Ethan Read, James Leake and Jordan Croft. Pictures: AFL Photos

THERE is nothing left to show for draft prospects wanting to prove their talents to clubs and recruiters.

This month's Draft Combine and the subsequent state Combines were the final piece of the puzzle after a long season of games, interviews, under-18 championships and everything that comes with a draft season.

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This is the penultimate Phantom Form Guide of 2023, with our top 30 prospects ranked. It does not take into account where the bids will come for father-son or Academy players but is a pure ranking of the best players available.

The final ranking will be in November ahead of the national draft.

A lingering knee injury from the end of Bendigo's season meant Reid didn't test at the Draft Combine but it didn't stop him from endearing himself further to clubs. Reid's interviews were well received and his popularity and presence within the pool shone through, all part of the overall package for the No.1 pick. Reid plays with a similar 'follow me' style – he breaks open games, wants the moment, takes on opponents, has physicality and kicks big goals. The hype has existed for a reason and he's handled it superbly through the year, with the midfielder/forward an ultra-exciting prospect.


It is hard to recall a key forward coming through the draft with the same attributes as Walter, whose fanatical chasing, tackling and pack-crashing will complement the Gold Coast forward line, where he is destined to end up through the club's Academy. A bid will come on Walter in the early selections, with the powerful key forward having dominated this season with the Suns' Academy and also for the Allies, who he spearheaded to their under-18 championship title. He marks well, collects the ball at ground level and is a threat via a number of different means.


Duursma was one of the few very best prospects in the land to test at the Draft Combine, having finished his season with Gippsland Power several weeks before. His standout performance was in the running vertical jump, where he came second with a 97cm leap. It is a skill that comes through in his game, with Duursma liking floating in for high marks and being hard to beat on the lead. The Power leader kicked 33 goals this season from 12 games, after booting 31 last year as a bottom-ager. He's all class, a beautiful finisher and a highlights reel that can impact games in a number of ways.


McKercher returned from a foot injury to play in Tasmania's preliminary final defeat to the Eastern Ranges at the end of the Coates Talent League after some time out with a foot injury, with the gun midfielder gathering 20 disposals and kicking a goal. He didn't complete Combine testing because of the foot injury, but recruiters are well aware of his skillset, with the classy and speedy left-footer having a brilliant season that saw him be a joint winner of the Morrish Medal after averaging 29 disposals and a goal for the Devils. A game-changer through the midfield who has confidence in his style.


Across his different teams this year – Eastern Ranges, Vic Metro, AFL Academy and Caulfield Grammar – Watson kicked more than 70 goals, a phenomenal return whichever way you slice it for a small forward. The exciting talent can produce moments from nothing, kick goals from anywhere and light up a game with his wizardry inside 50, but spent a chunk of the end of the year playing on the wing and further up the ground. Watson hurt his ankle in Eastern's Grand Final defeat, where he had 20 disposals and a goal, and had his leg in a moonboot at the Combine so did not take part in the testing.


Curtin missed testing at the Draft Combine with a hamstring strain he suffered in Claremont's colts Grand Final win. In that game, he gathered 23 disposals and five marks, having returned to under-18 level following a run of six straight appearances in the club's senior WAFL side. The left-footer is a versatile tall who has shown through the year he can play as a key back and forward and even as a powerful midfielder.

Another top prospect who sat out the Combine, Sanders did not test due to a hip issue. It will have no impact on his draft placing, having shown throughout the whole year his incredible consistency and production as a midfielder in the group. Sanders capped his season with 25 disposals and four clearances in Sandringham's Grand Final win over the Eastern Ranges, when he had some key moments as he always does. Sanders averaged 31 disposals at that level to go with his Larke Medal in the under-18 carnival in a complete campaign.


Caddy's movement for a player his size was on show at the Combine, when he finished in the top 10 for the agility test (completing it in 8.331 seconds). He was one of only two key position players in that ranking. The strong marking tall forward had an exciting season amid some injury and illness interruptions, kicking 25 goals in nine games for the Northern Knights. He had some dominant games where he was unstoppable in the air and dangerous in a number of ways, while also playing some midfield time at stages as well.


A ‘wow' moment came early in the Draft Combine, when Read completed the 2km time trial in 5:56 minutes, an eye-catching run for a player of his size and skills. It highlighted what recruiters have seen all year from Read – he has midfield traits but is 200cm, he can run and run but also kick the ball well and be a marking forward target when not in the ruck. The hype and interest in Read would be at another level if he wasn't tied to Gold Coast through its Academy, with an early bid expected. 


The tall defender played just about everywhere through this season, including spots in the midfield and forward line, but he will be selected as a marking, intercepting backman who can read the play and control a game from the back half. He did that through the Allies' national carnival, where he was a big force to their success. O'Sullivan finished his season with the Murray Bushrangers and then competed in the Draft Combine, where he came eighth in the 2km time trial, running 6:11 minutes.


Windsor had already been creeping up draft boards but he solidified his place as a potential pick right around the top 10 with his starring performances at the Draft Combine. The Eastern Ranges' runner came third in the 20-metre sprint (2.916 seconds) and placed in the top 10 for the standing vertical jump (73cm) and running vertical jump (92cm) events as well, showing his mix of athleticism and pure speed. The polished goalkicking midfielder also ran 6:35 minutes in the 2km time trial.

Caleb Windsor kicks the ball during the Coates Talent League quarter-final between Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers on September 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

A hamstring strain stopped Leake from testing at the Draft Combine. The versatile Tasmanian has been a surprise packet across the year and shown he can play in a range of different spots and make an impact. He was a huge factor in Tasmania's push to the Coates Talent League preliminary final and was also named an All-Australian after the Allies' title win. Kicked five goals late in the season with the Devils and has spring in his legs to fly for marks but can also set up the play across half-back.


Croft has committed officially to joining the Western Bulldogs as a father-son selection, which is a big factor in the Dogs outbidding rivals to get a hold of Gold Coast's No.5 pick. It means they will get a top selection in before the bid comes for Croft, a tall and athletic forward who showed some real promise through the year. At his size, Croft has shown he can get a mark on the lead and convert his shots and he will be given time to develop at the Dogs. He finished fourth overall in the Combine's 2km time trial with a 6:05 minute run.


It was a consistent season from Rogers, which is what you come to expect from how the Gold Coast Academy talent plays his footy. A smaller midfielder who likely starts as a small forward at AFL level, Rogers tackles hard, works up and down the ground and is clean with the ball. He played some VFL games with the Suns late in the year after being named an All-Australian for his efforts at the under-18 championships.

Wilson was a standout of the Draft Combine testing across a range of events, showing his genuine upside with those traits. He came second overall in the 2km time trial (running 5:52 minutes), finished in the top 10 for the agility (8.263 seconds) and the standing vertical jump (76cm) and won the running vertical jump test (98cm). It showed what recruiters have seen from him throughout the year in his performances as a lively midfielder/forward.


Recruiters were impressed by Tholstrup's season, particularly his commitment to his role at senior level for Subiaco in their forward line. The forward/midfielder enjoyed a strong carnival for Western Australia and plays with some physicality and strength. He matched it with senior opposition through the season and will do the same early in his AFL career.

Koltyn Tholstrup in action at the AFL Draft Combine on October 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Collard's end to the season – back-to-back hauls of five goals in Subiaco's colts finals – as well as his excellent testing at the Draft Combine has pushed him up the Form Guide. The exciting forward can make something from nothing and kick goals, having booted 32 majors from 11 games at colts level this season. He then was the quickest in the agility test at the Combine (8.157 seconds), was fourth in the 20-metre sprint (2.92 seconds) and also ran the 2km time trial in 6:32 minutes to show his all-round athleticism and spark.


Hardeman showed he has a strong pace and endurance blend at the Combine, running a three-second 20-metre sprint and a 6:35 minute 2km time trial. The attacking half-back had a consistent season at different levels and captained Western Australia at the under-18 carnival. He can rebound and likes to create from defence.

Riley Hardeman in action at the AFL Draft Combine on October 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

It was a frustrating second half of the season for McCabe, who developed a stress injury in his foot after the national carnival. He spent some time on the sidelines before returning in Central District's under-18s finals series. However, after returning, he dealt with some groin and adductor soreness that has made for a management program in recent weeks, including sitting out testing at the Combine. The intercepting tall defender is tied to Hawthorn as a father-son, where his dad Luke played and is now a board member.


It was an impressive 2km time trial from the tall defender at the Combine, with Murphy completing it in 6:18 minutes. Murphy is a key back who can mark and has confidence in the air and has also played as a pinch-hitting ruck at different stages through his campaign. The left-footer makes good decisions with the ball and was a key part of Vic Metro's defence at the carnival.

Ollie Murphy handballs during the Coates Talent League Grand Final between Sandringham Dragons and Eastern Ranges on September 24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Clubs were impressed by DeMattia at the Combine, not only his testing resume (he finished in the top 10 for the 20-metre sprint with a dash of 2.996 seconds) but also his interviews. The Vic Country co-captain has played a number of different spots through the year – some see him as a midfielder, others view him as a small back at the next level.

Harry DeMattia in action at the AFL Draft Combine on October 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Roberts was rapt with his 2km time trial result at the Combine, running 6:08 minutes to finish in seventh position. It showed his strong endurance base, with the left-footed half-back a player who sizes up his opportunities in defence and likes to take the game on. He directs traffic from half-back and was a premiership player with the Sandringham Dragons last year and this season, as well as claiming Haileybury College's best and fairest in a flag year.

Archie Roberts in action at the AFL Draft Combine on October 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Jiath didn't get enough nominations to be in the initial national Draft Combine list but if it had been another month he would have been selected, given the exciting half-back's finish to the season. He did complete testing for the state screening though, when he ran 6:32 minutes for the 2km time trial. The younger brother of Hawthorn's Changkuoth, Jiath is also Next Generation Academy listed for the Hawks but is expected to be selected before they get access to him at No.40 onwards. A marking interceptor in the back half who streams forward.


Another player who tested in the state screening but looks likely to be a top 30 draft consideration for clubs. The 191cm midfielder ticks a few boxes for clubs: his size is an asset in how he plays, he has spent time across half-back as well, he has a good aerobic base (6:24 minutes in the 2km time trial) and he has kept on improving as the season wore on. His dash from the middle for Sandringham in its run to the premiership caught the eye of scouts.


Green is one of three rucks all similarly rated in terms of their long-term status, but all different. Green rose to be among the best big men in his crop with a solid season for the Knights and Vic Metro, including some impressive games in the Coates Talent League later in the year. He completed the 2km time trial in 6:34 minutes at the Combine, ranking him alongside many of the midfield options as well.

Will Green in action at the AFL Draft Combine on October 6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

It was an impressive testing display from Edwards at the Combine, where he finished in the top five for the standing vertical jump (78cm) and running vertical jump (94cm), as well as doing the 20-metre sprint in 3.0 seconds. Edwards is tied to Fremantle under the NGA program but the Dockers will only get access to matching a bid for him if he gets past the first 40 selections. 

The younger brother of Essendon's Zach is mainly positioned at the other end of the field to his backman sibling, with Archer a key forward who can go into the ruck. His kicking skills are excellent for a player his size and although he didn't have a monster patch of form through the year, he remains a forward/ruck option for clubs searching for players to fill that valuable role.

Archer Reid in action during Vic Country's clash against Vic Metro in the under-18 national championships on June 16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Stevens is a unique player in the pool given his mature frame but his outstanding output in the second half of the season in particular. The midfielder, who captained the AFL Academy earlier this year, came back from a knee reconstruction he underwent in 2022 and started this year across half-back. But he really got going as an inside midfield and clearance specialist for the Rebels and also with Geelong's VFL team, where he impressed, including having 29 disposals against Collingwood. 


Gothard has some real pizzazz about his game. As a small forward he can pop up and hit the scoreboard, he reads the game well and he is confident around goal. He was a standout at the Combine testing, running the 20-metre sprint in 2.963 seconds and then finishing second in the standing vertical jump (78cm) and clubs like his ability to influence inside 50 without amassing big numbers of the ball.

Phoenix Gothard celebrates a goal during the Coates Talent League clash between Murray Bushrangers and Geelong Falcons on April 16, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

It is hard to know where ruckmen will actually get picked in the draft by clubs given they are often a needs dependant selection, but Goad is the third ruckman in this ranking based on his upside. The South Australian big man is fast – he clocked 2.92 seconds earlier in the year at his state testing over 20 metres and did 2.96 seconds at the Combine this month. He was also in the top 10 for the standing vertical jump. The former basketballer has all the athletic attributes to be taking the eye of recruiters.

Taylor Goad in action during the 2km time trial at the AFL Draft Combine at the AIA Centre on October 6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos