AFL pre-season matches are almost upon us, with footy fans keen to see where their clubs sits heading into the 2023 season.

The new two weeks will give us a glimpse into who is knocking on the door for selection, and more excitingly, who is making a case for a Round 1 debut.

The pre-season so far has given us some indication for who will be in the mix for their respective side's season opener, with as many as 18 players strongly in consideration to play their first AFL game in mid-March.

Here we name the players firming for a spot for Round 1 and the other players at each club who could be in the conversation.



Potentially in the mix: Father-son draftee Max Michalanney is likely to get a look-in at AFL level sometime this year, with his intercepting ability and familiarity with senior football a big bonus for Matthew Nicks. The teenager will be a stronger chance to get a game early into the year with Andrew McPherson still recovering from a knee injury. Zak Taylor has shown glimpses as he pushed for a debut, while James Borlase will rival Michalanney for key-defensive spots.


Will Ashcroft: Can pencil Ashcroft into Brisbane's Round 1 side, with the only question being where the talented midfielder lines up. The 2022 Larke Medal winner will be thrown into the engine room as a supporting role player to the likes of Josh Dunkley and Lachie Neale, but may also find himself in the forward half for large portions of the season.

Potentially in the mix: Like Ashcroft, Jaspa Fletcher could slot into a role in midfield in his first season with the Lions once he reaches full fitness after carrying a back injury into the pre-season. Small forward Blake Coleman could get a look if Brisbane's small forward stocks take a hit in the coming weeks.


Oliver Hollands: Looks to be well in contention for a spot in Michael Voss' side to take on Richmond in the season opener, with star midfielder Sam Walsh currently sidelined with a back issue. Hollands can fill a void on the wing for the Blues to assist their star-studded inside midfield pack with his run and dash.

Oliver Hollands and Sam Walsh during the 2022 AFL National Draft (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Sports)

Lachie Cowan: The Tasmania defender has impressive the Blues almost immediately with his maturity and hardened game style that is sure to be on display sometime this year. With the Blues' defence losing Zac Williams for the season, Cowan could be called upon to fill the void at half-back.

Potentially in the mix: Joining Cowan in the mix to replace Williams will be SSP recruit Alex Cincotta, who was plucked out of the club's VFL program earlier this month after a strong season in the reserves. The Blues would need to see their top line of tall defenders sidelined for Round 1, but Domanic Akuei firms as a formidable reinforcement option if a hole in the back six opens up.


Ed Allan: The Western Australian offers tremendous versatility for the Magpies, able to slot onto a wing, play behind the ball or sit in the forward 50 as a third-tall forward option. A strong intraclub showing last week saw his Round 1 chances grow, with Allan firmly in the mix to line up against Geelong at the MCG on March 17.

Potentially in the mix: Jakob Ryan won't look out of touch at senior level after making the move across from Glenelg through the 2022 National Draft, while Joe Richards could also be considered if the Magpies need to dive into their depth options.


Alwyn Davey: The doot may have opened for the exciting midfield-forward to make his debut after calf injuries sidelined both Matt Guelfi and Ben Hobbs in recent weeks. Likely to slot into a small forward role, Davey might be up against Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti for a spot in Brad Scott's attack to begin the year.

Potentially in the mix: Rhett Montgomerie has impressed onlookers since joining the club over the off-season, with the key defender gaining more and more attention as the season nears.


Matt Johnson: The Dockers' sophomore won't be a guaranteed selection to face the Saints, but expect Johnson to be among the 26 or so players that fly east for the game. After losing Blake Acres and Darcy Tucker, Johnson is among the chasing pack looking to add further depth to Fremantle's midfield.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Matthew Johnson of Western Australia is tackled by Adam DAloia of South Australia during the 2021 U19 Championship match between Western Australia and South Australia at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Potentially in the mix: Hard to see any other Docker making a push for Round 1, but be sure to keep an eye on Mid-Season Draft recruit Sebit Kuek, who was among the leading names in last week's intraclub hitout.



Potentially in the mix: Top draft pick Jhye Clark is sure to get a look at some point this season, but a role in Chris Scott's Round 1 side doesn't look likely. The Cats have a fairly healthy list, with veteran Tom Hawkins the only major concern.

Gold Coast

Bailey Humphrey: The explosive midfield-forward will be right in the mix for a debut against the Swans next month, with Humphrey hoping to impress across his side's two pre-season matches to cement his spot in Stuart Dew's preferred lineup.

Potentially in the mix: Ruckman Ned Moyle could be the next man up to replace Jarrod Witts should the Suns co-captain be sidelined in the early rounds, with Moyle among the best-performing talls in the VFL last year.


Aaron Cadman: The Giants have stressed the need to be patient with their No.1 pick, but the club are yet to confirm whether they'll delay Cadman's debut until deeper into the year or even later. Nevertheless, the tall forward is sure to get minutes for the Giants' pre-season clash with the Suns next month.

Potentially in the mix: Mid-Season Draft pickup Wade Derksen is another Giant looking to hold a role in Adam Kingsley's forward line, while draftee Harry Rowston could also make a case for Round 1.


Josh Weddle: The defensive flanker was a standout in last week's intraclub game in Bundoora, offering plenty of run from half-back and up on the wing. The performance will have Weddle right in the mix for Round 1, but he'll want to back it up in the coming weeks before the season gets underway.

Cam Mackenzie: The Hawks' top pick from last year's draft, Mackenzie could take on one of the open midfield spots under Sam Mitchell when the Hawks line-up against Essendon to begin their new campaign. The teenager looked comfortable in their most recent intraclub hitout, working in tandem with Jai Newcombe and Josh Ward throughout.

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Potentially in the mix: Rookies Henry Hustwaite and Bailey Macdonald were both impressive in the Hawks' intraclub, but will want to show more than just glimpses to land a spot in Mitchell's Round 1 setup.


Jacob van Rooyen: Looms as a certain starter for the Demons as the club's new tantalising tall forward target, with van Rooyen expected to line up against the Bulldogs in Round 1. Booted 36 goals in 18 games for Casey last year and will now look to have a similar impact at AFL level in his second season at the club.

Potentially in the mix: Blake Howes has shown glimpses throughout the pre-season but will have a decent understanding of how hard it will be to break into this Melbourne side. SSP pickup Kye Turner will be on standby should the Demons face an influx of injuries before Round 1.

North Melbourne

Harry Sheezel: The highly-rated attacked is seen as a likely inclusion for Alastair Clarkson's first game in charge of the Roos, with Sheezel among the leading names from last year's draft class likely to be seen at AFL level early into 2023. The teenager was trialled across all three lines in the club's most recent intraclub match, but will be best suited in his primary goal as a small forward.

Blake Drury: After being overlooked in the National Draft, Drury could find himself lining up against West Coast in Round 1 as a pivotal piece in Clarkson's back third. The Rookie Draft pickup has shifted to a more defensive role with North Melbourne and could fill a void at half-back if Tarryn Thomas remains on personal leave.

Potentially in the mix: Will take a miraculous turnaround for George Wardlaw to be in the selection mix as the Roos take a precautionary approach with the young midfielder.

North Melbourne's Harry Sheezel (left) and George Wardlaw share a laugh at the 2022 AFL National Draft (Photo by Jake Benoiton)

Port Adelaide


Potentially in the mix: Young defender Jake Pasini will have his eyes on an AFL debut this year after an injury-interrupted start to his career. Ollie Lord and Thomas Scully could be in the frame should the Power's key forward stocks take a hit like last year.



Potentially in the mix: Hard to see a standout for the Tigers as we near their season opener against Carlton. SSP recruit Kaelan Bradtke might get a look, while 2021 draftees Tom Brown and Sam Banks will be hoping to impress across their pre-season matches.

St Kilda

Mattaes Phillipou: Ross Lyon has all but guaranteed the South Australian will lace up the boots for Round 1, but Philliou will be wanting to further strengthen his selection prospects when the Saints play Melbourne and Essendon in the coming weeks.

Anthony Caminiti: It took just a handful of training sessions for Caminiti to land an AFL contract with the Saints through the SSP, with the Moorabbin club looking his way after seeing their tall forward depth chart decimated. With Max King, Jack Hayes, Tim Membrey and fellow uncapped tall Matt Allison all sidelined, Caminiti could be a Round 1 bolter.

Potentially in the mix: Outside of Phillipou and Caminiti, the Saints don't have too many standouts likely in the mix for a Round 1 debut. With Tom Campbell carrying an Achilles injury into pre-season, young ruckman Max Heath could be the Saints' go-to tall if Rowan Marshall suffers a setback of his own.

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Potentially in the mix: Like each of the past few seasons, plenty of eyes will be on Will Gould to see if the Swans defender has done enough to secure a debut. The South Australian is entering his fourth year in Sydney, which will follow a career-best season in the VFL where he claimed Team of the Year honours.

West Coast

Reuben GinbeyGinbey was viewed as one of the most ready-made prospects ahead of last year's draft and it seems the East Perth product has lived up to that expectation already. The big-bodied midfield-defender looks to be a great chance to face North Melbourne in Round 1.

Noah LongA Round 1 bolter after joining the Eagles as the penultimate selection in last year's National Draft. A nice long kick and threat in front of goal, the small forward has even gained comparisons to club great Mark LeCras.

Campbell ChesserThe former first-round pick was sidelined for the entirety of his debut season with an ankle injury and has since built his fitness levels to be in the frame for a spot to start the season. Can slot into the midfield, in attack or on a backflank to offer Adam Simpson some flexibility.

Potentially in the mix: 

Western Bulldogs


Potentially in the mix: The Bulldogs have just five uncapped players heading into the new season, three of which joined the club at the end of last year. One of those is Harvey Gallagher, who was an overage pickup and might get a look-in in 2023 as a rebounding and aggressive flanker option.