THE LATEST Phantom Form Guide rankings are in and a number of new faces have been added to the September edition.
In AFL.com.au's third monthly ranking of the best 2023 draft prospects, we have pushed it out to the top 30 players.
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With a low number of picks expected to be used at this year's national draft, this is likely to account for more than half of the draft pool.
As always, this ranking does not take into account where bids will come on Academy or father-son prospects and is a pure ranking of the best talents.
With the season about to be wrapped up for draftees, the Phantom Form Guide will be updated again in October after the Draft Combine and again in November before names are called.
Reid's sensational under-18 career came to a close two weeks ago when the Bendigo Pioneers' season was ended, but he didn't finish up without a final showing of his traits. The explosive midfielder/forward collected a game-high 27 disposals, eight clearances, a goal and unlimited EFOs (effective fend-offs). It came after he had suffered a jarred knee two weeks earlier while also managing a toe injury. Reid handled unprecedented expectations and hype to put together an excellent top-age draft season and cement himself as the best player in the 2023 crop and a star of the future.
It is hard to think of a key forward who has come through the draft in the past decade who plays similarly to Walter, who has brute force, power, strength but is also a tackling demon at ground level. The 195cm goalkicker backed up his All-Australian season last year by going back to back after a terrific carnival for the Allies, who he spearheaded to a title win. Walter is athletic, chases the ball and opponents hard and has speed. He missed the last block of the year with a flare up of an older knee injury but remains locked to go to Gold Coast as an Academy player, with a bid expected to come inside the first three picks.
It was been a brilliant stretch of form for Duursma, who finished the season as the leading goalkicker in the Coates Talent League. He finished on 33 goals from 12 games, having kicked one last cracker on the weekend in Gippsland's knockout final loss to Tasmania. The silky midfielder/half-forward brings some genuine skill, class and polish to the group and he has stepped up in big times in games with important goals. He hasn't gone goalless in any Coates Talent League game this season and adds genuine excitement to matches.
The only thing that has been able to stop McKercher's hot form this year was injury, with a recent foot issue keeping him out of Tasmania's last few weeks in the Coates Talent League. It will have absolutely no bearing on where the smart and irrepressible midfielder gets picked in November, with McKercher a gun and top-five talent. The left-footer is damaging with the ball and has also shown this year he can hit the scoreboard, averaging two goals a game in his past five games for his state. He has averaged 31 disposals at that level and starred for the Allies at the under-18 carnival.
Watson has gone back to play for the Eastern Ranges over the past month after the end of his school campaign, continuing to hit the scoreboard while also being used as a wingman. Clubs will be picking him as a small forward who can dash through the midfield at times, though, with 'The Wizard' having so much forward craft and smarts to consistently be a goalkicking threat. Watson creates and converts opportunities, makes things happen and is must watch when up and about.
Curtin broke into Claremont's league side in round 17 and has stayed there since, looking comfortable at the level in defence. He's been able to get his hands on the ball in the back half while also continuing to face up against more mature players. Curtin is the standout key defender in the draft but also showed during Western Australia's championships campaign he could be used in the forward line and also as a bigger-bodied midfielder.
Sanders has been the most consistent player in the draft crop, continuing to show up every week and dominate. His ball-winning, strength, work in tight, capacity to hit the scoreboard and not just accumulate but hurt with his touches is a big factor in his place inside the top 10. He's also simply just ready for the next level. The Larke medallist from the Allies' carnival has dominated the end of Sandringham's season, including a 38-disposal and 11-clearance game against the Western Jets to lift his average to 32 touches in the Coates Talent League this year.
It has been an up and down month for Caddy, who showed his high-end talent with a barnstorming game for the Knights in round 16, when he kicked 4.3 from 20 disposals and 11 marks in a dominant display. It was everything Caddy is capable of: strong marks, long kicking, force, power and some of the unexpected. Unfortunately, the next week he had a head knock that saw him miss the Knights' wildcard round game with concussion. Caddy's talents as a forward, and potential as a taller midfield option, makes him an appealing prospect. He finished with 25 goals from nine games for the Knights in an interrupted year.
An athletic, mobile ruckman who would be one of the most talked about players in the group if he wasn't tied to Gold Coast's Academy. Because of that, his future is sorted, but a bid will still come early for Read, who moves around the ground at will, can find the ball and kick really well for a player his size. Read was the under-18 All-Australian ruckman and has also impressed in the Suns' VFL side recently.
O'Sullivan is a stretchy, versatile key defender who has also had stints in attack and even the midfield this season. The Bushrangers tall is especially adept at reading the ball in the air and taking intercept marks, cutting off the opposition's forward forays time and again. He was a standout for the Allies at the under-18 championships and has shown he can find the ball as a backman – he's averaged 20 disposals this year for Murray.
Croft finished his season in the Coates Talent League with 23 goals from 11 games this year, showing his turn of speed, agility and craft as a key forward option. The Western Bulldogs father-son – his dad Matthew played 186 games for the Dogs – showed during Vic Metro's carnival and for the Cannons that he has some real scope in attack. A bid is expected for him in the first 15 or so selections.
Rogers got three games of exposure at VFL level with the Suns in the second half of the season, which was a good step up for him having been a part of Gold Coast's AFL program in stages. Rogers is a smaller midfielder who will work and run and tackle all day long. There's a bit of Touk Miller in the way he fronts up contest to contest, with Rogers likely to have to start as a small forward at the next level.
Clubs are viewing Murphy as a likely pick inside the first round as they search to add to their tall defensive stocks. Murphy is a key-position defender who can fly for his own marks as well as close down tall forwards. A long year remains ongoing for Murphy, who is featuring in Sandringham's tilt at the Talent League premiership.
Windsor is one of the risers of the second half of the season. The classy midfielder showed his polish and traits at stages through Vic Metro's under-18 carnival and he has taken that back to the Eastern Ranges, where he's been a consistent player averaging 21 disposals this season. He's also pushed forward more as well, kicking at least one goal in his past six appearances for the Ranges.
It was another example of Wilson's goalkicking strengths two weeks ago when he kicked three goals from 21 disposals in Murray's loss to the Greater Western Victoria Rebels. It took his season tally at that level to 16 goals from 11 games while also averaging 25 disposals. The midfielder has speed, finishing skills and a good leap to be a threat in the air when stationed in attack.
Leake has been something of a surprise packet across the year and he continues to show he can be a versatile, exciting talent. After winning All-Australian honours for the under-18s side while playing as a dasher from half-back, he has been thrown into attack and recently kicked five goals for Tasmania against Dandenong in his side's win. Leake has an athletic jump in his legs, can get up and take a mark as well as be too clever for opponents.
It has been a strong end to the season for Hardeman, who was busy for Swan Districts' colts side, picking up 27 disposals against Peel Thunder and 28 disposals against Claremont. Western Australia's captain at the under-18 carnival is a speedy defender who can mark overhead and chop things off as a half-back while also using his penetrating left-foot kicking to set up the play.
McCabe missed nearly two months with a hot spot stress injury in his foot but returned to the field last week for Central's semi-final loss at under-18 level. The athletic tall defender is tied to Hawthorn as a father-son, with his dad Luke a former player at the club and current football director. McCabe spent some time at the Hawks in recent weeks while in a moonboot recovering from his injury. He has been a big ball-winner for Central's side, averaging 22 disposals in nine games.
Tholstrup has played all bar one game this season for Subiaco's league side, where he's been settled as a forward option. At under-18 level he also worked further up the ground and used some of his strength and power to make an impact. He has held his own at league level, averaging nearly a goal a game, and some clubs have him pegged as a late first-round option. He kicked one goal from 12 disposals and six marks on the weekend.
DeMattia's speed, ball-getting ability and versatility was on show in round 17 against Tasmania, when the Dandenong prospect gathered 30 disposals, eight inside 50s, eight clearances and a goal in perhaps the best game of his season. The Vic Country captain showed his turn of pace and he was happy to use it, busting out of the centre several times (he notched a game-high four centre clearances that day). Through the season DeMattia has also played as a forward and occasionally across half-back.
Reid is a tall key forward with very good kicking skills for a player his size. He showed some of his best form of the season to recruiters in a patch at the end of Vic Country's under-18 carnival and then with Gippsland Power, where he booted multiple goals in succession but didn't kick a goal in their last month of the year.
Roberts had 19 disposals and four rebound 50s on Sunday in Sandringham's win over the Northern Knights. The attacking half-back enjoys taking off from defence and directing play with the ball in his hands. He was a best-and-fairest winner in his school side Haileybury College's premiership season and has been a member of the AFL Academy and Vic Metro programs.
The ruckman has continued to rise among the best big men in the draft group this year. At 204cm he is a quality size for rucks at the top level, with Green also having some dominant games in the second half of the season – averaging 15 disposals in the Knights' last month as well as 23 hitouts in that block.
An eye-catching talent who can do some very exciting things on the field. Collard had a quiet carnival for Western Australia but has produced some genuine highlights for Subiaco's under-18 team across this season, including back-to-back five-goal hauls in the past two weeks of finals action. He kicked 32 goals this season in 11 games at the level and can jump for his marks, gather at ground level and use his terrific foot skills to slot shots from any angle. His high-end talent brings him into discussions at this point of the draft, with West Coast having access to him as a Next Generation Academy player after pick 40.
A late riser who has pushed up draft boards in the past six weeks. The younger brother of Hawthorn's Changkuoth, Jiath is a player in a similar mould to the attacking Hawks half-back. He takes the game on, can jump and go for his intercept marks and makes good decisions. He had the best game of his season in the Power's wildcard round win over Dandenong when he collected 29 disposals, eight marks and 13 rebound 50s. Hawthorn has access to him past pick 40 under NGA rules but it appears unlikely he will be available then.
Another late-season bolter who has pushed himself into top-30 contention. Edwards is a bigger-bodied midfielder who had clubs starting to narrow their focus on him after the mid-season championships, which he didn't play for Vic Metro. He has spent time at half-back over the past two years but will be drafted as a midfielder, having shown some of his burst out of the centre on Sunday playing for Sandringham, when he had 22 disposals and a goal.
Edwards finished the season in Peel's reserves side, playing at that level after his under-18 carnival with Western Australia. Edwards had dominated the colts competition earlier in the year, with the ruckman averaging 35 hitouts a game for Peel's under-18s team, but was ready for the step up. The Fremantle Next Generation Academy player will be eligible to join the Dockers if he gets through the first 40 picks at the draft.
Stevens is one of the more interesting players in the draft pool given his standout performances in the second half of this season. After missing last year with an ACL injury, Stevens started this year playing as a half-back. But his form in the second half of the season with the Rebels as a brute inside midfielder and ball-winner has demanded attention. The AFL Academy captain averaged 29 disposals for the Rebels, showing his clearance strengths and ability in tight. Solidly built and ready to play against mature bodies, Stevens will be a fascinating watch where he gets picked, having also shown his talent with Geelong's VFL side when he had 29 disposals against Collingwood in round 21.
Delean kicks goals. When it comes down to his performances over the past three years, the South Australian jack-in-the-box has shown a propensity to just keep hitting the scoreboard and kicking goals. He had two four-goal games in South Australia's under-18 championships, but has been doing it for years – he's kicked 43 goals this season at different levels for South Adelaide, he kicked 28 goals last year as a bottom-ager and as a 16-year-old he kicked 35 in 13 games in the under-18s side. As a smaller forward he flies for his marks and at ground level can create a chance from nothing.
Moir kicked 30 goals from 10 games at under-18 level last season with Glenelg but hasn't hit the same form this year across his different competitions. The athletic forward has real spring in his game and can jump up to take a grab while also kicking the ball skilfully on both feet.