Sam Flanders, Alwyn Davey jnr, Tim Taranto and Fergus Greene. Pictures: AFL Photos

WHETHER it be a young gun, a late bloomer, a recruit, or an in-form veteran who still has the magic, there was plenty to take out of the practice matches.

Our team of experts watched every game closely and here are the names from each club who caught the eye.



A father-son recruit for the Crows at pick No.17, Max Michalanney had his work cut out in a defensive role on West Coast forward Liam Ryan but was up for the challenge. He is right on the edge of the Crows' best 22 after his first pre-season and an early debut is not out of the question. Coach Matthew Nicks loves the 190cm teenager's balance and composure with the ball and his ability to play various backline roles. – Nathan Schmook 

Max Michalanney handballs during the practice match between Adelaide and West Coast at Mineral Resources Park on March 3, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


With Marcus Adams on the inactive list due to ongoing concussion problems, the Lions need some key defenders to step up, and Jack Payne showed some great signs against the Cats. The 23-year-old looked right at home alongside co-captain Harris Andrews with his six intercept possessions and assured hands before sitting out the final quarter. Michael Whiting

Jack Payne handballs during Brisbane's preliminary final against Geelong at the MCG on September 16, 2022. Picture: Getty Images


The Blues had high hopes when drafting Ollie Hollands with pick No.11 late last year, and on the evidence of one game, it looks a great selection. Hollands tore up and down the wing against Sydney to gather 17 disposals and six marks, offering an outlet for his teammates to hit in attack and working hard to assist defensively. The teenager looks well and truly capable of playing senior football in his first season. – Michael Whiting

Oliver Hollands poses during Carlton's official team photo day at Ikon Park on February 21, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


De Goey will start the season fully fit and in great form following a dominant display at UTAS Stadium. While he might yet be scrutinised by the MRO for a sling tackle on Lloyd Meek, the Magpies midfielder has banked a comprehensive pre-season and looks primed to go to another level in 2023. The 26-year-old collected 31 disposals, 13 inside 50s and eight clearances against the Hawks on Thursday night, dominating from start to finish. After enduring a difficult 2022 off-field and only re-signing with the Magpies in October, De Goey is poised to produce his best season yet this year. – Josh Gabelich

Jordan De Goey kicks the ball during Collingwood's practice match against Hawthorn at UTAS Stadium on March 2, 2023. Picture: Getty Images


With a crafty rove off the pack, Alwyn Davey jnr kicked the opening goal of the game and continued to show exciting moments that will put him strongly in the frame for a round one debut. The son of former Bombers forward Alwyn and nephew of Demons speedster Aaron also set up some other chances and didn't look out of place at the level with his 13 disposals. – Cal Twomey



There are still queries on how the Dockers structure their forward line in round one, with Sam Sturt in the mix after playing both practice games in forward and wing roles. A classy medium forward, Sturt showed excellent defensive intent against Port Adelaide, which has been his weakness. With his skill and attacking attributes, he doesn't need a lot of the ball to have an impact, kicking two goals from eight disposals. After four games in four seasons, the 22-year-old looks ready to make a leap. – Nathan Schmook


Part of the Cats rejuvenating their premiership list in the off-season included acquiring Tanner Bruhn from Greater Western Sydney. The former first-round draft pick was excellent against the Lions in an inside midfield role, gathering 19 touches that included five clearances. He was a primary catalyst for Geelong's early clearance ascendancy and looked at home with his new teammates. – Michael Whiting


In the absence of Touk Miller and Brandon Ellis, Stuart Dew was able to expose some other players in more prominent roles in their final practice game and Sam Flanders is one who flourished. It's perhaps easily overlooked that Flanders was taken at pick No.11 in the 2019 draft but has struggled to nail down a spot at Gold Coast. That could change this season after he led the way for the Suns with 30 disposals in their final practice game against GWS and looked pacy and polished in possession. – Daniel Garb

Sam Flanders releases the ball during the practice match between GWS and Gold Coast at Blacktown International Sportspark on March 4, 2023. Picture: Getty Images


Tom Green has shone in pre-season for the Giants and Finn Callaghan is certainly the young gun generating the most excitement at the club, but there was another top-five draft pick who stood out in the practice match win over the Suns. Lachie Ash was recruited by GWS as a dashing half-back but after being moved into the midfield and even deployed as a tagger in his 56 games for the club, new coach Adam Kingsley has locked him in at the position that saw him taken with pick No.4 in 2019. He had 30 possessions for 351m gained against Gold Coast from just 69 per cent game time and along with Lachie Whitfield, Ash demonstrated dash and flair out of the defensive 50 that Kingsley hopes will be the hallmark of his game plan at GWS. – Daniel Garb

Lachie Ash marks the ball during the practice match between GWS and Gold Coast at Blacktown International Sportspark on March 4, 2023. Picture: Getty Images


The 25-year-old looks set to kickstart his AFL career in round one after kicking three goals against Collingwood on Thursday night, following an impressive pre-season at Hawthorn. Delisted after playing five games across four seasons at the Western Bulldogs, Greene earned a lifeline when he was signed as a delisted free agent in November. That opportunity arrived after he kicked 53 goals for Box Hill in the VFL last season. Now the classy forward looks set to take the spot vacated by Jack Gunston. With no Mitch Lewis across the first month of the season, Greene should get his chance to stake a claim for a permanent spot in Sam Mitchell's side in 2023. – Josh Gabelich


The former Bulldogs best and fairest winner looks cherry ripe for a round one berth against his former side, carving it up on the wing against Richmond. Hunter's speed on the outside was a key component to Melbourne’s bullet-like ball movement, and he capped the match off with a beautiful curling goal from the boundary. The 28-year-old had 26 disposals, six marks and four score involvements. – Sarah Black


The former No.13 draft pick mixed time between half-forward and through the midfield to good effect. He won a couple of clearances as an onballer, but it was the damage he was able to produce closer to goal that was most influential. Powell finished the day with two goals, seven score involvements and one goal assist from 17 disposals. Expect plenty more midfield time from the 31-gamer in the upcoming season. – Riley Beveridge



The sight of Miles Bergman in full flight on the wing pleased the Power after the 21-year-old underwent two shoulder operations and battled through illness last year to play 10 games. Bergman has shifted from half-back to the wing and looks a clear replacement for departed free agent Karl Amon. With a game-high 651m gained, his ability to cover ground offensively and defensively stood out, finishing with 25 disposals and a goal. – Nathan Schmook

Miles Bergman in action during Port Adelaide's practice match against Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on March 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


This is stating the bleeding obvious, but Taranto is going to be an absolute star for Richmond this year. Despite his side being badly beaten and struggling with defensive pressure, the ex-Giant was a key playmaker throughout the game. Taranto's importance was underlined with 13 score involvements – a game-high – to go with his 33 disposals, eight marks, 550m gained and a goal. – Sarah Black.

Tim Taranto is chased by Alex Neal-Bullen during the practice match between Melbourne and Richmond at Casey Fields on March 4, 2023. Picture: Michael Willson


Mitchito Owens has been tasked with being a key forward this year for the Saints and the indications are he's up for the job. The St Kilda youngster booted three goals against the Bombers and, after being a hard-running midfielder in his first season at the club last year, fought hard in the role and made some opportunities fall his way. It was hard not to be impressed with his performance. – Cal Twomey



After being a heartbreaking omission from last year's Grand Final team, Logan McDonald looked hungry in his first outing of 2023. The young key forward took a team-high 10 marks against Carlton, using his workrate to get up to the wing and link the Swans' midfield to its forward line. His precise kicking (91 per cent efficiency) was also a feature. The 20-year-old West Australian looks ready to progress his game this season. – Michael Whiting

Logan McDonald and Jacob Weitering contest a mark during the practice match between Sydney and Carlton at Blacktown International Sportspark on March 3, 2023. Picture: Phil Hillyard


The Eagles' first pick at No.9 in last year's NAB AFL Draft, Reuben Ginbey looked every bit the ready-made player his training form suggested he would be. From the moment he entered the game, the big-bodied midfielder was extracting contested possessions and finding teammates. He was the cleanest of the Eagles' midfielders, rotating between onball and half-back roles to have 17 possessions (10 contested) and a team-high six clearances from limited game time. All but secured a round one debut. – Nathan Schmook 

Reuben Ginbey in action during the practice match between West Coast and Adelaide on March 3, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos


There had been 3170 days between Liam Jones' last game as a Bulldog and Saturday's practice match, his first competitive hitout since his return to the club. This time, playing as a key defender, he showed what the Dogs had been missing all that time. Jones finished with 19 disposals, 13 intercepts and 11 marks in an assured performance, cutting off just about every meaningful North Melbourne attack. Could be the Dogs' difference down back in 2023. – Riley Beveridge

Liam Jones in action during the Western Bulldogs' practice match against North Melbourne at Ikon Park on March 4, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos