THE QUESTION is simple: which club has the best group of players aged under 23?

The answer, however, is far more complex. 

Our panel of reporters assessed the young players from all 18 AFL clubs and ranked them according to the group they'd most like at their club. We've also identified the individual players who have the biggest upside, and the young talent that needs to get a move on. 

Check out the results below, starting with the club ranked 18th by our panel of experts, and finishing with No.1.  

YOUNG TALENT TIME The first-round draftees without a new contract


Under-23 players: 15 players in total
Wayne Milera (56 games), Lachlan Murphy (29 games), Jordan Gallucci (27 games), Tom Doedee (21 games), Myles Poholke (11 games), Darcy Fogarty (10 games), Elliott Himmelberg (eight games), Chayce Jones (six games), Tyson Stengle (four games), Ben Davis (one game), Jordon Butts, Will Hamill, Ned McHenry, Andrew McPherson, Lachlan Sholl

Rising Star nominees: Two players
Wayne Milera (2017), Tom Doedee (2018)

No.1 star: Wayne Milera's most damaging performances have come across half-back, but he's been used through the midfield in recent weeks to add leg speed to the Crows' onball brigade. 

Wayne Milera has come of age in a variety of roles this season. Picture: AFL Photos

Biggest upside: Tom Doedee had a breakout season last year as an intercept-marking defender. Tore his ACL in round one and will be like a new recruit in 2020.

Needs to show more: Fogarty – the 12th overall pick in 2017 – hasn't played a senior game this year after 10 in his debut season. Has to dominate at SANFL level to demand another chance.

Summary: Only a third of their list is in the under-23 category with a focus on experienced players. Carlton's first-round draft pick will assist with the much-needed regeneration of the list. – Lee Gaskin

Tom Doedee will be like a new recruit in 2020 after tearing his ACL in round one. Picture: AFL Photos

THE RUN HOME Can free-falling Crows save their season?


Under-23 players: 16 players in total
Jaidyn Stephenson (38 games), Callum Brown (29 games), Ben Crocker (26 games), Brayden Sier (18 games), Josh Daicos (15 games), Sam Murray (13 games), Flynn Appleby (10 games), Isaac Quaynor (four games), Nathan Murphy (two games), John Noble (one game), Atu Bosenavulagi, Tyler Brown, Max Lynch, Mark Keane, Will Kelly, Anton Tohill, Tom Wilson

Rising Star nominees: Two players
Sam Murray (2018), Jaidyn Stephenson (2018 – winner)

No.1 star: Second-year sensation Jaidyn Stephenson's importance has become more evident during his betting-related suspension. The brilliant youngster is a unique player: a medium-sized full-forward who creates havoc with his speed and smarts.

Biggest upside: Top draftee Isaac Quaynor hardly put a foot wrong in his four AFL appearances against quality opposition, backing himself to take the game on in the back half. Now sidelined with a foot stress problem.

Needs to show more: Classy runner Josh Daicos has fought hard for three AFL games this season and after 15 games in three seasons he must grab his opportunity. Has the talent.

Summary: Injuries and suspensions have contributed to the Magpies' lowly rating, but there's enough expectation around the likes of Stephenson, Quaynor, Brayden Sier and Nathan Murphy to forecast an improved ranking by this time next year. - Ben Collins

The Pies have liked what they've seen so far from Isaac Quaynor. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 14 players in total
Clayton Oliver (78 games), Bayley Fritsch (41 games), Sam Weideman (31 games), Charlie Spargo (24 games), Corey Wagner (15 games), Harrison Petty (nine games), Oskar Baker (seven games), Kyle Dunkley (two games), Tom Sparrow (two games), Toby Bedford, Austin Bradtke, Kade Chandler, James Jordon, Aaron Nietschke

Rising Star nominees: One player
Clayton Oliver (2016)

No.1 star: No one even comes close to Clayton Oliver. He's among the premier onballers in the competition and few can match him at the coalface. 

Biggest upside: Despite injuries decimating Melbourne's forward line and the delivery not always being great, Bayley Fritsch has shown potency in attack. He hasn't really settled into a position and might suit the team more across half-back or on the wing, where the Dees can make the most of his pinpoint delivery. 

Needs to show more: It was tantalising to see what Sam Weideman produced in the Demons' first two finals last year. Those games were the reason the club felt confident it could send Jesse Hogan to Fremantle and still contend. That hasn't worked out, and Weideman's copped a couple of niggles, but the club needs the key forward to rebound next year.

Summary: There's a steep drop-off after the three names mentioned. Oskar Baker has serious dash but it remains to be seen whether the others can become consistent contributors in a good side. However, considering much of the club's core is only a little older than this group, there aren't any major concerns around the make-up of the list. - Dinny Navaratnam

Sam Weideman burst onto the scene in last year's finals series but has struggled in 2019. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 19 players in total
Blake Hardwick (62 games), Harry Morrison (31 games), James Worpel (29 games), James Cousins (18 games), Conor Glass (17 games), Conor Nash (15 games), Jack Scrimshaw (13 games), Mitch Lewis (12 games), Teia Miles (12 games), Dylan Moore (seven games), Ollie Hanrahan (five games), Will Golds, Damon Greaves, Changkuoth Jiath, Harrison Jones, Jacob Koschitzke, Ned Reeves, Jackson Ross, Mathew Walker

Rising Star nominees: Four players
Blake Hardwick (2017), Harry Morrison (2018), James Worpel (2018), Mitch Lewis (2019)

No.1 star: He might go under the radar, but Blake Hardwick has established himself as one of Hawthorn's most important players. Drafted as a forward, he's looked accomplished since moving into the backline and finished second in last year's best and fairest.

Biggest upside: Hawks fans have seen a lot of promise from Mitch Lewis. The 198cm forward is athletic, can take a mark and has kicked 10 goals from his past five games.

Needs to show more: He has the athletic profile, but Conor Nash has struggled to fulfil his potential this season. The Irishman is having a solid defensive impact, but as a forward he has kicked just six goals from 10 games this year.

Summary: Hawthorn has neglected the draft for experienced bodies recently, so their low ranking shouldn't come as a massive surprise. The Hawks have done well in finding players with late picks, though plucking A-graders with their crop of draft selections is difficult. - Riley Beveridge

Tough nut Blake Hardwick is one of Hawthorn's most promising young guns. Picture: AFL Photos

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Under-23 players: 16 players in total
Jade Gresham (80 games), Ben Long (26 games), Hunter Clark (25 games), Josh Battle (22 games), Nick Coffield (16 games), Ben Paton (14 games), Ed Phillips (11 games), Bailey Rice (11 games), Brandon White (11 games), Darragh Joyce (five games), Doulton Langlands (two games), Sam Alabakis, Jack Bytel, Oscar Clavarino, Max King, Jack Mayo

Rising Star nominees: Three players
Jade Gresham (2016), Ben Long (2018), Hunter Clark (2018)

No.1 star: It's Jade Gresham. By dint of having been in the system longer than most other of the Saints here, he's had the most chance to show off his ample talent. This season, he's been getting it done in the midfield, and his influence will grow as he builds his tank.

Jade Gresham is one of the Saints' brightest young stars. Picture: AFL Photos

Biggest upside: Saints supporters must be salivating over the class and composure of Hunter Clark. It's taken a little while for him to show it, but his past month or so has been very impressive. Max King could easily be chosen here, but Clark gets the nod based on having been seen at the level.

Needs to show more: In two of Ben Long's three seasons, he's been relatively disappointing. The small forward started slowly, really showed something last year but has regressed in 2019. He has the attributes to succeed and should eventually do so.

Summary: There's a good batch, with Josh Battle, Nick Coffield and even Ben Paton joining the above names as having shown potential, but it drops off after that. St Kilda is targeting finals next season so don't expect it to seriously beef up this group in the coming off-season, although its first pick should come reasonably early. - Dinny Navaratnam


Under-23 players: 20 players in total
Darcy Tucker (66 games), Adam Cerra (37 games), Andrew Brayshaw (35 games), Brennan Cox (34 games), Bailey Banfield (24 games), Sean Darcy (23 games), Taylin Duman (20 games), Griffin Logue (19 games), Sam Switkowski (16 games), Mitchell Crowden (10 games), Stefan Giro (10 games), Lachie Schultz (four games), Jason Carter, Hugh Dixon, Lloyd Meek, Tom North, Dillon O'Reilly, Sam Sturt, Luke Valente, Tobe Watson

Rising Star nominees: Two players
Adam Cerra (2018), Brennan Cox (2018)

No.1 star: It's hard to split Andrew Brayshaw, who has been in ripping form lately after spending more time midfield, and draft classmate Adam Cerra, whose talent is undisputed.

Biggest upside: Sean Darcy is already competing against the competition's big boys and once he fully assumes the mantle as the No.1 ruck and develops his craft away from stoppages he could dominate. 

Needs to show more: Griffin Logue looked poised for a breakout 2019 after a strong summer but injuries continue to ravage the Swan Districts product. Going at pick No.8 in 2016 raised expectations. Shown promise without cementing himself.

Summary: Lack of depth is a major headache with a lot of their youngsters unproven and fighting to establish themselves. They've got nothing out of last year's top two picks at this point, which doesn't help. More elite young talent – a la NGA prospect Liam Henry  will be welcome. – Travis King

Sean Darcy has the talent to become one of the game's premier big men. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 16 players in total
Jy Simpkin (52 games), Cameron Zurhaar (24 games), Luke Davies-Uniacke (20 games), Tarryn Thomas (16 games), Nick Larkey (15 games), Ben McKay (four games), Tom Murphy (four games), Bailey Scott (four games), Will Walker (four games), Curtis Taylor (two games), Kyron Hayden (one game), Joel Crocker, Tom McKenzie, Red Og Murphy, Declan Watson, Tristan Xerri

Rising Star nominees: Four players
Nick Larkey (2019), Bailey Scott (2019), Tarryn Thomas (2019), Cameron Zurhaar (2019)

No.1 star: Jy Simpkin was the Roos' top draft pick in 2016 and has hit his straps this season, racking up six 20-plus-possession games, two of which he won 30 or more touches in.

Biggest upside: Top-10 selection Tarryn Thomas has made 16 appearances in his first year, and his composure, skill, goal sense and athleticism suggest he's going to be the pick of the joeys.

Needs to show more: There is still great hope for promising midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke, but he's played only 13 senior matches in two years and just twice won at least 20 disposals.

Summary: North has some nice young talent, including breakout pair Cameron Zurhaar and Nick Larkey, Bailey Scott and Will Walker, but this group has only limited AFL exposure. Zurhaar is an aggressive, goalkicking forward, while Larkey's contested marking ability has lightened the load on spearhead Ben Brown. – Marc McGowan


Under-23 players: 19 players in total
Darcy Parish (72), Kyle Langford (60), Andrew McGrath (59), Matt Guelfi (31), Aaron Francis (23), Mason Redman (20), Josh Begley (14), Dylan Clarke (9), Jordan Ridley (9), Kobe Mutch (4), Will Snelling (3), Brayden Ham (2), Sam Draper, Noah Gown, Jordan Houlahan, Tom Jok, Irving Mosquito, Trent Mynott, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher

Rising Star nominees: Four players
Darcy Parish (2016), Andrew McGrath (2017 - winner), Aaron Francis (2018), Dylan Clarke (2019)

No.1 star: Andrew McGrath claimed the NAB AFL Rising Star as a rebounding defender in 2017, and has moved into the midfield since then. Smart, quick, tough and consistent, he's a key player in the club's future and could be its next skipper.

Biggest upside: Aaron Francis is one of the most talented young defenders in the competition, but hasn't put it together consistently yet. Has been used in the forward line this year, but is more comfortable as an intercept defender where his marking and game sense comes to the fore. Has had some key moments in the past couple of weeks having shifted back due to Michael Hurley's injury.

Needs to show more: It's been another frustrating campaign for Kyle Langford, who was a first-round pick in 2014 but has never really been able to cement his spot in the senior side. Was important late against Gold Coast last week and has talent as a half-forward, but can have a bigger impact on games. 

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Summary: The Bombers have traded out of the first round of drafts the previous two years (and again don't have a first-round selection this season) which sways how this group looks against others. But the emergence of Darcy Parish as a genuine midfielder who can kick goals, plus McGrath's development, Mason Redman's impressive form at half-back, Matt Guelfi's versatility, Dylan Clarke as a tagger and Francis' potential means there is real quality in Essendon's younger brigade. - Callum Twomey

Darcy Parish is one of the Bombers' brightest young prospects. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 20 players in total
Liam Duggan (84 games), Tom Cole (41 games), Liam Ryan (31 games), Jake Waterman (23 games), Daniel Venables (21 games), Oscar Allen (19 games), Jack Petruccelle (18 games), Jarrod Cameron (six games), Kurt Mutimer (four games), Brayden Ainsworth (three games), Jarrod Brander (three games), Josh Rotham (three games), Matthew Allen, Patrick Bines, Hamish Brayshaw, Harry Edwards, Luke Foley, Xavier O'Neill, Brodie Riach, Bailey Williams

Rising Star nominees: Three players
Tom Cole (2018), Jake Waterman (2018), Jack Petruccelle (2019)

No.1 star: Liam Ryan booted 20 goals and became an important part of the premiership-winning line-up in his first season, before evolving into a defensive-minded small. Still scratching the surface.  

Biggest upside: Oscar Allen could be anything. Not many 20-year-olds could ease concerns about spearhead Josh Kennedy's eventual retirement but Allen has somehow managed that after 19 games. 

Needs to show more: It's hard to be too critical of Daniel Venables given his injury history, a difficult half-forward role and the fact the former pick 13 is already a premiership player aged 20. He is out for the year due to concussion but when he returns fans hope he can develop into a damaging mid who finds more of the ball.

Summary: Oscar Allen is the ace in the pack, and the Eagles would be very pleased with the young talent developing at both ends. They need to find a new wave of midfielders in the near future, and a young ruckman. Larke medallist Deven Robertson and WA teammate Luke Jackson are on the radar, but will be tough to get. - Travis King


Under-23 players: 21 players in total
Brandan Parfitt (48 games), Jack Henry (38 games), James Parsons (35 games), Nakia Cockatoo (34 games), Mark O'Connor (25 games), Esava Ratugolea (21 games), Gryan Miers (18 games), Jordan Clark (17 games), Lachlan Fogarty (17 games), Zach Guthrie (17 games), Charlie Constable (7 games), Jamaine Jones (7 games), Quinton Narkle (6 games), Sam Simpson (6 games), Oscar Brownless, Ben Jarvis, Jacob Kennerley, Nathan Kreuger, Stefan Okunbor, Blake Schlensog, Jake Tarca. 

Rising Star nominees: Five players 
Brandan Parfitt (2017), Jack Henry (2018), Gryan Miers (2019), Jordan Clark (2019), Charlie Constable (2019)

No.1 star: Speedster Jordan Clark has only scratched the surface as a first-round draftee and has already been elevated from half-back to wing. The former cricketer had an interrupted pre-season but is a lock in the Cats' 22 bound for finals.

Biggest upside: Very few 21-game players are as important to their side as power forward Esava Ratugolea. After breaking his leg last season, watch for Ratugolea to explode in 2020 with a full summer under his belt. 

Needs to show more: Hip surgery in February meant Lachie Fogarty lost valuable momentum into this season after an impressive debut year in 2018. Has since played AFL but finds himself in the VFL and should be pushing for a senior finals berth. 

Summary: Of the 21 players listed, only two are first-round draft picks. That could double in November if they use their current pick and move out Tim Kelly for an early selection. But history suggests as long as the Cats are in the finals frame, they'll be active in trade period. - Mitch Cleary

Esava Ratugolea's marking presence up forward has the Cats excited. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 17 players in total
Daniel Rioli (70 games), Jack Graham (33 games), Jack Higgins (33 games), Shai Bolton (21 games), Sydney Stack (16 games), Liam Baker (15 games), Noah Balta (12 games), Ryan Garthwaite (nine games), Mabior Chol (seven games), Jack Ross (five games), Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (two games), Patrick Naish (two games), Callum Coleman-Jones (one game), Riley Collier-Dawkins, Luke English, Ben Miller, Fraser Turner

Rising Star nominees: Five players
Daniel Rioli (2016), Jack Higgins (2018), Liam Baker (2019), Shai Bolton (2019), Sydney Stack (2019)

No.1 star: Sydney Stack. The versatility at both ends of the ground, the toughness, the sheer audacity to pull off his marks and goals – all with a cheeky grin – means Stack is a star on the rise.

Biggest upside: Mabior Chol. After a few years in the VFL, Chol has strung together some consistent footy. Shows flashes of brilliance in the air, and his agility and speed for his height is impressive.

Needs to show more: Jack Higgins. A bit harsh given the lively forward/midfielder is now out for the year with a brain bleed, but Higgins had spent three weeks in the VFL before being hospitalised. Has all the talent, just wasn't getting his hands on the ball.

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Summary: Given Richmond is pushing for a flag, to be ranked eighth for the strength of its under-23s is promising for the future. The crop is a little heavy on smalls, while Jack Ross is the only draftee to have debuted. – Sarah Black

Jack Higgins is one of the game's great personalities. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 24 players in total
Jesse Joyce (63 games), Callum Ah Chee (45 games), Brayden Fiorini (43 games), Jack Bowes (38 games), Ben Ainsworth (37 games), Darcy Macpherson (35 games), Corey Ellis (31 games), Charlie Ballard (28 games), Wil Powell (20 games), Will Brodie (19 games), Jack Lukosius (17 games), Josh Schoenfeld (15 games), Brad Scheer (13 games), Jacob Heron (12 games), Brayden Crossley (10 games), Ben King (10 games), Jacob Dawson (five games), Sam Fletcher, Caleb Graham, Jez McLennan, Connor Nutting, Izak Rankine, Mitch Riordan, Harrison Wigg

Rising Star nominees: Two players
Ben Ainsworth (2017), Ben King (2019)

No.1 star: Until his mid-season quad injury, Jack Bowes had made the leap from potential to performance, matching it with the best midfielders in the competition.

Biggest upside: Injury has interrupted his three seasons, but Ben Ainsworth has shown the potential to impact games as both a forward and midfielder with his power, acceleration and nous around goal.

Ben Ainsworth can impact games as a forward and midfielder. Picture: AFL Photos

Needs to show more: There's something there, but Will Brodie hasn't quite been able to unlock it on a regular basis. Can win his own ball and is slowly learning to complement that with defensive pressure.

Summary: The Suns have the potential to rise quickly with their under-23s. Ben King and Jack Lukosius should improve next year and we haven't even seen the highly gifted Izak Rankine yet. They'll also add the No.1 draft pick this year who could impact immediately. – Michael Whiting

Jack Lukosius has had a solid first season in the AFL. Picture: AFL Photos

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Under-23 players: 19 players in total
Callum Mills (73 games), Will Hayward (53 games), Ryan Clarke (51 games), Oliver Florent (49 games), Lewis Melican (35 games), Tom McCartin (30 games), Ben Ronke (27 games), Jordan Dawson (21 games), Nick Blakey (17 games), James Rowbottom (eight games), Ryley Stoddart (four games), Hayden McLean (two games), Justin McInerney (one game), Joel Amartey, James Bell, Cody Hirst, Zac Foot, Matthew Ling, Jack Maibaum, Toby Pink, Harry Reynolds, Durak Tucker, Sam Wicks

Rising Star nominees: Six players 
Ryan Clarke (when playing for North Melbourne, 2016), Callum Mills (2016 - winner), Will Hayward (2017), Lewis Melican (2017), Oliver Florent (2018), Ben Ronke (2018), Nick Blakey (2019)

No.1 star: Callum Mills. The 2016 winner had his 2018 season ruined by a broken foot, but he's responded well across half-back where his courage and reading of the play is outstanding. Midfield move didn't happen but is likely next season.

Biggest upside: Nick Blakey. The athletic forward has kicked 16 goals from 17 games in his debut year. Not getting his hands on the footy a lot but when he does, he's impacting games. A future midfielder.

Needs to show more: Lewis Melican. Missed almost all of last season with injury but has played 15 games as a key defender this year. A dependable backman but needs to find more offence.

Summary: The Swans have pumped plenty of games into their youngsters and that experience will pay off in the next couple of years. Missing the finals for the first time under John Longmire, they're set for a top-five selection this year to add to their talented young list. – Adam Curley

Callum Mills has missed just one game this season after an injury-interrupted 2018. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 17 players in total
Jacob Hopper (62 games), Tim Taranto (55 games), Harry Perryman (28 games), Brent Daniels (25 games), Sam Taylor (25 games), Isaac Cumming (six games), Jackson Hately (five games), Aiden Bonar (four games), Bobby Hill (three games), Nick Shipley (two games), Kieren Briggs, Callum Brown, Jack Buckley, Jye Caldwell, Matthew Flynn, Connor Idun, Xavier O'Halloran, Zach Sproule

Rising Star nominees: Three players 
Jacob Hopper (2016), Tim Taranto (2017), Sam Taylor (2018)

No.1 star: Tim Taranto. The former No.2 draft pick has made a significant impact this season with some experienced stars missing, averaging 28.3 possessions, 6.7 tackles and 5.3 clearances per game.

Tim Taranto has established himself as one of the club's new midfield stars. Picture: AFL Photos

Biggest upside: Sam Taylor. In just his second year of footy, the key defender is now cemented in the Giants' back six, and looms as the heir apparent to co-captain Phil Davis.

Needs to show more: Harry Perryman. Injuries have limited his progression, but the tough midfielder is highly skilled on both sides of his body and is starting to look comfortable at the top level.

Summary: Taranto and Hopper are top-shelf midfielders, and Taylor, Daniels and Perryman have also cemented themselves in the Giants' best 22. With Hill, Hately and Caldwell developing nicely, two top-15 selections and academy prospect Tom Green on the horizon this year, the club looks in a great spot. – Adam Curley


Under-23 players: 19 players in total
Zaine Cordy (66 games), Josh Dunkley (61 games), Josh Schache (49 games), Bailey Williams (41 games), Aaron Naughton (36 games), Ed Richards (36 games), Patrick Lipinski (26 games), Tim English (25 games), Bailey Smith (18 games), Lewis Young (11 games), Brad Lynch (nine games), Lachie Young (six games),  Fergus Greene (five games), Ryan Gardner (two games), Rhylee West (one game), Buku Khamis, Callum Porter, Jordon Sweet, Laitham Vandermeer

Rising Star nominees: Four players
Josh Dunkley (2016), Aaron Naughton (2018), Ed Richards (2018), Bailey Smith (2019)

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No.1 star: Josh Dunkley has taken the step from a great role player to one of the best inside midfielders in the game in 2019. 

Biggest upside: Aaron Naughton could be the best contested marking target in the League in a few years. A rare key-position success story for the Dogs. 

Needs to show more: Josh Schache hasn’t set the world on fire, but has shown real glimpses. The Dogs traded picks 25 and 40 for the former Lion in 2017. 

Summary: The top-end talent in Dunkley, Naughton, Smith and Lipinski look excellent. The Dogs could do with an additional tall swingman in the draft. - Jourdan Canil

Aaron Naughton is a ripping mark. Picture: AFL Photos


Under-23 players: 23 players in total
Ryan Burton (61 games), Dan Houston (56 games), Sam Powell-Pepper (54 games), Riley Bonner (38 games), Connor Rozee (18 games), Zak Butters (17 games), Xavier Duursma (17 games), Todd Marshall (16 games), Kane Farrell (12 games), Aidyn Johnson (11 games), Willem Drew (nine games), Joe Atley (four games), Joel Garner (four games), Billy Frampton (three games), Peter Ladhams (two games), Tobin Cox, Martin Frederick, Riley Grundy, Sam Hayes, Cameron Hewett, Jake Patmore, Kai Pudney, Boyd Woodcock

Rising Star nominees: Six players
Ryan Burton (when playing for Hawthorn, 2017), Dan Houston (2017), Sam Powell-Pepper (2017), Riley Bonner (2018), Xavier Duursma (2019), Connor Rozee (2019)

No.1 star: Dan Houston's improvement – from a rookie-listed forward to reliable defender and now a developing midfielder – has been astounding. Getting better with every game.

Biggest upside: It takes a special player to kick five goals in just his third senior game. Connor Rozee – last year's No.5 overall pick - will only get better when he builds his tank and eventually pushes into the midfield.

Needs to show more: Todd Marshall has had some difficult off-field circumstances to deal with, but he's the athletic key forward the Power are sorely missing.

Summary: The Power have a bright future. All three first-round picks from last year's draft look like guns, while Ryan Burton, Riley Bonner, Dan Houston and Sam Powell-Pepper could all be 200-game players. – Lee Gaskin


Under-23 players: 25 players in total
Jacob Weitering (73 games), Sam Petrevski-Seton (60 games), Charlie Curnow (58 games), Jack Silvagni (56 games), Zac Fisher (51 games), Caleb Marchbank (48 games), Matthew Kennedy (38 games), Paddy Dow (37 games), Harry McKay (31 games), Lochie O'Brien (31 games), David Cuningham (24 games), Sam Walsh (18 games), Tom Williamson (17 games), Cam Polson (16 games), Will Setterfield (16 games), Harrison Macreadie (nine games), Liam Stocker (five games), Pat Kerr (four games), Tom De Koning (two games), Matt Cottrell, Finbar O'Dwyer, Matt Owies, Kym LeBois, Angus Schumacher, Ben Silvagni

Rising Star nominees: Eight players
Jacob Weitering (2016), Caleb Marchbank (2017), Sam Petrevski-Seton (2017), David Cuningham (2017), Jack Silvagni (2017), Charlie Curnow (2017), Paddy Dow (2018), Sam Walsh (2019)

No.1 star: There's no doubting the quality of Sam Walsh. The first-year Blue has dipped below 20 touches just once throughout the first 18 games of his AFL career, registering 30 disposals or more on three occasions. He is all class.

Biggest upside: The Blues will be rapt with the progress of Charlie Curnow, despite an injury-plagued season. Athletic, a great mark and capable of hitting the scoreboard regularly, he is an emerging superstar of the game.

Needs to show more: There have been some second-year blues for Paddy Dow. After a strong first season in the AFL, the pick No.3 has struggled to impact games with the same regularity in 2019. Playing forward, he's had single-digit disposals in his past five games.

Summary: Carlton has a strong crop of young talent. As it should, with 12 first-round picks among its 25 players under the age of 23. It is starting to develop some genuine A-grade stars within that mix, with the likes of Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay and Sam Walsh looking like they will lead a bright Blues future. - Riley Beveridge


Under-23 players: 24 players in total
Harris Andrews (91 games), Eric Hipwood (69 games), Hugh McCluggage (57 games), Jarrod Berry (51 games), Alex Witherden (47 games), Rhys Mathieson (46 games), Cam Rayner (40 games), Ben Keays (30 games), Zac Bailey (21 games), Noah Answerth (13 games), Cedric Cox (12 games), Jacob Allison (10 games), Brandon Starcevich (five games), Mitch Hinge (two games), Sam Skinner (one game), Connor Ballenden, Tom Berry, Tom Joyce, Corey Lyons, James Madden, Connor McFadyen, Jack Payne, Ely Smith, Toby Wooller

Rising Star nominees: Five players
Harris Andrews (2015), Eric Hipwood (2017), Hugh McCluggage (2017), Alex Witherden (2017 and 2018), Cam Rayner (2018)

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No.1 star: Harris Andrews is already one of the competition's elite defenders. The young vice-captain can not only lock down the game's best forwards but launch Brisbane's attack with his intercept marking and calm decision-making.

Biggest upside: Hugh McCluggage is in the midst of a breakout season and knocking on the door of A-grade status. Poised in traffic and a classy finisher, it's not out of the question he could make the 40-man All Australian squad in just his third season.

Needs to show more: As a hybrid forward, Cam Rayner plays arguably the most difficult position in the team. The former No.1 draft pick has improved his workrate dramatically since the bye and needs to continue doing so to maximise his talent.

Summary: The Lions have young stars on every line and should be set for sustained excellence. From bookends Harris Andrews and Eric Hipwood to inside-outside midfielders Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry and game-changing Cam Rayner, there's plenty to like. – Michael Whiting

Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood are among a strong crop of talent at the Lions. Picture: AFL Photos