide picked up one of the crop’s steepest late-season risers in Charlie Edwards at pick 21, and put plenty of faith in Oscar Ryan just six selections later to round out its National Draft haul. The Crows gave thought to trading down, but pulled the trigger on Ryan who was in attendance to support his mates.

Having overlooked Curtin early in the piece, North Melbourne jumped at a couple of very raw key position players in Taylor Goad and Wil Dawson with picks 20 and 22. Earlier, Melbourne took a couple of players at the very top of their value in Caleb Windsor (pick seven) and Koltyn Tholstrup (13).

Geelong’s haul featured the feel good story of Shaun Mannagh, while Oliver Wiltshire was plucked from local footy and Lawson Humphries did much of his work in the WAFL Reserves this year. All three players were overlooked at the draft multiple times but did enough in 2023 to catch the Cats’ eyes.

Some labelled Billy Wilson as a bolter at Carlton’s pick 34, but the Blues were adamant his value lay right in that hitting zone. At pick 50, St Kilda nabbed Hugo Garcia as one of the more eye-catching names to earn a shot during the National Draft.


St Kilda would have been pleased to secure Darcy Wilson and Lance Collard arguably at the end of their respective draft ranges, but well and truly got a bargain in Arie Schoenmaker at pick 62. Clubs did their due diligence on the Tasmanian after his 10-game suspension this year, and the Saints backed his elite kicking despite conceding the defender still has areas to work on.

A player long considered a top 25 talent was Archie Roberts, who finally fell to Essendon with pick 54. The rebound defender is an incisive kicker whose repeat running efforts help set up play from half-back. He could repay the faith massively, and alongside Luamon Lual, is just the kind of running back that the Bombers needed.

Fremantle would have been happy to see Vic Metro MVP Ollie Murphy available with pick 41. After rising up boards during the National Championships, he slid back down and is a handy developmental pick in the key defensive slot. He could also try his hand up forward, where he spent plenty of time playing as a junior.

South Australian goalsneak Jack Delean was also a value pick for Fremantle at 60, given the type of tricks he has up his sleeve. Geelong put faith in George Stevens after a terrific year, and with a couple of Cats VFL games under his belt. The 189cm, 101kg behemoth split recruiters given his lack of modern day AFL traits, but his consistency, character, and diligence to return in 2023 have proven admirable.

>> RECAPS: Night One | Night Two

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