2023 AFL Draft recap: Who your team picked, biggest steals and more
The 2023 AFL draft has been completed, with a host of the game’s newest crop of stars set to head to their new homes for the 2024 season.
While the rookie draft is still to come on Wednesday night, the building blocks for your team’s future success have been set in place over the last two nights, all the way from Harley Reid with West Coast’s prized pick 1, down to last pick and new Brisbane Lion Reece Torrent at 64.
Here is The Roar’s 2023 draft recap, where we look at each player your team has snapped up, and the biggest steals from around the country.
Draftees: Daniel Curtin (pick 8), Charlie Edwards (21), Oscar Ryan (27)
Behind Harley Reid, the most talked-about player in the 2023 draft pool was Daniel Curtin, and the Crows were the quickest to pounce on the versatile Western Australian, quickly initiating a trade with GWS for their pick 8 once he remained on the table to beat West Coast to the punch.
It’s easy to see why they’re so keen – Curtin played and starred everywhere on the field for WA at the U18 Championships, but settled in as a key defender for Claremont in the WAFL – and given the Crows’ limited stocks down back, it wouldn’t surprise to see him slot straight in alongside Jordon Butts, Max Michalanney and co. early in 2024.
The Crows also did well to land Charlie Edwards and Oscar Ryan late in the first round. Despite missing an invite to the AFL Draft Combine, Edwards won rave reviews as an outside runner with penetrating foot skills, while Ryan was a major bolter on the opening night of the draft as a rebounding defender with pace to burn.
Draftees: Logan Morris (31), Luke Lloyd (42), Zane Zakostelsky (51), Reece Torrent (64)
The Lions were clearly after alliteration with their new crop of players, taking both Luke Lloyd and Zane Zakostelsky during the second night of drafting – the latter, incidentally, is the first player in VFL/AFL history to be a ‘double Z’.
Lloyd bagged 19 goals in a school footy game this year and is exactly the high-ceiling option a team in the Lions’ position can afford to take a punt on, while Zakostely is a big-bodied defender who looms as a long-term Harris Andrews heir apparent.
The Lions didn’t have a pick in the first round of the draft, with key forward Logan Morris their first selection as a big-marking attacking threat; they missed out on Academy prospect Patrick Snell, who went to Sydney, but finished the second night by taking Reece Torrent with the final pick of the draft – the Western Australian wingman is a quality outside runner, though will likely take a few years to develop.
Draftees: Ashton Moir (29), Billy Wilson (34)
The Blues’ inside access to draft night one showed one thing clearly – they were anxious to take Ashton Moir with their first pick, and thrilled he was still on the table when 29 came around.
An enigmatic forward, Moir slid in the rankings in 2023 after an injury-interrupted junior season, but the Blues are confident the mid-sized teenager can be an X-factor in attack for years to come.
Wilson was an interesting choice with the Blues’ only other pick; an inside midfielder with a great leap who can also play in defence, Carlton’s list manager Nick Austin claims he will train over the summer with the midfield group, so it will be ultra-tough for him to break into a star-studded unit at AFL level.
Draftees: Harry DeMattia (25), Tew Jiath (37)
A long-haired, moustachioed, unflappable country lad, DeMattia screams ‘cult hero’ with every fibre of his being.
Co-captain of the Dandenong Stingrays in the Talent League, the one-time aspiring cricketer is a born competitor with an explosive turn of pace, and could add a bullocking presence to a Magpies’ midfield now without Taylor Adams.
Jiath, the brother of Hawthorn’s Changkuoth, could have landed at the Hawks as a Next Generation Academy player before the Pies swooped; an athletic tall with great intercepting skills and eye-catching pace, he’s very much in the mould of his older bro.
Draftees: Nate Caddy (10), Luamon Lual (39), Archie Roberts (54)
The Bombers were so desperate to make sure they landed Caddy, the nephew of dual premiership Tiger Josh, that they were willing to give Geelong a future second-rounder to climb all of one spot up the draft order.
A Jake Stringer-esque mid-sized forward with great overhead marking strength and goal nous, the youngster will be a dangerous option in attack or even bursting through the midfield in years to come.
Roberts was one of the undisputed steals of draft night, having been touted as even a top-20 selection – the Bombers traded a future fourth-rounder to Richmond for pick 54 when the pacy half-back was still on the table. Lual was snatched from under the Western Bulldogs’ nose, having been an NGA prospect for them; he’s one of the quickest players in the draft crop and will be a crowd-pleaser if given the chance at AFL level.
Draftees: Cooper Simpson (35), Ollie Murphy (41), Jack Delean (60)
The Roar’s own Dem Panopoulos has labelled Freo one of the draft’s biggest winners – considering they went in without a pick in the top 30, that’s impressive work.
Key defender Murphy is a particular steal at 41, with his mobility and versatility meaning he can slot in just about anywhere once he builds up his 85kg frame a bit. The Dockers liked Simpson, a pocket rocket of a midfielder, to give up a future third-rounder to Richmond to slide three spots up the draft order and nab him.
A crafty South Australian goalsneak, Delean averaged nearly three a game in the U18 championships, and with Lachie Schultz out the door and Michael Walters nearing the end, I’d be shocked if he didn’t become a regular at AFL level in the next few years.
Draftees: Connor O’Sullivan (11), Mitch Edwards (32), Shaun Mannagh (36), George Stevens (58), Oliver Wiltshire (61), Lawson Humphries (64)
The Cats really leaned into all their stereotypes on night two of the draft; first, they snapped up 26-year old mature-age VFL star Shaun Mannagh, then Barwon Heads product Oliver Wiltshire with one of the night’s final picks.
Mannagh bagged six goals in a losing Werribee team in the VFL grand final in September to win the Norm Goss Medal for best afield; with 40 to his name across the season, if any team can get the most out of the late bloomer, it’s definitely Geelong. As for Wiltshire, drafting an excitement machine from the local league is eerily similar to how the Cats picked up Tom Stewart and Tom Atkins over the last decade – and look how they turned out.
As for the rest, Edwards offers another handy potential future ruck option alongside 2021 pick Toby Conway; Stevens weighs in at 101 kilograms and could be the midfield beast the Cats have been after in the post-Joel Selwood era, even picking up 28 disposals against Collingwood for Geelong’s VFL team mid-year; and O’Sullivan is a rangy intercept-marking defender with elite aerial capability – and, if this wholesome moment from draft night is anything to go by, also a champion bloke.
Draftees: Jed Walter (3), Ethan Read (9), Jake Rogers (14), Will Graham (26)
It was all about the Academy for the Suns in 2023 – and they were easily able to land all four of their prospects with the draft picks they’d accumulated through heavy wheeling and dealing in October’s Trade Period.
Walters is the superstar of the foursome – an explosive key forward with pace and strength to burn, he’ll be a nightmare match-up alongside Ben King for years to come.
But the rest are almost as impressive – Read is one of the most mobile ruckmen to ever come through the draft and runs like a midfielder, Rogers is a zippy pressure small ideally suited to modern footy, and Graham is a high-leaping midfielder who will most likely start in defence.
The Suns had a few picks left over after securing the ‘Fab Four’, but were never planning on using them – they’d already got the men Damien Hardwick will build the next decade around.
Draftees: Phoenix Gothard (12), James Leake (17), Joseph Fonti (44), Harvey Thomas (59)
After shopping off their pick 8 (and Daniel Curtin, as it turned out) to Adelaide for two picks in the teens, the Giants landed the first, and biggest, bolter of the draft when they jumped on Phoenix Gothard at 12 – who only came to the first night as a mate of new Cat Connor O’Sullivan.
A low-possession, high-impact goalsneak, the Giants were keen enough on Gothard to risk losing prime target and genuine swingman James Leake, eventually trading a future-second rounder to St Kilda to jump up the draft order and take him at 17.
Mid-sized defender Joseph Fonti and Academy prospect Harvey Thomas were the Giants’ two choices on night two, with Thomas a pint-sized outside runner with immaculate ball use.
Draftees: Nick Watson (5), Will McCabe (19), Bodie Ryan (46), Calsher Dear (56)
If you’re an opposition supporter, chances are within five years the combination of Nick Watson and Jack Ginnivan in the Hawks’ forward line is going to drive you absolutely nuts.
The ‘Wiz’, the most electric player in this year’s draft crop and a born match-winner, is a perfect fit in brown and gold as the Hawks begin to ponder life beyond the great Luke Breust.
Adding father-son prospects McCabe and Dear should also gladden the hearts of Hawks fans – a pacy man mountain of a defender, McCabe will take time but could prove the no-nonsense key back the club has needed since probably Josh Gibson, while Dear is a raw key forward who starred in the Talent League grand final for Sandringham and is a long-term prospect
In between, Bodie Ryan is a nice little pick-up as a small defender with great closing speed who was part of Glenelg’s SANFL reserves premiership this year.
Draftees: Caleb Windsor (7), Koltyn Tholstrup (13)
The Dees were in and out quicker than any other team at this year’s draft, but with two top-15 prospects in Windsor and Tholstrup, they’ve nicely bolstered their stocks of young talent.
A pacy wingman and exceptional ball user going inside 50, Windsor could challenge Ed Langdon and Lachie Hunter for that spot in the senior team next year, and his strengths nicely complement what the Dees sorely lacked in this year’s finals series. Tholstrup, in addition to being a challenge to say five times fast, is a strong-bodied forward who didn’t look overawed playing against men for Subiaco in the WAFL, and looms as readymade for AFL life.
The Dees didn’t debut anyone from last year’s draft in 2023; can one of Windsor or Tholstrup break into a star-studded AFL team in 2024?
Draftees: Colby McKercher (2), Zane Duursma (4), Taylor Goad (20), Wil Dawson (22), Riley Hardeman (23)
Last year it was ‘Sheezlaw’… this year for North, it’s ‘McKersma’, with two more top-five stars of the future to add to the Roos’ burgeoning crop of young guns.
Tasmanian McKercher was widely regarded as the best midfielder not named Harley Reid of this year’s crop, and with express pace and beautiful skills, the ball magnet can certainly impact the Roos’ AFL team even if he’s down the pecking order for a full-time midfield spot. Ditto Duursma, a high-flying forward dangerous both in the air and on the ground and who should see AFL action in 2023.
Goad is a long-term prospect as a mobile beanpole of a ruckman, while the Roos used their two AFL-administered assistance picks to bolster their defence, with key back Dawson and running rebounder Hardeman both likely types who could fill obvious voids in the AFL team as soon as this year.
Draftees: Thomas Anastasopoulos (48), Lachlan Charleson (52), Will Lorenz (57)
Heading into the draft with just one pick to their name following heavy involvement in the Trade Period, the Power swung a surprise by trading up the order to land goalsneak Tom Anastasopoulos.
A pressure small forward who kicked a remarkably accurate 21.2 in 11 games for the Geelong Falcons, he looms as an exciting option alongside Willie Rioli and Sam Powell-Pepper crumbing the packs in attack.
It was a big finish to the draft for Port, with another small forward in Lachie Charleson and slight wingman Will Lorenz (whose grandfather is 1961 Hawthorn premiership captain Graham Arthur) also joining the ranks – though you’d expect both will take time to develop.
Draftees: Kane McAuliffe (40), Liam Fawcett (43)
Damien Hardwick might be gone as coach, but if there was a draftee to embody his mantra of being a ‘Richmond man’, it might be McAuliffe.
A South Australian inside ball-winner who loves the hard stuff, McAuliffe won rave reviews for his competitiveness and professionalism – two traits long heralded above all others at Punt Road, and having slid down the draft order from 35 via trades with West Coast and Fremantle to land a pair of future third-rounders, the Tigers can be well pleased with their first pick.
Fawcett, another South Aussie, is a giant key forward who will take time to develop, but impressed for Central District in the SAFL, though his kicking for goal needs some work.
Personally, I’m bitterly disappointed Fawcett and new Lion Reece Torrent didn’t make it to the same club, because the ‘talent on tap’ joke would have written itself.
Draftees: Darcy Wilson (18), Lance Collard (28), Angus Hastie (33), Hugo Garcia (50), Arie Schoenmaker (62)
Draft slider Wilson was a steal for the Saints with pick 18 – a gut-running forward who can also play on the wing, the top-10 prospect has been likened to Elliot Yeo and has class aplenty.
At the other end of the draft, genuine superboot Schoenmaker is another bargain buy, considered by many good judges to be a first-round prospect and yet sliding all the way to 62 – though an off-field alcohol incident on a Tasmania training camp that resulted in a 10-week suspension might have scared a few teams off.
Don’t sleep on Collard, Hastie or Garcia, either. Collard is an exciting small forward who averaged three goals a game playing for Subiaco Colts in Western Australia, Hastie a dashing defender who led the Talent League for intercept possessions in 2023, and Garcia a smooth-moving midfielder/forward who the Saints rated enough to trade a future-rounder to GWS for the pick 50 with which they acquired him.
In five years time, there’s every chance St Kilda turn out to be the big winners of the 2023 draft crop.
Draftees: Will Green (16), Caiden Cleary (24), Patrick Snell (53)
For the second year in a row, the Swans were the bidding kings of draft night. They forced Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs to pay up for Academy and father-son prospects Jake Rogers and Jordan Croft respectively, and later snatched Brisbane Academy prospect Patrick Snell, cementing their list management team as the AFL’s most ruthless bastards. Kudos.
As for who they DID get? Cleary is the Swans’ own Academy prospect, an elite runner and consummate professional who played six games in the VFL team in 2023 and looked far from out of place. There’s every chance he’s another Errol Gulden; while Green is a supremely athletic ruckman with good skills who looms as a long-term prospect.
The Swans’ only pick on night 2 was Snell, a well-built swingman who strikes as the ideal player for Sydney to develop at one end or the other, similar to what they’ve done with Tom McCartin.
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Draftees: Harley Reid (1), Archer Reid (30), Clay Hall (38), Harvey Johnston (49)
After months of speculation and rumour, it’s official – Harley Reid is a West Coast Eagle.
The standout player of the draft and the obvious Pick 1, only time will tell whether he lives up to the almost unprecedented hype – but if his junior highlights are even half of what he becomes, Reid will put together a very nice career indeed.
The Eagles will be disappointed to have missed out on local product Daniel Curtin, having failed to beat Adelaide to th punch in a pick-swap with GWS; but their three selections on night two are all solid prospects regardless.
Key forward Archer Reid (no relation) is a long-term prospect but has the size and skills to play in attack or the ruck, while Hall is a strong-bodied inside midfielder and close friends with Eagles young gun and last year’s top pick Reuben Ginbey, with the club trading with Richmond to move up the draft order and secure him.
The silkily skilled Johnston is another steal with pick 49, boasting good hands, excellent composure and a neat sidestep.
Draftees: Ryley Sanders (6), Jordan Croft (15), Joel Freijah (45), Lachlan Smith (47), Aiden O’Driscoll (55)
From all reports, the Bulldogs were keenest on Nick Watson heading into the draft, but having given up next year’s first rounder in a trade with Gold Coast to force their way into the top 10, ball magnet Sanders is an excellent second choice and will boost the Dogs’ midfield as Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae reach the end of their careers.
Verstaile tall and father-son prospect Jordan Croft joins a real logjam of developing talls at Whitten Oval, as does aggressive ruckman Lachlan Smith (who might be an insurance option should Tim English accept what is sure to be a whopping free agency offer from West Coast at the end of next year).
The Dogs clearly identified the wings as a point of weakness with their list, with both Joel Freijah and Aiden O’Driscoll hard-running outside talents – Freijah is a beautiful user of the ball, while O’Driscoll, the brother of Fremantle AFL and AFLW guns Nathan and Emma, was the quickest player over 20 metres at the national Draft Combine.