Ryan Maric is the top prospect in the 2023 AFL Mid-Season Draft pool. Image: AFL

The Inner Sanctum’s 2023 AFL Mid-Season Phantom Draft is in, with a number of state league hopefuls set to receive AFL lifelines.

With clubs having finalised how many list spots they plan on using ahead of Wednesday night’s Mid-Season Rookie Draft, no more than 15 of the country’s leading overage prospects are expected to find homes.

More than 50 ex-AFL players are among a group of 321 nominees who have put their name forward, with the majority of contenders aligned to a club in the VFL, WAFL, SANFL and Coates Talent League competitions, while 12 players were requested to undergo medical testing by AFL clubs.

Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs entered the season with a vacant list spot, with the Hawks since opening a second spot on their list after a season ending injury to Max Lynch.

Injuries to Jack Mahony, Mitch Georgiades and Jai Culley allow North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and West Coast to each make a selection respectively, while Greater Western Sydney (Adam Kennedy and Darcy Jones), Richmond (Jason Castagna and Kaleb Smith) and Sydney (Sam Reid and Paddy McCartin) each have two selections, with all remaining clubs sitting out of this year’s intake.

Forecasting for Mid-Season Draft selections is quite unpredictable, with players potentially falling as many as 10 spots if they are not picked by a specific team looking at the player. 

See The Inner Sanctum’s 2023 AFL Mid-Season Phantom Draft below. 

1. West Coast Eagles

Ryan Maric

Gippsland Power, Coates Talent League

FWD, 18, 193cm, 83kg

The leading prospect in the pool, Maric is tipped to be the first name called on the night after a strong start to 2023. The Gippsland forward has impressed in a pair of Young Guns games, with his kicking catching the eye of recruiters. After losing 24kg in the last 30 months, Maric has kicked two goals in each of his two appearances for Box Hill in the VFL.

In the mix: The Eagles could elect to go with a local prospect with the first pick, with Claremont key forward Jack Buller high on their radar, while ex-Cat Quinton Narkle and 19 year old speedster Robert Hansen Jnr could come into the mix for West Coast’s only selection. Perth forward Jaiden Hunter has been in fine form recently and could also be considered. There will be a watch on West Coast’s decision to select a local product against a Victorian prospect, which may just give rival clubs an indication of their willingness to invest in an interstate product, potentially laying out their plans for pick one in November.

2. North Melbourne

Clay Tucker

Eastern Ranges, Coates Talent League

RUCK, 18, 204cm, 99kg

The young ruckman who made his VFL debut for Box Hill on Sunday is another who has impressed for the Young Guns, exciting recruiters with his excellent ruck craft and ability to push forward and impact the scoreboard. After picking Jacob Edwards with the first selection in 2021, North Melbourne could look to once again use the Mid-Season Draft to bolster their young ruck stocks, with Todd Goldstein nearing the end of his career.

In the mix: The Kangaroos would almost certainly pounce on Ryan Maric should he get past the first pick, while the club has also been linked to Jack BullerJames Trezise (Richmond) and Ethan Stanley (Box Hill) might be options they look at with their only choice at the draft, while mature age forward Sam Lowson has been a strong performer for the Roos at VFL level. Werribee’s Shaun Mannagh presents another local route for the Kangaroos, while Calder Cannons midfielder Rye Penny could also be on the radar after recording the top score for the vertical jump and 20 metre sprint during Coates Talent League preseason testing. 

3. Hawthorn

Ethan Stanley 

Box Hill, VFL

WING, 19, 188cm, 83kg

The Hawks have had a habit of upgrading players from their VFL affiliate to the AFL list, a trend they could look to continue at this year’s Mid-Season Draft. Stanley is the player most likely to be picked with this selection, granted Maric and Tucker are both off the board. Stanley’s electric speed and high volume of score involvements have impressed in 2023, and could join Jai Newcombe, James Blanck, Fergus Greene and Lachie Bramble as players to make the switch from Box Hill to the big time. 

In the mix: While Hawthorn would love Stanley to fall to their second pick, the club will undoubtedly pounce on one of Ryan Maric or Clay Tucker should they remain available here, while Robert Hansen JnrJack Buller and Oakleigh Chargers ruckman Will Elliot could all be of interest to the Hawks later on.

Ethan Stanley has impressed for Box Hill in 2023. Image: AFL

4. Richmond

James Trezise 

Richmond, VFL

DEF, 20, 188cm, 76kg

Richmond could look internally to add to their list with Trezise’s speed and kicking off half back impressing in the reserves. The Tigers have lost a few of their VFL standouts to rival clubs in recent years with Mid-Season Draft duo Sam Durham and Massimo D’Ambrosio both playing for Essendon on the weekend, however they did manage to get first dibs on defender Tylar Young. 

In the mix: A pair of players who trained with the Tigers in preseason could still be of interest to the club with highly rated youngster and Richmond VFL member Luke Teal, and former Geelong midfielder Quinton Narkle impressing so far this year. Internally, Richmond could look at defender Mutaz El Nour, who joined the club from the Northern Bullants in the offseason, while they have also been linked to WAFL duo Jaiden Hunter and Jack Buller, with Jack Riewoldt potentially in his last year at AFL level. 

5. Greater Western Sydney

Jaiden Hunter

Perth, WAFL

FWD, 21, 196cm, 93kg

After three injury and COVID-19 interrupted seasons, Hunter has enjoyed a great run of form for Perth this season, capping off the year with a five goal performance against South Fremantle on the weekend. The Giants were believed to have some level of interest in Hunter in his draft year and could look to the Mid-Season Draft to secure him.

In the mix: Former Melbourne defender Marty Hore could be of interest to GWS at this pick, while Gippsland Power product and former Giants Academy member Nick Newton has featured for the club’s VFL side in 2023. Local product Noah Casalini, who played for the club’s VFL team last year, could come into consideration after a successful move to South Australia, while the club has been linked to Clay Tucker and James Trezise, with one potentially sliding to their pick.

6. Sydney

Oscar McDonald

Williamstown, VFL

KEY DEF, 27, 196cm, 100kg

If the former Melbourne and Carlton defender is going to receive an AFL lifeline, there are perhaps no better options than Sydney. A readymade option at both ends of the ground, the Swans could look to sure up their key position stocks following injuries to Peter Ladhams, Paddy McCartin, Logan McDonald and Sam Reid. Plying his trade for Williamstown this season, McDonald will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow defenders Kallan Dawson (North Melbourne), Charlie Dean (Collingwood) and Nick Murray (Adelaide), who have all been successful in receiving an AFL contract following a stint with the Seagulls. 

In the mix: Northern Bullants tall forward Brandon Ryan and Brisbane defender Harry Arnold could both be firmly in the frame for some key position help, while the Swans could look to partner McDonald with his ex-Melbourne and current Williamstown teammate in Marty Hore. Father-Son prospect Indhi Kirk has impressed as an overage player in the Coates Talent League, however he opted not to nominate for the Mid-Season Draft, instead representing the Allies at this year’s U18 National Championships as he pushes for national draft selection. Former academy member Noah Casalini could also come into consideration after some big performances for North Adelaide in the SANFL, while the club has been linked to former Carlton midfielder Angus Schumacher (East Perth).

7. Geelong

Sam Naismith 

Port Melbourne, VFL

RUCK, 30, 206cm, 108kg

After only managing 30 games in 10 seasons at Sydney, the luckless ruckman could once again find himself on an AFL list after this year’s Mid-Season Rookie Draft. Having recovered from three knee reconstructions, Naismith has been dominant for VFL side Port Melbourne this year, leading the league with an average of 41 hitouts from his eight appearances. Geelong is believed to be keen on Naismith following early interest from Collingwood, with Naismith’s age profile complementing the club’s recent recruiting trends. 

In the mix: The Cats could look to Jack Buller as they prepare for life after Tom Hawkins, however their pursuit of Tom De Koning could mean they hold off and opt for the seasoned option in Naismith. Geelong has put some time into young ruck duo Flynn Riley (Northern Knights) and Will Elliot (Oakleigh Chargers), while other avenues may include Jye Chalcraft (Geelong VFL) and draft bolter Ben Clarke (Claremont). 

Sam Naismith has been dominating the VFL for Port Melbourne. Image: AFL

8. Fremantle

Robert Hansen Jnr 

Subiaco, WAFL

FWD, 19, 180cm, 70kg

The livewire forward has attracted early Mid-Season Draft interest, with Fremantle and Port Adelaide believed to be strong suitors for the Indigenous goalsneak. Hansen, who is blessed with speed and a sharp left foot, has already been named in Western Australia’s U18 National Championships squad as an overage product should he miss out on Wednesday. 

In the mix: Key forward Jack Buller could be a serious threat if he falls to Fremantle’s pick, however their interest in Hansen is likely to triumph. The Dockers could look to pair defender Luke Ryan with his cousin Brandon Ryan, while local products Jaiden HunterQuinton Narkle and Sam Stubbs could be in the mix, with the latter having trained with the club over the preseason. 

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9. Essendon

Quinton Narkle

Essendon, VFL

MID/FWD, 25, 182cm, 83kg

The former Cat has been in strong form for the Bombers at VFL level, capping off his start to the season with a 29 disposal and two goal performance against Brisbane. Originally from Western Australia, Narkle trained with Richmond over the summer in hopes of an AFL lifeline. The Bombers may consider promoting Narkle to their AFL list to add some spark to Brad Scott’s forward line, with the 25 year old holding a role as the club’s Indigenous Player Development Manager. 

In the mix: The Bombers have been perhaps the hardest club to read on the Mid-Season Draft front with VFL members Narkle and defender Jack Cleaver presenting as options for an AFL promotion. Local Maribyrnong Park forward Brandon Ryan and Williamstown’s Oscar McDonald shape as ready-made key position options at each end of the ground, while half-back Ben Jepson (Coburg) and tall defender Mutaz El Nour (Richmond) could also be of interest. The Dons have recently been linked to tall forwards Jaiden Hunter (Perth) and Lachlan Burrows (Sturt), as well as ruckman Clay Tucker (Eastern Ranges) following a season ending injury to Harrison Jones, while there will be a watch on Jack Buller if he is still available at this pick. Calder Cannons midfielder Rye Penny could also be on the radar as a local boy after being looked at by Collingwood in the offseason, while the club identified East Fremantle tall Rueben McGuire as a player of interest during preseason.

10. Western Bulldogs

Caleb Poulter

Footscray, VFL

WING, 20, 194cm, 84kg

The ex-Collingwood wingman has impressed for Footscray in the VFL this season, with the 20-year-old hoping to earn an AFL lifeline. The former second round pick could be elevated by the Bulldogs, who could look to fill the void left by Lachie Hunter’s departure. 

In the mix: Fellow Footscray product Lachie Sullivan could be another who the Dogs invest some time into, while VFL standouts Marty Hore (Williamstown), Quinton Narkle (Essendon) and Mutaz El Nour (Richmond) could all be of interest to the club. The Bulldogs may also renew their interest in Woodville West-Torrens standout and ex-Crow James Rowe

11. Port Adelaide

Jack Buller

Claremont, WAFL

KEY FWD, 22, 199cm, 99kg

A strong marking target out of Western Australia, Buller has drawn comparisons to Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon, with the 22 year old recording a career best outing against South Fremantle with 14 marks and four goals. The Claremont forward’s frame has attracted interest from a number of clubs, while he has been deployed in the ruck at times this season. Buller could go as high as number one in the Mid-Season Draft, however it could be a long night for the forward, as the right team would have to be on the clock to select him. The big man might be too good to pass up on for the Power after losing Mitch Georgiades for the remainder of 2023. 

In the mix: The Power’s pick is strongly reliant on what Fremantle do, with the Power set to choose between Buller and Robert Hansen Jnr. North Adelaide forward Noah Casalini would be tempting if he is still available, while Mutaz El Nour could be considered down back. Local products Adam D’Aloia (Woodville West Torrens) and Kobe Ryan (West Adelaide) were both highly rated youngsters in last year’s draft class and deserve a shot on an AFL list, with the former being a member of the AFL Academy last year. 

12. Hawthorn

Will Elliot 

Oakleigh Chargers, Coates Talent League

KEY FWD, 18, 203cm, 94kg

A genuine first round option in 2022, Elliot missed the U18 season with a serious knee injury, however he has returned for Oakleigh this year, impressing in the pair of Young Guns games. Standing over 200cm, it would not be a surprise to see an AFL club take a chance on Elliot and his highly touted marking ability, following a block of training with Hawthorn last week.

In the mix: The Hawks will be hoping one of Ethan Stanley or Robert Hansen Jnr fall to this pick, however Elliot is a strong chance to don the Brown and Gold if he is available. Brandon Ryan was interviewed by the club and will certainly be considered alongside Jack Buller if he is available, while ex-Pie Callum Brown has been solid for Box Hill, collecting 36 disposals on the weekend. 

13. Richmond

Luke Teal 

Richmond, VFL

DEF, 19, 190cm, 82kg

A highly rated junior and a member of the AFL Academy last year, Teal has shown some great promise off half back and on the wing after an injury interrupted draft year. The rebounding defender collected a game high 32 disposals for the Young Guns against VIC Country and could be a great long term addition to a regenerating Richmond list. 

In the mix: The Tigers could be weighing up two members of their VFL squad with this selection, with Mutaz El Nour set to be strongly considered after impressing as a defender this year despite being absent since round five due to an injury. Jaiden Hunter and Jack Buller will be genuine options should they still be available, as will Quinton Narkle

Luke Teal in action for VIC Metro in 2022. Image: AFL

14. Greater Western Sydney

Marty Hore

Williamstown, VFL

DEF, 27, 190cm, 84kg

The former Melbourne defender has been linked to the Giants with the 27-year-old likely to slot straight into the club’s starting lineup after starring for Williamstown in the VFL. Hore played 14 games at AFL level and has been the leading intercept player in the state league competition in 2023. 

In the mix: Former academy member Nick Newton will be in the mix as flagged earlier, as will local boy and former Giants VFL forward Noah Casalini

15. Sydney

Noah Casalini

North Adelaide, SANFL 

FWD, 21, 192cm, 86kg

A former Swans Academy member, Casalini crossed to South Australia in 2023 following four games for GWS in the VFL last season. The athletic forward has starred for North Adelaide, booting six goals against Norwood earlier this year, and dominated with another five-goal performance against Port Adelaide’s SANFL side on the weekend. Casalini has a powerful left foot and could be a welcome addition in an injury depleted Sydney line-up. 

In the mix: Former Blues midfielder Angus Schumacher (East Perth) has been heavily linked to the Swans recently with the tall midfielder claiming the Simpson Medal after a best on ground performance in the WAFL v SANFL state game. Brisbane defender Harry Arnold will be strongly looked at here, although Sydney could choose to pass altogether. Marty Hore and Brandon Ryan will be in the mix if available. 

Others to watch:

A host of ex-AFL listed players including state league standouts Brayden Crossley (Southport), Dylan Clarke (Port Melbourne), Martin Frederick (Sturt), Ryley Stoddart (Frankston) and Trent Mynott (Frankston) are others to keep an eye on.

2022 AFL Academy trio Jed Hagan (Port Adelaide), Mitch Szybkowski (Frankston) and Sam Gilbey (Claremont) are all pushing for an AFL birth after missing out on selection last year, while Ziggy Toledo-Glassman (Dandenong Stingrays) and Ethan Phillips (Port Melbourne) remain in the mix for an AFL contract.

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