Marty Hore, Shaun Mannagh and Brandon Ryan. Pictures: AFL Photos

Twenty VFL-listed players found their way onto AFL lists throughout the 2023 season, highlighting the Smithy’s VFL’s importance to the talent pathway system.

The elevation of VFL talent onto AFL lists came via last week’s National and Rookie Drafts, along with the Mid-Season Rookie Draft, Pre-Season Supplementary Selection Periods and Delisted Free Agency Period.

The value of the VFL’s standalone clubs shined brightly throughout the 2023 season, with no less than nine stars of the seven standalone clubs getting their opportunity to join AFL lists this calendar year.

Werribee star and Norm Goss medallist Shaun Mannagh getting his long-awaited AFL opportunity after previously being overlooked seven times was among the highlights of the VFL’s draft haul.

The 26-year-old was taken by Geelong at pick 36 in the National Draft after a remarkable VFL campaign where he played all 21 games for Werribee, averaging 25 disposals (nine contested), 5.6 tackles, 4.7 clearances and 6.7 inside-50s. He also booted 40 goals playing on the wing and across half forward.

Mannagh’s performance on the big stage in Werribee’s Grand Final defeat to the Gold Coast Suns was one to behold.

He booted 6.2 and amassed 27 disposals, three clearances and four inside-50s which confirmed once and for all that he was ready for an opportunity at AFL level after 73 VFL matches and 106 goals for Richmond and Werribee.

Mannagh’s teammate Sam Clohesy resumed the success of Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal winners being drafted when he was taken by the Gold Coast Suns at pick 4 in the Rookie Draft.

Clohesy, who turns 21 next month, is a former Suns Academy member whose brother Ted made his AFL debut for Geelong this year.

He played every game for Werribee in 2023, picking up 16.8 disposals (5.6 contested) and 5.0 marks to play a key defensive role for a team that won a club record 17 games in a row.

Young ruckman Finnbar Maley, 20, was selected by North Melbourne at pick 2 in the Rookie Draft to make it two talls plucked from the Northern Bullants in a season where they won two games.

Maley followed in the footsteps of Bullants’ teammate Brandon Ryan who was selected by Hawthorn in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft and played three AFL games for the Hawks before being traded to the Brisbane Lions at season’s end.

An additional two VFL-listed players made their way onto AFL lists as Category B rookies to take last week’s VFL draft haul to five after the Brisbane Lions promoted lively wingman Bruce Reville and the GWS Giants added classy young forward Nathan Wardius.

Williamstown and Port Melbourne played important roles in providing second chances at AFL level for players who were looking for a way back to the big league.

Williamstown defenders Oscar McDonald (Fremantle) and Marty Hore (Melbourne) and previously luckless Port Melbourne ruckman Sam Naismith (Richmond) were all given second AFL opportunities after dominant seasons at VFL level.

Box Hill Hawks helped in the development of three players selected in this year’s Mid-Season Rookie Draft, with Ryan Maric taken by the West Coast Eagles at pick 1, Clay Tucker promoted by Hawthorn with pick 2 and Ethan Stanley grabbed by Fremantle at pick 8.

Four more VFL-listed players were selected in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft, with Caleb Poutler and Quinton Narkle receiving second opportunities via the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide respectively, while the Sydney Swans snared Brisbane Lions defender Harry Arnold and Richmond promoted James Trezise.

Four players were signed in the Pre-Season Supplemental Selection Period ahead of the 2023 AFL season.

Carlton lifted Alex Cincotta from its VFL list and he went on to have a terrific season for the Blues, while Richmond selected Kaelan Bradtke after he impressed in two VFL games for Sydney last year although he unfortunately was delisted at season’s end despite leading the Tigers’ VFL goalkicking.

Frankston pair Brodie McLaughlin and Kye Turner were also unlucky to be delisted at the end of their first year in the AFL after both were selected on the eve of the season. McLaughlin shared the Frosty Miller Medal as the VFL leading goalkicker and was a key part of the Gold Coast Suns’ VFL premiership-winning VFL campaign, while Turner didn’t appear for Melbourne after he was sidelined with injury for much of the season.

There were also 15 eventual draftees from the Coates Talent League and Northern Academies who got their first taste of state league senior football during the 2023 Smithy’s VFL season.

At the top of the list was the West Coast Eagles’ prized No.1 pick Harley Reid who played two VFL games for Carlton early in the season before lining up for Essendon in its clash with the Southport Sharks in Round 20.

Fellow top-10 selections Zane Duursma and Nate Caddy also featured in the VFL this year, while Gold Coast Suns Academy selections Ethan Read, Jake Rogers and Will Graham suited up for the Suns and Sydney Swans Academy pair Caiden Cleary and Indhi Kirk also played multiple VFL games.

Continue below for the full list of players to line up in the VFL this year who were added to AFL lists:

Pre-Season Supplemental Selection Period

Kaelan Bradtke (Sydney Swans to Richmond)
Alex Cincotta (Carlton to Carlton)
Brodie McLaughlin (Frankston to Gold Coast Suns)
Kye Turner (Frankston to Melbourne)

Marty Hore (Williamstown-Melbourne)

Mid-Season Rookie Draft

Ryan Maric (Box Hill Hawks to West Coast Eagles)
Clay Tucker (Box Hill Hawks to Hawthorn)
Harry Arnold (Brisbane Lions to Sydney Swans)
Ethan Stanley (Box Hill Hawks to Fremantle)
Caleb Poulter (Footscray Bulldogs to Western Bulldogs)
Quinton Narkle (Essendon to Port Adelaide)
Brandon Ryan (Northern Bullants to Hawthorn)
James Trezise (Richmond to Richmond)

National Draft

Harley Reid (Carton/Essendon to West Coast Eagles)
Zane Duursma (Casey Demons to North Melbourne)
Ethan Read (Gold Coast Suns to Gold Coast Suns)
Nate Caddy (Carlton to Essendon)
Jake Rogers (Gold Coast Suns to Gold Coast Suns)
Caiden Cleary (Sydney Swans to Sydney Swans)
Will Graham (Gold Coast Suns to Gold Coast Suns)
Logan Morris (Werribee to Brisbane Lions)
Cooper Simpson (Casey Demons to Fremantle)
Shaun Mannagh (Werribee to Geelong Cats)
Luke Lloyd (Frankston to Brisbane Lions)
Harvey Johnston (Sandringham to West Coast Eagles)
George Stevens (Geelong Cats to Geelong Cats)
Harvey Thomas (GWS Giants to GWS Giants)

Rookie Draft

Finnbar Maley (Northern Bullants to North Melbourne)
Sam Clohesy (Werribee to Gold Coast Suns)
Kynan Brown (Casey Demons to Melbourne)

Pre-Selected Category B Rookies

Indhi Kirk (Sydney Swans to Sydney Swans)
Bruce Reville (Brisbane Lions to Brisbane Lions)
Nathan Wardius (GWS Giants to GWS Giants)

Delisted Free Agency Period

Oscar McDonald (Williamstown to Fremantle)
Sam Naismith (Port Melbourne to Richmond)