There's nothing quite like finals footy.
This time of year offers a chance at immortality and glory for a handful of the competition's best. Perhaps just as importantly, it offers a chance at icon status for a rare few who appear pre-destined for the bright lights.
Every club has players primed to explode in September, we know who to keep an eye on this year, it's one of the joys of the business end of the season, seeing individuals embrace the spotlight and elevate their game.
One of the other joys is seeing a young player come of age and have an impact. The entire point of rebuilds and the draft is to see the next generation flourish, to put a club on their back and inspire their teammates to go the extra mile.
We marvelled at Nick Daicos' impressive finals campaign in his debut season (where he averaged 24.3 disposals and 5 rebound 50's per game) and at Marcus Bontempelli's phenomenal finals series in 2016 where, in just his third year, he dominated the finals, winning a best and fairest in a premiership season.
His team mate Bailey Smith, in just his third year, was immense in 2021, putting together four games of the highest quality, including an unforgettable Semi-Final against the Lions where he had 27 disposals and kicked 3 goals. Slotting the match-winner from deep in the pocket earned him instant icon status, if not that, then his celebration certainly did.
As with every Finals series, this year's provides us plenty of candidates who can shape the fortunes of an entire club. To help narrow down the field, we've opted to go for players who have played under 50 AFL games, yet may just be built for September.
1. Brisbane - Darcy Wilmot
Perhaps unsurprising given his debut last season came in the finals and he looked right at home. Darcy Wilmot's season in 2023 has been exceptional and were it most other years, he would have easily been a top 3 candidate for the Rising Star award.
As an interceptor who is damaging on the rebound, his ability to carve his way out of defence has been so good that he has kept veteran Daniel Rich out of the side for much of the year. Wilmot shot into the spotlight on draft night in infamous scenes, earning him cult status. He can cement that status this September.
In just his second year he ranks second among rising stars in total kicks and intercepts, averaging 15.5 disposals and 2.7 rebound 50's per game. While not overwhelming numbers, he loves the Gabba, where the Lions may play multiple finals, producing three games this season where he has amassed more than 20 disposals, including more than 15 kicks in each of those games.
With an underrated calmness in the heat of a game that defies his years, finals are the perfect stage for his composed style of play. If his celebratory work after his debut last year was anything to go by, Wilmot will be champing at the bit to have an impact in this year's finals series.