It’s no surprise much of the AFL’s best young talent is blossoming in the competition’s better performing teams.
The likes of Sydney, Fremantle, Collingwood and Melbourne are all flush with young guns who have helped lead their club’s up the ladder and into premiership contention, proving that if teams get the draft right they can quickly rebuild.
I was recently tasked with chairing the selection of a 40-player squad for the AFL Players Association 22 under 22 team.
The task was tough, the young talent in the AFL is deep. And those teams I mentioned are well-represented.
Sydney has six players within the final squad, all of which are integral parts of their 2022 premiership push.
Tom McCartin is tasked with putting away opposition key forwards such as Tom Hawkins, Tom Lynch and Charlie Curnow.
Errol Gulden can win games off his silky left boot, Nick Blakey has become a dynamic half back, East Fremantle gun Chad Warner will poll big time in the Brownlow as a 21-year-old and Justin McInerney was an All-Australian wingman to the halfway point of the season.
As the chair of the squad, I was very diplomatic. Fremantle had several hard luck stories.
With five players in the squad, the hardest calls came on dashing half backs Heath Chapman and Brandon Walker.
Particularly Chapman. Without injury earlier in the year he would have locked a spot away in the defenders. Barring a drastic fall in form in 2023, Walker and Chapman can be considered locks in the same squad in 12 months.
For those Fremantle fans aggrieved at some omissions, be content that your dashing half back line of Clark, Walker, Chapman, Young, O’Driscoll, among others, have a decade of joy to provide you.
Collingwood have shown how quickly a mixture of experience and young talent can turn a team in turmoil to the buzz team of the competition in under a year.
Not many would have known Nathan Murphy, Jack Ginnivan and Isaac Quaynor across season 2021, now they are staples of the team with 11 wins in a row.
Many knew the Daicos name, however the impact of the father-son selection Nick has been nothing short of spectacular. Daicos, one of only two first year players in the squad (alongside mature age Subiaco product Nic Martin) will not only be one of the first picked in a lot of 22 under 22 teams, but he may also gain the higher honour of All-Australian.
On the the side of the ledger are teams like West Coast, which have either been out of the top end of the draft due to trading away the picks, or have had their brightest young stars missing due to injury, such as Oscar Allen and Campbell Chesser.
The above examples should perhaps give Eagles fans some optimism of a quick turnaround if they get their prized draft sections right in November.
The Eagles were the only club without a player in the squad. Bailey Williams was discussed in the ruck and Brady Hough fell behind the long list of half backs.
The unseen Chesser is the one the hopes are pinned on but we haven’t seen enough of him in action yet.
Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong, Young and Clark (traded into Fremantle) are all first round draft picks.
The Eagles have Chesser, they will access a top pick in a few months’ time and should be banging down the door of Deven Robertson currently fringing at the Lions.
Too good for State league football but sitting behind a stoic and performing midfield. Not too dissimilar to the Jordan Clark existence at Geelong.
The Eagles are destined to finish 17th, a spot occupied in 2021 by Collingwood.
The picks are crucial, perhaps fanciful for a Daicos draftee impact, however what is necessary, is an Eagles presence in the corresponding squad next year.
Sam De Koning