As the 2024 AFL Season approaches, so does the intrigue around Australia’s best young talent ready to put their name in the spotlight.

Inner Sanctum’s Craft of the Draft Podcast has kicked off its new season, analysing each Coates Talent League club within the Vic Country region and their top five prospects to keep an eye on throughout 2024.

Bendigo Pioneers

Jobe Shanahan – One of the top key forwards in this year’s draft class, Shanahan is a powerful aerial threat who loves to capitalise on his marking capacity inside 50. Measuring at 192cm at the end of 2023, Shanahan is a proven threat inside 50, showcased in the Under 17 Futures Trial game where he kicked three goals, earning him a spot in the Futures Game on AFL Grand Final Day. He’s spent time down back at time for the Pioneers in 2023, where he was able to play on the likes of 2023 draftee, Nate Caddy, however his primary role will sit as an athletic key forward.

Jobe Shanahan is ready for a big 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Archer Day-Wicks – An excitement machine, Day-Wicks has had a lot of experience now in the Talent Pathway system, already playing Pioneers Under 18’s as a 16-year-old. The athletic half-forward plays with good confidence, able to take a strong overhead grab as well as provide great sneakiness and ground-level threat inside forward 50. Day-Wicks averaged a goal per game in 2023 for Bendigo and put himself on the map well and truly with features in the Under 18 Vic Country squad and the AFL Futures Grand Final game. It’s capitalising on his moments for Day-Wicks even more in 2024, he knows how to impact the game.

Tobie Travaglia – The prototype dashing half-back has played his time across the wing and half-back as 2023 progressed but offers terrific versatility, able to play well above his height and size. Travaglia is a player who relishes the opportunity to gain metres with the speed in his running, able to read the flight of the ball well to get the ball to ground or create offensive running through the receiving handball along the wing. A lot of upside with Tobie, who has been playing Under 18 football since the age of 15.

Tobie Travaglia is ready for a big 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

James Barratt – Faced his injury troubles over the past twelve months, but there is a lot of positive talk out of Bendigo. The 192cm tall forward provides an intimidating presence inside 50, willing to attack the footy with any inside 50 delivery. We saw glimpses of Barratt in early 2023, where he kicked three goals against Tassie at Arden Street.

James Barratt is ready for a big 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Tom Evans – A real gutsy provider in the forward half of the ground, Evans has built his game upon those one percent efforts that shouldn’t be undervalued in a draft class. He has a strong defensive element to his game that has allows him to handle the ball cleanly and allow him opportunity to dig in for a hard ball get. He kicked ten goals from seven games in 2023, able to hit the scoreboard as well.

Archie Watt – A tough inside bull who has seen some time at the Oakleigh Chargers in 2023, he makes the move to Bendigo, coming into preseason in flying form. One to keep your eyes on as he gets more game time in 2024.

Archie Watt is ready for a big 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Dandenong Stingrays

Noah Mraz – A mobile key position prospect, Mraz had a strong end to 2023, earning some minutes in the Under 18 Vic Country side as well as becoming a key staple in the Stingrays lineup. Mraz has a strong aerial capability, able to provide a contest around the ground, mainly applying his trade as a key back to end 2023 as well as stints in the ruck. Mraz offers a lot of positional versatility, proven he can play in all three areas of the ground, an interesting watch in the crop of talls that will be spotlighted in this year’s draft crop.

Harvey Langford – Langford is best known for his strong stoppage craft, a composed ball user who can impact the stoppage with his clean hands, able to transition the ball moving forward inside 50 with the power he can generate. He’s able to impact the contest with his movement and often sees himself impacting the play deep inside 50, kicking 10 goals across 14 games in 2024. He’s a smooth operator in the middle and still has a lot to offer.

Cooper Hynes – A big-framed midfielder, Hynes made a staple on his game in 2023 as a real pressure player, who earned himself a spot in the Vic Country Under 18’s squad. He has clean ball skills that are reflected in his ability to move forward up the ground and impact the scoreboard, kicking 18 goals in 13 games for the Stingrays in 2023.

Harry Doughton – With a steep rise in 2023, Doughton finished his year strongly playing in the Under 17 Futures trial game, showcasing his pressure inside 50. Averaging more tackles than any other Stingray in 2023, Doughton has a real desire off the ball to win it back, a structure-based player who understands how to execute his role. With good ball skills and ability, Doughton will for sure be on the radar of recruiters as 2024 progresses.

Elwood Peckett – Trained with St Kilda over the summer as a father-son prospect. Impressed the Stingrays in preseason training, his athleticism has been Peckett’s staple in 2023 down back, still a lot to be seen with his footy.

Geelong Falcons

Xavier Ivisic – A flashy, exciting prospect, Ivisic takes you back with his raw speed and offensive flare on the half-forward line. His offensive power comes from his natural ability to get his hands on the footy in transition and provide efficient kicking deep inside forward 50 to the talls. He has great polish with his ball use but isn’t afraid to switch up his delivery to shake things up. Unpredictable but so classy.

Xavier Ivisic is primed for a strong 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Zac McInnes – Impressed early in 2023, a strong key forward who has terrific leading patterns to give midfielders a lot of ease with inside 50 delivery. McInnes has great power and overhead capability which makes him a threat in contested entries inside 50. McInnes averaged two goals per game in 2023, an efficient kick that makes his game stand out. The question this year is whether there is flexibility in his game positionally.

Zac McInnes is primed for a strong 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

River Stevens – Father-son prospect of North Melbourne’s Anthony Stevens, River is a sparky small forward who is best known for his one-on-one capability. Stevens is able to protect his space really well, with good pace that generates inside forward 50, combined with his slick sideways movement that eases him in and out of the contest. A goal per game on average to round out 2023, a player North Melbourne supporters should keep a keen eye on.

Noah Tullio – A small dashing wingman who has the capacity to cause some chaos inside 50, Tullio provided some terrific efforts for the Falcons in 2023. A real gut runner who follows up every ball, his size isn’t something that impacts the way he plays, with an eagerness to get involved in the transition and at the drop of the ball.

The Falcons have a lot of under-the-radar talent this year that got some good exposure at the back end of 2023. Lachie Jacques, pronounced “Jacks”, is a silky midfielder with great aerial ability and drive across the ground, well noted for his performance back in the Under 16 National Championships for Vic Country.

Lachie Jacques will be looking to gain attraction in 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Josh Sanders, who has a long history in athletics at the National level has a great athletic profile and skillset that makes him a great runner and distributor across the ground.

Jack Henderson will continue to build on his strong school form from 2023, building more midfield minutes into his game as 2024 progresses.

Kobe George will be one of the main Falcons key defenders, with good size and great agility to provide some drive out of defensive 50 as well as play a strong lockdown role.

Kobe George will be looking to gain attraction in 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Gippsland Power

Xavier Lindsay – A player who gets rewarded for his effort, Lindsay is a composed mover out of defensive 50 that provides great value in transition. Lindsay offers great vision that opens the ground up and creates a plethora of opportunities on offense. Lindsay isn’t afraid to attack the contest and come out with it cleanly and doesn’t fret under pressure, a clean distributor by foot. Lindsay can push up the ground and provide some run and carry, a part of his game we’re likely to see more of in 2024.

Ricky Mentha – Pure X-Factor. Mentha has that electricity and excitement that you should feel with any small forward, with a real nous around the goals, understanding where to be to capitalise inside forward 50. Mentha has terrific stoppage craft that allows him to act as a running presence further up the ground to pounce and move the ball in transition, or more often than not, sneak one out of the stoppage and hit the scoreboard making an immediate impact. Can kick them left, right, and centre, a real show-stopper.

Underlying the two main prospects for the Power is one of two Max’s at the Power, Max Donohue, who provides great pace and drive in transition. Donohue is a strong ball mover who uses it well to aid ball movement through the middle of the ground.

Max Stobie, similar to Donohue, provides drive out of the back half of the ground, with great explosiveness, Stobie is able to impact further up the ground with is agility to get in and out of contests.

Julian Callahan tops off the crop of bursty midfielders/defenders, explosive through the corridor with an ability to break the game open with his speed and power, a good transitional kick.

GWV Rebels

Sam Lalor – Well within his right to be discussed as one of the best power midfielders in this year’s draft crop. Lalor is as clean below his knees as anyone in the Talent League competition, a real composed ball user who understands his stoppage craft extremely well. Lalor impressed as a bottom-ager for Vic Country in the Under 18 National Championships, proving his cleanliness and strength around the contest which allows him to draw the ball to the outside and aid ball movement. Can play the resting forward role and create havoc with his strength deep inside forward 50.

Jonty Faull – A consistent improver as 2023 went on, Faull continued to build on his forward craft, continuing to grow, now standing at 196cm at the start of 2024. Faull has power with his leading capability and may have one of the best pair of hands going around, he can manage to pluck the ball out of thin air sometimes, that type of ability. He’s an efficient kick and finds himself on the scoreboard regularly. He’s still got some work to do on the technical side of the game, but he provides some versatility with his height and a real killer instinct inside forward 50.

Olli Hannaford – Extremely undervalued with his positional versatility, Hannaford was tasked with the hardest job in Under 18 footy, marking Harley Reid, and was quite successful in doing so on multiple occasions. Hannaford has explosiveness within stoppages, with a high-energy game style that keeps the ball moving quickly. Hannaford has a toughness that can make him an asset in all three areas of the ground, a rare trait in this year’s crop.

Rhys Unwin – A livewire small forward who provides explosiveness inside 50, Unwin has continued to build his small forward craft as 2023 went on, playing a quite high role, able to push up the ground and provide an impact. Unwin is a dangerous mover, able to read the drop of the ball well, and generally finds himself in good space to take an uncontested mark. As he builds his defensive side of his game he’ll become one of the stronger small forwards in this year’s draft crop.

Flynn Penry – One of the best rucks in this year’s draft crop, Penry featured on AFL Grand Final Day in the Futures game, proving his versatility meets the standards of the modern-day ruck. Penry still has a lot of growth left in him, but already has a lot of mobility, able to impact transitionally, and clean below his knees, he provides great follow-up efforts. Penry has aerial capability giving him versatility to move forward or back, an exciting prospect to keep track of in 2024.

Harry Charleson – Brother of recently drafted Lachie, Harry is quite the opposite of his brother, a dashing halfback with plenty of scope. Charleson has good height and great endurance, a good intercept runner who likes to get the ball moving with his efficient kicking. He’ll see a lot more midfield time in 2024 with plenty of scope with his game.

Murray Bushrangers

Oliver Warburton – A Caufield Grammar boy, Warburton has trained with some of the best, training with the Sandy Dragons when he isn’t back in the Country playing for the Bushies. Warburton is a solid ball accumulator in the midfield, with real toughness in and around the contest. Warburton has spent some time on the wing as well as across halfback, so there are some desirable roles in his repertoire. With good athleticism and bounce around the ground, Warburton is certainly one to watch in 2024.

Oliver Warburton is set to have a big 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Jack Whitlock – Famously known for his after-the-siren winning goal in the Under 17 Futures Trials, Jack, much like his identical twin brother, Matt, has great size and an athletic build that makes him a tall imposing target inside forward 50. Jack has great movement inside forward 50, consistently able to break loose from his opponent. Jack is aerially sound and understands his leading patterns quite well. With his height, there’s the potential to play as a forward/ruck combo.

Matt Whitlock – Where Jack plays up forward, Matt plays down back, as a similar imposing backman with great strength and mobility. Matt plays well for his size, able to take to the task of a key forward as well as a small opponent. Matt has good rebounding capacity and is still quite raw with his game style. Matt has a lot of upside in his game and will look to establish himself as one of the top key position players in this year’s draft crop.
Matt Whitlock is set to have a big 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)

Josh Murphy – A prototype power forward, tough, and physically impactful, Murphy capped off his year in 2023 by featuring on AFL Grand Final Day. Murphy has great contested ability, able to impact aerially, as well as outwork his opponent through his leading patterns to get first hands on the footy. Murphy’s a high-impact player, kicking 14 goals from 12 games in 2023, finding a way to impact the scoreboard each game.

Zac Harding – A real old-school ruck who is physically demanding and capitalises on strong tapwork, Harding will be looked at as one of the strongest rucks in this year’s draft crop. A real country ruckman who has done the rounds at senior local level, Harding is one that midfielders feed off effectively, able to take front position in ruck battles and demand the footy. He moves well for his size and provides good movement across the ground.

Zac Harding is set to have a big 2024. (Photo: Craft of the Draft)
Darby Wilson – Wilson had a terrific 2023, able to showcase his weapons off the halfback line, a real clean ball user who understands his running patterns well to impact transition. Wilson provides great dash and flare with his movement and speed outside of defensive 50, with the capacity to move further up the ground and move the ball well inside 50.

Cohen Paul – One of Murray’s best preseason performers, with some of the best set of hands in the competition, Paul has a tall, athletic build that provides great presence inside forward 50. He’s a strong marking presence who is able to impact around the stoppages inside forward 50 and across the ground.

Alex Swinnerton – A dangerous small forward who has great bounce off the loose ball, Swinnerton has a light frame that makes him a hard player to track down inside forward 50.

Will McCarthy – Hard running midfielder who has good strength to his game, got some good game time at the back end of 2023, his experience at senior level in the country leagues makes him a tough opponent to work around.

Rebuen Bourke – Will fit into the tall defender category in 2024, Bourke has come back to preseason in terrific form, still a raw prospect with a lot to like.

Tasmania Devils

Oliver Dean – One of Tasmania’s top draft prospects, the tall-timber ruck featured on AFL Grand Final Day in the Futures Game, as well as averaging 12 hitouts per game at Talent League level in 2023. Provides good contest around the ground and still a lot of development left in the young ruck.

Oliver Depaoli-Kubank – A quick and swift midfielder, Deapaoli-Kubank had a steep rise to end 2023, playing some terrific footy in Tassie’s deep run into the finals in 2023. He’s a crafty ball user who knows how to weave in and out of traffic, also able to provide some good run and carry along the wing, with good delivery by foot.

Harry Elmer – A shutdown defender who got some valuable experience in 2023, Elmer still has a lot to build with his craft, able to take on a contested role, as well as move up the ground and provide good outlet in transition.

Connor Ling – An opportunistic midfielder who loves to take the game on, Ling loves to produce a lot of run and carry moments through the corridor, always looking to move the ball forward with a big emphasis on his metres gained.

Liam Ling – Similar to his brother, Connor, Liam is a smart ball user within the stoppages, who also loves to generate some speed out of the contest and provide good movement in transition going forward.

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