Caiden Cleary

height: 182cm

weight: 79kg

D.O.B: 05-03-2005

Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys

  • Snapshot
  • Analysis
  • Summary

SNAPSHOT: “An inside bull who also works hard on the outside, Caiden Cleary impacts going both ways with serious power.”

The historically prosperous Sydney Swans Academy has produced a rather even crop in 2023, headlined by midfielder Caiden Cleary. Whether it’s burrowing in at a stoppage or waxing with teammates in transition, the hard running on-baller consistently finds a way to impact games.

Cleary came into his draft year on the back of strong bottom-age form, which saw him represent NSW-ACT and the Allies. He also capped off the 2022 season with a starring performance in the Under 17 Futures game, leading all comers with 31 disposals at the MCG on AFL Grand Final day.

This year, he dominated for the Swans Academy with averages of 27 disposals, seven clearances, and six tackles across four games, while also earning All Australian selection for his consistent national carnival with the Allies. There, he averaged 29 touches, four clearances, and seven tackles.

Cleary also broke through for repeat runs at VFL level, turning out six times in Swans colours. His best outing at the level yielded 22 disposals and seven clearances against Greater Western Sydney – a haul which he matched the next week against eventual premier, Gold Coast.

The 18-year-old has traits comparable to Taylor Adams and Lachie Neale, but also looks up to former Sydney champion Josh Kennedy. Pending the 2023 draft and trade period, he could well end up playing alongside Adams next year if all goes to plan.



+ Clean hands
+ Consistency
+ Endurance
+ Inside game
+ Power
+ Work rate


- Composure
- Kicking

It is little surprise that Cleary is such a consistent accumulator of possessions, with his strong inside game balanced by an equally powerful running capacity. The core of his game starts at stoppage, where Cleary is constantly found at the bottom of packs cleanly extracting the ball and dishing it out by hand.

Unlike many other, more flashy midfielders who come through the pathway, Cleary is also prepared to get stuck in defensively. In this year's National Championships, he averaged 6.8 tackles and 11.3 contested possessions to go with disposal hauls of 24, 28, 29, and 36 - highlighting his constant effort and ball winning prowess.

At 182cm, Cleary is relatively well built and has the strength to break tackles. He also gets to the outside on the back of a strong running capacity, highlighted by his 6:06 2km time trial. Having played on a wing last year, Cleary is capable of staying involved away from the contest, and also combines well with teammates in transition.

Despite having little trouble getting his hands on the ball away from the contest, much of Cleary's growth areas observed in his outside game. He could certainly do with more polish when it comes to kicking, where he tends to dump the ball long or blaze away under pressure.

Lowering his eyes was a focus of Cleary's preseason, especially when carrying the ball at full tilt. He also seemed to favour going by hand at times this year, lacking the confidence in his kicking. Though, to his credit, many of his deficiencies were ironed out to an extent throughout the year, in which he displayed notable improvement.

Elsewhere, Cleary could look to further enhance his hurt factor with more scoreboard impact. He often launches scoring chains and posted good numbers for score involvements this year, but splitting the big sticks is certainly something he can add to his developing outside craft.



While Sydney may have been hopeful to see Cleary slip through to the Rookie Draft, it seems increasingly likely that after a terrific top-age season, the Swans may have to match a bid during the National intake. In terms of attributes, he’s a proven ball winner with the power and strength to compete with mature bodies, but still some polish to add. Expect him to attract a bid in the second round or beyond.

Clean hands
Inside game
Work rate

AFL U18 Championships


Coates Talent League Boys

2022Swans Academy38508812001600164049.512.522.
2023Swans Academy4266108190017001672410.516.527.
Caiden Cleary Articles
View All