The AFL Draft could be heading toward another long-winded opening night in 2024, with the first round of the draft potentially seeing close to 30 selections made for the second time in as many years.

Last year's intake saw 29 selections made on night one of the draft, with five Academy bids, two father-son picks, a further three selections added via free agency compensation and one selection made to close the opening round through North Melbourne's assistance package.

It meant an initial Pick 18 selection for Collingwood was pushed back to Pick 25 by the end of draft night, while Carlton's concluding first-round pick attained from the Roos had 28 names off the board before they had a look.

The first round of the 2023 AFL Draft made up almost half of the 64 players selected across both nights, with rounds three, four, and five seeing just eight, seven, and five prospects selected, respectively. The second round had exactly half the number of selections as the first round, with 15.

This year's draft is facing a similar fate, with a mix of northern Academy and father-son-tied talent gunning for early selections. Two further selections from the Roos' assistance package are already set in place prior to potentially incoming free agency compensation selections.

The first round of the draft currently sits at 20 selections, with the 18 club-tied spots and North Melbourne's assisted selections - held by Sydney and Gold Coast - making up the numbers.


It's a guarantee Brisbane father-son prospect Levi Ashcroft will be one of the first selected at November's draft, while Gold Coast Academy midfielder Leonardo Lombard has quickly made his case as a Pick 1 contender following a strong opening to his National Championships for the Allies.

Gold Coast Suns Academy talent Leonardo Lombard in 2023 (Image via Gold Coast Suns, AFL Photos)

Carlton father-son prospect and South Australia onballer Ben Camporeale is another likely opening-round addition for the Blues, while twin brother Lucas might not be far behind and could slip into the first-round conversation if the total amount of selections does, in fact, extend to a top 30.

Promising Adelaide father-son forward Tyler Welsh, the son of ex-Crow Scott, is another teen pressing his case as a top-10 prospect, while Brisbane Academy member Sam Marshall has backed up a strong bottom-age campaign and is among the next wave of names.

So, with all of Carlton, Adelaide, Brisbane and Gold Coast likely to trade their way out of the first round before returning to match bids on their priority access prospects, we very well could see the first-round balloon out five or six selections through father-son and Academy bids alone.

Then there's free agency compensation, which could see clubs handed end-of-first-round draft access should they lose a key player to a rival's lucrative bid.

Western Bulldogs ruckman Tim English, Brisbane onballer Jarrod Berry, unrestricted Saints free agent Josh Battle, Cats forward Tyson Stengle, West Coast veteran Elliot Yeo and GWS utility Harry Perryman could potentially fetch strong enough deals on the open market to trigger band two compensation.

Clubs keen to lure these players are often open to paying a premium for their services given they won't be required to hand over draft capital, which would only be the case for English and Berry if the Dogs and Lions match bids given their restricted status.

However, even one or two free agency moves that trigger band two compensation would add to the pile of first-round picks and potentially take the tally near the 30 mark.

Josh Battle during the 2022 AFL Round 1 match between St Kilda and Collingwood (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

Then, with an outside chance of being implemented in 2024, the AFL is looking at altering the current Academy and draft bidding system, with clubs angered over their restricted access to Next Generation Academy prospects following years of development.

Again, while unlikely, if the current limit of NGA bids only occurring after Pick 40 is lifted or eased to allow clubs first-round access to prospects, we could be seeing further selections made on opening night.

Essendon are tied to Vic Metro livewire Isaac Kako through their NGA, with the Calder Cannons talent, another name, doing his draft stock no harm to start the year.

West Coast finds themselves in a similar position to last year after missing out on NGA graduate and 2023 first-round pick Lance Collard, who landed with St Kilda at Pick 28 following a draft journey assisted by the Eagles.

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In 2024, the Perth powerhouse are linked with AFL Academy and Subiaco jet Malakai Champion, who joins Kako as one of the top-rated small forwards in his class.

Each year often sees some outsiders come into the top 20-30 calculations across the back end of the draft season, and there can be no ruling out of North Melbourne father-son prospect River Stevens, son of Roos champion Anthony, or Sydney Academy key defender Joel Cochran from the first-round mix.

Stevens started his U18s carnival in style on Sunday against South Australia with two goals from a dozen disposals in a narrow win, while Cochran put forward a promising performance earlier this month against Western Australia - collecting 21 disposals, four marks and seven rebound 50s in his side's second game of the championships.