Ryan Maric is the leading contender to be the first selection at the 2023 AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft. Image: AFL

With the 2023 AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft just around the corner, The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the top prospects across the country.

With the Mid-Season Rookie Draft set to take place on Wednesday May 31st, AFL clubs are finalising discussions around how many picks they will make, with no more than 15 selections currently expected to be made on the night, down from 22 selections in 2021 and 17 selections last season.

Clubs have right up until the draft to open lists vacancies, however they must indicate their intention to participate to the AFL by May 24th, while the eligibility criteria has been relaxed to allow state league players who have played a minimum of three matches in 2023 to nominate. As it currently stands, five clubs have list spots available with Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs all opting not to fill their final list spot in the preseason. 

Richmond can open a list spot following Jason Castagna’s retirement, while injuries will allow North Melbourne (Brayden George), Port Adelaide (Mitch Georgiades), and West Coast (Jai Culley) to open a list vacancy in the lead up to the draft. 

Both New South Wales teams are each able to open two list spots after season ending injuries to Greater Western Sydney duo Darcy Jones and Adam Kennedy, while Sydney could place Sam Reid and Paddy McCartin on the long term injury list. Similarly, Essendon and Hawthorn could each opt for an additional selection with doubt over whether Harrison Jones and Max Lynch will feature again in 2023. 

See The Inner Sanctum’s top 2023 AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft prospects below. 

Ryan Maric

Gippsland Power, Coates Talent League

FWD, 18, 193cm, 84kg

Plying his trade as an over age prospect for Gippsland, Maric is the leading candidate for an AFL lifeline after impressing early with eight goals from his three games in the Coates Talent League. Maric was deployed at both ends of the ground in each of the Young Guns games this season, and was prominent for VIC Country in a trial game kicking three goals from eight marks, with recruiters believed to have strong interest in the Power product.

Jack Buller

Claremont, WAFL

KEY FWD, 22, 199cm, 99kg

The top name 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 has attracted interest from both teams in Western Australia, while his frame is likely to appeal to a number of clubs in the market for a power forward. Buller will feature in the Haydn Bunton Cup clash between the best of the WAFL and the SANFL this weekend. 

Jack Buller is likely to be a top selection at the 2023 AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft. Image: AFL

Clay Tucker

Eastern Ranges, Coates Talent League

RUCK, 18, 204cm, 99kg

Eastern Ranges ruckman Clay Tucker had a strong pair of appearances for the Young Guns in May, using his physicality to his advantage, impressing recruiters with his excellent ruck craft. Despite standing at 204cm, Tucker’s athleticism has been considered a strength, making him an enticing option for AFL clubs willing to take a punt on the raw tall. 

Sam Naismith

Port Melbourne, VFL

RUCK, 30, 206cm, 108kg

After only managing 30 games in 10 seasons at Sydney, the luckless ruckman could find himself on an AFL list in 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 seven appearances. Naismith will appeal strongly to AFL clubs seeking an immediate impact in the ruck at senior level, with his age likely to come into play against younger alternatives. 

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

Oscar McDonald

Williamstown, VFL

KEY DEF, 27, 196cm, 100kg

With 86 AFL games under his belt, the former Melbourne and Carlton defender is a readymade option AFL clubs. With uncertainty over Paddy McCartin (concussion) and injuries to Logan McDonald (eight weeks) and Sam Reid (season), Sydney are seen as the side with the most need for McDonald who could potentially play at both ends of the ground alongside new recruit Aaron Francis, while Essendon could be another suitor with a need for a key defender. 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 at Williamstown.

Robert Hansen Jnr

Subiaco, WAFL

FWD, 19, 180cm, 70kg

Subiaco goalsneak Robert Hansen Jnr has attracted early Midseason Draft interest, with Fremantle believed to be one of the top suitors for the Indigenous wingman. Earning selection in Western Australia’s U18 National Championships squad as an over ager, Hansen is blessed with speed and a sharp left foot. 

Noah Casalini

North Adelaide, SANFL

FWD, 21, 192cm, 86kg

A former Sydney 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.  Casalini has a powerful left foot, and will provide teams with a marking option up forward. 

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Shaun Mannagh

Werribee, VFL

MID/FWD, 25, 175cm, 80kg

The 25 year old Mannagh has had a great run of form in the VFL, starring with 40 disposals and four goals against Southport in Round 3. A member of the 2022 VFL Team of the Year, Mannagh played two seasons of underage football with the Murray Bushrangers, however it is his improved speed and acceleration that has caught the eye of recruiters, with belief that he can match it with the best at AFL level. 

Ethan Phillips

Port Melbourne, VFL

KEY DEF, 23, 198cm, 90kg

Perhaps a little unlucky not to be handed an AFL lifeline last year, the VFL Team of the Year Full-Back has responded with a strong start to the season, with the Borough backman averaging eight marks across seven matches. With the lack of key defenders around the league, it is hard to explain why Phillips has not yet joined an AFL list, with the former Oakleigh Chargers junior seen as one of the best intercept marking options in state leagues across the country. 

Quinton Narkle

Essendon, VFL

MID/FWD, 25, 182cm, 83kg

The former Cat was a surprising omission from Geelong’s list last season, with the midfielder struggling to hold his place in the reigning premiers’ senior side. Narkle has been in strong form for the Bombers, capping off his start to the season with a 29 disposal and two goal performance against Brisbane. Originally from Western Australia, West Coast are believed to hold some level of interest in Narkle, while he trained with Richmond over the summer in hopes of an AFL lifeline. Essendon may consider promoting Narkle to their AFL list with the 25-year-old holding a role as the club’s Indigenous Player Development Manager. 

Quinton Narkle has been in great form for Essendon in the VFL. Image: Essendon

Ryley Stoddart

Frankston, VFL

DEF, 23, 186cm, 73kg

The former Swan has bolted into Midseason Draft contention following a strong run of form for Frankston, after the Eastern Ranges product returned home to Victoria. Despite playing just six AFL games, Stoddart finished second in the running vertical leap at the 2017 AFL draft combine, recording 98 centimetres. The left footer is thriving after returning from injury, averaging 28 disposals for the Dolphins this year, crossing from Carlton where he was named co-captain in 2021. 

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 season, impressing in the two Young Guns games this month. Standing over 200cm, it would not be a surprise to see an AFL club take a chance on Elliot, with his untapped potential on offer for clubs in need. 

Indhi Kirk

Sydney Swans Academy, Coates Talent League

WING/DEF, 18, 181cm, 75kg

The son of Swans star Brett, Kirk was overlooked in last year’s draft however has been one of the standout players in the Coates Talent League this season. Kirk featured for the Swans at VFL level and is likely to participate in the U18 National Championships for the Allies, should he not be selected in the Midseason Draft. 

Others to Watch:

Ex-AFL players Jacob Dawson (Southport), Marty Hore (Williamstown) and Callum Brown (Box Hill) are others that could be in the mix for a lifeline after strong starts to the VFL, while league standouts Lachie Sullivan (Footscray) and Sam Lowson (North Melbourne) are hoping to receive their first AFL contract. Frankston midfield duo Kai Owens and Trent Mynott have also placed themselves firmly in the frame. 

Fresh from a pair of Young Guns games, Victorian based prospects Jack Cleaver (Essendon), Rye Penny (Calder Cannons), Mitch Szybkowski (Frankston), Luke Teal (Richmond), and Ziggy Toledo-Glassman (Dandenong Stingrays) have all pressed their case for an AFL contract. Hawthorn will consider upgrading Box Hill’s Ethan Stanley to the senior list, while Williamstown duo Corey Preston and Toby Triffett could be gems that slipped through the cracks in COVID affected drafts. 

Snubbed draft prospects Adam D’Aloia (Woodville West Torrens) and Kobe Ryan (West Adelaide) can count themselves unlucky, with the South Australian duo criminally underrated in the SANFL. Jed Hagan (Port Adelaide) and Casey Voss (Sturt) are others going under the radar in South Australia. 

Claremont’s Sam Gilbey is another who missed out last season, while WAFL tackle leader Milan Murdock (East Fremantle) and Fremantle train on Sam Stubbs (Perth) could also come into consideration. 

Geelong are believed to have interest in 22 year old Jye Chalcraft from the club’s VFL program and overage Falcons key defender Hamish Pierson, while they have also made inquiries about Claremont’s Ben Clarke despite the 20 year old having only played three games at WAFL League level. 

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