Your AFL club’s way-too-early best 23 for 2022

AFL your club's best 23 for 2022
Photos: @freodockers; @CarltonFC; @westernbulldogs Twitters

The silly season is over as every club’s list continues to take shape for next season and mount their next ascension to the top of the mountain.

At the end of the Trade and Free-Agency periods, The Inner Sanctum has put together your club’s way-too-early best 23 for the 2022 AFL season. These teams include any player who has a chance of featuring next season, even if they’re not on track for Round 1.

B: Luke Brown, Jordon Butts, Chayce Jones

HB: Wayne Milera, Tom Doedee, Brodie Smith

C: Paul Seedsman, Rory Laird, Jordan Dawson

HF: Lachlan Sholl, Taylor Walker, Harry Shoenberg

F: Shane McAdam, Riley Thilthorpe, Darcy Fogarty

FOLL: Reilly O’Brien, Matt Crouch, Ben Keays

I/C: Mitch Hinge, Rory Sloane, Sam Berry, James Rowe

Medical Sub: Jackson Hately

The Crows have lost Jake Kelly but added one of the biggest names of the trade period in Jordan Dawson. He creates a formidable wing partnership with Paul Seedsman, and a fit-and-firing Matt Crouch bolsters the engine room as the Crows look to fly up the ladder in 2022.

There are question marks on whether Taylor Walker will play another game for Adelaide, but the progression of Riley Thilthorpe and more games into the likes of Elliot Himmelberg and Darcy Fogarty should see expectations of the forward line rise. 

Wayne Milera and Mitch Hinge are on track after long-term injuries, while Pick 4 in the draft could press for selection if a player such as Finn Callaghan joins the tri-colours.

Jasper Chellappah

B: Brandon Starcevich, Harris Andrews, Darcy Gardiner

HB: Daniel Rich, Marcus Adams, Mitch Robinson

C: Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Zac Bailey

HF: Dayne Zorko, Eric Hipwood, Cam Rayner 

F: Charlie Cameron, Joe Daniher, Lincoln McCarthy

FOLL: Oscar McInerney, Jarryd Lyons, Lachie Neale

I/C: Daniel McStay, Callum Ah Chee, Deven Robertson, Keidean Coleman

Medical Sub: Rhys Mathieson

Brisbane Lions fans will be happy to welcome Cam Rayner back into their lineup as he recovers from an ACL injury. The former number one draft pick will most probably play in a high half-forward/midfield role. Additionally, fans will be happy to have a fully fit Jarrod Berry playing regularly once again as well as the return of Eric Hipwood following his rehabilitation from an ACL injury suffered against St Kilda late last season. 

New recruit, Darcy Fort, does not make the starting selection, however, provides much-needed backup in the ruck department.

Jack Dobson

B: Lachie Plowman, Liam Jones, Caleb Marchbank

HB: Adam Saad, Jacob Weitering, Nic Newman

C: Zac Williams, Patrick Cripps, David Cuningham

HF: Zac Fisher, Charlie Curnow, Jack Martin

F: Matthew Owies, Harry McKay, Jack Silvagni

FOLL: Tom De Koning, Sam Walsh, Adam Cerra

I/C: George Hewett, Liam Stocker, Lochie O’Brien, Josh Honey

Medical Sub: Paddy Dow

Prized recruit Adam Cerra will start his first game for the Blues at the centre bounce alongside Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps, while George Hewett will take Ed Curnow’s place in the Carlton lineup. Lewis Young just misses selection but could come into the side as a third tall defender, while Liam Stocker and Josh Honey retain their places in the Blues’ best 23 after breaking into the side in 2021.

Will Cuckson

B: Jeremy Howe, Jordan Roughead, Isaac Quaynor

HB: Brayden Maynard, Darcy Moore, Trey Ruscoe

C: Caleb Poulter, Jack Crisp, Steele Sidebottom

HF: Josh Daicos, Brody Mihocek, Scott Pendlebury

F: Jamie Elliott, Darcy Cameron, Oliver Henry

FOLL: Brodie Grundy, Taylor Adams, Jordan De Goey

I/C: Nick Daicos, Patrick Lipinski, John Noble, Will Hoskin-Elliott

Medical Sub: Beau McCreery

Despite dropping down the ladder in 2021, there’s plenty to be excited about at Collingwood. New coach Craig McRae has a wealth of young talent to choose from, with the likes of Tyler and Callum Brown, Finlay Macrae, Nathan Murphy and Jack Ginnivan all struggling to fit into the best 23 for the Pies.

With Mason Cox also outside of this best 23, there’s a sudden wealth of depth for the Pies as they look to rebound back up the ladder quickly. The emergence of Oliver Henry and Beau McCreery up forward helps their small forward stocks, while the recruits in Pat Lipinski and Nick Daicos round out their side very well. From there, it’s up to their structures and game plans as to whether Collingwood can return to finals action in 2022.

Sean Mortell

B: Jake Kelly, Aaron Francis, Jordan Ridley

HB: Dyson Heppell, Jayden Laverde, Nick Hind

C: Mason Redman, Zach Merrett, Nik Cox

HF: Kyle Langford, Harrison Jones, Jake Stringer

F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Peter Wright, Will Snelling

FOLL: Sam Draper, Darcy Parish, Andy McGrath

I/C: Devon Smith, Jye Caldwell, Archie Perkins, Dylan Shiel

Medical Sub: Matt Guelfi

Coach Ben Rutten has a few decisions to make across every line of the ground in 2022. Whether Michael Hurley can get back to AFL fitness could change the look of this side a fair bit.

There’s players unlucky to miss across every portion of the ground. Sam Durham makes way as Mason Redman moves up the ground, Alec Waterman drops out of the forward line, while James Stewart is replaced by Aaron Francis, but the likes of Zach Reid and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher are also key position defensive options.

Alex Catalano

B: Luke Ryan, Joel Hamling, Griffin Logue

HB: Hayden Young, Alex Pearce, Nathan Wilson

C: Jordan Clark, Andrew Brayshaw, Blake Acres

HF: Michael Walters, Rory Lobb, Lachie Schultz

F: Liam Henry, Matt Taberner, Josh Treacy

FOLL: Sean Darcy, Nat Fyfe, Caleb Serong

I/C: David Mundy, Will Brodie, James Aish, Darcy Tucker

Medical Sub: Mitch Crowden

Fremantle’s two new recruits should slide straight into the Dockers best 23, with Jordan Clark expected to be unleashed on the wing and Will Brodie to get plenty of midfield minutes to help cover the loss of Adam Cerra

Rory Lobb will also return to the side after a trade for the 28-year-old to GWS fell through after he wanted to return to the east coast. Lobb will return to the forward line where his high-flying, contested marking ability should serve the Dockers well.

The Dockers were one of the most injured-ravaged sides this season with the likes of Nat Fyfe, Alex Pearce, Michael Walters and Hayden Young missing significant time throughout 2021. Therefore the return of these players plus the likes of Joel Hamling to the backline after managing just one game over the past two seasons will mean players like Brennan Cox, Connor Blakely and Travis Colyer could be the ones missing out.

Ben Filosi

B: Jack Henry, Tom Stewart, Jake Kolodjashnij

HB: Tom Atkins, Mark Blicavs, Jed Bews

C: Sam Menegola, Brandan Parfitt, Isaac Smith

HF: Brad Close, Jeremy Cameron, Cameron Guthrie

F: Tyson Stengle, Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan

FOLL: Jon Ceglar, Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield

I/C: Esava Ratugolea, Sam Simpson, Zach Tuohy, Gryan Miers.

Medical Sub: Zach Guthrie

Geelong has finally done what supporters have been desperate for. Jon Ceglar might not be the star name that Geelong fans are used to chasing but he is a career ruckman with years of AFL experience. Tyson Stengle, who will arrive at the club as a delisted free agent is another player in a position that Geelong needs depth in and his arrival could push Gryan Miers to the bench. 

Nobody has been traded in to directly replace the retired Lachie Henderson but between Ceglar, Esava Ratugolea and Rhys Stanley there are now enough ruck options to keep Mark Blicavs in defence. 

The Cats still expect to be in premiership contention and have once again recruited to ‘top-up’ the existing list but they will be happy with the draft pick received for Jordan Clark’s move to Fremantle to add some youth.

Kieran Yap

B: Jack Bowes, Sam Collins, Wil Powell

HB: Oleg Markov, Charlie Ballard, Jack Lukosius 

C:  Noah Anderson, Hugh Greenwood, Brandon Ellis

HF: Lachie Weller, Sam Day, Ben Ainsworth

F: Alex Sexton, Ben King, Mabior Chol

FOLL: Jarrod Witts, Touk Miller, Matt Rowell

I/C: David Swallow, Sean Lemmens, Brayden Fiorini, Sam Flanders

Medical Sub: Jeremy Sharp

The acquisition of Mabior Chol was targeted by the Suns as they wanted to improve their key forward options. The former Tiger also provides back up to his captain, Jarrod Witts, in the ruck. Witts will return straight back into the lineup for the Suns after missing most of the 2021 season through injury.

Other injured players, such as Lachie Weller and Hugh Greenwood also make their way back to the selection table as the Suns attempt to make a finals charge in 2022.

Young livewire forward, Izak Rankine, misses out on selection after struggling to find form in 2021 and will begin the new season having to work his way back into Stuart Dew’s starting side. Elijah Hollands is working his way up to full fitness and will undoubtedly feature at some point in 2022, as should Connor Budarick who was impressive early in his career before suffering an ACL injury.

Jack Dobson

B: Connor Idun, Sam Taylor, Nick Haynes

HB: Lachie Whitfield, Phil Davis, Lachie Ash

C: Josh Kelly, Tom Green, Harry Perryman

HF: Tim Taranto, Harry Himmelberg, Daniel Lloyd 

F: Toby Greene, Jesse Hogan, Ian Hill

FOLL: Matt Flynn, Jacob Hopper, Stephen Coniglio

I/C: Issac Cumming, Jake Stein, Adam Kennedy, Callan Ward

Medical Sub: Tanner Bruhn

Always one of the hardest teams to pick as they are stocked full of elite talent with young players announcing themselves as stars and cementing themselves in the best team every year. Young defender Connor Idun cemented his place in the Giants backline last season and along with Sam Taylor and Lachie Ash, will partner as the next generation defensive group at the Giants.

The deep midfield and jostling for spots will again give coach Leon Cameron and his selection committee headaches as they look to find a spot for their skipper Stephen Coniglio who should return to his best after a few injury-interrupted seasons.

Superstar Toby Greene will miss the first 5 weeks of the season through suspension but headlines a strong and powerful forward line at the Giants.

Jono Baruch

B:  Blake Hardwick, Denver Grainger-Barras, Changkuoth Jiath

HB: James Sicily, Sam Frost, Jarman Impey

C: Will Day, James Worpel, Jack Scrimshaw

HF: Chad Wingard, Jacob Koschitzke, Dylan Moore

F: Luke Breust, Mitchell Lewis, Jack Gunston

FOLL: Ben McEvoy, Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara 

I/C: Max Lynch, Daniel Howe, Lachlan Bramble, Liam Shiels

Medical Sub: Tom Phillips

The newest addition to the Hawks line-up for the 2022 season is ruck-forward Max Lynch who came across from the Magpies during the trade period. The big man wanted to play AFL regularly and with Jonathon Ceglar being traded out, Lynch should cement his spot as support for Ben McEvoy in the ruck while also rotating up forward.

With Tim O’Brien also departing via free agency, Denver Grainger-Barras should now slot into the side as he looks to develop as a key defender under new coach Sam Mitchell. 

With Jack Gunston and James Sicily making a return to the side in 2022, promising youngster Tyler Brockman unfortunately gets pushed out despite an encouraging first season with the Hawks in 2021.

Giacomo Bruno

B: Jake Lever, Steven May, Trent Rivers

HB: Christian Salem, Adam Tomlinson, Michael Hibberd

C: Angus Brayshaw, Christian Petracca, Ed Langdon

HF: Kysaiah Pickett, Tom McDonald, Alex Neal-Bullen

F: Charlie Spargo, Ben Brown, Bayley Fritsch

FOLL: Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney

I/C: Luke Jackson, James Harmes, Tom Sparrow, Jake Bowey

Medical Sub: James Jordon


Melbourne only made the one addition to their list during the trade and free agency period, adding discarded inside midfielder Luke Dunstan to their list. With spots in the star-studded midfield already filled, Dunstan looks unlikely to break into it unless injuries occur.

Melbourne will hope to welcome back Adam Tomlinson into their already-stacked defensive unit as soon as possible, as he recovers from an ACL injury. With Tomlinson’s return, it means that premiership player Harrison Petty gets pushed out despite playing a superb role in Melbourne’s back six in 2021.

Melbourne has plenty of depth with the likes of Joel Smith, Jayden Hunt, Jake Melksham and Sam Weideman challenging for spots as the Demons look primed and ready to challenge again for the premiership.

Jordan Janssen

B: Jack Ziebell, Ben McKay, Kayne Turner

HB: Aaron Hall, Aidan Corr, Aiden Bonar

C: Tarryn Thomas, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Luke McDonald

HF: Jason Horne-Francis*, Nick Larkey, Jaidyn Stephenson

F: Cam Zurhaar, Charlie Comben, Jack Mahony

FOLL: Todd Goldstein, Jy Simpkin, Ben Cunnington

I/C: Callum Coleman-Jones, Tom Powell, Will Phillips, Jed Anderson

Medical Sub: Josh Walker

North Melbourne will be buoyed by the return of Aidan Corr as a key defensive post, complementing Ben McKay after a breakout year in 2021. The two should be able to fill the gap left by the departing Robbie Tarrant.

Tarryn Thomas could transition to a greater midfield role, while expected number one pick Jason Horne-Francis is a strong option across half-forward in a small/medium position with plenty of depth.

The Roos’ midfield bats deep, with Tom Powell, Will Phillips and Jed Anderson starting on the bench. Josh Walker is selected as the medical sub for his versatility as a swingman.

Alex Catalano

B: Ryan Burton, Trent McKenzie, Aliir Aliir

HB: Dan Houston, Tom Jonas, Darcy Byrne-Jones

C: Xavier Duursma, Ollie Wines, Karl Amon

HF: Connor Rozee, Robbie Gray, Zak Butters

F: Todd Marshall, Charlie Dixon, Mitch Georgiades

FOLL: Scott Lycett, Travis Boak, Willem Drew

I/C: Miles Bergman, Riley Bonner, Orazio Fantasia Jeremy Finlayson

Medical Sub: Sam Powell-Pepper

Port Adelaide added only Jeremy Finlayson during the AFL Trade Period, who will act as both forward and ruck cover following the departure of Peter Ladhams.

Lachie Jones should return from an injury-interrupted first season and do some damage in the backline, while Trent McKenzie is expected to keep his position over Tom Clurey.

Mitch Georgiades, Todd Marshall and Charlie Dixon are expected to share duties in the forward line.

In the midfield, the talented trio of Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma could find themselves in the guts more this season.

Port’s depth could see Sam Powell-Pepper restricted to medical sub while Steven Motlop could miss out.

Jack Hudson

B: Dylan Grimes, Robbie Tarrant, Nick Vlastuin

HB: Jayden Short, Noah Balta, Daniel Rioli

C: Jack Graham, Dustin Martin, Kamdyn McIntosh

HF: Kane Lambert, Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards

F: Jason Castagna, Tom Lynch, Liam Baker

FOLL: Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia, Shai Bolton

I/C: Nathan Broad, Trent Cotchin, Ivan Soldo, Matthew Parker

Medical Sub: Sydney Stack

New recruit Robbie Tarrant – along with Noah Balta who is recovering from a syndesmosis injury – fills a void in the Tigers backline in 2022 as they look to reload for one more flag tilt. Daniel Rioli found a home in defence late in the season, while Liam Baker swapped ends and mid-season recruit Matthew Parker earned consistent game-time. 

It’s tough to find a place in the midfield if Dustin Martin returns fully fit from his gruesome mid-season injury. Thomson Dow and Riley Collier-Dawkins could be made to bide their time, while a fully-fit quartet of Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin, Kane Lambert and Shane Edwards would do wonders for finals aspirations.

A returning Ivan Soldo negates the losses of Mabior Chol and Callum Coleman-Jones. With Pick 7 in the draft the Tigers will be eyeing a ready-made midfielder – could Ben Hobbs or Josh Ward come into their Round 1 calculations?

Jasper Chellappah

B: Ben Paton, Callum Wilkie, Nick Coffield

HB: Jack Sinclair, Dougal Howard, Hunter Clark

C: Brad Hill, Brad Crouch, Jack Billings

HF: Daniel Butler, Rowan Marshall, Jade Gresham

F: Tim Membrey, Max King, Jack Higgins

FOLL: Paddy Ryder, Jack Steele, Zak Jones

I/C: Seb Ross, Dan Hannebery, Jack Bytel, Jimmy Webster

Medical Sub: Ryan Byrnes

While the Saints didn’t bring any new recruits in this season, it won’t stop the team from having a different feel from the one they fielded for most of 2021.

Ben Paton, Jade Gresham and Jack Billings will all return fit and firing after struggling with injury in 2021.

The Saints will also be hoping players like Dan Hanneberry, Zak Jones, Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall will be able to remain fit for the majority of 2022.

Miah Shannon

B: Jake Lloyd, Dane Rampe, Harry Cunningham

HB: Nick Blakey, Tom McCartin, Justin McInerney

C: Dylan Stephens, Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney

HF: Chad Warner, Peter Ladhams, Errol Gulden

F: Tom Papley, Lance Franklin, Will Hayward

FOLL: Tom Hickey, Luke Parker, Josh P. Kennedy

I/C: James Rowbottom, Sam Wicks, Oliver Florent, Braeden Campbell

Medical Sub: Robbie Fox

Two big changes to the Sydney lineup will see George Hewett and Jordan Dawson lining up for their new clubs next year.

Peter Ladhams will likely get an early opportunity to partner with Hickey in the ruck while being the Swans second tall forward as well. Forward prospects Logan McDonald, Hayden McLean and Joel Amartey are all in the mix for that spot.

Dylan Stephens – fresh off signing a two-year deal – has a window into the team with Jordan Dawson’s departure, with Braeden Campbell also in the conversation for Dawson’s spot for 2022.

Thomas Grattan

B: Brad Sheppard, Tom Barrass, Alex Witherden

HB: Shannon Hurn, Jeremy McGovern, Liam Duggan

C: Dom Sheed, Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff

HF: Liam Ryan, Jack Darling, Jamie Cripps

F: Oscar Allen, Josh Kennedy, Willie Rioli

FOLL: Nic Naitanui, Elliot Yeo, Tim Kelly

I/C: Jack Redden, Jack Petruccelle, Jake Waterman, Luke Foley

Medical Sub: Tom Cole

There’s too much talent on paper for the West Coast Eagles to not load up and contend again but with many of their best starting team nearing the end of their careers, the window is closing hard and fast on them.

There’s no room initially for new recruit Sam Petrevski-Seton with this team still possessing premiership stars on every line, Willie Rioli walks back into the forward pocket after his extended stint on the sidelines and immediately provides more zip, spark and creativity. Oscar Allen is tipped to be a future star and has to be settled at one end to eventually take over from Josh Kennedy as the main man up forward.

The midfield group of the Eagles remains one of the strongest and potent on paper in the competition. It’s one that is only set to benefit from Elliot Yeo who will get a full pre-season in after an interrupted one last year battling osteitis pubis.

Jono Baruch 

B: Taylor Duryea, Alex Keath, Bailey Williams

HB: Caleb Daniel, Tim O’Brien, Bailey Dale

C: Adam Treloar, Jack Macrae, Lachie Hunter

HF: Bailey Smith, Aaron Naughton, Mitch Hannan

F: Cody Weightman, Josh Bruce, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

FOLL: Tim English, Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore

I/C: Easton Wood, Josh Dunkley, Roarke Smith, Laitham Vandermeer

Medical Sub: Ed Richards

There’s a big-man crunch incoming at the Kennel, with new recruit Tim O’Brien pipping Ryan Gardner and Zaine Cordy in the backline and the expected further development of Tim English into a number-one ruckman holding out Stef Martin and Jordon Sweet

Up forward, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is backed in to cement a spot in the lineup at the expense of Josh Schache, while highly touted father-son Sam Darcy will be forced to bide his time at reserves level due to depth and quality.

Josh Bruce will still have a few months of rehabilitation ahead of him when Round 1 arrives, but the rest of the side is set to remain fairly consistent with the 23 on Grand Final Day. The Dogs have the talent to go one better in 2022.

Jasper Chellappah

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