The 2023 National Championships have drawn to a close for another year, with AFL scouts, list managers and recruiters getting a tighter hold on who the top prospects for this year's National Draft will be.

The Allies emerged as victors in this year's carnival thanks to an undefeated campaign, led by several potential top 10 draft prospects.

Speaking on Zero Hanger TV, Rookie Me Central draft analyst Michael Alvaro discussed this year's carnival results, the standout prospects, draft movers and how this year's count is taking shape.

Alvaro noted that the class of 2023, headlined by Bendigo Pioneers talent Harley Reid, can be split between the top 15 prospects and a chasing pack.

While this year's National Championships provided plenty of insight for those keen on the draft, Alvaro believes there weren't any surprising names that joined to the front group.

"There aren't many players to round it out that are taking first-round spots by the scruff of the neck," he told Zero Hanger. 

"That's why these champs are a bit disappointing in a way, because you wanted guys to really stand up and take those spots.

"It seems like that sort of top 15 is really set and then is just a blanket over 30 names after that."

Here's how each of the five National Championships sides fared over the course of the 2023 carnival and the prospects that stood out for their respective teams.

Allies (4 wins, 0 losses)

The Allies were the surprise carnival victors this year, going undefeated after never previously managing multiple wins in a single campaign.

Made up of talent from Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT and Northern Territory, the Mark McVeigh-led side recorded comfortable wins against Vic Metro, South Australia and Western Australia before securing the title with an 11-point win over Vic Country earlier this month.

Littered with a majority of this year's leading National Draft names, the Allies relied on their top line and supporting depth options to steer themselves to four wins for 2023.

"They could have a couple in the top five (prospects), or even three probably," Alvaro said.

"It's exciting it's good for the Northern Academies and the clubs up in Queensland and New South Wales as well as Tassie, who are going to have a new team.

"It's one of the more balanced and deeper teams we've seen in the National Championships. You could say it was an upset triumph but ask them and they'll say they had full faith from the start. They were one of the better championships sides you'll see."

Tasmanian Ryley Sanders claimed the Larke Medal as the National Championships' best player for the season, polling 25 votes to edge out Allies teammate and fellow statesman Colby McKercher for the honour.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 16: Ryley Sanders of the Allies poses after being named as the MVP of the U18 Boys Championship during the 2023 U18 Boys Championships match between Vic Country and Vic Metro at Ikon Park on June 16, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The duo were a tenacious pairing in McVeigh's midfield, finding plenty of the ball at the feet of top-rated ruckman Ethan Read. Read is one of several Gold Coast Academy players that are likely to land on the Suns' list at the end of this year, with key forward Jed Walter and tackling machine Jake Rogers joining Read as likely top 15 prospects.

Walters has significantly shortened the gap between himself and likely overall No.1 pick Harley Reid thanks to a strong 2023 campaign in the Coates Talent League and the championships, with he and McKercher rivalling for that second spot in the queue.

While Sanders was handed the Larke Medal, key defender Connor O'Sullivan was seen as the Allies' MVP for 2023 for his consistent carnival as the side's rock in defence.

"Most of them were really highly touted coming in (to the National Championships)," Alvaro said of the Allies' leading six prospects.

"For me they were top 15 players, they've only solidified that in everyone's mind. They're among the half-dozen or so that could've taken out the MVP Award. Incredible players that all had great carnivals.

"Jed Walter, probably the No.2 player in the country at the moment, and Colby McKercher is right with him. They're the two challengers for Harley Reid's spot atop the tree. Fantastic carnivals between the two of them.

"There'll be times next to recruiters and others where they'll just be giggling when (Walter) is chasing down a player because he's pretty scary. If you're near the boundary you can feel his footsteps, you can imagine what some of the opposition defenders were thinking.

Allies draft talent Colby McKercher (Image via Graham Denholm/AFL Photos)

"Ollie Murphy, who won Vic Metro's MVP, said he was the toughest opponent he's played on, and you can see why. He dominated some of the better players during the carnival and he's just unstoppable, particularly in the first half of games when he's really full of energy and using that intensity in hunting the ball.

"(McKercher) has got such a great inside-outside balance, he can win so much of the ball and it doesn't matter if he's the first ball-getter or the receiver. He has an impact either way.

"His speed is electric, he can burn away from a contest like it's nothing. He carves through contests like a hot knife through butter. He's super classy and for me he's the No.3. I think most people would have him at two or three at the moment. His numbers are extraordinary.

"Ethan Read could be anything, a bit of a unicorn. The way he just took control and acted as a fourth midfielder made that midfield even deeper. Obviously serves them well with his ruck craft.

"Ryley Sanders is just a pure ball winner. He, along with Caiden Cleary, really dominated in the contest and allowed guys like McKercher and Jake Rogers, who's another Suns Academy boy as well, to really get to the outside, show their class, use their speed.

"Connor O'Sullivan - Talk about balance throughout the team. You've got Walter at one end, Connor O'Sullivan at the other end and all those midfielders in between.

"A great spine and they're really the half-a-dozen or so that led the side, but the depth was there as well." 

Vic Metro (2 wins, 2 losses)

Vic Metro managed an even split in their 2023 carnival, with defender Ollie Murphy taking out the MVP honours as one of the National Championships' biggest risers across the six-week season.

The Sandringham Dragons talent flexed his ability to shut down some of the competition's best tall forwards and intercepting ability on Vic Metro's last line.

Small forward and potential top five pick Nick Watson kicked 14 goals from his four matches to likely fall just behind Murphy for the MVP award at Vic Metro.

2024 draft prospects Levi Ashcroft, Jagga Smith and Josh Smillie led the way through midfield for Vic Metro, while potential 2023 top 10 selection Nate Caddy looked to add to his dominant Coates Talent League campaign in the navy blue, booting six goals.

Brisbane Lion Will Ashcroft with brother Levi (Image via Brisbane Lions)

Ruckman Will Green ranks as one of the leading prospects for his position and could find a spot in the top 20 of the draft board thanks to his promising glimpses throughout the championships.

"Ollie Murphy was probably the most solid player across the four games. Nick Watson probably had three good games and one quiet one but managed to snag goals in most and kicked a lot throughout the championships," Alvaro told Zero Hanger TV. 

"Levi Ashcroft was probably a lock for (the MVP) if he played all four games as well, but they had a bit of premeditated rotation with their bottom agers, so he only played three games.

"Jagga Smith would've been right up there, he had a great game on Sunday. Even Josh Smillie was fantastic in game one among those bottom agers.

"In terms of their top agers, they've got some class in guys like Nate Caddy. He's a terrific talent and will be around the top 10 mix. He probably hasn't done it against top-level opponents, and that's maybe a knock on him and perhaps where he fits in at the next level.

"He's tearing up talent league games with big bags, kicked six goals in his last game against Bendigo but was up against a bottom ager and then an undersized top ager. It's interesting to note how they doing it and where they're doing it because the National Championships is where the cream rises to the top and where the cream of the crop is playing. That's the biggest test, that's the litmus test for all these guys.

Vic Metro draft talent Nate Caddy vs Western Australia, 2023 (Image via Coates Talent League/AFL Photos)

"I should shout out Will Green as well. He's probably a bit of a surprise in terms of the rankings from the rankings. He was in the top 20 last month and probably doesn't have the biggest output as a ruck but just does things really well. Got great fundamentals.

"You look at upside, a guy at 204cms that moves pretty well and you look toward the future with someone like that. The talls are really impressive, Ollie Murphy took out the MVP award, just has great upside."

Vic Country (2 wins, 2 losses)

Country levelled their state rivals thanks to a strong win over Vic Metro in the last game of the carnival, where they booted nine unanswered goals as some of their usual suspects led the charge.

Harley Reid put polish on an already promising carnival against Vic Metro at Ikon Park over the weekend before being awarded the Vic Country MVP, while Gippsland talent Zane Duursma kicked four goals in the victory as his side's best performer.

Outside midfielders Darcy Wilson and Joel Freijah were among Vic Country's most consistent through the National Championships, complementing each other and Reid and inside bull George Stevens nicely when all four combined.

Stevens showed his efficient disposal use and two-way capabilities across the carnival as a leader for Vic Country who is able to play across all three lines of the field.

Vic Country talent Harley Reid at 2023 National Championships (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos)

Vic Country will have plenty to be excited for in 2024 as midfielder Finn O'Sullivan ranked as one of their best performers throughout his bottom-age carnival.

"They lost to South Australia in the first game but really built as (the carnival) went on. You pick up a couple of wins and put on arguably your best performance in your fourth game and that was the case with Country," Alvaro said. 

"Zane Duursma had his best game in that fourth game playing a bit more forward. I think that's his natural position. Kicking four goals and really turning the game alongside the MVP and co-captain Harley Reid, who was really just fierce and physical as you expect at the source. I think those two are the difference makers in particular.

"Darcy Wilson is pretty classy too. It was good to see him play more midfield, kind of swapping a role with Duursma in those final couple of games.

"You get to see different aspects of their games. They're probably the best three prospects from a Country sense.

"Going down the list, Joel Freijah as well on a wing probably played his more natural position in game four where he's just utilized on that wing, whereas he's been thrown around into the midfield up forward. We know he can play a bit of everywhere.

"Probably should mention George Stevens as well, who had a super champs and probably would have been right up there in the MVP discussion for Country. They're decided by the states themselves, not by any sort of outsider panel. Stevens was great, just a real consistent performer in midfield, big solid body. He did his stocks no harm.

Zane Duursma during Melbourne's open training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne in 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes/Zero Digital Sports)

"(O'Sullivan), he's a known quantity. He was last year's Kevin Sheehan medallist as the under-16s MVP in Pool A. He's going to be a star, he's just so well-rounded. He's one of the many midfielders in next year's crop that's going to be right up there in that top 10 frame."

South Australia (1 win, 3 losses)

South Australia endure mixed results throughout their 2023 season but did come away from the carnival with a promising win over Vic Country at Princes Park as a number of bottom-age names stood tall.

Among their leading 2024 prospects was Sid Draper, the younger brother of Collingwood player Arlo, who was awarded as the state's MVP this year. The swift midfielder gave South Australia a needed balance in midfield alongside inside onballer and AFL Academy selection Kane McAuliffe.

The pair offered plenty of service to front man Ashton Moir, who kicked just the three goals in what was an underwhelming carnival. Bottom-age talent and Adelaide father-son prospect Tyler Welsh managed to kick five goals in his side's sole win over Vic Country, reaffirming his place as a top prospect for next year.

Small forward Jack Delean kicked nine goals for the carnival, showing off his bag of tricks and poise at ground level for the croweaters.

2023 Hawthorn father-son chance Will McCabe and SA skipper Will Patton were rock solid in defence across the carnival.

"They were disappointing. For a big footballing state with great history, they should be doing a little bit better. They probably won't have the draft crop that we'd expect of them," Alvaro said of South Australia's 2023 season. 

Torrens University SA U18 National Championships players Will McCabe, Jack Delean and Tyler Welsh. (Picture – AFL Photos)

"Only winning the one game, they beat Vic Country to be fair, which is a pretty good win on the road as well. So that was a good victory, but they went down to everyone else and had some pretty heavy losses along the way.

"In terms of the players that I liked, Sid Draper was outstanding. Of course, was South Australia's under-16 title-winning captain last year. It makes sense that some of their better players are coming from that crop. You look at Tyler Welsh as well. Will McCabe played in that team even though he's a top ager now.

"You look at the balance along each line, Tyler Welsh playing as a key forward, Sid Draper in midfield and then McCabe down back along with Will Patton as captain who's handy. Kane McAuliffe had a good champs, was solid in midfield.

"But they just couldn't feed their match winners like Delean and Moir enough to get their results on the board."

Western Australia (1 win, 3 losses)

A lowly percentage of 57.69% cemented Western Australia as the fifth-placed side for 2023, with their only win coming against South Australia. WA would suffer large defeats to the Allies (88 points) and Vic Metro (81) and fall just two points shy of Vic Country.

The clear standout for Western Australia was the versatile Claremont key position talent, Dan Curtin, who only strengthen his chances of a top five spot at the draft this year. Able to play as a key defender, tall forward or through midfield, Curtin has traits like no other in his draft class.

Curtin would claim the MVP honours for Western Australia with some ease, while fellow first-round chance Koltyn Tholstrup would offer support and energy in the forward third.

Koen Sanchez would contribute to the Goalkickers list in three matches as small forward for WA, linking up with Curtin and Tholstrup with clean forward ball movement and link-up play.

Ruckman Mitch Edwards was limited at times throughout the carnival but did his chances as a top 15 selection no harm.

"Disappointing if you look at it from a pure results perspective. Had two pretty damning losses against the Allies and Vic Metro. They don't tend to travel too well, so it's not a massive surprise," Alvaro said of Western Australia.

"They still fared pretty well at home against Vic Country, that was a tight loss in a really entertaining game where their MVP in Dan Curtin was fantastic. He's in that top five mix, definitely a top 10 prospect. He's only enhanced his credentials throughout the championships.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Daniel Curtin of the Team Houli Squad poses for a photo during the 2022 AFL Futures match between Team Houli and Team Murphy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 24, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

"In terms of other prospects that impressed, Koen Sanchez has gotten into his groove. I think recruiters like him for his speed and work rate, he hit the scoreboard too, kicked multiple goals.

"Koltyn Tholstrup as well up forward, got into his groove once he entered the championships. Only played three games after being injured for the first. Clay Hall had a good champs as well playing through midfield, added a little bit of bite to something different to that onball group.

"So they've got their prospect. Mitch Edwards as well, was injured for one game too. He's a class player, probably a top 10 prospect too. So that was a good but they just didn't have the consistency throughout."