The Inner Sanctum’s first Power Rankings for the 2022 AFL Draft are here. The top 30 prospects around the country have been competing in the first full state championships since 2019, a welcome return for junior footy’s biggest stage.
The top of the draft is a close race with no clear standout despite some huge individual performances.
South Australia’s strong state side is reflected, while Victoria makes up 16 of the 30 prospects after both Metro and Country remained undefeated through two games apiece.
The Inner Sanctum will be releasing an updated AFL Draft 2022 Power Rankings each month leading into November. In addition, there will be exclusive interviews with the leading prospects and phantom drafts as the AFL readies itself to welcome the next generation of superstars.
This is The Inner Sanctum’s first AFL Draft Power Rankings for 2022.
In a similar vein to that of Nick Daicos and Sam Walsh in years past, Ashcroft has produced eye-watering numbers including a 52-disposal game in the NAB League for the Dragons. His work rate is second to none, digging the ball out of packs and linking up several times as he streams toward goals. Ashcroft isn’t as polished a ball user as the two aforementioned stars yet, but he boasts similar aerobic capacity, desire for the ball and cleanliness below his knees. All of this makes him a one-touch ball magnet, with Ashcroft expected to nominate Brisbane under the father-son rule.
Best traits similar to: Andrew BrayshawEmbed from Getty Images
Mercurial in the forward half, Sheezel is a fast-twitch athlete that can do it all. His goal nous is second to none and he has a burst of pace which helps him hit the scoreboard with regularity. He’s a brilliant mark above his head, powers through tackles and has shown serious potential on-ball as well. Sheezel is the textbook game-changer that clubs can never have enough of, and his point of difference from other prospects at the top of the draft will see him snapped up quickly.
Best traits similar to: Zac BaileyEmbed from Getty Images
The standout inside midfielder of the pool, Wardlaw has been sidelined with injury recently but has shown more than enough already. He’s in his element when the ball is up for grabs and works defensively as hard as anyone in the draft. Around the ground he impacts in the air with courage and finds ways to will the ball forward. Wardlaw is possibly the best one-on-one player at his age in the country; he either wins the ball or lays a crunching tackle.
Best traits similar to: Luke ParkerEmbed from Getty Images
A powerful midfielder with elite endurance that has played against men in the WAFL this year, Hewett is a beautifully balanced footballer who leads from the front. An excellent decision maker that backs it up with his skill execution, the WA star blitzed Vic Metro in the state championships and showed off serious AFL traits. He’s quick and agile, has a wicked fend-off, hits the scoreboard and extracts the absolute best out of himself, but has struggled with illness and niggles across the campaign.
Best traits similar to: Chad WarnerEmbed from Getty Images
A powerful midfielder who loves the contest then goes forward and hits the scoreboard, Phillipou is one of the big risers in 2022. He uses his height to advantage with aerial exploits and doubles up at ground level as a contested beast. The South Australian isn’t prolific on the outside and isn’t the most reliable ball user in the draft by foot, but there’s best-in-class upside about what he can be at the next level.
Best traits similar to: Jake StringerEmbed from Getty Images
Adding the class and precision to the top of this draft is Tsatas, who is a smooth-moving ball magnet that slices teams apart from the wing or engine room. He finds pockets of space and hits his targets by hand and foot. There are still question marks over his contested ability and scoreboard impact which he won’t be able to answer due to current injury, but his best is a joy to watch and it will stick in the minds of recruiters.
Best traits similar to: Hugh McCluggage
Possibly the best leader in the draft, Clark has gained admirers with his consistently excellent outings. He’s a bull in stoppages and shows off great work rate to spread for marks on the outside. Adding to this is his defensive work as one of the best tacklers in the pool and unselfish nature on the field. Clark is the type of player coaches love as he gives 100 per cent in any role he’s asked to play.
Best traits similar to: Joel SelwoodEmbed from Getty Images
An interceptor who reads the play beautifully, Busslinger is a multi-dimensional key defender that will be highly sought after at the top of the board. He’s confident flying for his marks, often playing from in front of his forward. He also uses the ball well and loves to get involved in aggressive ball movement up the field. Busslinger showed his ability in the championships before heading in for shoulder surgery to end his year, though his 2023 pre-season shouldn’t be interrupted.
Best traits similar to: A taller Jordan Ridley
There isn’t anyone else like Keeler available – he has soft hands in the ruck, can manhandle opponents in marking situations and has shown a propensity to rip games apart in the forward 50 on well-timed leads. He has a turn of pace that defies his size, can take hangers on his opponent and regularly lines up set shots from outside 50. There are so many tantalising attributes, he just has to put them all together to become a genuine top-five prospect. Keeler is tied to the Crows’ NGA, but they cannot match a bid inside the top 40 for him.
Best traits similar to: Paddy RyderEmbed from Getty Images
More opportunity in the midfield for Mackenzie has seen him rocket into top-10 calculations. He’s a fast, fluid mover around the ground and is at his best when he’s exiting the front of stoppages using his crafty foot skills. He’s a wonderful ball user around the ground and in front of goals which makes him a high-impact player. Mackenzie’s form has been undeniable across the championships for Metro. He’s a St Kilda NGA prospect but won’t make it through the first 40 picks to be matched.
Best traits similar to: Travis Boak
Cadman hits the ball full-chested on the lead and is a ferocious competitor as a tall forward. He’s in his element under high balls, reading them better than most and using his physical tools to power his way to the best position. He protects the ball with his body and gets a lot of opportunities through his marking ability. Cadman just has to make the most of them, being wayward in front of goals so far this campaign.
Best traits similar to: Charlie Curnow
At 194 centimetres Hustwaite has played a variety of roles, and regardless of where he is on the ground his fundamentals come to the fore. In defence he’s been a fantastic interceptor, and on-ball he glides through traffic distributing to outside runners. Hustwaite uses the ball beautifully on his left and takes a lot of uncontested marks around the ground to link play together. He’s a really classy prospect with recruiters still working out where his best position is.
Best traits similar to: Jordan DawsonEmbed from Getty Images
Tough as nails and a player who gets the absolute best out of himself, Szybkowski has been a key cog of the reliable Country midfield. Recruiters have come to expect elite contested work from the Stingray, but they got impressive uncontested work from him as well in the championships with Szybkowski linking up in methodical ball movement and pushing hard forward to provide an option. He hasn’t put a foot wrong this season.
Best traits similar to: Tom Liberatore
Son of the Dons fan favourite, Junior is all class with footy in hand. He cruises around the ground and hits a new gear flying in and out of contests, plus delivers it on a plate to leading forwards. While he doesn’t accumulate like others, his footy IQ sees him get the ball in damaging positions. 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.
Best traits similar to: Connor RozeeEmbed from Getty Images
George is clean and poised with a turn of speed and some x-factor traits. He’s a sharpshooter from anywhere inside the forward 50 and a good mark for his size. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to show off his ability at the state carnival due to injury, but he has runs on the board over the years and clubs are well positioned to select George based on his upside as a multi-dimensional forward.
Best traits similar to: Orazio Fantasia
He’s too tall for medium defenders and too quick for keys. Jefferson is a constant focal point for his side because good things come when they target him. He has an elite vertical jump off two feet to go with sticky hands, and has tidied up his set shot kicking which culminated in seven goals straight against WA. Jefferson’s point of difference is his pressure without the ball; he’s the best tall forward in the draft when the opposition is trying to rebound, but he hasn’t yet shown an ability to win the ball outside of his marking.
Best traits similar to: A taller Ollie Henry
Dominating Colts level and getting a taste of the seniors, Ryan has had a particularly fruitful campaign to be a leading SA midfielder. He’s prolific in the middle, moving seamlessly with the passage of the ball to collect in stoppages and out in space where he does his best work. Ryan figures to be a wingman at the next level with ideal AFL endurance and smarts.
Best traits similar to: Mitch Duncan
A reliable key defender who often takes the toughest assignments and plays accountable footy, Hayes is a riser this season with his increased confidence on the field. He has begun to fly for his marks and take assertive positions against his opponent to go with his shutdown ability and timely spoils. Hayes could rise even further given the need of so many clubs for key defenders.
Best traits similar to: Sam Taylor
An excitement machine in the forward half, it’s sometimes difficult to pick which foot is Munkara’s preferred with his ability on both. He’s elusive with his pace, agility and dynamic fend-off, and builds the crowd into a frenzy whenever he’s near the ball. The Tiwi Islander is tied to the Dons but it’s difficult to see the club land him with his selection likely to come within the top 40.
Best traits similar to: Joel JefferyEmbed from Getty Images
Lemmey was a top pick contender after dominant seasons prior to 2022, but it’s been a rough ride this year. He couldn’t make an impact in the seniors and struggled in the reserves as well before having a decent game for SA in the state championships. At his best he’s a lead-up forward with a lovely set shot action. He just hasn’t been able to put his best foot forward yet.
Best traits similar to: Logan McDonald
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Broadbent is a great ball user off both feet and has quick hands in traffic to go with his vision and processing in the clinches, all unique for a ruckman. He’s an advanced size for his age which saw him debut in the WAFL seniors last year, but he needs to continue to harden his body up and improve his aerobic capacity to go with his ball skills. There are also some question marks around his marking ability around the ground, but it hasn’t stopped Broadbent from being the leading pure ruckman so far.
Best traits similar to: Rowan Marshall
Possessing a booming kick and a flowing mullet, Cowan is Tasmania’s best prospect and an exciting player exiting the defensive 50. He’s tough and physical defensively and has the traits to be an elite rebounder. Cowan didn’t have a tremendous championships for the Allies but there are AFL traits for all to see and his leadership for the Devils will hold him in good stead at the draft.
Best traits similar to: Zac Williams
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.
Best traits similar to: Noah AndersonEmbed from Getty Images
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.
Best traits similar to: Dion Prestia
Barnett has had some monstrous games for Wests this season, dominating the ruck contests while also showing off some classy work outside of stoppages. He’s had a 29-disposal match and has kicked some goals when he’s resting forward. Barnett needs some pre-seasons in the gym but there’s a lot to like as a developing ruckman.
Best traits similar to: Tom De KoningEmbed from Getty Images
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.
Best traits similar to: James Rowbottom
Brother of the Suns’ Elijah, Hollands is a smooth-moving outside midfielder that loves the ball in hand and making the final kick inside 50. He weights his kicks beautifully for leading forwards, and also works hard defensively to be a true two-way midfielder. Hollands doesn’t quite have the mercurial touch of Elijah (not many do), but he’s shown a more accomplished body of work as a pure midfielder.
Best traits similar to: Patrick Lipinski
Drury sometimes looks mismatched due to his size in a lot of one-on-one contests in the midfield, but he often turns the tables with his footballing IQ and silky skills. He moves through stoppages and positions himself well before getting rid of the ball quickly and relocating so he doesn’t get caught. Drury’s split between forward and midfield may not be ideal for his output this season, but Metro and the Chargers have difficult midfields to break into and he’s been able to show ability up forward as well.
Best traits similar to: Errol Gulden
Binns’ 39-disposal performance in the state championships snuck him into the top-30 prospects, but in truth his performances across 2022 have been impressive. He’s a dynamic player that loves to take the game on by foot. His ball use might not be up to the level of those midfielders in the upper echelon of the draft, but he’s a competitive beast with a lot of upside to go with his dare.
Best traits similar to: Ben KeaysEmbed from Getty Images
A clean ball user with a turn of pace and great size, Ryan is another of SA’s crop of great prospects. 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.
Best traits similar to: Heath Chapman
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