The AFL Draft draws ever closer and a group of burgeoning stars are at the pointy end of their top-age seasons, delivering electrifying performances around the country.
Both Vic Metro and Country stamped their credentials in the State Championships, with a host of young guns setting themselves up for an AFL future, while individual brilliance in the SANFL and WAFL has those states well represented in the top 30.
Will Ashcroft continues to dominate like few have before him. He has a stranglehold on the top spot after nominating to join Brisbane as a father-son, but there’s a logjam of Victorian talent behind him that’s difficult to split.
The 2022 AFL Draft is set to be hosted across two nights again – November 28 and 29.
This is The Inner Sanctum’s September Top 30 Power Rankings for the 2022 AFL Draft.
Ashcroft has ticked every box asked of a potential number-one pick. He has the athleticism and temperament to back up the huge disposal counts he racks up in every outing. His leadership has come to the fore across the year, and he’s become a more composed and damaging player as his confidence has grown. Ashcroft has nominated Brisbane under the father-son rule, and should step into their 2023 lineup from Round 1 pending a full pre-season.
Previous ranking: 1
Best traits similar to: Andrew BrayshawEmbed from Getty Images
Mercurial in the forward half and further displaying his proficiency in congestion, Sheezel is the point of difference at the top of the draft board in 2022. He gets shots on goals in a variety of ways, through his standout overhead marking, clever crumbing in front of packs and pure power out of stoppages. He hasn’t had the opportunity to show much in the midfield, but all signs point towards an ability to impact on-ball in stints at the next level as well.
Previous ranking: 2
Best traits similar to: Zac BaileyEmbed from Getty Images
It’s been a frustrating year with injuries for Wardlaw. He hasn’t been able to feature in the State Championships or Oakleigh’s games down the stretch, but recruiters know his talent. He has all the hallmarks of a fantastic inside midfielder, able to win the ball at a high clip and apply himself defensively as well as anyone in the draft. But he adds to this with a penetrating right foot and breakaway speed. Barring further injury setbacks, Wardlaw will find a home within the first five picks on draft night.
Previous ranking: 3
Best traits similar to: Luke ParkerEmbed from Getty Images
Tsatas has returned from a foot injury in supreme form for the Chargers. He’s blended his outside run-and-gun with more contested work, a side of his game that was possibly viewed as an area of improvement coming into the year. He adds the silk and polish to the top-end of the draft pool with his foot skills a serious weapon.
Previous ranking: 6
Best traits similar to: Hugh McCluggageEmbed from Getty Images
Cadman’s second half of 2022 has been as good as anyone’s, despite GWV’s premature end to its campaign. In the State Championships he commanded the undefeated Country’s forward-line with his aerial prowess. He reads the flight of the ball early and positions himself accordingly, and when the ball is up for grabs he applies himself to the contest well despite his bigger frame. The left-footer has missed a lot of opportunities this year, but is slowly improving his set shot routine to boost his conversion rate.
Previous ranking: 11
Best traits similar to: Charlie CurnowEmbed from Getty Images
Hewett’s blend of speed and endurance is a tantalising prospect when matched with his power out of stoppages and attacking mentality. When he exits the front of contests he’s irresistible with ball in hand, making good decisions to pick out teammates or taking the shot on himself. His up and down form this year has been concerning for some, but Hewett has dealt with constant niggles to continue playing through. His best against men in the WAFL is a compelling prospect for recruiters.
Previous ranking: 4
Best traits similar to: Chad WarnerEmbed from Getty Images
Mackenzie continues to impress with every outing, and is the steady beat in the middle of the park for his teams. He applies himself well defensively and is crafty with the ball, able to pick out passes few other draftees would dare attempt. There are a lot of AFL-level elements already present with his consistency and composure. A St Kilda NGA prospect, but the only way he’ll end up at the Saints is through their first-round pick.
Previous ranking: 10
Best traits similar to: Travis Boak
With a healthy run at it, Humphrey has burst onto the scene with the top-of-the-table Power. His first step out of congestion is the most explosive at NAB League level, and opponents simply aren’t able to go with him all game when he’s playing at his powerful best. Humphrey has demonstrated contested dominance and impressive forward craft. His next step is composing himself before delivering the ball, because his field and goal-kicking has been inconsistent.
Previous ranking: Unranked
Best traits similar to: Bailey SmithEmbed from Getty Images
Clark is an impressive leader and standout on-baller. He makes life easier for his teammates with the grunt work in the middle, and has shown some real class as a forward at times as well. Those glimpses of his ability to play as a forward is a nice boost to his stock for clubs with top 10 selections, because as a pure midfielder there may be higher upside selections elsewhere.
Previous ranking: 7
Best traits similar to: Joel Selwood
Busslinger headed in for shoulder surgery to curtail his draft year, but he’s shown more than enough to warrant status as the best key defender in the pool. Playing in the WAFL he’s shown brilliant hands and reading of the play, and backs himself to intercept the ball and get it moving the other way quickly. He’s a neat kick and is no-fuss about locking down his direct opponent.
Previous ranking: 8
Best traits similar to: A taller Jordan RidleyEmbed from Getty Images
Phillipou has struggled with injury lately, but showed flashes in the State Champs as to why he could be drafted in the top 10. He has an explosive streak, uses his size to advantage in the air, and has had some special moments in the forward 50 to kick goals all year. There remain some question marks on his outside ball-winning and ball use, but Phillipou is a unique type that should adapt well to the next level.
Previous ranking: 5
Best traits similar to: Jake StringerEmbed from Getty Images
It wasn’t long after the previous power rankings that Ginbey tore the State Champs apart for WA. His contested work was unrivalled, repeatedly ripping the ball out of stoppages and taking on multiple opponents to create chances. He’s also spent a lot of time down back for East Perth in the WAFL where his competitive traits are on full display.
Previous ranking: Unranked
Best traits similar to: Elliot Yeo
Classy and poised, Hustwaite is a fluid mover that executes by foot superbly. He’s spent time on-ball and down back, and has shown off genuine versatility to go from a prolific ball-winner to interceptor. There’s scope for him to play in both positions, but his true value will lie wherever he can best distribute the ball.
Previous ranking: 12
Best traits similar to: Jordan Dawson
Set to join Essendon in November, Davey is a nimble midfielder that hits the scoreboard and finds the ball in dangerous positions. He’s one of the best players in the draft with ball in hand going inside 50, able to weight passes to the leading forward beautifully. The Bombers will be loading up on points to match an early bid for Davey, who has a twin brother Jayden currently going through ACL rehabilitation.
Previous ranking: 14
Best traits similar to: Connor RozeeEmbed from Getty Images
There have been some serious highs in the top-age campaign of Keeler, who offers something no other prospect can as a ruck-forward that has superstar traits. He has a 60-metre set shot, moves around the ground well for his size, has soft hands in the ruck and offers a tendency of dropping into the hole and assist his defenders. If it all comes together at AFL level, Keeler will be looked back on as a steal if he’s drafted outside of the top 10 – but it’s a big if.
Previous ranking: 9
Best traits similar to: Paddy RyderEmbed from Getty Images
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Jefferson has done it all for Metro and the Chargers as a forward. He’s intelligent in his positioning and has really improved his conversion across the year, plus has a leap that few possess. He will need pre-seasons in the gym to become a genuine key forward, but there’s a lot to work with for clubs.
Previous ranking: 16
Best traits similar to: A taller Ollie Henry
Hollands is a different player to his Suns brother Elijah. He’s a hardworking two-way midfielder that has tidy skills and is brilliant below his knees. Clubs will love his aerobic capacity and speed, so he could project to be a high half-forward early in his career.
Previous ranking: 27
Best traits similar to: Patrick Lipinski
Cowan is one of the most fun players in the draft with his flowing mullet and elite pace off half-back. He takes the game on at every opportunity and is accurate by foot with the whole ground in front of him. There have also been some exciting moments as he’s moved into the engine room at times, showing scope for a possible move in the future.
Previous ranking: 22
Best traits similar to: Zac WilliamsEmbed from Getty Images
A heartbreaking ACL tear in his return to the NAB League will see George ruled out for close to the full 2023 season. Regardless, the clever medium forward with a turn of pace and aerial ability has shown why he’s a top-20 pick on talent. He’ll give you a set shot goal from outside 50, a mark of the year contender and a highlight-reel fend-off on any given day.
Previous ranking: 15
Best traits similar to: Toby Greene
Hayes has been a lockdown defender throughout his junior years, but with his growing confidence has come some exciting intercept marking, and some high possession games in the NAB League. He’s a great size for a key defender, with good closing pace and timing, but will need pre-seasons in the gym like most developing talls.
Previous ranking: 18
Best traits similar to: Sam Taylor
As reliable as they come, Szybkowski is a link-up midfielder that is proficient in the congestion with lightning-quick hands. He’s added to his outside game throughout the year and rounded out his impact well, but hasn’t shown the dynamic traits that some other midfielders possess.
Previous ranking: 13
Best traits similar to: Tom Liberatore
Dowling simply doesn’t stop finding the ball, racking up huge numbers in the SANFL U18s through the second half of the season. He’s smart with his positioning and has an evasive first step to give himself time. Dowling and Keeler have created a great connection for North Adelaide.
Previous ranking: Unranked
Best traits similar to: Brayden FioriniEmbed from Getty Images
A great state championships has stamped Fletcher’s credentials. The Brisbane father-son prospect was tough and prolific for the Allies, winning the ball and using it with aplomb. He moves around the ground well and applies good defensive pressure with his athletic traits, and should find his way to the Lions with their option to match a bid at any point.
Previous ranking: 23
Best traits similar to: Noah Anderson
Barnett has emerged as the best pure ruck prospect. His tap work is great and he move around the ground really well to go with some impressive aerial ability. He’s had a 29-disposal match and has kicked some goals when he’s resting forward to go with his ruck craft.
Previous ranking: 25
Best traits similar to: Tom De Koning
D’Aloia has been on recruiters’ radars for a while with his contested proficiency showcased over the years. He’s a pure inside midfielder that loves the grunt-work. There are some deficiencies to his work on the outside, but it hasn’t stopped him from collecting the ball at will and looking a class above his opponents at U18s level, and he’s also hit the scoreboard on occasion as he continues to round out his game.
Previous ranking: 24
Best traits similar to: Dion PrestiaEmbed from Getty Images
Clubs are always on the look out for key defenders, and Weddle is a prospect that plays above his height and can do a bit of everything from the backline. He loves flying for his marks and reads the play well which is a great sign, and is a well-developed body already.
Previous ranking: Unranked
Best traits similar to: Tom Doedee
A workhorse in the clinches that seems to be at the bottom of every pack, no recruiter could question Rowston’s attack on the man or the ball. He’s ferocious and uncompromising with an aptitude for the contest. While that’s where he cuts his teeth, Rowston also showed some forward-half ability with high inside 50 counts in the state championships.
Previous ranking: 26
Best traits similar to: James Rowbottom
He’s one of the smallest players set to be drafted, which is a testament to just how good Jones is. He’s aggressive and hard at the ball, with the helmeted Western Australian impressing throughout the State Champs. He projects to use his skills as a small forward at the next level, where his pressure will be highly sought after.
Previous ranking: Unranked
Best traits similar to: Sam SwitkowskiEmbed from Getty Images
Ryan is a clean ball user with a turn of pace and great size. He’s an outstanding defender first and foremost, with his size allowing him to play on a multitude of opponents. Glenelg has sought to free him up from defensive assignments and give him the licence to fully attack from the back half which has resulted in some fantastic performances in the SANFL.
Previous ranking: 30
Best traits similar to: Mason Redman
A classy midfielder who has spent a chunk of time up forward due to Metro and the Dragons’ midfield riches, Hotton has had a really consistent draft year to keep his name within the first two rounds of prospects. He’s creative with ball in hand and has real pace on the outside.
Previous ranking: Unranked
Best traits similar to: Max Holmes
The Inner Sanctum’s 2022 AFL Draft Top 30 Power Rankings for September:
- Will Ashcroft – Vic Metro
- Harry Sheezel – Vic Metro
- George Wardlaw – Vic Metro
- Elijah Tsatas – Vic Metro
- Aaron Cadman – Vic Country
- Elijah Hewett – WA
- Cam Mackenzie – Vic Metro
- Bailey Humphrey – Vic Country
- Jhye Clark – Vic Country
- Jedd Busslinger – WA
- Mattaes Phillipou – SA
- Reuben Ginbey – WA
- Henry Hustwaite – Vic Country
- Alwyn Davey Jr. – Vic Metro
- Isaac Keeler – SA
- Matthew Jefferson – Vic Metro
- Oliver Hollands – Vic Country
- Lachlan Cowan – Tasmania
- Brayden George – Vic Country
- Lewis Hayes – Vic Metro
- Mitch Szybkowski – Vic Country
- Billy Dowling – SA
- Jaspa Fletcher – Queensland
- Harry Barnett – SA
- Adam D’Aloia – SA
- Josh Weddle – Vic Metro
- Harry Rowston – NSW
- Darcy Jones – WA
- Jakob Ryan – SA
- Olli Hotton – Vic Metro
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