20/05/2024

Fremantle's Jaeger O'Meara, Brisbane's Josh Dunkley and St Kilda's Mattaes Phillipou have been some of the best recruits for their clubs this season. (Photos: Fremantle, Brisbane and St Kilda)

With the bye signalling the middle of the season for the AFL clubs, The Inner Sanctum looks at the clubs and analyses how their draftees and recruits have slotted in. First up, Brisbane, Fremantle, St Kilda and Sydney.

Jack Gunston

Gunston’s first year at Brisbane hasn’t been eye-catching, but that is to be expected with age.

The Lions would still be happy with the three-time premiership player’s performance this season as he continues to play a supportive role to star forward duo Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood.

The 31-year-old has kicked 11 goals in the 10 games so far.

Josh Dunkley

Dunkley’s start to 2023 would have Dom Ambrogio and Chris Fagan smiling as their big investment looks to be paying off in the first half of the season.

The 26-year-old’s form has been crucial towards the Lions’ 8-3 start and would be a favourite for the Merrett-Murray Medal.

For a side in need of a midfielder to provide defensive pressure and two-way running, Dunkley has done exactly that. The 191cm midfielder/forward currently leads the Lions in average (6.5 per game) and total tackles (72) as well as pressure acts (29.7 per game).

Throughout the Lions’ 11 games, the prized recruit has been assigned to shut down the opposition’s best player around stoppages and has done so with great effect. The great thing for Chris Fagan is that the role also doesn’t limit him going the other way.

In Round 8 against Carlton, Dunkley stood against Patrick Cripps for the entire 120 minutes and limited the Brownlow Medalist to 17 touches, but he was also able to hurt the Blues going the other way, amassing 33 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 13 tackles, and six clearances.

In the Q-clash, Dunkley reduced the Suns’ bull Matt Rowell’s impact while finishing with 29 disposals, including seven clearances and a match-high 11 score involvements.

Will Ashcroft

Ashcroft has fitted into Brisbane’s star-studded midfield seamlessly in his first season at AFL level and has shown why he was touted as one of the best players in the 2022 AFL Draft.

The 19-year-old is only 11 games into his senior career and continues to amaze Lions’ fans every time he steps onto the field. Ashcroft is in the top three in several key stats among his fellow rising star cohort, including disposals (second, 22.8 per game), total score involvements (equal first, 53), and clearances (3.7 per game).

The round two Rising Star nominee is loving playing at the Gabba, averaging 27 touches, three inside 50s, and 4.5 clearances per game in his six games at home. His averages do drop to 17 disposals, one inside 50, and 2.6 clearances per game in Brisbane’s five away games so far, but an impressive season nonetheless.

Jaspa Fletcher

After a delayed start to his senior football career, Fletcher is yet to debut at AFL level but is progressing in the VFL. At the reserve level, the Brisbane father-son selection has played all over the field, including the wing and up forward.

The 183cm midfielder/forward is averaging 15.8 disposals, four marks, and 1.9 tackles per game and has kicked four goals through 10 games.

With the Lions contending for a premiership, and already a difficult side to break into, Fletcher will need to bide his time at the lower level and continue to develop his skills.

Jordan Janssen

Jaeger O’Meara 

Much like Fremantle itself, O’Meara started slowly at his third club but has increased his output as the Dockers returned to form in 2023.

Across Fremantle’s four wins in a row, O’Meara has not dipped below 20 disposals, compared to only topping the mark once in the first seven rounds.

Overall, O’Meara is ranked above average in tackles (5.5 per game) and total clearances (five) and has provided ample support in the middle for Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong, support that will remain critical as Fremantle fight to get into contention once again.

Luke Jackson

Perhaps the biggest signing of the 2022 off-season, Jackson has put together a solid first half of the season for Fremantle.

Although he started a bit slow to find his rhythm early, Jackson has improved steadily, and presently averages 14.3 disposals, 1.2 goals and 10.6 hitouts a game, acting as a relief ruck for Sean Darcy and supporting a forward line that has been rapidly improving, with three triple figure scores in its last four games.

With Darcy presently sidelined with a hamstring complaint, Jackson’s ruck responsibilities may increase, but a strong performance in the ruck before the bye against Melbourne (with 15 hitouts and eight clearances) suggests he will be more than up to the task.

Josh Corbett 

Corbett’s move over to Fremantle hasn’t gone quite to plan to date for the ex-Suns forward, as he’s only played one game for the Dockers, as the sub against the Western Bulldogs.

A plethora of forward options for the Dockers, namely Jye Amiss, Luke Jackson, Matt Tabener, and Josh Treacy has left Corbett on the outer.

Playing for Peel Thunder in the WAFL, Corbett is averaging 10.5 disposals, six marks, and 1.3 goals.

Hugh Davies

The first pick for Fremantle in the 2023 draft, Davies is yet to make his debut, currently building a solid body of work in the WAFL for Peel Thunder.

Davies is averaging 10.9 disposals and three marks for the Thunder so far in 2023.

Tom Emmett

Having moved from the SANFL to the WAFL upon being drafted, Emmett has been building towards a debut, averaging 14.7 disposals, 3.7 marks, and 1.1 goals a game for Peel.

A strong game against West Coast that saw 22 touches, 10 tackles and 1.2 suggests a debut might not be far off if he can string a few games like that together.

Max Knobel

A long-term ruck prospect for the Dockers, Knobel is putting together a solid season in the reserves, highlighted by his performance West Coast, amassing 15 disposals and 24 hit outs.

Corey Wagner

It’s third time the charm for Wagner, having returned to the AFL system after four years away in round five against Gold Coast.

Wagner was previously delisted by North Melbourne and Melbourne but has already made inroads in the Fremantle system, with two games this season, as well as solid consistent form for Peel Thunder, averaging 22.4 disposals and 4.2 marks, keeping himself well in the conversation for Fremantle as well.

Liam Reidy

Reidy has an average of 9.5 disposals, 1.3 marks, and had a career-best 36 hit outs against West Perth in round seven.

Josh Draper

Part of Fremantle’s next-gen academy, Draper has played six games for Peel as he builds his game for an opportunity, averaging 10.2 disposals, 3.7 marks.

Conrad Williams

The other selection for Fremantle from its NGA, Williams is currently building in the reserves for Peel Thunder.

His best result to date was 18 disposals and seven marks against Swan Districts.

Thomas Grattan

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Zaine Cordy

Though the former Dog has contributed somewhat in 2023, Cordy’s first campaign with the Saints hasn’t been particularly noteworthy so far.

In the seven games he’s played in, the make shift forward most notably stood up when the Saints took on his former club in round two. In the 51-point win, Cordy finished off the evening with two goals and 13 disposals and six marks.

Liam Stocker

After being a shock delisting by Carlton, Stocker is settling in well at his new team, playing 11 games in the season campaign so far.

Stocker is currently averaging 19.6 disposals per game. His most eye-catching performance was against the Gold Coast Suns in round four where he delivered 26 disposals and seven marks in the 56-point win.

Showing to have been a valuable pick-up, he also is averaging 7.9 handballs (rated above-average) and 7.4 marks (rated elite) per game.

Mattaes Phillipou

The South Australian talent has been electrifying on the field and has impressed St Kilda fans since making his debut back in round one.

Taken at pick 10 in last year’s draft, Phillipou has played eleven games so far and has been impressive weekly. With 13 disposals, four tackles and six marks in the 30-point win against North Melbourne, Phillipou received a Rising Star nomination.

Anthony Caminiti

The young gun has been making the most of his opportunities at AFL level this year, playing eight games.

So far, the 19-year-old has managed to bag 10 goals.

James Van Es

Van Es is yet to make his debut at AFL level, and is averaging 8.9 disposals in the VFL.

Olli Hotton

Hotton has yet to debut for the side after he was ruled out for the first half of the year with a back injury at the start of pre-season.

Isaac Keeler

Keeler is yet to debut for St Kilda and is averaging 9.2 disposals and 3.2 marks per game.

Angus McLennan

The nineteen-year-old has not yet been able to debut as a result of a back injury. But is looking likely to get his chance in the latter part of the season.

Ashleigh Matosevic

Aaron Francis

Sydney’s only trade for the 2022 off-season, Francis was unable to break into the senior team early but with a raft of injuries down back and up forward for the Swans, he has got a continued run at the highest level, being played in both positions.

Francis has averaged nine disposals, 3.8 spoils, and 1.5 intercept marks in six games. While not particularly eye-catching statistics, his height has ensured the Swans have a defensive post filled until the cavalry arrives after the bye.

Jacob Konstanty

Konstanty has had to wait to get his first shot at VFL level, with shin soreness halting his start in the Swans reserves.

Playing five games to date, Konstanty has been slowly but surely building, with his numbers against Carlton (nine disposals, three marks, three tackles and 2.1) representing his best game to date.

Currently on an upward trajectory, and with hopefully an injury-free run, Konstanty may find himself at AFL level sooner rather than later.

Cooper Vickery

A defender who is also able to play wing, Vickery has been steadily building his game at the lower level, although his output has dropped steadily since a solid performance against the Northern Bullants, where he had 18 disposals, five marks, and kicked his first goal.

Playing on the half-back flank, Vickery will no doubt continue to grow at the lower level before entering the frame for senior selection.

Caleb Mitchell 

Playing in the centre for the first time in the VFL against Carlton saw Pick 40 Mitchell break out in a big way with 21 touches, six marks, two tackles and a goal.

Should his trajectory continue to trend upward, we may see him debut for Sydney sooner rather than later.

Cameron Owen

Much like Lachlan McAndrew who recently made his debut at senior level, Owen is a long-term prospect in the ruck for the Swans.

Owen’s stats have remained steady so far in his career in the VFL, and should he continue on this path, he, much like McAndrew, may get a call-up earlier than expected for Sydney.

Jaiden Magor 

X-factor selection Magor joined the VFL from the SANFL and has kept his stats relatively consistent for the Swans at the lower level with disposal numbers regularly in the teens.

Having also hit the scoreboard four times so far this season, Magor may be one to watch in years to come.

Will Edwards

An academy selection for the Swans, Sydney will no doubt be hoping he can grow to reach the heights of previous academy players.

Already having some experience at VFL level with a handful of games in 2022, the Category B rookie has grown into a regular centre half back for the side, and with 33 marks for the year to date, this is potentially a role he can make his own to push for a debut at some point in the future.

Thomas Grattan

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