When languishing among the league's bottom sides on the ladder at the bye, few would have predicted Essendon to enter a purple patch that has seen them claim wins over the Saints, Swans and Lions across the course of the past month.

And while the ilk of Zach Merrett, Jordan Ridley and Peter Wright has led each of the Dons' lines with aplomb, the victories over vaunted opposition have also been thatched by the efforts of some 'Baby Bombers'.

At the cessation of Round 16, both Nic Martin and Ben Hobbs held top-six spots within Zero Hanger's Rookie Rankings for the 2022 AFL season. However, after continuing to excite across the defensive third, the pair have been joined by their newest teammate, Massimo D'Ambrosio.

With just over a month until the business end of the season commences, the competition's new kids on the block are set to earn their final handful of chances to impress.

But with a Pies son-of-a-gun growing each week, the best efforts of the chasing pack may only end up landing them silver.

And sadly for North Melbourne fans, your man Jason Horne-Francis has shifted out of our top six after being asked to spend time in the twos.

Criteria: For our Rookie Rankings, we are selecting players who have made their debut this season. Other players who may still be eligible for a Rising Star nomination but have already made their debut prior to the 2022 season will not be considered.

I.e. players like Jai NewcombeJake BoweyCorey Durdin and Sam De Koning are ineligible.


Round 17 Honourable Mentions

Josh Carmichael (Magpies)
14 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 clearance, 0.2

Before what sounded like every member of his wider family packed into the MCG's Olympic Stand, the Mid-Season draftee placed his best foot forward in the Pies' win over the Roos.

Though his pair of shots edged wide, the 22-year-old's lace-out goal assist during the second half gave Collingwood life. Carmichael's efforts to ride tackles and keep the Sherrin moving were equally as impressive.

Noah Cumberland (Richmond)
10 disposals, 2 marks, 2.3

Though the Tigers were pipped at the post by a Noah Anderson major last Saturday, the 21-year-old took to his offensive post like a duck to water, slotting a brace at Carrara.

Patrick Parnell (Crows)
15 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles

While light of frame and fresh of face, the 20-year-old got his hands dirty in an effort to help drag the Crows over the line. Despite not setting the game on fire, Parnell looked composed with ball in hand. One to watch before the season's end.

Jake Soligo (Crows)
13 disposals, 3 clearances, 2 marks

Last week, we mentioned that the Victorian has started seeing more time at the coalface. And with a further three clearances to his name on Sunday, Soligo will be another at West Lakes to keep an eye on.

5. Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (-)

While teammates around him floundered, the Glenelg product could be content with his efforts against Fremantle on Saturday night.

Akin to much of his season, there were moments of flare on offer from Wanganeen-Milera, but as the Dockers' fleet of in-form mids ran riot, the teenager's efforts on the outside proved largely powerless.

A debut goal for the winger acted as a highlight on what was a dispiriting night for the Saints.