Claremont forward and Mid-Season Draft chance Jack Buller "has every skill to be a good AFL player" after previously missing the cut on multiple occasions.

The muscular tall forward has put his best foot forward in 2023, averaging 17.7 disposals, 9.7 marks and two goals per game for the Tigers prior to sustaining a calf injury last month.

Buller will make his WAFL return on Saturday when Claremont travel to Swan Districts, giving the 21-year-old just under three weeks to strengthen his prospects ahead of the AFL's mid-year draft count.

Not for the first time, Buller will have the chance to represent his state after being in the 34-man squad to face South Australia's best in Adelaide next week in what will be staged as a highly-anticipated contest for scouts hoping to see more of the WA prospect.

Buller was part of Western Australia's star-studded U18s class of 2019, where 24 players would find themselves on an AFL list over the coming years - several of which being Buller's Claremont teammates in Liam Henry, Callum Jamieson, Joel Western and Ronin O'Connor, leaving the defender-turned-forward to become one of just two Tigers within the squad to be overlooked.

The powerful forward has steadily built his case for an AFL breakthrough over the past four years, and now finds himself among the leading names for the 2023 Mid-Season Draft.

At 19 years of age, Buller was a staple in the Tigers' attacking third on his way to booting 31 goals for the 2021 season as Claremont recorded a third-place finish under returned coach Ashley Prescott.

A chance matchup with West Coast premiership defender Will Schofield for Claremont's second encounter with Peel Thunder would see the key-position pair go toe-to-toe at Rushton Park in June that year, with both players noted among the game's best as Buller booted four majors in the seven-point win.

Claremont forward Jack Buller during the WAFL, 2023 (Image by Hamish Lisk)

Reflecting on the match with Zero Hanger, Schofield said his on-field assignment against Buller was enough to assume the teenager wouldn't look uncomfortable at AFL level.

"2021, my first year out of game I played for Peel in the WAFL, and quite honestly you don't get the same sort of preparation for players in the WAFL as you do in the AFL. So I was just using the first quarter or the first few minutes to really figure out my opponent and I had Jack that day," Schofield recalled.

"I knew he was just a young kid, but he's got great size. He was quick and athletic and instantly I knew that he knew what he was doing. He just jumped off the page immediately, certainly my toughest opponent in the WAFL that year. He would have only been 19.

"I just felt at that time, why is he not on an AFL list? I didn't know enough about him or had done any research on him really, I just played on him and found him really hard to match up on from a forward craft point of view, and strength and contested marking were his real strengths.

"I'd retired, so clearly I wasn't at the peak of my powers, but I really found it difficult to play on him, so that was enough for me to think this kid needs to be on an AFL list.

"He took this one-hander on me in front of the can bar at Claremont and I absolutely copped it from the crowd.

"I still remember it. I had (good) positioning, he was cooked and he just managed to get me out of position slightly, took a one-hander on me, played on, kicked a goal and probably won the game for Claremont.

"So that's seared into the brain. I retired about three games later."

Claremont forward Jack Buller during the WAFL, 2023 (Image via Claremont FC, Instagram)

Schofield would again be required to keep a close eye on Buller the following year, only this time from the commentator's gantry for the 2022 WAFL Grand Final between Claremont and West Perth.

The Tigers would fall two goals short of securing their 13th premiership, but Buller would be voted among the day's best performers, with Schofield lodging votes himself.

Buller would record a campaign-high 20 disposals in the season decider as he "almost single-handedly" clawed the Tigers to victory, with his aerial acumen and work rate only strengthening Schofield's belief that the Cottesloe key forward is out-of-place away from the top flight.

"I called the WAFL grand final last year, and I was giving votes in that game. Claremont ended up losing the game in a bit of a close one against West Perth. I gave Jack the highest amount of votes for a Claremont player on that day, and that was in a losing team," Schofield said.

"He single-handedly got Claremont back into the game and he almost single-handedly won it. He took six contested marks that day, was clunking them from everywhere. He was a little wayward with his kicking but he was just such a huge influence.

"From my experience, which is playing on him, watching him with the eye test, seeing him late last year in a grand final, there's no doubt in my mind that him on an AFL list, even from a rookie standpoint, would absolutely stand up and he has every skill to be a good AFL player."

Stopping the tape at a single centimetre shy of the two-metre mark and weighing in at 99kg, Buller's frame, coupled with his forward prowess, has drawn comparisons to Carlton's Coleman Medal winner Harry McKay.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Harry McKay of the Blues celebrates a goal during the 2022 AFL Round 02 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Carlton Blues at Marvel Stadium on March 24, 2022 In Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Schofield noted Buller would be a comparable candidate for the big-bodied Blue, with the guidance of the AFL system potentially the catalyst for a promising career at the highest level.

"I think he's quite similar (to McKay). He's quite long-limbed, tall, got the big frame. Not the most elite, agile side-to-side mover, but a really good straight-line runner with good forward craft," Schofield said.

"I think Harry McKay is a really good example of what sort of player he could be with a bit of tutelage, (working on) some skills. Harry McKay has obviously been in the system now (for eight years) and is a Coleman medallist, so I'm not putting on that status but (Jack) is a similar player."

The Mid-Season Draft shapes as a mechanism for clubs to receive a talent injection through the opening half of the season, with clubs often balancing the avenues of acquiring ready-made talent or project prospects.

Much like McKay, who would only play two games in his first two seasons at Princes Park, Schofield is of the belief that Buller will likely need time and patience to develop before being utilised at the top level.

"Any player that's tall that hasn't been in the system needs some time to develop. We get really impatient with tall players in the AFL system," Schofield told Zero Hanger.

"I'd really love to see him get on at least to start with. Being in a good team around good forwards and good defenders. One thing you can learn at an AFL club from being on a good list is the time you spend on good AFL defenders, you can learn so much from as a forward in that realm.

"I just think he deserves an opportunity to be honest. I've seen good players and bad players. I was on a list for 14 years, I know what it takes to play the level and I think he's got it."

The coming weeks will decide the Mid-Season Draft queue, with the likely selection order for the May 31 count yet to be set. Hawthorn currently sit in pole position for the opening pick, however heavy defeats for West Coast have left the Perth heavyweights right in the mix to open the night for the second successive year.

The two clubs are set to clash next week in a game that is likely to decide the opening selections of the draft, and likely Buller's future.

The Eagles will be eligible to open a list spot following Jai Culley's season-ending knee injury, while fellow cellar dwellers Richmond, GWS and Fremantle are likely to queue up for the mid-year intake along with the Hawks.

Schofield sees his old side as a likely landing spot for Buller through the Mid-Season Draft, with both Hawthorn and Fremantle also in need of a player of his talents.

"Two that jump off the page are the two Western Australian sides," Schofield said of ideal destinations for Buller.

"Fremantle's not going too well. So Hawthorn, West Coast and Fremantle. I mean, there aren't too many clubs in the AFL that don't need a developing key forward on their list.

"There are plenty that don't need a midfielder and plenty that don't need a running half-back. There's a lot of depth in those areas and players can play multiple positions, but there aren't too many players that can play key forward.

"I wouldn't put it past any club to have him on their list to be really honest."

Last year's Mid-Season Draft saw a trio of WAFL players land at AFL clubs, with Wade Derksen (Pick 5, Peel Thunder to GWS), Brynn Teakle (Pick 8, East Fremantle to Port Adelaide) and Sebit Kuek (Pick 15, East Perth to Fremantle) all finding new clubs. The WA competition has also seen the likes of Marlion Pickett, Nic Martin, Greg Clark and Connor West and Hamish Free come through the multitude of draft mechanisms after initially missing the cut.

Marlion Pickett during the round 22 AFL match between Richmond and Hawthorn on August 14, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Richmond Media)

The SANFL and VFL have also emerged as valuable talent pools away from the National Draft system, with Hawks ace Jai Newcombe (Box Hill), Pies pair John Noble (West Adelaide) and Ash Johnson (Sturt), and Bombers wingman Sam Durham (Richmond VFL) all joining in the middle of the year.

"There are plenty of guys running around the WAFL that could easily make an AFL list," Schofield said of the quality of state league competitions.

"It's hard to speak of what recruiters see or teams see, but my best guess would be sometimes you can overthink it, especially because it's such a tight-knit community, the AFL recruiting landscape. I think some players get a bit of a knock on them and it flows throughout and guys really don't get that opportunity.

"It's a difficult industry. Only 70 players are coming onto a list every year on those 18 teams. It's not like there are 700 players getting opportunities every year. It's a cut-throat industry.

"There's a lot of good players around the country and some guys just get overlooked. But I think from the taller landscape you don't have to look past any further than WA footy. Both West Coast and Fremantle could certainly use another key forward running around on their list."

Nation-wide second-tier talent will be a hotly discussed topic over the coming years as the AFL plans to expand to 19 clubs with the addition of a Tasmanian side for the 2028 season.

The newcomers will likely bank on talent from all areas of the country in building its first list, hoping to find diamonds in the rough both near and far.

The 2023 Mid-Season Draft will take place remotely on Wednesday, May 31, with the final draft order to be confirmed the evening prior following the submission of list spots and the ladder order at the conclusion of Round 11.