Despite being suspended from the first two rounds of last year's NAB AFL Draft because of the Kurt Tippett salary cap scandal, Adelaide has several players looking the goods on the eve of the NAB Cup. Tasmanian defender Sam Siggins' skills are impressive for a 195cm player, but at 85kg he'll need to bulk up before playing regular AFL. Rory Atkins will get his shot in Sunday's NAB Cup opener, as will young midfielder Brad Crouch. Crouch has stunned everyone at West Lakes with his maturity, skills and general football nous since arriving at the club in late 2011 and will make his much-anticipated AFL debut this season. Despite proving one of the more gifted runners throughout the summer, 197cm former basketballer Tim Klaosen won't debut for the side this weekend. He's progressing admirably though and his ability to read the game, although only recently reverting back to it after playing as a junior, has coaches hopeful Klaosen will one day notch an AFL game.
The club could not be any happier with its new faces. Brent Moloney has been one of the best pre-season performers and was a strong midfield presence during the Lions' intraclub match, while fellow former Demon Stefan Martin also looks to have found a home in the forward line. Both should line up in the best 22 come round one. The rookies have also made everyone sit up and take notice, with West Australian Marco Paparone quickly proving himself the club's best runner. Victorian Michael Close is not far behind. Both need to develop strength over the next 12 months to complement their height and running capacity. No.8 draft pick Sam Mayes is also an elite runner and will be in contention for senior selection early in the season.
Recruits don’t come much bigger than three-time premiership coach Mick Malthouse, who is refreshed after his first season without active AFL/VFL involvement in 40 years. The Blues' coaching panel has also been boosted by the services of Malthouse's longtime friend Rob Wiley and former Melbourne captain Brad Green. Ex-Fremantle player Luke Webster will coach the Blues' VFL affiliate Northern Blues. Teenage draftees Troy Menzel, Nick Graham and Tom Temay have each impressed, with midfielder Graham a standout in the Blues' first intra-club match with his poise, vision and disposal. Hard-working runner Jarryd Cachia has returned for his second rookie stint at the club and seems better equipped to make the grade after being a key member of Norwood's SANFL premiership team.
None of the Magpies' 2012 draftees have been named in the side's NAB Cup squad for Friday night. Brodie Grundy has been limited by a back concern, while Tim Broomhead, Ben Kennedy and Jackson Ramsay need to add size in the gym before they're ready for senior football. Mature rookies Sam Dwyer, Kyle Martin and Jack Frost get the nod ahead of their younger teammates. Of that bunch, expect Dwyer to push for a senior berth at some point this season. Pies fans can look forward to Quinten Lynch, Clinton Young and Jordan Russell being unveiled on Friday night.
If not for the club's recent supplements scandal, all the attention would have been focused on Brendon Goddard as he moves closer to his first game for Essendon. The former St Kilda utility is set for more of a midfield presence at the Bombers, where his maturity, poise and foot skills will be of huge value to the club. Expect to see a bit of Nick Kommer and Dylan van Unen through the NAB Cup, while key forward Joe Daniher has returned from minor knee surgery and should be played throughout the preseason. It wouldn't surprise if Jason Ashby, a hard-running and effective half-back flanker, also got a chance.
Danyle Pearce looks set to have an immediate impact at Fremantle after crossing from Port Adelaide as a free agent, with the club thrilled with his pre-season form. The speedster has trained predominantly with the midfield group and should give opposition stoppers something to think about in 2013. Rookie forward Matt Taberner (glandular fever) is the only member of the first-year group to be seriously restricted, with ruckman Jack Hannath and tall defender Tanner Smith particularly impressive. Brett Kirk has been a valuable addition to the coaching team, with the club's midfielders embracing working with the Sydney Swans premiership player.
Former Melbourne defender Jared Rivers has enjoyed a strong pre-season and looks ready to slot straight into the Cats' backline as the third tall behind Tom Lonergan and Harry Taylor. Midfielder Josh Caddy resumed full contact training about two weeks ago, having completed most of the Cats' conditioning work despite post-season shoulder surgery. The ex-Sun has impressed his new teammates and coaches with a work ethic that rivals skipper Joel Selwood's. Ex-North Melbourne ruckman Hamish McIntosh's hopes of resuming from LARS knee surgery in round one are in doubt after he had minor surgery on the same knee last week, but if he misses the Cats' season opener he should return soon after. Jackson Thurlow, Geelong's first pick in last year's national draft at No. 16 overall, has excited the Cats with his poise across half-back and is a good chance to make his AFL debut later in the season. Fellow draftee Brad Hartman is an outside chance to play in the NAB Cup after a solid pre-season.
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The astute recruitment of Greg Broughton (Fremantle) and Tom Murphy (Hawthorn) to stiffen up Gold Coast's backline has already reaped rewards. The two have trained the house down and been a valuable sounding board to a host of young teammates. Alongside Matthew Warnock, Rory Thompson, Jarrod Harbrow and co, the pair will fit nicely into defence come round one. Of the draftees, Tasmanian Jesse Lonergan not only has a ready-made AFL body, but a ready-made attitude. He has mixed it up nicely with his senior teammates in any contested work and is in the frame for senior games. Timmy Sumner has overcome some leg injuries but is still working on his fitness, while key position prospect Clay Cameron needs to continue to build his frame.
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The most important GWS recruit is new senior assistant coach Leon Cameron. Following a coaching apprenticeship with the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn, Cameron will take over from Kevin Sheedy as the Giants' head coach in 2014 and he is already proving a popular choice. Described as a "breath of fresh air" by one club official, he has been very well received and is relating well to GWS' stable of young players, who he will have a big hand in developing in the coming years. The club's latest draft class is also settling in nicely, with No.1 overall pick Lachie Whitfield and No.3 Lachie Plowman strong chances to play in round one of the AFL season.
Matt Spangher arrived at Waverley amid little fanfare after the Hawks pulled a surprise trade with the Sydney Swans. But he has trained well over summer and is well positioned to provide key position depth at either end of the ground. The club's high profile recruit, Brian Lake, started work as soon as his trade from the Western Bulldogs was signed off. Saturday night misadventure in Portsea aside, he has acquitted himself well and should make a big impact in Hawthorn's backline. Draftees Kaiden Brand and Tim O'Brien are more long-term prospects, so don't expect to see either on the MCG this season. Former Cat Jonathan Simpkim has settled in well and will push for senior selection.
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The prospect of Jack Viney lining up for Melbourne will excite fans while the pressure will be on Chris Dawes to perform. Jimmy Toumpas is all class but will be given time to develop, although he should play at some stage. Shannon Byrnes and Cameron Pedersen will line up in the forward line. If Byrnes can top his season's best goal tally of 35 goals (in 2010) he will have done his job. The mature-aged Matt Jones has impressed in the midfield and may get a chance early, while David Rodan will give the team spark.
Former Sydney Swans-listed ruckman Daniel Currie hit the ground running after joining North in last year's national draft, his impressive pre-season putting him in the frame to make his AFL debut this season. Roos coach Brad Scott said Currie was the pick of North's ruckmen in Tuesday's intraclub game. Former Melbourne midfielder Jordan Gysberts has put on about 8kg since joining North, but could struggle for senior opportunities early in 2013 given the Roos' depth in the midfield. Fellow recycled recruits Ben Jacobs (Port Adelaide) and Taylor Hine (Gold Coast) had delayed starts to their pre-seasons after respective ankle and shoulder surgeries. Neither played in North's intraclub game and might run out of time to make the Roos' round one team. Draftee Mason Wood enjoyed an impressive pre-season, but the tall forward will almost certainly start 2013 in VFL, as will fellow draftees Taylor Garner and Mitch Wilkins, who are recovering well from post-season shoulder surgeries.
At 188cm and 90kg, 18-year-old Oliver Wines certainly looks ready for AFL and, judging by his performance in the Power's trial game, the looks are not deceiving. If anything, Wines needs to lose a few kilograms from his legs to increase his running capacity, but he will still see significant game time in 2013. Forward Mason Shaw also impressed but will need to add mass to his 197cm frame. Recycled players Angus Monfries, Lewis Stevenson and Campbell Heath have all enjoyed fruitful summers with Monfries the clear standout. He'll prove an important player for the Power this season, but Heath would hope to provide the side with much-needed penetration with his left-foot across half-back. Rookie coach Ken Hinkley has already proved a hit with the Power faithful, nicknamed "King Kenny" by several supporters at last Friday night's family day and trial match. Players too have been impressed by his physical game plan and approachability as mentor.
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Orren Stephenson and Aaron Edwards played against the All Stars in Alice Springs with the former acquitting himself well against Paddy Ryder after a slow start and the latter taking some nice marks in attack. From last year's draft, Nick Vlastuin was noticeable with his strong intent while Kamdyn McIntosh impressed his coach at centre half back. The stocky Vlastuin looks a big chance to play senior football in 2013. Mature-age rookie recruits Sam Lonergan and Ricky Petterd remain in the rehabilitation group and didn't play in Alice Springs but the Tigers are hopeful they'll have almost a full group to rotate in the NAB Cup.
Young ruckman Tom Hickey has worked closely with Ben McEvoy since crossing from Gold Coast and made a good impression at the Saints. He'll be pressing for a senior game, although team structure will need to be factored in. Former WAFL goalkicker Tom Lee has acquitted himself well and presented strongly in the club's intraclub game last Saturday, without getting much reward. Of the draftees, Nathan Wright, a midfielder selected with the Saints' No. 24 pick, appears to be leading the race for a senior game based on the noise coming out of Seaford about his pre-season.
One of the Swans' most pleasant surprises so far in the pre-season has been giant young ruckman Sam Naismith. Pick No.65 in last year's rookie draft, the 203cm prospect has impressed with his attitude and athleticism and has been receiving an ideal apprenticeship training alongside Shane Mumford, Mike Pyke and Kurt Tippett. Entering his third season with the Swans, 20-year-old midfielder Jed Lamb is also turning heads. Yet to make his senior debut, Lamb is in career-best shape and will get a chance to show his talents during the NAB Cup. First-round draft pick Dean Towers has also been furiously studying the game plan and trying to get up to speed with his new club.
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Midfielders Sharrod Wellingham and Jamie Cripps, who were snared from Collingwood and St Kilda respectively, have added class to pre-season training, according to the Eagles' coaches. Wellingham should fit straight into the team for round one, while Cripps, who has trained exclusively with the midfielders, will need to stake his claims during the NAB Cup. Cale Morton has focused on building his core strength since crossing from Melbourne, while former Demon Jamie Bennell has been recovering from a knee reconstruction. Of the club's NAB AFL Draft selections, only Brant Colledge (hip) has been restricted through his first pre-season.
The Bulldogs brought in nine new players and the club expects all of them to push for senior selection in 2013. Teenage draftees Jake Stringer, Jack Macrae, Nathan Hrovat and Josh Prudden have all made solid gains in their first pre-seasons. Macrae has already added an impressive five kilograms to his light frame while Stringer has vastly improved his fitness base. Father/Son recruit Lachie Hunter is making inroads on his contested work and rookie selection Brett Goodes is a prime candidate for elevation to the senior list after a flawless campaign. Recycled additions Koby Stevens, Tom Young and Nick Lower haven't put a foot wrong and all look destined to play a part in the Dogs' attempt to climb back up the ladder.