Bailey Humphrey could be headed to Gold Coast in the 2022 AFL Draft.

2022 is set to be one of the Suns’ most barren drafts; after Pick 5 they’re sitting out of talks until the third round. Following their best season since the departure of Gary Ablett Jr, one more ready-made player to inject into the 2023 line-up alongside Ben King could be the last piece of the puzzle to end the finals drought.

The Suns were in contention for the finals up until the final month, when tired legs and the recognised Gold Coast slump kicked in. However, unlike previous seasons, there isn’t a large need for list turnover and a large portion of their best 23 will take the field again next season.

The 2022 AFL draft has a defined top six, meaning the Suns will walk away from the night with elite talent – barring a draft disaster. Brisbane matching a bid for Will Ashcroft means Gold Coast should follow the practice of best player available, and just whichever of the six has fallen through.

Aside from Izak Rankine, their list of outs didn’t feature any first-team regulars. They could take a similar player to Rankine with their first pick of the draft, while their other option would be filling out midfield depth.

READ: AFL Draft Power Rankings: The top 50 prospects in 2022

Gold Coast’s draft hand: 5, 45, 71, 74

2022 AFL Draft: Replacing Rankine for more than just on-field

Rankine was a star on the Gold Coast with genuine x-factor, being able to find someone with the same skills will be hard enough let alone one with his level of confidence. He was a large reason people attended Suns games, they’ll need to replace his ability to draw a crowd as well.

There’s a host of forward/midfielders in the top end of this year’s draft, it would be expected the Suns will be able to find one who fits their needs. Unfortunately, Harry Sheezel will almost certainly go to North at either pick two or three, but there are multiple other names in the mix at the top end.

Gippsland Power captain Bailey Humphrey is often assigned to the Suns in draft projections, and for good reason. Despite missing a chunk of the State Championships, he’s firmed as one of the six best prospects in the country.

Damaging as both an inside midfielder and a forward, Humphrey has the ability to be elite in either area, averaging around 20 disposals and two goals per game over his 11 NAB League games. In Round 14 he proved his match-winning ability with 31 disposals and four goals in a big win over the Northern Knights.

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His key trait is his power and strength which leads to him being so effective at winning the ball in contests, it also translates to his ability to be explosive out of congestion and strength in taking contested marks.

His endurance would need developing to be able to handle to AFL requirements, but a full pre-season will help that. Humphrey has deservedly earned his title as one of the best goal-kicking midfielders in this year’s draft. Also being out of country Victoria in Moe will hopefully reduce the factor of wanting to return home to the big city.

Vic Metro accumulator Elijah Tsatas is the other member of the ‘elite six’ that could fall to Gold Cost come Pick 6. Tsatas is elite both inside and outside of the centre bounce, however his speed with the ball and athleticism tends towards him landing on the outside of stoppages.

He rarely fumbles the ball at ground level and starred for the Oakleigh Chargers this season, averaging 33.8 disposals per game, often spreading from contests and delivering inside 50 with regularity. He would complement the inside work of Touk Miller and Matt Rowell at Gold Coast.

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An area of improvement would be his defensive running, only making eight tackles in his six NAB league games this season, it could be a problem as AFL coaches are known to not select players based on poor defensive pressure.

He benefits from his combination of elite speed and agility to constantly find space on the great and use his vision to hit up teammates far more often than not. Tsatas very well could be the transitioning midfielder that the Gold Coast has lacked in recent years and complement the likes of Noah Anderson on an opposite wing.

If the Suns were to take a risk on a player outside the highly touted prospects, they could do a lot worse than Mattaes Phillipou. The goal-kicking midfielder out of the SANFL looks to have the star power that Rankine showed as well.

Phillipou stands at 192cms tall and benefits from natural athleticism that makes him a nightmare for opposition to match up with. He’s earned the praises of many recruiters and draft experts despite being one of the youngest in the draft class. He was a constant standout for Woodville-West Torrens who was a constant threat on goal whenever inside 50.

Through eight games in the SANFL Under-18s, Phillipou averages 28 disposals and 1.5 goals per game in a blend of midfield and forward roles. A well-rounded midfielder he was also making five tackles per game with a healthy selection of marks and clearances.

He’d be doing well to fill out his frame to gain some strength when coming into the AFL system, which would hold him in better stead when trying to win contests at the higher level. But his clean hands and elite ball movement would see him line up in the Suns’ round one side without many issues.

2022 AFL Draft: Who gets the nod with Suns second pick?

The Suns will sit out of the second round this year, before jumping back in with pick 45 which will certainly slide down following matched bids.

Around this range, they’d be able to pick up forward/mids along the lines of Jaiden Magor (South Adelaide), Blake Drury (Oakleigh Chargers) or straight midfielders such as Billy Dowling (North Adelaide). All have impressed for their clubs in their draft season and would give good depth to a Gold Coast side ready to make the jump into finals.

With the Suns preparing for a host of Academy picks in 2023 including star forward Jed Walter, they will be content sitting back and not partaking heavily in the 2022 draft.

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