WE'VE seen glimpses, the moments, the sparks of brilliance, but who out of your club's young guns is set to explode in 2024 and take the leap from good to bonafide star?
We've taken a look at the players that have given us a taste of what they're capable of, but just haven't quite yet had that breakout season that puts them on a whole new level.
We're making the call - stars will be born in 2024. Check it out.
After 37 games across his first two seasons, Soligo has all the attributes to make a big leap in 2024 and establish himself as a permanent midfielder. Having worked through half-forward and wing roles, Soligo is physically ready to move to an inside midfield role after a big pre-season that has seen the 21-year-old build his upper-body and core strength. One of the smartest young players in the game, Soligo's blend of toughness and class is highly valued at West Lakes and he regularly makes good things happen when he has the ball. He could be joined in the midfield this season by powerful forward Luke Pedlar, who has not missed a session over summer and looks ready to capitalise on his physical assets after overcoming injury in 2023 to play 21 games. Draftee Dan Curtin is a young player backed to have an immediate impact. – Nathan Schmook
The silky defender's finish to the 2023 season would have Lions fans excited about what he's capable of this year. From round 14, Coleman had 20 or more disposals in seven of 12 games, including 26 touches in the Grand Final loss to Collingwood. His clever kicking was particularly on show during a best-on-ground performance against Carlton in the preliminary final. The Lions are set to be among the flag contenders again in 2024 and if Coleman can put together a whole season of consistent performances, they may go one step further. – Dejan Kalinic
Carlton's running machine, Hollands was a key part of the Blues' surge towards finals in the back half of 2023. The former No.11 pick burst onto the scene with a strong performance in round one and played every game until round 11 when a collarbone injury cruelled his promising debut season. An eight-week layoff saw the winger return stronger and fitter, nabbing a Rising Star nomination in round 21 and playing in the Blues' semi and preliminary finals. One of the Blues' youngest players, last season's finals experience should hold the 20-year-old in good stead as he looks to become a permanent part of Carlton's set-up in 2024, following in the steps of Jesse Motlop, who himself had a breakout year in 2023. – Sophie Welsh
Hard to put a player in this category that was named in the All-Australian squad last year, but Quaynor only scratched the surface in 2023. Not only was he named in the 44 for the first time, but he finished sixth in the Copeland Trophy and played a crucial role in a side that went all the way. Now Quaynor looks set to entrench himself as one of the best small defenders in the game in 2024. With 85 games now on the board, and almost another comprehensive pre-season in the bank, Quaynor looks poised to take another step forward. Fin Macrae has been forced to bide his time in the VFL under Craig McRae but the former first-round pick should get greater opportunity this year following the departure of Taylor Adams during the trade period. – Josh Gabelich
One of the League's leading wingmen in 2023, Martin could explode and reach yet another level this year. The 22-year-old has played 44 games across his first two AFL seasons after being signed during the pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP) ahead of the 2022 campaign. A potential switch to defence could put the ball in Martin's hands even more often and help the Bombers make the most of his superb ball use after he averaged 22 disposals in 2023. Jye Caldwell, 23, could also be ready to elevate after putting together back-to-back seasons of 20-plus games. – Dejan Kalinic
There will be a squeeze on at Fremantle for inside midfield positions, but Johnson is giving every indication this pre-season that he will be a regular presence in 2024. As his 192cm frame fills out, the third-year Docker provides the added size Freo has missed while also bringing skill and evasiveness to the table. His improved ability to break out of stoppages this summer has been a highlight, and a big leap looms for the Subiaco product, who played 18 games in 2023, including four as the substitute. Young key forward Jye Amiss has added size and should be even better in his third season, while a permanent midfield move for Hayden Young will elevate his impact. Wingman Jeremy Sharp has the opportunity to play regular senior football after a terrific summer. – Nathan Schmook
Geelong has discovered plenty of mature-age sensations under Stephen Wells' watch. From Harry Taylor to Tom Stewart to Tom Atkins. Will Mannagh be the next state league star to make a seamless adjustment to the next level? The Cats used pick No.36 on the 26-year-old Werribee midfielder-forward last year and clearly believe he can play a role for Chris Scott in 2024. With the list in a transition period, Mannagh has the opportunity to break in, either from round one or early in the year, and become a permanent fixture in the senior side this season. Ollie Henry produced a breakout year in 2023, kicking 41 goals in his first season at GMHBA Stadium. But the former first-round pick looks like has more levels to reach in the coming years, perhaps as soon as this winter. – Josh Gabelich
It might seem a bit dramatic to declare a zero-gamer to be the next big thing, but such is the excitement and belief in what the No.3 pick can bring to a Suns side desperate to play finals for the first time. His untimely collarbone injury on Monday will delay his debut for several weeks, but it's hard to recall a player coming through the draft with the same powerful attributes as Walter, with the hulking key forward more than capable of kicking big bags and clunking pack-crashing marks, while his tackling and defensive workrate have been widely lauded. At 195cm and 94kg, the Gold Coast Academy product is ready-made and is set to form a formidable partnership in attack with Ben King. Of the older players, expect powerful medium forward Bailey Humphrey to build on his impressive first year in the AFL under new Damien Hardwick. – Alison O’Connor
Fresh from a productive second season in 2023, Callaghan is primed to take his game to the next level. The 20-year-old established himself as a key part of the Giants' on-ball unit, playing 21 games (up from five in 2022) and averaging 20.7 disposals (up from 15). At 192cm, Callaghan's rare combination of height, athleticism and skill make him a difficult match-up in the mould of former Fremantle captain David Mundy. The former No.3 pick from the 2021 AFL Draft worked through a late-season shoulder injury to play an important role in his first finals campaign and has all the tools to add to the Giants' already-damaging midfield. – Michael Rogers
Hawks fans are salivating at the thought of what this 19-year-old might be able to produce in just his second season. After debuting in round seven last year, Weddle played every game as a defender. Athletic with incredible running power, this kid can play tall or short and genuinely could be anything. Named Hawthorn’s most promising player in 2023, already Weddle has shown he’s desperate to avoid the second year blues – taking out the club’s Yo-Yo test and time trial back in December. With another pre-season under his belt, the 2022 first-round draft pick is poised to elevate himself again. Another youngster to keep an eye on is Cam Mackenzie. The midfielder has improved his aerobic capacity over the off-season, and looks set for a big 2024. - Nat Edwards
Jacob van Rooyen
The athletic key forward showed glimpses of his talent in his first year at the top level, but expect van Rooyen to elevate his game in 2024 as he and Harrison Petty combine to be the main men in attack for the Demons. After cutting his teeth at VFL level in 2022, van Rooyen was unleashed early last season and well and truly lived up to the hype. He announced himself with three goals on debut and went on to become a key pillar in the Demons' best 22, booting 28 goals from 20 games. While he'll chiefly be a target up forward, expect to see more of van Rooyen up the ground in 2024 as he acts as a back-up ruck option for skipper Max Gawn. Bailey Laurie is another ready to level up after returning fitter and stronger for his fourth pre-season, finishing third in the club's 2km time trial and impressing on the training track. – Alison O'Connor
There's top-end young talent everywhere you look on the Kangaroos' list, headed by Harry Sheezel, who would ordinarily be a lock for this nomination. However, Sheezel's first season exceeded all expectations as he claimed the AFL Rising Star and Syd Barker Medal as North's club champion. Given it's hard to 'break out' any further than that, Sheezel's fellow 2022 draft alumnus Wardlaw is a prime contender. Despite injury limiting the 19-year-old to just eight games in his first year, he showed more than enough to suggest he'll soon join Sheezel among North's very best. Wardlaw's combination of power at the contest and skill on the outside was on full display in against GWS in round 13, when he was rewarded with an AFL Rising Star nomination. With a first full pre-season under his belt, expect Wardlaw's 2023 averages of 14.6 disposals and 4.1 clearances to rocket. – Michael Rogers
The Power were thrilled with the physical transformation of half-back Sinn over the off-season, with the skilful 21-year-old returning to training significantly stronger and with an AFL-ready body-shape. Injury-free, the pick No.12 from 2021 has trained well and has the ability to play as a high defender or on a wing, where his speed and penetrating kick will be assets in his third season. Port is still working through its wing options following the departure of Xavier Duursma, with Jase Burgoyne another breakout contender in his third season if given the opportunity up the ground. Tall forward Ollie Lord, who booted four goals in a qualifying final last year, is also capable of taking the next step. – Nathan Schmook
Last year was the end of an era at Punt Road. Damien Hardwick departed, months before Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt retired. And while much is hoped of Jacob Hopper in his second season, after Tim Taranto excelled in 2023, the return and progress of Gibcus will be a big story at Tigerland in the months ahead. The 2021 No.9 pick played 18 games in an eye-catching debut season in 2022 but missed all of last year due to a complex hamstring injury. Now fully recovered, the 20-year-old will be looking to relaunch his career under new coach Adem Yze. It might take time for the Victorian to build his game after so long out, but if he can bank 15-18 games this year, it will be a big win for Richmond. Samson Ryan showed signs of progress last year, dividing his time between the ruck and inside 50. Can the 206cm Queenslander rise again? – Josh Gabelich
The youngest player of his draft class, Phillipou showed flashes of brilliance in his debut season but also had many 'almost' moments. His aerial ability and tendency to kick a goal when it was most needed were on full display at times, but, like most first-year players, he struggled with consistency. With plenty of enthusiasm and confidence to boot, the former No.10 pick burst onto the scene early in the season, booting three goals in his second career game and picking up a Rising Star nomination in round 10. The forward played every game in 2023, and will be all the better for getting a season of AFL football under his belt. After spending a bit of time training with the midfield group this pre-season, if Phillipou manages to channel his confidence and talent into consistent performances, the sky's the limit for the precocious Saint. Marcus Windhager returned to the club in good nick after the summer break and is also poised for a big year, while Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera arguably had a breakout year of his own last year and will be looking to build on that. – Sophie Welsh
Filling the shoes of superstar Lance Franklin isn’t an easy task, but it's over to Logan McDonald, Joel Amartey and Hayden McLean to occupy the vacancy. McLean opted not to travel over the off-season and remained in Sydney to train and work on his craft, while both McDonald and Amartey have returned to the club in good shape. It may sound perverse to name last year’s Bob Skilton medallist Errol Gulden here, but the classy midfielder took out the club’s two-kilometre time trial earlier this month. Expect 21-year-old Gulden to take his game to another level in 2024. Recruit and premiership Demon James Jordon has also been a lively addition in match simulation and is expected to make an impact. – Sarah Olle
Young midfielder Ginbey showcased his contested attributes right from the start last season, and his physical development ahead of his second AFL season suggests he is ready to go head-to-head with the League's midfield bulls. Ginbey has the ideal mix of strength and endurance, winning the Eagles' opening time trial this summer and using his 191cm frame to break tackles and win midfield contests through the pre-season. The 19-year-old has been backed off in recent sessions after a big preparation but should have a prominent midfield role come round one. Recruit Tyler Brockman has turned heads with his craft and skill in attack, while draftee Harley Reid is delivering on the hype during match simulation and has the talent to be an instant star. – Nathan Schmook
The hype around Sanders is warranted at this point of the pre-season. Many inside the Whitten Oval believe the 2023 pick No.6 has displayed enough across December and January to be picked in round one. If the Tasmanian continues his form and development across the rest of the pre-season, Sanders will start the season as one of the leading contenders for the Rising Star. With Bailey Smith ruled out for the year with a knee reconstruction, Sanders should slot straight into Luke Beveridge's midfield. Sam Darcy has endured a nightmare injury run across his first two years in the AFL but hasn't missed a beat across the summer and could be ready to make an impact at AFL level in 2024. – Josh Gabelich