Top draft prospects Harry Sheezel, Will Ashcroft and Jhye Clark. Pictures: AFL Photos

IT IS that time of the year.

With only one game remaining in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships – between Vic Metro and Vic Country in AFL Grand Final week – club recruiting teams are sorting through their draft boards.

And so are we. This is the first edition of's Phantom Form Guide for 2022 – a ranking of the best 25 prospects in this year's draft pool. It will be updated monthly in the lead up to November's draft, with ordering set to change with spikes (or dips) in form.

The order is not a mock draft and does not take into account where the players will get drafted, nor is it a prediction of where father-son or Academy bids may come.

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

Ashcroft's form this season has been undeniable: he has averaged 35 disposals at NAB League level, 24 at VFL level and 33 in three games for Vic Metro as the best player of the under-18 championships. The Brisbane father-son prospect, whose dad Marcus is a triple-premiership winner, stepped up in the carnival again, including his 38-disposal, 10-clearance, 10-inside-50 and one-goal game against South Australia. A ball-getter who has acceleration, skills, smarts and a determined outlook in a similar vein to 2018 No.1 pick and Carlton star Sam Walsh, a player who Ashcroft has unsurprisingly studied closely.

Will Ashcroft in action for Vic Metro against South Australia at the 2022 Under 18 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

A hamstring injury unfortunately saw Wardlaw miss Vic Metro's three-game run at the national carnival, but he remains a contender for the No.1 pick. His best performances this season have come in the big games – he was best-afield for Oakleigh against Sandringham in round one of the NAB League, where he has averaged 21 disposals this season, and also judged the leading player for the NAB AFL Academy against Collingwood's VFL side. Wardlaw is powerful, competitive and tough through the midfield, has some spring in his step, can go forward and kick an important goal, and lifts when his team needs him.

Insurance advisor Adriana Oreskov, who has assisted several former AFL players. Picture: Supplied

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

Sheezel brings something altogether different to the top end of the draft pool. The exciting, polished and classy half-forward can mark above his head, create opportunities and kick goals in a range of ways. He's booted 21 in eight games for the Dragons this season. He has a sidestep, a shimmy and a spin, and tricks that make him one of the most fun players to watch in the 2022 pool. Sheezel kicked four goals against the Allies in Metro's first carnival game and also starred early against Western Australia. He has also spent time in the midfield, including back-to-back games of 30-plus disposals for Sandringham in rounds 9-10.

Harry Sheezel of the Dragons kicks the ball during the round 13 NAB League match between Sandringham and Geelong at RSEA Park on July 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

A foot fracture sidelined Tsatas for the under-18 carnival, which was a shame given his hot start to the season at NAB League level. Tsatas is the midfielder with the combination of qualities in this year's draft class: he can run (quick and long), he's taller and able to go inside and outside. His first month of the season for Oakleigh showed all of those traits, when he averaged 33 disposals for the Chargers in a series of dominant games. An exciting talent who is set for a return to the field soon.

Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

It has been consistency of effort and performance that has lifted Clark right into top-five calculations. There isn't a game, or moment within a game, that Clark isn't trying at his best level: be it smothering, tackling or digging in and getting his hands on the ball. The tough inside midfielder is capable of getting ball on the outside, too, and enjoyed a strong run of games in the carnival, including 24 disposals and a goal against South Australia; 27 disposals, 11 marks and a goal against the Allies; and 23 disposals and seven clearances against Western Australia. There's a bit of Jacob Hopper to Clark's style.

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

With every game he has played this season Mackenzie has won more fans. It started with a strong trial game for the Dragons and has kept up, with the composed and damaging midfielder barely playing a quiet game all year. In the NAB League he's averaged 24 disposals and for Metro he averaged 26 disposals too. He was especially good against Western Australia with 28 disposals, five clearances and a goal. Mackenzie is relentless – he rocks up and plays well most games, stands under the ball in the air and can also press forward. Mackenzie is a member of St Kilda's Next Generation Academy but the Saints are no shot of getting priority access to him, given they would need him to be available past pick 40 under the new bidding rules.

Greater Western Victoria Rebels/Vic Country
Key forward

Cadman has put himself in the frame as one of the first key-position players to be drafted this year. The left-footed key forward bases his game off Geelong match-winner Jeremy Cameron but also has some similarities to Carlton goalkicker Harry McKay at the same age. He marks and leads well, has goal sense and has booted seven goals for Vic Country across three games as well as 23 in the NAB League, including four hauls of four or more and five last weekend against the Western Jets. Just gets himself involved in games.

Aaron Cadman of the NAB AFL Academy kicks the ball during the match between the Academy and Collingwood at Skybus Stadium on May 21, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

East Perth/Western Australia
Key defender

Busslinger's season has been cut short, with the key defender heading in for shoulder surgery on an issue that he had been dealing with through the season. The intercept backman at least finished on a good note, with Busslinger gathering 26 disposals, six marks and five rebounds against the Allies before making a call on his year. The East Perth product is an intercept backman in the Jake Lever mould, capable of floating in and taking strong grabs as well as setting up his side.

Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia

There's plenty of potential in Phillipou, who looms as the first South Australian drafted this year. The midfielder/forward had some exciting moments through his state's carnival but was sore towards the end, however his under-18 form for Woodville-West Torrens has been terrific this year. He's averaged 28 disposals and 1.5 goals a game at the level, is a penetrating left-foot kick and can go through the midfield and forward line. The son of former Bulldogs player Sam, who played three games for the club, is also one of the youngest draftees in the pool, being five days off eligibility for the 2023 draft.

East Perth/Western Australia

A smokey in the top-10 pack. Ginbey started the season in Western Australia dominating as a third tall defender, where his intercept play took the eye of scouts. But he moved into the midfield for WA's under-18 state team and showed his traits in there through the championships, where he used his bigger frame and running capacity to make a difference. He went head-to-head with Will Ashcroft at times against Vic Metro and played well that day with 18 disposals, and he also had 23 touches against Vic Country to be named WA's most valuable player. 

Western Australia's Reuben Ginbey is tackled by Mitchell Rowe of Victoria Metro during the 2022 NAB AFL National Championships U18 Boys match between Vic Metro and Western Australia at Ikon Park on July 2, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
Key forward

One of the big risers out of the national carnival. Jefferson stamped himself on games as a regular goalkicker, booting 12 goals in Metro's three games so far. That included a seven-goal haul against Western Australia, which saw him slot five goals in an incredible third term, as well as two goals against the Allies and three against South Australia. Jefferson reads the play well, can find space on the lead, takes strong overhead marks and converts his shots and is a similar type of forward to Essendon's Harrison Jones.

Matthew Jefferson of Victoria Metro takes a big mark during the 2022 NAB AFL National Championships U18 Boys match between Vic Metro and Western Australia at Ikon Park on July 2, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Swan Districts/Western Australia

Hewett showed his best qualities against Vic Metro, when he had 29 disposals, kicked two crunch goals and had five clearances in a powerful game in the midfield. He followed it up with a very quiet game the next week, but ended better with 18 disposals against Vic Country and 21 against South Australia. Hewett, who had a promising junior baseball career, is a bigger-bodied player who was a member of the NAB AFL Academy's leadership group earlier in the year.   

Elijah Hewett in action during the 2022 NAB AFL National Championships U18 Boys match between Vic Metro and Western Australia at Ikon Park on July 2, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

Some injury interruptions at the start of the year were a frustration for Hollands, but he saved his best game of the season for one of his biggest occasions. He had 34 disposals, seven marks and four clearances for Vic Country against Western Australia and was the dominant midfielder on the ground. He has elite running capacity, works hard both ways and can also play on a flank or wing.

Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country

It has been a case of out of sight, out of mind for George, who started the year in terrific form before suffering a knee injury that has seen him miss an extended period. George is an explosive forward who can also take turns through the midfield and use his power and force around the ball. But around goal is where he has excelled so far this season, including a five-goal bag against Gippsland in round one and a six-goal haul against the Rebels in round five. A super kick of the footy.

Murray Bushrangers' Brayden George celebrates kicking one of his six goals during the Round 5 NAB League match against GWV Rebels at Queen Elizabeth Oval on May 01, 2022. Picture: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Brisbane Lions Academy/Allies

It has been a steady rise for Fletcher through this season and he appears well in the mix as a potential first-rounder come the draft. He is the son of former Geelong, St Kilda, Fremantle and Brisbane player Adrian, but only the Lions will have father-son access to the classy midfielder, who is an excellent user of the ball and impressed for the Allies. Has a good tank and could slot into a wing early in his AFL career.

Jaspa Fletcher during the 2022 NAB AFL National Championships U18 Boys match between South Australia and the Allies at Thebarton Oval on June 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country

Hustwaite has been something of a quiet riser in this year's draft class but brings a unique set of qualities to the table. A growth spurt has seen him push to up 194cm and he is using that size and shape more in the midfield. He has really neat foot skills and has transitioned more from half-back into the midfield with the Stingrays this year. He collected 29 disposals and nine clearances over the weekend in his return to the NAB League.  

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

Essendon will have first call on Davey, the son of former small forward Alwyn, who played 100 games with the Bombers and kicked 120 goals. But Davey jnr is a different type of player to his dad, generally finding his best form when in a midfield role that pushes forward rather than just being at the feet of tall forwards crumbing inside 50. Davey was elevated to the NAB AFL Academy side earlier in the year and was terrific against Western Australia in the carnival with 19 touches and 2.2.

Vic Metro's Alwyn Davey jnr kicks a goal during the U18 AFL Boys Championship match between the Allies and Vic Metro at Blacktown International Sportspark on June 25, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

Has come from the clouds to be a top-20 chance. Hotton's run of form saw him elevated into the Vic Metro program and he hasn't put a foot wrong, having three impressive games at national level. He was particularly impactful against South Australia, when he collected 24 disposals and kicked three goals. He can go through the midfield and half-forward, has craft around goal and a sidestep in traffic, and also some spring in his legs to be a good mark above his head for his size.

Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
Key defender

Stocks in Weddle have grown as the year has gone on, with the Vic Metro backman now among the handful of key position defenders in the mix as top-30 picks. He's a steady hand in defence who can intercept mark or swing in to help out an opponent. He had 20 disposals and seven marks against Western Australia in what was his best game of the carnival.

West Adelaide/South Australia

Barnett's capacity to get around the ground and have a say on a game makes him one of the standout ruck choices in this year's pool. The South Australian closed his carnival by being among his state's best players in its loss to Western Australia on Sunday, having also recently made his senior SANFL debut, where he had 25 hit-outs.  

Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country

A link-up midfielder who doesn't do much wrong. Szybkowski had a strong three games for Vic Country in the national carnival, averaging 26 disposals and showing he can win the ball at stoppages as well as carry it through the ground. A very consistent option for clubs to assess and is a bit taller than some of the other midfielders as well. Szybkowski is averaging 25 disposals and six tackles in the NAB League.

Claremont/Western Australia

Gilbey has had a challenging year, missing some time at the start of the year through illness and then having an interrupted carnival for Western Australia with health and safety protocols. The athletic midfielder and half-back has strong running capacity and finished his championships with 18 disposals and eight marks against South Australia last weekend.

Norwood/South Australia

Eligible to join Adelaide as a father-son choice, Michalanney is a disciplined backman who can take on a number of different types of opponents. He was excellent against the Allies in South Australia's first game of the carnival with 15 disposals and five rebound 50s. He can join the Crows under AFL father-son rules given his father Jim played more than 200 SANFL games and Max has spent time training with the club.

Max Michalanney in action for SA against the Allies in U18 Championships on June 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Gippsland Power/Vic Country
Small forward

A former gun junior soccer player who is now a clever small forward with sharp skills and smarts around goal. His standout game of the carnival for Vic Country came against the Allies when he kicked 3.2 and buzzed around the forward line, and he will also appeal to clubs for the defensive pressure he applies. He averages six tackles a game for Gippsland and also had 14 in a game against the Geelong Falcons.  

Glenelg/South Australia

The Glenelg product has been a ball magnet this year – he has averaged 28 disposals in the SANFL under-18s competition and also featured in some reserves footy. He was also solid throughout South Australia's championships, regularly breaking the lines from half-back and also getting plenty of the ball up the ground. Is a run and carry player whose versatility will appeal.

Jakob Ryan of South Australia kicks the ball during the 2022 NAB AFL National Championships U18 Boys match against Vic Metro at GMHBA Stadium on July 17, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos