The silly season has been and gone for another year with the AFL Trade and Free Agency period coming to a close on Wednesday night.
As clubs take stock and ready themselves to head to the draft before another pre-season, The Inner Sanctum has come up with your team’s way-too-early best 23 for the 2023 AFL season.
B: Patrick Parnell, Jordon Butts, Josh Worrell
HB: Brodie Smith, Tom Doedee, Lachlan Sholl
C: Jordan Dawson, Rory Laird, Jake Soligo
HF: Josh Rachele, Taylor Walker, Rory Sloane
F: Izak Rankine, Darcy Fogarty, Riley Thilthorpe
FOLL: Reilly O’Brien, Ben Keays, Sam Berry
I/C: Shane McAdam, Harry Schoenberg, Wayne Milera, Nick Murray
Medical Sub: Luke Pedlar
With another season of the rebuild under their belt, the Adelaide Crows will be looking to bolster fitness levels in order to take further steps up the ladder and potentially compete for finals football in 2023.
Adelaide won the race to Izak Rankine’s signature, and with Rory Sloane also set to come back having played his last game in round five, the forward line suddenly looks very dangerous.
The Crows also have several small defensive options with the likes of Chayce Jones and Mitch Hinge missing from this side, so it will be a big pre-season for those vying for those spots, particularly with the retirement of veteran Luke Brown.
B: Darcy Wilmot, Harris Andrews, Marcus Adams
HB: Daniel Rich, Darcy Gardiner, Keidean Coleman
C: Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Zac Bailey
HF: Dayne Zorko, Eric Hipwood, Jack Gunston
F: Charlie Cameron, Joe Daniher, Lincoln McCarthy
FOLL: Oscar McInerney, Lachie Neale, Josh Dunkley
I/C: Brandon Starcevich, Deven Robertson, Noah Answerth, Cameron Rayner
Medical Sub: Jack Payne
The Lions have loaded up once again at the trade table which makes them one of the early premiership fancies heading into next year, adding pieces to go the extra steps in 2023.
Josh Dunkley will stand next to Lachie Neale, Jarrod Berry, and Hugh McCluggage at the first centre bounce in a midfield to be feared the competition over. Cameron Rayner, Zac Bailey, Jarryd Lyons, and more will also spend time through the middle. With impending father-son recruit Will Ashcroft and NGA prospect Jaspa Fletcher also poised to join, the rotation just keeps getting bigger at the pride.
The Lions are fully stocked down back after Darcy Gardiner re-committed to the club and have improved in the forward half with Jack Gunston, who offsets the loss of Daniel McStay, providing another avenue to goal alongside keys Eric Hipwood and Joe Daniher with the dangerous Charlie Cameron and Lincoln McCarthy at their feet.
B: Caleb Marchbank, Jacob Weitering, Mitch McGovern
HB: Adam Saad, Lewis Young, Sam Docherty
C: Blake Acres, Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh
HF: Zac Fisher, Charlie Curnow, Jack Silvagni
F: Corey Durdin, Harry McKay, Jesse Motlop
FOLL: Tom De Koning, Adam Cerra, George Hewett
I/C: Zac Williams, Matthew Kennedy, Jack Martin, Lochie O’Brien
Medical Sub: Matthew Cottrell
The Blues list is primed and hitting its sweet spot to finally play with the big boys. Despite the heartbreaking end to the season missing key players in the engine room, Carlton boasts stars on every line with their most recent All-Australian selections and back-to-back Coleman Medalists across the past two seasons.
New recruit Blake Acres takes his place on the outer wing with the fight on for spots on the other wing between Lochie O’Brien and Matthew Cottrell, along with starting midfield position in the rotation. Brownlow Medalist Patrick Cripps along with Adam Cerra, George Hewett, Sam Walsh, and Matthew Kennedy make up the rest of a contested and dynamic midfield group.
Tom De Koning should be given the first opportunity as starting ruckman ahead of Marc Pittonet with Jack Silvagni again pinch-hitting for parts. He’ll be the high half-forward in a star-studded forward line for the Blues, with Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow set to be a handful for opposition defenders for the long term together.
B: Isaac Quaynor, Darcy Moore, Brayden Maynard
HB: Scott Pendlebury, Jeremy Howe, Nick Daicos
C: Josh Daicos, Tom Mitchell, Steele Sidebottom
HF: Jamie Elliott, Dan McStay, Beau McCreery
F: Jack Ginnivan, Brody Mihocek, Bobby Hill
FOLL: Darcy Cameron, Jack Crisp, Jordan De Goey
I/C: Patrick Lipinski, Taylor Adams, Will Hoskin-Elliott, John Noble
Medical Sub: Billy Frampton
For what is arguably one of the first times in recent years, Collingwood’s depth in its line-up is quite plentiful. The Pies brought in four players during the trade period: Tom Mitchell, Bobby Hill, Daniel McStay, and Billy Frampton who are likely to get the call-up in round one.
This means that some of Collingwood’s young emerging players who stepped in as injuries rattled the club, will most likely find themselves out of the Magpies’ starting team.
A direct swap that looks to happen in the forward line is Ash Johnson, who kicked 15 goals in his nine-game and an inconsistent Mason Cox, who found form in the latter part of the season, will be replaced with Hill and McStay, or at the very least eventually used in rotation.
Losing Brodie Grundy and Ollie Henry in the trade, and Jordan Roughead to retirement, the room is created for Scott Pendlebury to find a permanent spot in the half-back line as he potentially plays his last season, while Darcy Cameron will receive more ruck opportunities.
B: Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, Jayden Laverde, Jake Kelly
HB: Mason Redman, Jordan Ridley, Andrew McGrath
C: Matt Guelfi, Will Setterfield, Archie Perkins
HF: Jake Stringer, Sam Weideman, Nic Martin
F: Harrison Jones, Peter Wright, Jye Caldwell
FOLL: Sam Draper, Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel
I/C: Darcy Parish, Dyson Heppell, Nick Hind, Sam Durham
Medical Sub: Nik Cox
After a disappointing 2022, Essendon will be hoping Brad Scott can steady the ship and start the trend up the ladder. Their season was sprinkled with good performances riding on the back of emotion; it’s up to Scott to harness that ability and implore the side to find some consistency.
New additions come straight into the side to address the Bombers’ shortcomings. Sam Weideman gives Peter Wright a mature key forward partner and shelters Harrison Jones from the second-best defender. While Will Setterfield brings some much-needed size to a midfield that was simply overwhelmed last season.
Nik Cox, Archie Perkins, and Sam Durham hold the fort for the young brigade, with a plethora of like-types waiting in the wings.
B: Luke Ryan, Brennan Cox, Heath Chapman
HB: Hayden Young, Alex Pearce, Jordan Clark
C: Michael Frederick, Andrew Brayshaw, Nathan O’Driscoll
HF: Nat Fyfe, Luke Jackson, Lachie Schultz
F: Sam Switkowski, Matt Taberner, Michael Walters
FOLL: Sean Darcy, Caleb Serong, Will Brodie
I/C: Jaeger O’Meara, Brandon Walker, James Aish, Jye Amiss
Medical Sub: Bailey Banfield
Looking to improve on its fifth-place finish from 2022, Fremantle is ready to give it a red-hot crack in 2023. They lost a number of key players from last year, namely Rory Lobb, Blake Acres, and Griffin Logue, but they have replenished and can look at the new season with optimism.
The acquisition of young Melbourne star Luke Jackson is a massive one, as his versatility will help them greatly through the middle as well as up forward. Jaeger O’Meara also sweetens an already very strong midfield mix, after career-best seasons from Andrew Brayshaw, Will Brodie, and Caleb Serong.
Elsewhere, the backline was perhaps the strongest area of the Dockers lineup last season, conceding the second least points in the competition. It should remain largely unchanged going into 2023. The small-forward setup for the Dockers is also one of the best in the league, and they will look to replicate their form next year.
B: Jake Kolodjashnij, Sam De Koning, Jack Henry
HB: Zach Guthrie, Tom Stewart, Jed Bews
C: Max Holmes, Patrick Dangerfield, Isaac Smith
HF: Gryan Miers, Jeremy Cameron, Brad Close
F: Tyson Stengle, Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan
FOLL: Rhys Stanley, Mark Blicavs, Cameron Guthrie
I/C: Mitch Duncan, Brandan Parfitt, Mark O’Connor, Tom Atkins
Medical Sub: Zach Tuohy
Not many changes are needed to a side that won the Grand Final by 81 points.
The defence is young and healthy. Elder statesman Mitch Duncan may play a similar role to Joel Selwood this season, coming off the bench and missing a game here and there to keep him fresh. New recruit Jack Bowes will likely be the first cab off the rank to fill a midfield or back-flank spot should form/injury warrant a change.
In the forward line, Gary Rohan’s age may mean he also misses the odd game to rest up, with Ollie Henry a handy replacement as he tries to earn a regular spot in the dynamic, pressurised Cats forward line. Others on the outer such as new recruit Tanner Bruhn, Sam Menegola, Jonathon Ceglar, and Esava Ratugolea may have to wait their turn to break into the reigning premiers’ side.
With Pick 7 also in the upcoming National Draft, it is an enviable position Geelong finds itself in.
B: Sean Lemmens, Sam Collins, Ben Long
HB: Brandon Ellis, Caleb Graham, Oleg Markov
C: Noah Anderson, David Swallow, Jeremy Sharp
HF: Jack Lukosius, Mabior Chol, Ben Ainsworth
F: Malcolm Rosas, Ben King, Elijah Hollands
FOLL: Jarrod Witts, Touk Miller, Matt Rowell
I/C: Darcy Macpherson, Alex Davies, Tom Berry, Mac Andrew
Medical Sub: Brayden Fiorini
The Suns will be looking to rise off the back of an inconsistent back half to 2022 that saw them finish two games out of finals. They were led by third-placed Brownlow finisher Touk Miller and surprise packet forward duo Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult.
Casboult may find spots hard to come by in 2023 with the return of Ben King, who bodes as the forgotten man who could dominate after missing a year due to an ACL tear.
Both of Gold Coast’s inclusions should make it into their best side. Ben Long is set to fill their desperate need for an intercepting defender while Tom Berry attempts to fill the massive shoes left by the departing Izak Rankine.
B: Nick Haynes, Sam Taylor, Isaac Cumming
HB: Connor Idun, Lachie Keeffe, Lachie Ash
C: Lachie Whitfield, Tom Green, Harry Perryman
HF: Toby Greene, Harry Himmelberg, Daniel Lloyd
F: Brent Daniels, Jesse Hogan, Toby Bedford
FOLL: Braydon Preuss, Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly
I/C: Jake Riccardi, Cooper Hamilton, Connor Stone, James Peatling
Medical Sub: Callum Brown
Still plenty of quality scattered around the park for Adam Kingsley as he begins his tenure at the Giants, despite losing two midfield bulls, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper in the recent trade period.
Sam Taylor assumes the role of the backline general after his All-Australian campaign in 2022, flanked by intercepting veteran Nick Haynes with fellow veteran Phil Davis not in the starting 23 but on the periphery as the Giants continue to rebuild.
Still possessing plenty of quality in the centre and forward half of the ground with Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, and Tom Green in the midfield and with Toby Greene lurking around with his presence and smarts.
The return of speedster Brent Daniels will be a welcome inclusion from injury, along with Toby Bedford in the front half, both with a happy knack for knowing where the goals are.
B: Blake Hardwick, Sam Frost, Jarman Impey
HB: Jack Scrimshaw, James Sicily, Changkuoth Jiath
C: Harry Morrison, Connor Nash, Karl Amon
HF: Connor MacDonald, Jacob Koschitzke, Dylan Moore
F: Chad Wingard, Mitch Lewis, Luke Breust
FOLL: Ned Reeves, James Worpel, Jai Newcombe
I/C: Lloyd Meek, Josh Ward, Cooper Stephens, Will Day
Medical Sub: Lachlan Bramble
Having offloaded a lot of their experienced heads during the offseason, the Hawks will be fielding one of the youngest sides in the competition next season as the full rebuild begins under Sam Mitchell.
It’s a big year for James Worpel who will be eager to bounce back and have a huge season. With Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell departing, Worpel will be Mitchell’s preferred man to partner Newcombe in the middle, with Ned Reeves now set to be the number-one ruck following the retirement of Ben McEvoy.
All their recruits will also feature regularly in their best 22 and be reliable contributors, Lloyd Meek being the second ruck option plus Karl Amon and Cooper Stephens bolstering their midfield.
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B: Christian Salem, Steven May, Michael Hibberd
HB: Jake Lever, Harrison Petty, Trent Rivers
C: Ed Langdon, Clayton Oliver, Lachie Hunter
HF: Alex Neal-Bullen, Tom McDonald, Bayley Fritsch
F: Kysaiah Pickett, Brodie Grundy, Charlie Spargo
FOLL: Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Angus Brayshaw
I/C: Jack Viney, Tom Sparrow, Jacob Van Rooyen, James Jordon
Medical Sub: James Harmes
The two-ruck combination that has boded so well for the Demons over recent seasons is set to come even further under the microscope next season. Twice named together in an All-Australian side, Max Gawn, and Brodie Grundy will run out together on the same side after his eye-raising move in the trade period.
The deadline day move to secure Lachie Hunter locks down another wing position alongside Ed Langon, which will allow Angus Brayshaw to spend more time as an inside midfielder alongside bulls Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca, or even placed at halfback in a role where he was damaging late last season.
Tom McDonald’s return to fitness and the side will be a welcome return for Melbourne fans as they struggled to find a reliable tall option in the front half. Developing tall Jacob Van Rooyen will press for game time and fight for a position with Ben Brown and new recruit Josh Schache in tow.
B: Lachie Young, Ben McKay, Aidan Corr
HB: Aaron Hall, Griffin Logue, Luke McDonald
C: Bailey Scott, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Curtis Taylor
HF: Jack Ziebell, Charlie Comben, Tarryn Thomas
F: Cam Zurhaar, Nick Larkey, Paul Curtis
FOLL: Todd Goldstein, Jy Simpkin, Ben Cunnington
I/C: Darcy Tucker, Tristan Xerri, Tom Powell, Flynn Perez
Medical Sub: Hugh Greenwood
Despite losing its first-ever Pick 1 in Jason Horne-Francis, North Melbourne was will able to bring in its main trade targets Griffin Logue and Darcy Tucker.
Both former Dockers will bring much-needed experience to a young Kangaroos side. Logue will line up perfectly next to Ben McKay to form a great key defensive partnership in a backline that conceded the most inside 50s last season and allow Aidan Corr to play his natural position and take the opposition’s third-best forward.
Tucker will provide midfield depth in rotation with Luke Davies-Uniacke, Jy Simpkin, and Ben Cunnington.
There is no reason why North Melbourne’s picks two and three can’t find their way into the best 23 as the club continues to add young talent.
B: Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Jonas, Jase Burgoyne
HB: Ryan Burton, Aliir Aliir, Kane Farrell
C: Xavier Duursma, Zak Butters, Dan Houston
HF: Jason Horne-Francis, Todd Marshall, Travis Boak
F: Junior Rioli, Charlie Dixon, Mitch Georgiades
FOLL: Scott Lycett, Connor Rozee, Ollie Wines
I/C: Jeremy Finlayson, Lachie Jones, Sam Powell-Pepper, Miles Bergman
Medical Sub: Jackson Mead
Port Adelaide missed the finals last season after back-to-back Preliminary Finals appearances. The club needed to make a statement this offseason and it did, acquiring Jason Horne-Francis from North Melbourne.
The teenager adds some more youth, pace, and class into Port’s midfield, while Junior Rioli will look to fill the void left by the retired Robbie Gray. There are a few players who are unlucky to miss out, namely Orazio Fantasia and Josh Sinn, both of whom struggled with injuries last season. Tom Clurey and Trent McKenzie are also ones to be unlucky to miss out as the back six could change drastically given the lack of big bodies.
Port missed out on Esava Ratugolea as that next big defender it craves, so it again might be a case of Ken Hinkley going a bit smaller in defense.
With a good mix of youth and experience, it feels like Ken Hinkley’s last chance at a premiership.
B: Nathan Broad, Robbie Tarrant, Dylan Grimes
HB: Nick Vlastuin, Noah Balta, Daniel Rioli
C: Marlion Pickett, Tim Taranto, Kamdyn McIntosh
HF: Maurice Rioli Jr, Jack Riewoldt, Shai Bolton
F: Noah Cumberland, Tom Lynch, Dustin Martin
FOLL: Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia, Jacob Hopper
I/C: Trent Cotchin, Jayden Short, Ivan Soldo, Liam Baker
Medical Sub: Jack Graham
Richmond was one of the many winners from the trade period as it put itself firmly back into premiership contention in 2023.
Although the Tigers have lost experienced premiership players, Shane Edwards and Kane Lambert, their midfield won’t lose much talent bringing in two former Giants in Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto.
With the depth of the midfield group now expanded, Richmond can use its best six in many different ways. Both Taranto and Hopper are powerful inside midfielders, who can roll forward which will allow the likes of Shai Bolton and Dustin Martin to push through the middle as well.
B: Jimmy Webster, Dougal Howard, Callum Wilkie
HB: Jack Sinclair, Josh Battle, Brad Hill
C: Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Brad Crouch, Jack Billings
HF: Jade Gresham, Tim Membrey, Dan Butler
F: Mitch Owens, Max King, Jack Hayes
FOLL: Rowan Marshall, Jack Steele, Seb Ross
I/C: Ben Paton, Hunter Clark, Marcus Windhager, Nick Coffield
Medical Sub: Mason Wood
The Saints were quiet during the trade and free agency period, only bringing in key defender Zaine Cordy for defensive depth and losing Ben Long. Cordy will be a handy replacement and would be one of the first to come in should Dougal Howard, Josh Battle, or Callum Wilkie miss any games throughout the season.
The Saints will be hoping youngsters Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Mitch Owens, and Marcus Windhager continue to develop after showing some promise last season. While also hoping experienced players like Hunter Clark and Jack Billings can hopefully experience an injury-free run.
Unable to find a mature ruck/forward replacement for the retiring Paddy Ryder, St Kilda will welcome the inclusion of first-year sensation Jack Hayes back from an ACL injury to help support Max King and Tim Membrey as the third tall option up forward while giving Rowan Marshall a chop out as the second ruckman.
B: Dane Rampe, Tom McCartin, Jake Lloyd
HB: Nick Blakey, Paddy McCartin, Robbie Fox
C: Dylan Stephens, Chad Warner, Justin McInernery
HF: Isaac Heeney, Logan McDonald, Errol Gulden
F: Tom Papley, Lance Franklin, Sam Reid
FOLL: Tom Hickey, Callum Mills, Luke Parker
I/C: Will Hayward, Ryan Clarke, James Rowbottom, Ollie Florent
Medical Sub: Braeden Campbell
A slow off-season means the Swans’ best side will closely resemble their 2022 Grand Final team. The strong core of youth through the Sydney side is due to take the next step and should guide the team to another finals berth.
Logan McDonald was Longmire’s preferred young key forward this season and will have another pre-season under his belt. Although, with Hayden McLean and Joel Amartey hot on his heels.
There’s no room for Pete Ladhams, and Aaron Francis will add competition for places down back.
B: Shannon Hurn, Tom Barrass, Liam Duggan
HB: Jayden Hunt, Jeremy McGovern, Josh Rotham
C: Andrew Gaff, Dom Sheed, Elliot Yeo
HF: Jake Waterman, Oscar Allen, Jack Petruccelle
F: Jamie Cripps, Jack Darling, Liam Ryan
FOLL: Nic Naitanui, Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly
I/C: Bailey Williams, Zac Langdon, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Brady Hough
Medical Sub: Rhett Bazzo
After a horror season last having been marred with injuries, the Eagles will be hoping to field a much stronger side in 2023.
The Eagles will welcome back Jeremy McGovern who was having an impressive season before being struck by injury, while Jayden Hunt comes in to add some pace to the Eagles’ defence, and will be crucial with his run and carry.
Their midfield will be bolstered with the return of duo Dom Sheed and Elliot Yeo who played a combined seven games last season, with Nic Naitanui coming back in and reclaiming his spot as the Eagles’ number-one ruck.
With Josh Kennedy retiring, Oscar Allen will get consistent playing time up forward having been thrown around the ground in recent years.
B: Ed Richards, Liam Jones, Ryan Gardner
HB: Caleb Daniel, Alex Keath, Bailey Dale
C: Adam Treloar, Tom Liberatore, Bailey Smith
HF: Rhylee West, Aaron Naughton, Toby McLean
F: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Rory Lobb, Cody Weightman
FOLL: Tim English, Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Macrae
I/C: Taylor Duryea, Bailey Willams, Sam Darcy, Jason Johannisen
Medical Sub: Roarke Smith
There have been plenty of changes this off-season at the Bulldogs, with the side looking to contend again in 2023.
Recruits Liam Jones and Rory Lobb will slot straight into the team at full-back and full forward respectively. Lobb will combine with fellow Bulldogs talls in Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan as well as take on some of the ruck duties alongside Tim English.
Sam Darcy will look to have a strong second season at AFL level, with his versatility to come in handy for the Bulldogs. Being able to play down back and up forward will give Luke Beveridge that flexibility on game day.
With the loss of the reigning Charles Sutton Medalist in Josh Dunkley, the likes of Toby McLean and Rhylee West will be looking to step up into that forward-midfield role that Dunkley had in 2022. McLean is looking to have a strong 2023 after coming off an ACL injury that saw him miss a large portion of the season.
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