Some massive players still remain without a contract for 2023 (Photos: 7AFL, GWS Giants)

As we hit the halfway mark of the 2022 season, The Inner Sanctum takes a look at who your club must re-sign for 2023 and beyond

At the halfway mark of the season, there are still plenty of big-name players yet to sign with their clubs for 2023 and beyond. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at your club and outlines exactly who must be signed and why.

Taylor Walker

Despite an impressive start to the 2022 season, the forward is Adelaide’s leading goalkicker so far this season with 21 goals. The former skipper is yet to be offered a contract extension from the Crows.

After only being offered a one-year extension previously, the outcome of the veteran player’s contract talks is in question as the team has several young, first-round draft picks that are attempting to fit into Adelaide’s future goals.

The 32-year-old, 228 gamer hasn’t been without controversy as of late and with the club’s rebuild in their mind, it may be this star forward’s time to leave the nest.

James Rowe

The 22-year-old mature aged draftee has been in questionable form so far this season. However, being in and out of the SANFL Crows reserves team is not ideal for the legacy player, which may mean his position amongst the team is in doubt – despite contract discussions still being in play for many.

Rowe likely still has plenty to offer the Crows and should be re-signed towards the end of 2022.

Elliot Himmelberg

The tall forward’s form has been impressionable in 2022, kicking 11 goals so far this season,

There seems to be no doubt that Himmelberg’s contract will be renewed by Adelaide as the 24-year-old still has his best footy ahead of him with his profound marking ability and tall frame.

Hopefully, Himmelberg will be able to cement his spot and get a regular senior game as his contract talks loom.

Others: Ben Davis, Billy Frampton, Brett Turner, James Borlase, Lachlan Gollant, Luke Nankervis, Mitchell Hinge, Patrick Parnell, Tariek Newchurch

Juliette Aubert

Daniel McStay

He’s one of the biggest names in the current free agency pool and as interest from rival clubs grows, his signature becomes even more of a priority for the Lions.

The forward has booted 14 goals from 10 games this season, forming a formidable pairing with Joe Daniher before he went down with injury and more recently, Eric Hipwood when he returned from an ACL injury. McStay himself has also spent some time on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

As the Lions continue to push for the premiership and make the most of the strong list they have built, McStay’s signature is critical to ensure that the three-pronged attack of Daniher, Hipwood and himself remains intact.

Deven Robertson

Brisbane jumped to the front of the queue to nab the talented Robertson when he slipped out of the first round at the 2019 National Draft. Since then, the 20-year-old has played 20 games for the Lions and is one of their brightest young cubs on the list.

However, Robertson has only managed three (one as the unused medical sub) games this season to date, earning a recall for the Lions’ win over the Giants. Robertson collected 17 disposals and two goals, continuing to show his ability to win and distribute the footy cleanly and finish in front of goal.

Robertson will be looking for more game time in the second half of 2022 without a doubt. With both WA clubs poised to circle and ask the question the longer, he remains unsigned.

Robertson’s signature is an important one for the Lions to secure in the second half of the season.

Darcy Gardiner

Gardiner’s importance to this Lions side was left for all to see when the tall defender missed the 2020 Preliminary Final which cost Brisbane the opportunity to host the Grand Final at the Gabba. Since then, Gardiner has continued to be unheralded yet super important to the Lions back six, working alongside Harris Andrews and Marcus Adams as the key pillars down back.

Gardiner has only missed the one game so far this year after missing a big chunk of last season with a shoulder injury. He is averaging 12.6 disposals and 4.6 spoils a game so far in 2022, elevating his game.

His importance to the Lions’ side cannot be understated and looms as a priority signature in his Free Agency year.

Others: Blake Coleman, Callum ah Chee, Carter Michael, Connor McFadyen, Darcy Fort, Dayne Zorko, Deividas Uosis, Ely Smith, James Madden, Jaxon Prior, Mitch Cox, Mitch Robinson, Ryan Lester, Tom Fullarton

Jono Baruch

Lochie O’Brien

It’s been a career-best year for the former top-10 draft pick who’s becoming a key cog in this strong Carlton lineup. 

This year he’s averaging career-highs in disposals (18.4), marks (5.4), kicks (12.9), uncontested possessions (15.6), and effective disposals (12.8).

At the start of the year, many would’ve thought his contract wouldn’t be renewed. But with the fresh set of eyes from Michael Voss and the new coaching staff, O’Brien has become one of Carlton’s weapons up and down the wings and playing a vital role in the side.

With the season he’s having the Blues would want to lock him up sooner rather than later.

Carlton wingman Lochie O’Brien is continuing to prove the doubters wrong in 2022 (Photo: Carlton FC)

Matt Owies

Owies has not missed a game so far this season and has cemented himself as an integral part of the Blues’ mosquito fleet down forward.

The ex-basketballer this season has had career-high numbers in disposals (10), tackles (3.9), tackles inside 50 (2.1) where he leads the competition, pressure acts (15.5), disposals efficiency (74.5 per cent), inside 50s (1.8) as well as kicking nine goals, and averaging 4.3 score involvements per game.

While it might get looked at later in the year for the Blues to tidy up, his signature is an important one to chase for both Voss and Carlton as the 25-year-old continues developing into a great small forward.

Liam Stocker

Whilst he’s only played a couple of games this season due to a syndesmosis injury in the pre-season and a shoulder injury when he first returned, Stocker has still played his role under Michael Voss.

He might not be having the start to the season he would have hoped for after his impressive 2021 season, but he’s still averaging 10.3 disposals, 2.7 one-percenters (career-high), and 74.2 per cent disposal efficiency in only three games this year.

He will only get better as the season goes on and should be re-signed by Carlton for his potential.

Others: Caleb Marchbank, David Cunningham, Ed Curnow, Jack Newnes, Jordan Boyd, Josh Honey, Lachlan Fogarty, Luke Parks, Matt Cottrell, Oscar McDonald, Tom Williamson, Will Setterfield, Will Hayes, Sam Durdin

Josh Ward

Darcy Cameron

The key forward and ruckman had a career-best year in the 2021 season. Due to this, he has been a regular in the side, especially with Brodie Grundy’s injury.

As the Pies’ current number one ruckman, he is getting the recognition he deserves and will be hoping for a contract extension. After only playing one game during his three-year stint with the Swans, Cameron has played 40 games for the black and white.

With more playing time this year, Cameron is averaging 12.8 disposals, 13.5 hitouts and nearly a goal per game. Sharing the rucking duties with Mason Cox, he has also provided the Pies with a tall target up front.

Jordan De Goey

After a controversial off-season, De Goey has been an essential part of Collingwood’s 2022 season. De Goey is currently ranked 16th in the AFL Coaches’ Association player of the year with 31 votes, eight votes behind teammate Jack Crisp.

Heading into the bye rounds, the 26-year-old is averaging 21.5 disposals, four marks and 1.1 goals per game. His role in the midfield and forward line provides the team with versatility.

The rumour mill has expressed that he has a keen interest to stay in the black and white, and has said to be happy at the Pies. If De Goey can stay out of off-field problems, the Pies will be hoping to re-sign him as soon as possible to a long term deal.

Jamie Elliott

The 11-year veteran and two-time leading goal kicker is another name Collingwood will be hoping to re-sign. Coming back from an injury he sustained last year, Elliott continues to make his presence known inside forward 50.

Even though he is averaging under a goal per game, he is averaging three marks, 4.5 tackles and 15.8 touches (career-high), statistics which put him in the elite level for his position.

The Pies will be hoping he gets back to full fitness in the coming months, in which Elliott will need to get back to his goalscoring best to get a regular spot in the team, having only appeared six times this year.

Others: Ash Johnson, Caleb Poulter, Callum Brown, Finlay Macrae, Isaac Chugg, Jack Madgen, Josh Carmichael, Josh Daicos, Liam McMahon, Mason Cox, Nathan Murphy, Oliver Henry, Steele Sidebottom, Tom Wilson, Trent Bianco, Tyler Brown, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Will Kelly

Ethan Lee Chalk

Dyson Heppell

Whether it be on or off the field, Dyson Heppell is as crucial to Essendon’s success as he has ever been. Not only is he the captain, but he is also the heart and soul of the football club.

Heppell has proven time and time again that he is one of the most inspirational captains in the competition, and he plays his role wherever he needs to on the ground. With the way the half-back line has changed drastically at the Bombers in the past couple of years, Heppell is hugely important in trying to maintain some stability back there.

Despite having just hit the age of 30, that number three at the front can be deceiving, and Heppell still has a few good years left in him to try and steer the Bombers back up the ladder.

Andrew McGrath

You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that Andrew McGrath has not lived up to the expectations of a number one draft pick.

The conversation around his potential departure is starting to heat up, with rumours that Richmond and St Kilda are both keeping tabs on the former NAB Rising Star winner. While some may believe it’s time for him to move on, a new deal and a little bit of faith from Essendon could inject some new life into the career of the 24-year-old.

He has previously been touted as a future captain of the club, and if the Bombers stick with him and he finds form once again, he could go on to become a vital member of their midfield group as the team begins climbing up the AFL ladder.

Aaron Francis

Previously, Aaron Francis has been an ever-present key defender for the Bombers. However, he has now proven himself to be a decent forward, playing a role in attack in recent times.

Francis provides an extra target for the Bombers up forward, which helps number one key forward Peter Wright out greatly. The West Adelaide product is also a valuable asset depth-wise given his previously mentioned ability to play at either end of the ground.

Francis had his fair share of solid games for the club and, at just 24 years of age, the former top-10 draft pick has plenty of good years ahead of him regardless of which end of the ground he finds himself. It would be a worthy signature for the Bombers to lock down.

Others: Alec Waterman, Andrew Phillips, Brayden Ham, Cian McBride, Cody Brand, James Stewart, Josh Eyre, Jye Menzie, Kaine Baldwin, Massimo D’Ambrosio, Matt Guelfi, Michael Hurley, Patrick Voss, Tex Wanganeen, Tom Cutler, Tom Hird

Brandon Patane

Alex Pearce

Securing the signature of key defender Alex Pearce will be one of Fremantle’s top priorities. The Dockers have been one of the best defensive sides in the league so far this season and the 26-year-old has been integral in locking up the opposition’s best forward each week.

Just reaching his prime now after injury setbacks the past two seasons, Pearce is set to be an integral part of Fremantle’s future. With the form, Pearce has been in to this point in the season, a spot in the 40-man All Australian Squad looks probable come season’s end.

A restricted free agent, Fremantle can show its faith in Pearce by signing him to a long-term deal and offering him the opportunity of being a one-club player.

Will Brodie

One of the best off-season acquisitions, Will Brodie has been a revelation for the Dockers this season, helping to cover the void left by the departure of Adam Cerra.

Brodie has been one of five Dockers’ to play in every game. This season he is averaging 27.8 disposals, 4.7 tackles, and a team-high 6.8 clearances.

The 23-year-old has made an instant impact in Fremantle’s midfield, forming a strong partnership with Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong, with the trio having made the Dockers one of the best-contested sides in the league, led by Brodie who ranks fifth in the league for contested possessions with 162, averaging 13.5 per game.

Set to be out of contract at season’s end, Fremantle should reward Brodie with a new contract, locking him in with the rest of its young nucleus as it looks to build towards competing for the club’s first premiership.

Blake Acres

Since coming over from St Kilda in 2020, Acres has struggled with injuries but now looks to have put the setbacks behind him, returning to career-best form this year. The hard-running winger has been one of Fremantle’s stand out players so far this season and a big part of its ascent into finals contention.

Acres has played an important role, supporting his fellow inside midfielders by winning the ball on the outside and driving the Dockers into attack. This was evident in the Dockers’ three-point win over Geelong where the 26-year-old had 27 disposals, six marks, eight inside 50s, and led the team in meters gained with 675 metres.

With the form Acres is in, Fremantle will want to secure his signature before the season’s end to avoid rival clubs attempting to lure him away.

Others: Bailey Banfield, Connor Blakely, David Mundy, Griffin Logue, James Aish, Joel Western, Mitch Crowden, Nathan Wilson, Sam Sturt, Sebit Kuek, Travis Colyer

Ben Filosi

Brandan Parfitt

The 24-year old has just recently notched over 100 games and is entering his prime playing years. His ability to play both inside and outside-mid, combined with his excellent tackling pressure, has seen him become a vital cog in the Geelong’s midfield.

His absence through injury in last year’s preliminary final highlighted his importance, and will likely have the Cats knocking on his door with a new contract in the coming months.

Max Holmes

Pick 20 of the 2020 AFL Draft, Holmes was beginning to meaningfully impact games as a midfielder before injury struck earlier in the season.

His pace (a former under age national 400 metres hurdles champion) and overall athleticism mean once his body fully develops, he will be a vital component of a Cats’ midfield in need of an injection of youth.

The signing of Holmes, while likely not soon, is almost a certainty with the Cats’ ageing list.

Tom Hawkins

Perhaps a 33-year-old would not be considered a high priority to re-sign, but age appears to be no factor for Hawkins.

Arguably playing his best footy in the last three seasons, the Tomahawk shows no signs of slowing down and is a critical component of the Cats’ forward line with 33 goals already this season.

In Geelong’s continued pursuit of a premiership in the next three to four years, Hawkins will prove to be the difference-maker come finals time.

Others: Francis Evans, Gary Rohan, Isaac Smith, Joel Selwood, Luke Dahlhaus, Mark O’Connor, Nick Stevens, Paul Tsapatolis, Quinton Narkle, Sam Simpson, Shannon Neale, Shaun Higgins, Zach Guthrie, Zach Tuohy, Zane Williams

Scott Kertes

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Izak Rankine

The growth in the game of Izak Rankine in the past month has been immense. He has long been regarded as a potentially lethal forward but one whose work rate just hasn’t been up to scratch, and to some outsiders it may seem as though the penny has finally dropped.

The truth of the matter lies more in the fact that this season he has had a run that has been unencumbered by nagging injuries that have blighted his first couple of years in the game, and his sheer love of football, due to the work of the emerging Suns’ midfield is shining through.

The recent win over Fremantle showcased his potential amply. 18 possessions (15 of these contested), 11 score involvements, and four tackles are not the stuff of a lazy, selfish player, and Rankine’s value to the Gold Coast means that his re-signing is a huge priority.

Levi Casboult

Levi Casboult’s inclusion on this list would have been laughed at a mere three months ago. His recruitment was a shock in some circles and was even seen by some as (further) proof that the Suns are going nowhere, and fast.

Fast forward to the present. Ben King was struck down with an ACL injury before the season even opened, and most pundits were concerned about how the Suns were ever going to kick a winning score. Their answer was to turn to a two-pronged attack of Casboult and Mabior Chol.

The ploy has succeeded to the tune of 21 goals for Casboult and 24 to Chol, a key plank in the Suns winning six of their first 12 games. It is, of course, unknown just how strongly King will return come round one in 2023, which is the main reason that Casboult must be retained.

Jack Lukosius

Jack Lukosius is often looked upon as a talented swingman who has not yet fulfilled his undoubted potential. His 2020 season showed signs of the green shoots beginning to develop as he was used more in the defensive unit, but last year was needed more in the forward line as a foil to Ben King.

It can be lost in the narrative that the 195cm key position player is still only 21 years old, and has a long future still ahead of him. It still has yet to be conclusively determined what his best role is, and how his wand of a right foot could be best used for the benefit of the side.

Lukosius has managed only six games so far in 2022 due to a nagging PCL injury but has been set for a big finish to the season after the bye. His key attributes are too valuable for the Suns to allow him to go elsewhere, and they will see his signature as a priority as the season draws to its conclusion.

Others: Alex Davies, Bohi Uwland, Caleb Graham, Chris Burgess, Darcy McPherson, Hewargo Oea, James Tsitas, Jez McLennan, Josh Corbett, Lachlan Weller, Matt Conroy, Oleg Markov, Oskar Faulkhead, Patrick Murtagh, Rhys Nicholls.

Hugh Maclean

Tim Taranto

One of the top midfielders entering free agency at the end of the season, the Giants will be eager to extend Taranto’s stay, having developed him into one of the best midfielders at the club.

The 24-year-old has proven to be versatile, having been influential when utilised as a forward in addition to being dangerous in the middle of the ground.

Tough, strong around the contest, a great mark around the ground and possessing great footy sense, retaining Taranto’s services will be a priority for the Giants.

Taranto is a future superstar of the competition, and one the Giants will be eager to keep (Photo: GWS Giants)

Phil Davis

Despite being plagued by injuries and entering the back end of his career, the Giants will be hoping to sign veteran Phil Davis for at least another season.

Having been sidelined with a hamstring injury since Round 2, the 31-year-old had an enjoyable start to the season having kept Lance Franklin quiet in the season opener, proving he’s still a capable defender.

Having been touted as one of the best leaders at the club, his leadership alone is a valuable asset for the club. And with the side looking like they’re refreshing the playing squad, an experienced head like Davis will be crucial going forward.

Zach Sproule

Though not a high-profile name like Davis or Taranto, Zach Sproule looks to be finally kicking on, with the 24-year-old ruck-forward finally given a chance in recent weeks.

Sproule looks to be progressing into a valuable big man for the Giants, and with the Giants lacking talls, the side will be hopeful of keeping the 198cm big man on and continuing his development.

Others: Adam Kennedy, Callan Ward, Callum M Brown, Cameron Fleeton, Cooper Hamilton, Daniel Lloyd, Bobby Hill, Jacob Wehr, Jake Stein, James Peatling, Jarrod Brander, Kieren Briggs, Lachlan Keefe, Matt de Boer, Tanner Bruhn, Wade Derksen, Will Shaw. Xavier O’Halloran

Giacomo Bruno

Mitchell Lewis

Mitchell Lewis has for some time been seen as a player that could become a long-term key forward for Hawthorn, and one of the more important pieces in what it hopes will be its next premiership side.

He looked like his progress had stalled in 2020, but his promise was there for all to see in the last month of the 2021 season.

Come 2022, and Lewis has had an uninterrupted pre-season for the first time in three years. The fruits of the preparation have been on display: Lewis has not been held goalless in any of his nine matches and 27 goals is a healthy return, especially in front of a midfield that is by no means yet the finished product.

Standing 199cm and tipping the scales at 101kg, Mitchell Lewis still has plenty of improvement left in him at 23 years of age. The future is starting to look better at Hawthorn, and it needs Lewis to be a part of it.

Chad Wingard

Chad Wingard provides Hawthorn with some much-needed X-factor. In a forward line full of workman-like solid citizens, it is Wingard that can bob up and kick goals that others can’t, and provide a difficult match-up through his ability to play as a small forward while simultaneously posing an aerial threat.

Hawthorn’s main forward threats are still youngsters and as such do not yet have the know-how to unlock the better defences in the AFL. Wingard provides the trickery that prevents their attacking set-up from being too predictable.

Whilst 12.2 disposals and 1.7 goals per game don’t sound like the statistics of a player that is pulling up too many trees, Wingard is worth more than numbers alone. He has long been regarded as a quality more than quantity player, and his value as a player capable of bringing those around him into the game is something that Hawthorn can ill-afford to lose.

Jack Gunston

There is no question that Hawthorn walks taller simply through Jack Gunston’s presence in the forward 50. His know-how collected from 219 games of AFL football is invaluable to the education of the young talent around him.

His worth goes a long way further than education value however. With young twin towers Mitchell Lewis and Jacob Koschitzke taking up the time of the two opposition key defenders, Jack Gunston becomes a very difficult match-up in his own right, his 193cm and 86kg frame allowing him an edge in agility over many potential opponents.

Whilst his last two years have been blighted by injury, his innate air of positivity has played a big part in the growing confidence of this emerging side. For the whole package that Jack Gunston offers, his signature will be regarded by the club as a priority come 2022’s end.

Others: Ben McEvoy, Connor Downie, Conor Nash, Daniel Howe, Emerson Jeka, Harry Morrison, Jack Saunders, James Blanck, Josh Morris, Liam Shiels, Max Ramsden, Sam Frost, Seamus Mitchell, Tom Phillips, Tyler Brockman

Hugh Maclean

Angus Brayshaw

Melbourne will be keen to see Brayshaw sign the bottom line soon knowing first-hand how valuable a footballer he is.

The 26-year-old has shown he can play multiple roles within the 22, playing on a wing, at half-back and even as a contested midfielder, the position in which he finished third in the 2018 Brownlow Medal count.

Brayshaw is a restricted free agent, meaning Melbourne can match any offer for the utility at the season’s end.

Luke Jackson

The 20-year-old ruck-forward is proving to be one of the most sought-after players. In his three seasons at AFL level, Jackson has proven to be a key cog in Melbourne’s lineup, playing as a third tall forward partnering with Tom McDonald and Bayley Fritsch, while backing up Max Gawn in the ruck.

Jackson has shown constant improvement since being drafted, this year he’s averaging career-highs in disposals (14.6 per game) and marks (3.5 per game).

The West Australian looks settled in Melbourne and at the Demons, but you can never count out the lure of going home being in the back of his mind. But with the Demons riding a wave of success it’s doubtful they let the 199cm ruckman leave.

Jayden Hunt

Some people may forget what an integral part of Melbourne’s backline Jayden Hunt was. After being trialled on the wing and as a pressure forward, the Demons settled Hunt in his natural position, off half-back.

The speedster is known for his line-breaking ability but he showed to be a capable lockdown defender, playing on the opposition’s best small forward.

The 27-year-old played 21 games last year and looked every part of playing in Melbourne’s run to the premiership before going down with injury and looks set to earn an extension at the Demons after another good start in season 2022.

Others: Daniel Turner, Deakyn Smith, Fraser Rosman, Jake Melksham, Joel Smith, Judd McVee, Kade Chandler, Majak Daw, Michael Hibberd, Mitch Brown, Oskar Brown, Toby Bedford

Jordan Janssen

Cameron Zurhaar

North Melbourne’s first selection in the 2016 Rookie Draft, Cameron Zurhaar only managed nine games across his first two seasons but has since cemented himself in their best 22.

The 24-year-old, who has only missed two games so far this season, and kicked 15 goals, finished in the top 10 in their best and fairest in 2020 and 2021.

Zurhaar is a heart and soul player who, at his best, is a game-changer. The hard grunt forward was North’s leading goalkicker in 2020 and is proving to be a pivotal player that it can build its team around in years to come.

Bailey Scott

In a disappointing start to the season for North Melbourne, Bailey Scott has been one of the improved players. Taken as a father-son selection in 2018, Scott has featured in all of North’s games this season and is averaging career-best possessions (18), marks (5.3) and kicking efficiency (77.3 per cent).

Deep into his fourth year, the 21-year-old defender is fast becoming a vital cog in this young North list and signing him on beyond 2022 is the key if North wants to take the next steps in getting back into finals contention.

Curtis Taylor

It may have taken him a while to break into the team, after floating in and out of the side in his first two seasons, but Curtis Taylor has become a consistent part of the North Melbourne lineup in 2021, playing a total of 19 games (one as the unused medical sub).

Following on from his breakout season, Taylor’s first few weeks of 2022 were a standout, particularly the Good Friday clash where he kicked two goals.

Drafted in 2018 at pick 46, he has become a mainstay, playing every game in what has been a rough season for the club. The 22-year-old possesses the class and outside run that North desperately needs, which shows just how important it is for it to re-sign him.

Others: Aaron Hall, Atu Bosenavulagi, Ben Cunnington, Flynn Perez, Jed Anderson, Josh Walker, Kallan Dawson, Kayne Turner, Kyron Hayden, Lachie Young, Matthew McGuinness, Patrick Walker, Todd Goldstein

Monique Quercio

Karl Amon

Whilst the rumours surround a probable exit, Karl Amon is a signature Port must get.

To keep the reputation that players don’t leave Alberton is one key reason Amon must stay as this is something Port has built culturally over the past few years and could be a gateway for others to explore as well.

His form of 2021 and patches this year showcase how at his best, he is extremely damaging. His inside 50 delivery and movement around the ground will fit into any game plan but particularly with Port who struggles with delivery inside 50.

Lachlan Jones

Port Adelaide’s young gun whose form hasn’t been to what was expected so far, but the potential alone demands pen to paper.

Continuity is crucial and once Jones gets momentum into his game, there’s no doubt he’ll be a big asset to Port’s future.

Travis Boak

Ageing finely and still producing quality games of football, you’d think Boak is a no brainer to sign on for another year. Especially with the young brigade coming through and a potential future shift for Port Adelaide, Boak is still a massive asset with a key part to play.

The 33-year-old finished 2021 with 25 Brownlow votes in another amazing season in teal and will hope to finish his career on his terms.

Others: Brynn Teakle, Jackson Mead, Jake Pasini, Jed McEntee, Martin Frederick, Robbie Gray, Sam Mayes, Sam Skinner, Steven Motlop, Taj Schofield, Trent Dumont, Trent McKenzie

Anthony Alesiani

Liam Baker

Baker has shown how valuable he is to Richmond as he seemingly does it all consistently. The youngster is the type of player Damien Hardwick loves due to his versatility.

Baker started season 2022 in the forward line before moving to defence, playing a role as an intercepting and rebounding defender, the role which saw him play a key part in the Tigers’ 2019 and 2020 premiership sides.

In his fifth year at Tigerland, Baker is averaging 18 disposals and 4.6 intercept possessions. At only 24-years-old, Baker is entering the sweet spot of his career and Richmond will want to ensure the lively character stays at Punt Road for a few more years.

Daniel Rioli

Rioli started his career as a small forward, causing chaos in Richmond’s forward 50, pressuring opposition defenders and kicking goals.

Midway through last year, the Tigers coaching staff tried him in defence at half-back in the VFL and he showed some encouraging signs, using his blistering speed to carry the ball out of defence. Rioli returned to the senior side due to a Bachar Houli injury and he grew into the role over the final seven weeks of the season, recording 20 plus disposals on three occasions.

In his 11 games in 2022, he is proving invaluable off the defensive line. The triple-premiership player is averaging 19.7 touches (career-high), five marks (career-high), 5.5 intercept possessions, and 398.8 metres gained per game.

After signing a one year deal last year, Rioli will look to cash in on his good form and extend his tenure at Punt Road.

Rioli (Second from Left) has been reinvigorated as a running half-back (Photo: Richmond FC)

Nathan Broad

A staple of the Tigers’ backline in recent years, Broad is a versatile defender who can play on the opposition’s best key forward or small forward, he can also play as an interceptor or as a dasher, running off half-back.

The 29-year-old is another Richmond player currently experiencing a career year, averaging 18.6 disposals, 7.1 marks, 6.2 intercept possessions, and 315.9 metres gained per game so far in season 2022.

This Tigers’ backline is still learning to gel properly, with Bachar Houli and David Astbury recently departing Punt Road. This means the Tigers would love to see Broad sign the dotted line to ensure their defence is intact for the next few years while they can still contend.

Others: Ben Miller, Bigoa Nyuon, Jack Riewoldt, Jack Ross, Jacob Baur, Jake Aarts, Kane Lambert, Marlion Pickett, Mate Colina, Matthew Parker, Maurice Rioli Jr, Noah Cumberland, Riley Collier-Dawkins, Shane Edwards, Sydney Stack, Trent Cotchin, Will Martyn

Jordan Janssen

Rowan Marshall

One that has already started receiving interest from rival clubs such as Essendon, Marshall is one St Kilda must lock away as soon as possible.

The emerging ruckman is one of the Saints’ most important players, providing 18.8 hit-outs per game and remaining a handy asset in front of goal with eight majors this season.

With the Saints seeing amazing results from the duo of Marshall and fellow ruckman Paddy Ryder, they will hope they can lock the big man away for a potential premiership tilt while Ryder remains in the league.

Jack Higgins

Throughout much of his tenure in red, black and white, many fans have questioned Higgins’s ability. But his form throughout 2022 has shown exactly why the Saints will be looking to get his signature as soon as possible.

While he has had some issues with a string of concussions, the skill that Higgins possesses in front of goal cannot be ignored, highlighted by a fantastic five-goal effort against the Suns along with two lots of four.

When Higgins is playing well, the Saints win. He is the barometer of the side and his energy provides the team with a greater will to win, something that the Saints will be keen to have back in 2023 and beyond.

Josh Battle

In his sixth year as a Saint, Battle has hit the best form of his career in a role in which he is thriving.

Battle has been thrown around the field for the entirety of his career, playing as a key forward, key back and an undersized ruckman when required. In 2022, he has found his home in the backline in which he is acting as an interceptor and providing great use out of the back 50.

He is averaging almost 18 disposals per game and played a vital role in the Saints’ win against the Giants, in which he had to play outmatched in the ruck and the Saints still came away with a 17 point victory, with Battle having 23 disposals.

Battle’s versatility is a must-have for the Saints in the future, and they will hope to keep him around as they climb the ladder into a hopeful premiership.

Others: Ben Long, Ben Paton, Dan Butler, Dan Hannebery, Darragh Joyce, Dean Kent, Jack Bytel, Jarrod Lienert, Jarryn Geary, Mason Wood, Max Heath, Paddy Ryder, Ryan Byrnes, Tom Campbell, Tom Highmore, Zak Jones

Jarryd Thomas

Oliver Florent

Probably one of the Swans’ most important signatures to get this season, Florent is one of the club’s most versatile midfielders. He can play on the outside of the contest but is also capable on the inside, with the Victorian playing primarily on the wing before last year.

In season 2022, the 23-year-old is averaging 16 disposals, 4.4 marks, and 290.4 metres gained per game through 12 rounds. He isn’t averaging big numbers but the speedster remains a key piece in John Longmire’s set up and Sydney won’t want to lose one of its brightest younger talents.

Paddy McCartin

What a first year back after a three-year hiatus for Paddy McCartin. Playing in defence as an intercepting defender after starting his career as a key forward, the switch has worked wonders for McCartin who has made the most of his second chance at AFL level.

The 195cm defender started 2022 on fire and an argument could have been made to be selected in the All-Australian squad after a couple of rounds. He has cooled down since then but McCartin still plays an important role in Sydney’s backline alongside his brother, Tom.

McCartin has played 11 out of a possible 12 games this season, only missing one match due to concussion protocols. In 11 games, he is currently averaging career-highs in disposals (13.1 touches per game), marks (5.5 marks per game), intercept possessions (8.1 per game), and rebound 50s (3.3 per game).

Only 26-years-old, the older McCartin has plenty of football still in him and can only get better as he continues to learn the role in the future, with that reason of most importance to the Swans who will want to sign him up as soon as possible.

Jake Lloyd

Lloyd has been one of the best and most consistent performers in the competition at half-back. The medium defender is a ball magnet averaging more than 20 disposals per game every year bar one (his second season) of his career.

The rookie-listed product is clean with football in hand and is an elegant kick, with his presence a calming influence over the Swans’ back six.

The 28-year-old’s numbers are a little down compared to previous years due to the change in Sydney’s game plan, but he is still averaging 24.3 disposals, 4.8 marks, 1.7 inside 50s, 404.8 metres gained, and six rebound 50s per game in 11 games in season 2022.

Lloyd has been a valuable, dependable and durable member of the Bloods. With prior knowledge of clubs going after the 180cm defender in the past, the Swans will be keen to get the veteran to sign the dotted line to see him stay in the harbour city for the rest of his career and see him finish as a one-club player.

Others: Barry O’Connor, Ben Ronke, Callum Sinclair, Colin O’Riordan, Harry Cunningham, Hugo Hall-Kahan, James Bell, Josh Kennedy, Lachlan McAndrew, Lance Franklin, Lewis Taylor, Robbie Fox, Ryan Clarke, Sam Naismith, Sam Reid, Will Gould

Jordan Janssen

Alex Witherden

For the embattled Eagles, their attention should be on trying to keep Witherden on their playing list for an extended period. Since joining the side in 2021, the 23-year-old has proven to be a key member of the West Coast side and has emerged as a silver lining in the Eagles’ troubled 2022 season.

Averaging 23.7 disposals and 8.5 marks per game, Witherden has proven himself to be one of the club’s most important players. He was instrumental in his side’s match against Port Adelaide where he had 34 disposals, with 24 of them kicks.

Witherden also has proved to be an asset defensively, standing up in a backline that is under immense pressure each week.

With the Eagles potentially looking to be on the edge of a rebuild as a handful of players are close to the ends of their careers, Witherden can be a crucial cog for the Eagles to help them rise up the ladder.

Willie Rioli

After an extended period out of the game, getting the signature of Willie Rioli should be a top priority for West Coast, as Rioli has shown only glimpses of his potential in season 2022.

This season, Rioli is averaging 11.3 disposals and over a goal per game, with his most impressive performance to date this season against North Melbourne in Round 2. His outing against the Kangaroos included 18 disposals and four goals.

At the age of 27 and a premiership player himself, his experience should help in rebuilding the team in the 2023 season.

Bailey Williams

Similar to Witherden, Bailey Williams is an important name for the Eagles to look at. The promising forward-ruck may not yet have a large number of games under his belt, but has shown glimpses of potential this season to be considered for another contract.

Drafted in 2018, Williams is averaging seven disposals and 16 hitouts in the six games he has played this season. Given the uncertainty surrounding the likes of Josh Kennedy and Nic Naitanui for how much longer they can go on, the development of their younger talent should be at the forefront for the Eagles.

Since being drafted to the club, Williams slowly looks to have fit into the side and can potentially help bolster the Eagles as he continues to get more experience.

Others: Aaron Black, Angus Dewar, Angus Schumacher, Brayden Ainsworth, Callum Jamieson, Connor West, Declan Mountford, Hugh Dixon, Isiah Winder, Jack Redden, Jackson Nelson, Jai Culley, Jake Florenca, Jamaine Jones, Josh Kennedy, Logan Young, Luke Edwards, Luke Meadows, Luke Shuey, Luke Strnadica, Nic Naitanui, Patrick Naish, Sam Fisher, Shannon Hurn, Stefan Giro, Tom Joyce, Zane Trew

Ashleigh Matosevic

Bailey Smith

It has been a brilliant breakout season in 2022 for the Bulldogs cult figure, who has well and truly taken his game to the next level. With his fitness also better than ever, Smith has turned into one of the competition’s most elite players and is averaging career-best numbers.

This season, Smith is averaging 31.6 disposals, 594.3 metres gained and 7.6 score involvements per game, all numbers which are considered elite by Champion Data. Smith’s most notable performance came in Round 5 against North Melbourne where he gathered 43 disposals.

The Bulldogs would be very keen to secure Smith’s signature for 2023 and beyond, and it is expected he will be on the receiving end of a big deal, no matter what he chooses to do.

Josh Dunkley

It is widely expected that Dunkley is leading the Bulldogs’ best and fairest at the halfway point of the season. Along with this, Dunkley also has announced himself as one of the competition’s best midfielders.

Dunkley was the talk of the trade period at the end of 2020, with a move to Essendon very much on the cards. However, a deal was not reached and he remained a Bulldog.

In that time, we have seen the club make a Grand Final, and with the club holding a talented list, the premiership player is more than ever a key piece of the lineup.

Dunkley has put together several brilliant performances in 2022, including against the Bombers where he stole the show in a season defining win. It was here Dunkley gathered 29 disposals and booted two goals.

With rival clubs, once again asking questions about the superstar Dog, the club is desperate to secure Dunkley’s services for years to come. It is highly expected he will receive a major contract, from the Dogs or elsewhere.

Tim English

Now at the age of 24, Tim English has developed into one of the competitions most athletic ruckmen. While English might not always damage with hit-outs, his work around the ground is very damaging and he can find plenty of the footy, and use it very well.

English is averaging 22 hit-outs, 22.1 disposals, and 5.9 clearances. His best game came in Round 3 against Sydney where he had 24 disposals, eight marks, and 12 score involvements.

Despite missing nearly a month of football, English is pivotal to the Bulldogs’ set-up, and with speculation about a return home to Western Australia hotting up, there is hope the Bulldogs have enough stored away for their star ruckman.

Others: Alex Keath, Bailey Dale, Buku Khamis, Caleb Daniel, Charlie Parker, Dominic Bedendo, Jason Johannisen, Josh Schache, Louis Butler, Mitch Hannan, Mitch Wallis, Rhylee West, Riley Garcia, Robbie McComb, Stefan Martin, Taylor Duryea, Toby McLean, Zaine Cordy

Lachlan Dand

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