South Australian draft prospect Will McCabe (Image by Rookie Me Central)

Hawthorn father-son prospect Will McCabe is emerging as one of this year's best key-position AFL Draft prospects.

The Central Districts defender is the son of former Hawthorn backman Luke McCabe, who played 138 games in the brown and gold across a decade from the mid-1990s to early 2000s.

A South Australian native, the 138-game ex-Hawk's son is now beginning to make a name for himself at Elizabeth Oval with the Bulldogs' Under-18s side, floating between defence and attack as a versatile and athletic 197cm talent that boasts impressive aerial capabilities.

While most of this year's leading National Draft talent pool plied their trade against Carlton's reserves in representing the AFL Academy last week, McCabe represented the Croweaters in a trial match against a combined GWS and Sydney Academy side, where he stood tall in the convincing victory.

Noted as the standout performer in the match at Thebarton Oval, the Nik Cox-like McCabe flexed his aerial acumen and dominance within South Australia's rearguard to have only added to his chances of landing in the opening round of this year's count.

"Easily the most draftable player afield in that game," Rookie Me Central draft expert Michael Alvaro told Zero Hanger. "He'll be a top 20 player, could even be top 10 or 15. Incredible athlete."

"197cm, can play at either end of the ground. Found a home in the backline for South Australia and has done for Central District as well. He was All-Australian in last year's Under-16 championship playing over-age.

"Super athletic. His ability to leap at the ball, get it at its highest point and then take off as well. He's got a pretty good, long right foot kick. He's got really good speed as well.

South Australian draft prospect Will McCabe (Image by Rookie Me Central)

"Just freakish sort of stuff. Talk about unicorns, he's probably in that sort of mould where he can do stuff that's similar to Nik Cox. Whether he goes up and plays on a wing remains to be seen, but he moves that well."

The Hawks are likely to have preferential access to the Tanunda product in what will be some father-son draft fortune the club has narrowly missed out on in recent years, with past players Dean Anderson (83 games) and Ben Allan (98) having their sons, Noah and Ed respectively, land in the opening round of their respective drafts.

Hawthorn's last father-son selection came in 2019 as Finn Maginness followed in his father Scott's footsteps, snapping a 13-year dry-spell after Josh Kennedy joined the Hawks.

McCabe is part of an exciting pool of prospects nearing the two-metre mark in height that also offer versatility and athleticism, with Albury junior Connor O'Sullivan, Gold Coast Academy talent Ethan Read and Fremantle NGA prospect Mitch Edwards also seen in the mix as first-round assets.

While the other three were named in 2023 AFL Academy squad, McCabe has done wonders away from the main stage with the Bulldogs and South Australia to remain on the radar as a leading spine player for scouts to consider.

"Those talls are really beginning to stand out and rise up the ranks," Alvaro said.

"You've got guys like Connor O'Sullivan, Ethan Read, Mitch Edwards, Will McCabe, they're all those lean, developable talls who just look like really taking over from perhaps some of those midfielders or exciting half forwards that were originally at the top of the tree."

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McCabe has played six games for Centrals to start the 2023 season and has often shared his time at either end of the field to average 14.2 disposals and 5.7 marks per game in the blue, white and red.

South Australia's 2023 draft class looms likely to follow suit to a strong few years of development at the junior level, with the likes of Mattaes Phillipou, Jason Horne-Francis and Riley Thilthorpe all top 10 picks.

Glenelg forward Ashton Moir, South Adelaide talent Jack Delean and North Adelaide's Kane McAuliffe join McCabe as the leading names out of South Australia this year.

All four SA young guns will feature in Friday's internal SANFL young guns hitout, representing the state's Under-18s side when they take on the league's best Under-20s team in Torrensville.