Academy Watch: Bottom-agers earn VFL berths

A RAFT of Northern Academy prospects have been filtering into the VFL and Under 18 National Championships over the last month, since the 2024 Academy Series wrapped up. We cast our eye over each program to see which top prospects are getting opportunities at high levels.

>> Coates Talent League: 2024 Academy Series recap


A handful of Lions Academy prospects have featured for the Allies, across three different age groups. Arguably the best of the lot is Samuel Marshall, who is listed in Brisbane’s VFL squad alongside father-son prospect Levi Ashcroft, but is yet to earn a berth in 2024 due to other commitments.

Marshall has averaged 27 disposals across the Allies’ three games to date, performing consistently in a midfield alongside bottom-age star Daniel Annable. The latter prised seven clearances against South Australia in game one and has been a beast around the contest. He’s one to watch for 2025.

Other Lions to feature at the Under 18 National Championships include forward/midfielder Fergus McFadyen, tall defender Ryan Gilder, and key forward/ruck Billy Richardson. Meanwhile, over-ager Rohan Bailey has played three games at VFL level for a best of 10 disposals in the Round 6 Q-Clash.

Billy Richardson contests in the ruck | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central


After leading 2024 talent Leonardo Lombard won a VFL premiership at 16 years of age last year, Gold Coast has continued to blood bottom-agers in the state league. Of late, 2025-eligible prospects Beau Addinsall, Jai Murray, and Dylan Patterson have all earned senior debuts.

Lombard’s sole VFL game came all the way back in Round 1, where he racked up 28 disposals and eight marks in a 23-point loss to Richmond. Otherwise, he has been dominant with the Allies, posting 32 and 27 disposals across the first two games before being tested by Vic Metro’s midfield in game three.

Addinsall has played in the Suns’ last three VFL games, leaving his best until last with 15 touches and six tackles in a draw with Sandringham. Classy utility Murray (15 disposals, six marks) made his debut in that game along with top-ager Nelson Beikoff-Smart, who managed eight touches.

Like Addinsall, Lachlan Gulbin has played three straight games at state league level, with a top return of 11 disposals and six tackles in Round 9. Fellow top-ager Zai Millane got a run in Round 10 against Werribee – the same game Patterson made his maiden appearance.

Zai Millane in Suns colours | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

A handful of over-agers have also featured throughout the VFL season. Finn Hay and Charlie Elliott have six games under their belts, while Joshua Zanker-Close has turned out twice to date. Ty Fitzgerald and Jezz Butler have also broken into the reigning premiership side.

Along with Lombard and Millane, three more Suns were included in the Allies squad. Bottom-ager Zeke Uwland has starred as one of the tournament’s leading disposal getters. Whether across half-back, the wing or in midfield, he has a knack for gaining serious meterage with his run and elite kicking skills.

Another 2007-born prospect, Kalani White started at full back in game one. The 2025 draft candidate is also tied to Melbourne as a father-son. Elsewhere, 191cm high-flyer Caleb Nancarrow is yet to be unleashed at the Under 18 National Championships but could feature in game four on July 7.

>> Power Rankings: June 2024 update


Giants Academy captain Josaia Delana was a Round 1 starter in the VFL, having 10 disposals and five tackles against Footscray. He went on to lead the Under 18 squad before representing NSW-ACT and the Allies, and returning to the state league with 13 touches in Round 12.

Delana was most often utilised as a midfielder for the Giants Under 18s, but has spent much more time up forward at higher levels. He took his chance with both hands when rotated on-ball for the Allies though, having 19 disposals and 14 tackles against Western Australia in game two.

Arguably the Giants’ top prospect at this stage is Logan Smith. The 204cm talent starred in charcoal and orange and has been the Allies’ starting ruck. While tested, his exploits earned him a VFL berth where he posted 12 disposals (10 handballs) and 23 hitouts against Port Melbourne.

Logan Smith competes in the ruck | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Fellow top-ager Riley Hamilton also turned out in the state league across rounds 11 and 12. He is yet to pinch a goal but managed two minor scores from nine touches over the weekend. Over-ager Daniel Gauci played between rounds seven and nine, while tall Charlie McCormack had a run in Round 1.

Along with Delana and Smith, key position swingman Cooper Bell has been a feature for the Allies. Though capable of playing forward, defence has been the athletic tall’s home thus far. He has taken on some tough jobs, including a great battle with WA’s Kayle Gerreyn in Blacktown.


A pair of over-agers have been the Swans’ only Academy representatives in the VFL this year. James Lugsdin has seven games under his belt, including a standout effort of 16 disposals, five marks, and four goals against GWS in Round 6. Lugsdin did not turn out in the Coates Talent League.

Cabor did, but has also added another three VFL games to his resume. The explosive and versatile small was selected in the first two rounds, before returning with a season-best 12 disposals and five tackles in Round 12 over the weekend.

Outside of that pair, a handful of Swans were included in the Allies squad. Academy captain Joe Harrison has played as a forward with time in the middle, while fellow top-agers Joel Cochran and Nicholas Andreacchio have proven to be a productive tall/small combination in defence.

In the bottom-age category, Lachlan Carmichael is already being entrusted with the kick-in duties alongside Cochran and Andreacchio down back. Wingman/forward Noah Chamberlain has also showed glimpses of his potential and athleticism at 191cm.

Joel Cochran in action for the Allies | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

>> Allies Scouting Notes: Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3

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