ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: Harley Reid of the AFL Academy in action during the match between the AFL Academy and Port Adelaide Magpies at Summit Sports Park on April 15, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Leading AFL Draft prospect Harley Reid has only strengthened his case as the likely No.1 selection for November's count with a formidable four-quarter performance for Essendon's VFL unit on Saturday.

While the Bombers would suffer an eight-point defeat to Southport in Queensland, Reid was among many highlights for Leigh Tudor's men in the loss as the teenager recorded 23 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and a team-high six clearances.

Donning the No. 82, Reid would commonly feature through midfield and at centre bounces in the red and black, coming up against two premier midfielders of the competition in experienced ex-AFL ball winners Jacob Dawson and Boyd Woodcock, who would combine for 66 disposals, 20 marks and 14 clearances between them.

Flexing his physicality and confidence at the state league level, Reid would show no signs of fear in his third VFL game of 2023 and first for Essendon, quickly collecting six disposals before the first break.

The Tongala native would have an instant impact in the second term, amassing two goal assists in the opening moments of the quarter. Reid would then take his appearance to new heights before half-time with a high-flying mark over unsuspecting Sharks opponent Jake McQueen on the wing.

Handing out as many big hits as he received from Southport, Reid featured across all three lines of the field for the Bombers - applying pressure and grunt around the contest.

The appearance for the Dons saw Reid feature for his sixth different side in 2023 alone, having previously pulled on the boots for Bendigo, Tongala, the AFL Academy, Vic Country and Carlton's VFL side in recent months.

While the highly-rated draft talent was all the talk in the result at Fankhauser Reserve, the Bombers did come away from the loss with some promising returns from their fringe AFL-listed players.

Small forward Tex Wanganeen and second-year spearhead Patrick Voss would combine for seven goals inside 50, while rookie Anthony Munkara would kick two goals in the final term to keep the Bombers in the contest after the Sharks shot ahead following an all-square scoreline at three-quarter time.

Forward-turned-defender Kaine Baldwin would continue his promising patch as a key backman, recording a team-high 27 disposals and 12 marks on Essendon's last line.

The defeat is the Bombers' 13th from their 17 matches in the VFL this year and sees the Tullamarine club remain 16th on the ladder for the time being. Southport have moved into 12th and are now in reaching distance of the top 10 with three more weeks remaining in the home and away season.

Essendon WON BY 1 POINTS
Marvel Stadium