THE COUNTDOWN is on for next week's NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft as clubs scour the country to find the best available talents.
At this stage nearly 20 list spots are open around the competition for clubs to use selections, with recruiters and list managers having until after round 11 to settle on their choices before the draft on June 1.
Will clubs look for a ready-to-play mature-age option to come in and fill an immediate need? Or will they go younger and try to get some of the best available 19-year-olds who were overlooked in last year's draft? Will they back in the talls again like last year's mid-season intake or see the development of Hawthorn success story Jai Newcombe and go that way?
Here is AFL.com.au's list of 26 of the leading candidates for the mid-season rookie draft, which will be streamed live and exclusively on AFL.com.au and the AFL Live Official App next Wednesday from 6.30pm AEST.
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The former Brisbane Lions big man is among the group of 14 mid-season prospects to have undergone medicals this week, a strong indicator of club interest in him. Ballenden's size – 200cm and 100kg – means he could fill a need for a club searching for key position or ruck depth for the second half of the season. Since playing three AFL games and being delisted at the end of last year Ballenden has played with Woodville West Torrens in the SANFL, averaging 17 disposals.
The Hawks looked at Blanck to train with them as a potential pre-season supplemental period selection but he was ineligible after not nominating for last year's draft. However, after gaining an AFL exemption to qualify for the mid-season draft, Blanck is again on the radar and the Hawks could look at him given he has been under their noses at Box Hill. The 21-year-old is a 195cm key defender who contests well.
Bauer was overlooked by Sydney during last year's draft process, having graduated from the club’s Academy system. He has since moved to North Adelaide, and into the forward line, where he's had an immediate impact with his athleticism and high-leaping marking ability. The 191cm forward kicked 13 goals from his first three SANFL games, with clubs noting some strong AFL attributes particularly in the air. Still just 19, and still adjusting to his new position in attack, clubs believe there is plenty of growth remaining in his game.
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Carmichael comes into the mid-season draft with plenty of clubs keen. The 22-year-old is a genuine bolter after graduating from country football in the Sunraysia league to the SANFL with West Adelaide. At 189cm and 88kg Carmichael looks ready to make an impact in an AFL side and has averaged 24 disposals, five clearances and a goal a game this season so far. Another player who gained an exemption to be available to clubs.
After not playing any football in 2020 or 2021 due to compartment syndrome that required four different operations and both calves to be operated on, including an emergency procedure to have a clot removed, Carrigan has caught the eye of clubs across the past two months. Despite limited exposure, the Richmond playmaker has stood out in the VFL and in the Young Guns Series with his penetrating left foot, ability to break the lines and blend of speed and endurance. The 19-year-old starred in Colgate Young Guns Series, collecting 22 disposals and seven rebound 50s against Vic Country on Sunday after finishing with 20 disposals and eight marks against Vic Metro earlier this month.
A contender for the No.1 choice in the mid-season draft after an exciting first half of the season. Culley was overlooked at last year's draft after playing largely as a forward but has stamped himself as a 193cm midfield prospect this season with the Dandenong Stingrays. Had a huge game in the Young Guns contest against Vic Metro, kicking 4.2 from 22 disposals, five tackles and three clearances and has received strong interest from clubs. Could he be the next Jai Newcombe?
The sharp-kicking defender has increased his stocks this season after not getting a shot in his draft year in 2021. The 18-year-old comes from the Western Jets program but has also played for Richmond's VFL side, including last weekend when he had 25 disposals and four inside-50s on the MCG. The 178cm prospect is an elite kick and starred for the Young Guns, with games of 24 and 32 disposals in successive weeks. Can play on the wing or half-back.
Dawson has emerged as one of the mid-season draft's most appealing key defensive options, having been granted a late AFL exemption to nominate. The 194cm Williamstown prospect has played his best footy as a third tall in the backline, where he's able to peel off and intercept. He's averaged 13 disposals and 6.9 marks per game in the VFL this year, while his speed has also made him a damaging rebounding threat. Set to turn 24 later this season, clubs view him as a ready-made defensive option.
Derksen is one name that is making recruiters scramble late, meeting with six clubs already and two more to come ahead of next week. The 197cm key position prospect signed with Peel Thunder this year after an injury interrupted and COVID affected stint in Essendon's VFL program before returning to Nightcliff in the Northern Territory. Derksen is understood to be prepared to go anywhere to land an AFL opportunity. The 20-year-old has played only three league games in the WAFL and missed last weekend due to COVID, but he caught the eyes of recruiters when he kicked four goals from 22 disposals and seven marks against West Coast.
Dozzi returned to the Northern Knights this year, where he has played his best football as an inside midfielder. At 185cm, clubs believe he can also play on a wing given his strong aerobic capacity and his ability to use the ball on both sides. He's averaged 22.8 disposals and seven tackles in the NAB League this year, but put his name on the mid-season draft radar with a stellar Young Guns game where he won 34 disposals and nine clearances against Vic Country playing as a contested ball winner.
Mutaz El Nour
El Nour has shown plenty of promising development as a key-position defender for the Northern Bullants this season. Seen by AFL clubs as a third tall defender, El Nour is a strong intercept player and has averaged 17.9 disposals and 6.3 marks per game at VFL level so far this year. Listed at 192cm, El Nour is believed to have grown considerably this season, potentially helping his ability to play on bigger bodies in the senior system.
A good run of form at the right time has put Faulkhead in the mix for a mid-season berth. The running midfielder collected 29 disposals and nine tackles for Bendigo Pioneers in round five of the NAB League then backed it up with a team-high 27 disposals for the Young Guns against Vic Metro and then 31 touches and two classy goals against Vic Country. It's a three-week patch that might see the 182cm ball-getter win a chance, having last week also played for Geelong's VFL side.
Florenca didn't nominate for last year's NAB AFL Draft after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the 2020 WAFL finals series, but has quickly emerged as a player of interest in 2022. The 25-year-old showed he is capable of playing at the highest level when he was called upon by West Coast as a top-up player in round eight, collecting 19 disposals, 13 contested possessions and seven tackles against Brisbane at the Gabba. The Eagles are believed to be interested in the ball magnet who is averaging 33 disposals, 20 contested possessions and seven tackles a game in the WAFL, after amassing 41 disposals and two goals against Peel Thunder last weekend.
Clubs have been watching Grace, who is a member of the Giants Academy and was overlooked at last year's drafts. The 181cm forward kicked four goals in his last game for the Giants in the NAB League against Bendigo and had booted three goals the previous game against Sandringham. Kicks the ball well and has impressed with his improvement since last year. The Giants, like all clubs, don't get any Academy rights over players at the mid-season draft.
An exciting medium forward who has impressed with his tricks inside 50 in the first half of the season with the Sandringham Dragons. The 188cm goalkicker booted five majors in round two this season and another four in round four and last week had 20 disposals in the NAB League. He was also a standout for the Young Guns, including kicking two goals against Vic Country's under-18 side. Turning 19 later this year, Hall-Kahan capable of marking in the air and also doing some snapping or creating a chance from nothing at ground level. He won an exemption to nominate for the draft after not nominating last year.
Hart has improved considerably in his over-age year, having missed his first draft chance with the Murray Bushrangers last season. Still just 18 years old, the 199cm key forward kicked six goals from 15 disposals and 10 marks in a dominant NAB League display against the NT Thunder earlier this season to put his name on the map. Clubs have identified AFL attributes in his marking and kicking ability.
Menzie moved to the SANFL from Tasmania this season, enjoying a productive start with South Adelaide. The 180cm small forward burst onto the scene, kicking 10 goals from his first two games and displaying some electric ground-level speed in attack. He has an endless desire to compete and hit the scoreboard, with his aerobic capacity enabling him to get higher up the ground on occasions. Set to turn 20 later this year, clubs rate Menzie's ability to scrap at every contest.
The former West Coast rookie has put himself back on the radar of AFL clubs following a dominant start to the SANFL season. O'Neill was delisted after two years on the Eagles' list without playing a game. But after a decent season at South Adelaide in 2021, the Tasmanian has exploded this year, averaging 29.8 disposals, 6.3 inside 50s, 6.3 tackles and 5.7 clearances per game. The 21-year-old also starred in the state game against Western Australia earlier this month and some believe he could come in and make an impact at AFL level in the second half of the season if given the opportunity.
Ramsden took the eye of recruiters at the start of the NAB League season playing in the ruck for the Sandringham Dragons. The 202cm prospect is athletic and can move around the ground exceptionally well for his size, having run a 6:04 2km time trial over summer. He played for the Young Guns side recently and has averaged 15 disposals and nearly 20 hitouts a game for the Dragons at under-18 level. If clubs go down the path of last year, when they selected seven young ruck prospects mid-season, then Ramsden shapes as an obvious target.
Clubs are searching for ruckmen around the country and may look to Frankston for a solution. Reidy has played as in attack and in the ruck across the first half of the season, catching the eye of recruiters with his ability around the ground as much as in the ruck. Reidy was granted a late exemption by the AFL after playing a single VFL game in 2021. The Dolphins signed him from East Brighton on the eve of last season and have enjoyed a spike from the 203cm athletic tall.
A tall defender who can also play up the ground on the wing. The 21-year-old was among the AFL's first batch of players to receive an exemption to nominate for the mid-season intake after playing at country level last season. A cousin of Brisbane star and former Bombers forward Joe Daniher, Reinhold has played in the VFL with Port Melbourne this season and is a neat left-foot kick.
Fremantle and Brisbane both showed strong interest in Strom during the pre-season supplemental selection period, but neither club was able to invite the South Fremantle utility to train ahead of the deadline because of his ineligibility. The 28-year-old chiropractor has built an impressive professional career away from football, but was prepared to put his life on hold when the Dockers and Lions showed interest in February and is still hoping they come knocking on June 1. The 198cm utility has been a star for South Fremantle in the WAFL for a long time and could plug some holes for AFL sides in the second half of 2022.
Teakle is developing nicely as a 203cm ruckman at WAFL level for East Fremantle. Highly skilled for a big man, Teakle can also go forward where he uses his size and physicality to his advantage. Clubs believe the 22-year-old’s ruck work is gradually improving, which has seen him average 14.2 disposals and 18.2 hitouts per game this season. There is still plenty of growth in his game, but clubs view his development to date as evidence that he could mature into an AFL-ready player in due time. Teakle was in the mix for a rookie spot at Essendon ahead of the 2020 season and featured in a pre-season game.
Turner is on the radar of clubs after getting an exemption to be available mid-season. The Glenelg player's best game of this year came against Adelaide's SANFL side, when he had 38 disposals and booted four goals in a best-afield display. Did the Crows see enough that day to take a look with their mid-season pick? He had a foot injury the following week so his sample size this season is small but the 185cm midfielder could appeal as a ready-to-play option given he is 25.
Voss emerged as a mid-season draft contender with a dominant state game for the SANFL side earlier this month, where he won 28 disposals and took 15 marks to claim the Fos Williams Medal for best on ground. It was a contest where the prolific half-back displayed plenty of the smart, creative tendencies he has shown for Sturt this season to average 23.0 disposals and 10.6 marks per game. Set to turn 22 later this year, Voss is the son of triple-premiership Brisbane legend and current Carlton coach Michael. However, the Blues have already ruled out selecting him with one of their two picks.
The Woodville-West Torrens forward has caught the attention of clubs this season in the SANFL. The 20-year-old has booted 13 goals from seven games, including a haul of five goals against Glenelg early in the season. At 183cm he is sharp with the ball in hand and creates chances and has been linked to clubs searching for a small forward option.