With the AFL season just around the corner, excitement is building about the new recruits around the competition. So where do your club’s off-season signings fit in? Find out here.
Brisbane could debut five new Lions in round 1 as their pair of Irish defensive recruits make strong claims to take on Port Adelaide after flawless summers for Chris Fagan’s side.
The Lions were trounced by Geelong in the preliminary final but won two finals in another year of growth, so five round 1 changes for that preliminary final side would normally be highly unusual.
Will Ashcroft has had a super summer as the No. 1 overall pick and has already assured himself of a spot in Brisbane’s starting midfield.
But ex-Essendon defender Conor McKenna might even eclipse him as the SuperCoach recruit of the season ($167,500) given the impression he has made at Brisbane.
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Brisbane beat three rivals to snare his signature after he un-retired from football and he has shown the same line-breaking talents that made him a fan favourite in his early years at Essendon.
While Brisbane has prioritised greater team defence over summer they are also desperate to add burst from half back and McKenna has provided that in spades.
In the club’s recent match simulation sessions he has been joined by fellow Irishman Darragh Joyce in the 18-man A team playing as a third defender against the B side.
Joyce played only 13 games in five seasons at St Kilda before being delisted but the Lions want the 195cm defender to play on difficult match-ups alongside Darcy Gardiner and Harris Andrews.
Ahead of the club’s two official scratch matches Joyce has that position to lose given Marcus Adams is on the club’s inactive list with concussion issues.
Free agency acquisition Jack Gunston has also had an excellent summer and while he was absent for last week’s intra-club with a wedding he hasn’t missed a beat this year.
He will be an immediate upgrade on departing free agent Dan McStay and has already provided leadership to the team’s key forwards as he imparts wisdom on leading patterns and attacking synergy.
Dogs midfielder Josh Dunkley has also joined the club in a trade and will provide leadership and grunt to a midfield that was overwhelmed by the Cats.
Brisbane is confident Dayne Zorko (hamstring) and Darcy Gardiner (shoulder) will be fit to get valuable match practice within two weeks.
Cam Rayner has been playing half back in recent match simulation as an education on how defenders play and work off their opponent.
With a month remaining before that clash against Port Adelaide the Lions are yet to decide how to best use him but believe he now has a second string to his bow.
B: B. Smith, J. Butts, T. Doedee
HB: J. Dawson, N. Murray, W. Milera
C: R. Sloane, R. Laird, M. Hinge
HF: I. Rankine. D. Fogarty, J. Rachele
F: S. McAdam, T. Walker, R. Thilthorpe
Foll: R. O’Brien, B. Keays, S. Berry
I/C: J. Soligo, H. Schoenberg, L. Pedlar, M. Michalanney
Sub: C. Jones
Notable absentees: M. Crouch, N. McHenry, E. Himmelberg, J. Hately
Where do the Crows play Rory Sloane? The former captain has been trialled all over the ground in pre-season but might have to make do with a place on the wing.
Luke Pedlar’s fine pre-season has Ned McHenry potentially in trouble while an injury interrupted one for Josh Worrell so far has opened the door for father-son pick Max Michalanney. Matt Crouch has been praised by Matthew Nicks for his pre-season but still looks to be on the outer.
B: D. Joyce, H. Andrews, D. Rich
HB: B. Starcevic, D. Gardiner, C. McKenna
C: Z. Bailey, J. Dunkley, C. Ah Chee
HF: D. Zorko, E. Hipwood, C. Rayner
F: J. Gunston, J. Daniher, C. Cameron
Foll: O. McInerney, L. Neale, H. McCluggage,
I/C: W. Ashcroft, L. McCarthy, N. Answerth, J. Berry
Sub: K. Coleman
Notable absentees: D. Wilmot, D. Robertson, D. Fort, J. Payne
Irishmen Darragh Joyce and Conor McKenna have quickly firmed as likely round 1 participants given both have been exceptional in match play. No. 1 overall pick Will Ashcroft and recruits Jack Gunston and Josh Dunkley are locks. All of that means if Brisbane gets to round 1 fully fit last year’s emerging talent including Kiddy Coleman, Darcy Wilmot, Deven Robertson and Jack Payne will be on the borderline of selection. That is good news for Chris Fagan given the selection pressure it will force upon a side that won 17 total games in 2022.
B: N. Newman, J. Weitering, M. McGovern
HB: S. Docherty, L. Young, A. Saad
C: L. O’Brien, P. Cripps, B. Acres
HF: Z. Fisher, C. Curnow, J. Motlop
F: J. Silvagni, H. McKay, C. Durdin
Foll: M. Pittonet, A. Cerra, G. Hewett
I/C: M. Kennedy, T. De Koning, M. Owies, B. Kemp
Sub: J. Carroll
Notable absentees: S. Walsh, Z. Williams, M. Cottrell, J. Martin, P. Dow, C. Marchbank, J. Honey, L. Plowman
There are a few injury issues for the Blues to start the season, including Sam Walsh (back), Zac Williams (knee) and Matthew Cottrell (foot). Mitch McGovern and Jack Martin have also had interrupted summers. But the spine looks strong and recruit Blake Acres should instantly add plenty of run on one wing.
B: I. Quaynor, D. Moore, N. Murphy
HB: S. Pendlebury, J. Howe, B. Maynard
C: J. Daicos, T. Adams, N. Daicos
HF: S. Sidebottom, B. Mihocek, J. De Goey
F: J. Elliott, D. McStay, J. Ginnivan
Foll: D. Cameron, J. Crisp, T. Mitchell
I/C: P. Lipinski, J. Noble, M. Cox, B. Hill
Sub: W. Hoskin-Elliott
Notable absentees: A. Johnson, B. McCreery, T. Bianco, N. Kreuger, B. Frampton
There’s a serious squeeze for spots – particularly through the midfield – with the Magpies enjoying almost a clean bill of health as things stand. McCreery is stiff to miss, after playing 22 games last season. Ash Johnson played the final nine games last season but the arrival of recruit Dan McStay leaves Collingwood with another target in attack to help Mihocek.
B: J. Kelly, J. Laverde, B. Zerk-Thatcher
HB: A. McGrath, J. Ridley, M. Redman
C: D. Heppell, W. Setterfield, N. Martin
HF: D. Shiel, H. Jones, K. Langford
F: J. Stringer, P. Wright, A. Perkins
Foll: S. Draper, Z. Merrett, D. Parish
I/C: S. Durham, J. Caldwell, J. Menzie, M. Guelfi
Sub: N. Cox
Notable absentees: A. McDonald-Tipungwuti, B. Hobbs, S. Weideman, Z. Reid
The Bombers’ 23 looks great on paper and Nic Martin has been on fire in the pre-season which has included a trial in the onball group. Expect Will Setterfield to have a big impact in the engine room and Dylan Shiel has had one of his best pre-seasons. Question marks remain over some of the forwards’ fitness after some niggles but they should be OK for the season opener. Jye Menzie has been one of the big improvers over summer, potentially locking McDonald-Tipungwuti and Davey Jr out of the team, early. Nik Cox will start down back.
B: L. Ryan, A. Pearce, H. Chapman
HB: J. Clark, B. Cox, H. Young
C: J. Aish, A. Brayshaw, N. O’Driscoll
HF: L. Schultz, L. Jackson, N. Fyfe
F: S. Switkowski, M. Taberner, M. Walters
Foll: S. Darcy, C. Serong, J. O’Meara
I/C: B. Walker, W. Brodie, M. Frederick, J. Amiss
Sub: N. Erasmus
Notable absentees: C. Wagner, T. Emmett
Fremantle’s coaches face their toughest calls on the wings and up forward. Ethan Hughes, Liam Henry, Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson have all rotated outside throughout summer, but Aish and O’Driscoll were regulars there last year. Jye Amiss gets the nod over Josh Treacy up forward given Fremantle will need insurance for the injury-prone Matt Taberner and Nat Fyfe, and the Dockers mosquito fleet is set. Aside from a few niggles here and there, Fremantle boasts a largely clean bill of health. Brennan Cox (knee infection), Corey Wagner (hamstring), Nathan O’Driscoll (foot) and Tom Emmett (ankle) are all under minor injury clouds but nobody has been ruled out of round 1 yet.
B: J. Kolodashnij, S. De Koning, J. Bews
HB: T. Stewart, J. Henry, Z. Tuohy
C: M. Duncan, C. Guthrie, M. Holmes
HF: B. Close, E. Ratugolea, P. Dangerfield
F: T. Stengle, J Cameron, O. Henry
Foll: R. Stanley, T. Atkins, M. Blicavs
I/C: Z. Guthrie, T. Bruhn, G. Miers, I. Smith
Sub: G. Rohan
Notable absentees: T. Hawkins, M. O’Connor
Tom Hawkins is unlikely to win his race against time in his recovery from a serious foot injury for the season opener while Gary Rohan faces tough opposition from ex-Magpie Ollie Henry for a spot in the 22. Fellow premiership player Mark O’Connor also gets squeezed out in favour of former GWS Giant Tanner Bruhn.
B: S. Lemmens, S. Collins, B. Long
HB: B. Ellis, C. Ballard, C. Constable
C: D. Swallow, M. Rowell, L. Weller
HF: M. Chol, L. Casboult, N. Holman
F: B. Ainsworth, Ben King, M. Rosas
Foll: J. Witts, N. Anderson, T. Miller
I/C: J. Lukosius, B. Humphrey, E. Hollands, S. Flanders
Sub: A. Davies
Notable absentees: W. Powell, J. Jeffrey, A. Sexton, J. Anderson, C. Blakely
Charlie Constable has been earmarked for a role down back and only needs to continue his pre-season form to be handed a round 1 berth, while Sam Flanders has been the pre-season breakout after exceptional VFL form last year.
Lukosius will play half forward and Hollands has played plenty of pre-season time on a wing. As for Izak Rankine’s vacancy, all of Jeffrey, top 10 pick Humphrey, Sexton and Malcolm Rosas will be looking for a big year to fill those shoes.
Lachie Weller should be ready by round 1 off a summer of recovery while Wil Powell isn’t yet ready off a medium-level hamstring injury.
B: I. Cumming, S. Taylor, C. Idun
HB: L. Whitfield, L. Aleer, N. Haynes
C: H. Perryman, J. Kelly, L. Ash
HF: B. Daniels, H. Himmelberg, T. Bedford
F: A. Cadman, J. Hogan, T. Greene
Foll: B. Preuss, T. Green, S. Coniglio
I/C: F. Callaghan, C. Ward, J. Peatling, D. Lloyd
Sub: J. Riccardi
Notable absentees: J. Wehr, A. Kennedy, L. Keeffe, P. Davis, M. Flynn
Harry Himmelberg will return forward as he looks to form a partnership with No. 1 draft pick Aaron Cadman who is a near certain starter. The query is who plays at centre half back, youngster Leek Aleer has impressed and could get first nod ahead of Lachie Keeffe and Phil Davis.
Finn Callaghan is flying and strengthens the Giants midfield depth while Callan Ward has been training as a forward so expect a shuffle of magnets to the usual starting line up.
B: B. Hardwick, J. Blanck, D. Grainger-Barrass
HB: C. Jiath, J. Sicily, J. Impey
C: K. Amon, J. Newcombe, W. Day
HF: F. Greene, J. Koschitzke, D. Moore
F: L. Breust, L. Meek, C. Wingard
Foll: N. Reeves, J. Worpel, J. Ward
I/C: J. Scrimshaw, H. Morrison, C. Nash, C. Mackenzie
Sub: C. Macdonald
Notable absentees: M. Lewis, F. Maginness, C. Stephens, J. Weddle
It is a young looking Hawks side after senior players including Jack Gunston, Ben McEvoy, Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and Liam Shiels departed the club over the off-season. Top draftees Cameron Mackenzie and Josh Weddle look strong chances to make early debuts, while recruits Lloyd Meek and Karl Amon will slot straight in. Key forward Mitch Lewis – who kicked 37 goals from 15 games last year – will miss the early part of the season with a sprained ACL.
B: H. Petty, S. May, J. Smith
HB: A. Brayshaw, J. Lever, J. Bowey
C: E. Langdon, C. Oliver, L. Hunter
HF: A. Neal-Bullen, T. McDonald, K. Pickett
F: J. Van Rooyen, M. Gawn, B. Fritsch
Foll: B. Grundy, J. Viney, C. Petracca
I/C: C. Spargo, T. Sparrow, T. Rivers, J. Jordon
Sub: K. Chandler
Notable absentees: C. Salem, B. Brown, M. Hibberd
Christian Salem is the only confirmed out from the Demons’ best 23 but they do have solid depth in that area with Trent Rivers and Jake Bowey more than capable replacements.
Jacob Van Rooyen has been the talk of the pre-season and may edge out Ben Brown for a round 1 berth after Brown has had a slower pre-season after he underwent surgery on his knee in December.
B: L. Young, B. McKay, A. Corr
HB: J. Ziebell, G. Logue, L. McDonald
C: B. Scott, B. Cunnington, L. Shiels
HF: W. Phillips, C. Comben, H. Sheezel
F: P. Curtis, N. Larkey, C. Zurhaar
Foll: T. Goldstein, J. Simpkin, L. Davies-Uniacke
I/C: T. Xerri, H. Greenwood, K. Turner, T. Powell
Sub: B. Drury
Notable absentees: J. Stephenson, D. Tucker, D. Howe, G. Wardlaw, C. Coleman-Jones
Charlie Comben is the one to watch to see if he can secure the centre half forward spot next to Nick Larkey. The Roos desperately need someone to lighten the load on Cameron Zurhaar, but Comben, Paul Curtis and Harry Sheezel have turned heads over summer with their encouraging form. Will Phillips will return to the engine room after some health issues and Jaidyn Stephenson faces a battle to claim a round 1 berth after some patchy performances over summer.
B: D. Byrne-Jones, T. Clurey, T. Jonas
HB: D. Houston, A. Aliir, R. Burton
C: X. Duursma, O. Wines, R. Bonner
HF: O. Fantasia, T. Marshall, T. Boak
F: J. Rioli, C. Dixon, S. Powell-Pepper
Foll: S. Lycett, Z. Butters, C. Rozee
I/C: J. Horne-Francis, M. Georgiades, W. Drew, K. Farrell
Sub: M. Bergman
Notable absentees: J. Finlayson, T. McKenzie, J. Burgoyne, L. Jones, J. Sinn, T. Dumont
Jeremy Finlayson’s syndesmosis injury might make it an easier call for Ken Hinkley regarding what to do with his tall forwards.
Get ready for the young guns in Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Jason Horne-Francis going through the midfield a lot, while Kane Farrell looks to be locked in as a defender now, which could shift Riley Bonner onto a wing.
FB: R. Tarrant, N. Balta, N. Broad
HB: N. Vlastuin, D. Grimes, D. Rioli
C: J. Short, T. Taranto, K. McIntosh
HF: S. Bolton, J. Riewoldt, M. Rioli
F: D. Martin, T. Lynch, N. Cumberland
Foll: T. Nankervis, D. Prestia, J. Hopper
I/C: L. Baker, B. Miller, M. Pickett, T. Cotchin
Sub: T. Sonsie
Notable absentees: J. Gibcus, J. Ross, J. Graham, H. Ralphsmith, J. Clark, I. Soldo
Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper come into the side as round 1 locks and immediately supply the kind of selection pressure that will require Trent Cotchin to maintain the faith and Tyler Sonsie to continue his development.
Josh Gibcus’ early-season absence with hamstring issues will ease the squeeze for spots across the tall defensive posts, while Jason Castagna will miss round 1 but Judson Clarke, Noah Cumberland and Maurice Rioli will push for the last small forward spots.
Meanwhile Ivan Soldo has had a strong pre-season but finished the season behind Toby Nankervis and Ben Miller so that battle will play out in the next month.
B: L. Stocker, D. Howard, B. Paton
HB: J. Sinclair, C. Wilkie, N. Wanganeen-Milera
C: B. Hill, B. Crouch, M. Wood
HF: M. Windhager, J. Battle, H. Clark
F: D. Butler, T. Membrey, M. Phillipou
Foll: R. Marshall, J. Steele, J. Gresham
I/C: Z. Jones, S. Ross, M. Owens, J. Higgins
Sub: Z. Cordy
Notable absentees: N. Coffield, J. Billings, M. King, J. Hayes
Coach Ross Lyon wants to make the most of the team’s running power on the outside and top draftees Mattaes Phillipou and Marcus Windhager, in particular, have had great pre-seasons. Lyon will give the youngsters every chance as part of this fresh start and Jade Gresham can become an elite midfielder. But the injuries to Max King and Jack Hayes are huge blows, leaving Josh Battle as the man to likely swing forward after a promising stint down back. Jack Billings and Nick Coffield have had interrupted pre-seasons as they recover from injuries.
B: J. Lloyd, T. McCartin, D. Rampe
HB: B. Campbell, P. McCartin, R. Fox
C: D. Stephens, L. Parker, J. McInerney
HF: T. Papley, L. McDonald, E. Gulden
F: I. Heeney, L. Franklin, W. Hayward
Foll: T. Hickey, C. Mills, C. Warner
I/C: P. Ladhams, J. Konstanty, J. Rowbottom, O. Florent
Sub: A. Sheldrick
Notable absentees: R. Clarke, N. Blakey
Nick Blakey is the big watch for Sydney after the defender got glandular fever. The club has said it is only mild but it could affect his preparation. Lance Franklin and Tom Hickey have also been on modified programs and will miss the pre-season practice matches but expect them to be OK for round 1.
Jacob Konstanty could be the bolter after impressing coach John Longmire in training with his forward pressure. Ryan Clarke (hamstring) and Hayden McLean (quad) have had interrupted pre-seasons and may struggle to be fit and firing for the Swans round 1 clash against Gold Coast. Sam Reid is another who has been on an individual program and with the Swans yet to lock in exactly what their best forward line structure is, he may miss out.
B: S. Hurn, T. Barrass, A. Witherden
HB: R. Ginbey, J. McGovern, J. Hunt
C: A. Gaff, T. Kelly, T. Cole
HF: J. Cripps, J. Darling, S. Petrevski-Seton
F: L. Ryan, O. Allen, E. Hewett
Foll: N. Naitanui, E. Yeo, L. Shuey
I/C: J. Jones, B. Williams, J. Culley, J. Waterman
Sub: D. Sheed
Notable absentees: L. Duggan
Duggan would normally be there but is coming from a fair way back after off-season knee surgery and may run out of time.
The Eagles have dodged a bullet with the severity of Jack Darling’s ankle injury and they now believe he is in the frame for round 1.
Reuben Ginbey, Elijah Hewett and Noah Long were all included in the ‘best’ in last week’s best versus the rest match simulation, with Adam Simpson confirming the youngsters are in the mix.
B: E. Richards, L. Jones, R. Gardner
HB: B. Dale, S. Darcy, C. Daniel
C: J. Johannisen, T. Liberatore, J. Macrae
HF: L. Vandermeer, R. Lobb, J. Ugle-Hagan
F: C. Weightman, A. Naughton, R. West
Foll: T. English, M. Bontempelli, B. Smith
I/C: T. Duryea, T. McLean, A. Keath, B. Williams
Sub: R. Smith
Notable absentees: A. Treloar
Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen is the query. While he does bring versatility, his input was down last year and might be the victim of a Bevo squeeze if Treloar is fit. Josh Bruce has trained at centre-half-back but Sam Darcy could be anything so deserves first crack. Bailey Williams went backwards last year and is lucky to scrape in.
Originally published as AFL 2023: Every club’s predicted line-up for their round 1 clash