Two leading prospects for the Mid-Season Draft have emerged, while a chasing pack of talent from the VFL, WAFL and SANFL are in contention for AFL list spots.

The mid-year count is less than two weeks away, with the past fortnight providing list managers and recruiters with a greater glimpse into the form of 2023's best mature-aged talent.

The Young Guns squad, littered with some of the best young VFL figures and over-aged Coates Talent League prospects, went head-to-head with Vic Metro and Vic Country squads across the past two weekends on a stage that strengthened the stocks for several Mid-Season Draft fancies.

Following their 20-point loss to Vic Metro, the Young Guns side responded with a thrilling three-point win the following Sunday, with one of this year's most impressive prospects flexing his versatility in the victory.

Gippsland Power talent Ryan Maric quickly put his name on the map with the Power as a third-year prospect, with a Round 1 four-goal haul quickly gaining attention.

The 18-year-old athletic forward was invited to join the Young Guns squad and took his chance over the two weeks, with his second appearance coming in a new role in defence.

Maric impressed with his kicking and running capabilities in the swingman role, looking at comfort on the last line against Vic Country. The performance has only strengthened the key-position talent's chances for an AFL list spot, firming as one of the frontrunners leading into the Mid-Season Draft.

"He's arguably one of two top prospects overall in the Mid-Season Draft," Rookie Me Central draft analyst Michael Alvaro said of Maric on Zero Hanger TV.

"Played in defence in the second game. So against Vic Metro he was up in attack where he's probably cut his teeth and made his name for Gippsland Power. He switched to defence and got to use a bit of his running power.

"He's a booming kick and can also be a pretty neat short kick as well. So got to showcase a little different side to his game against Vic Country on the weekend.

"He's still right up there, quite a talent at 193cm and covers the ground beautifully so he's certainly not done his stocks too much harm in those two Young Guns games.

"The pathway is quite clear for a lot of these guys. If they step up in these games they're only going to be even better chances of getting picked up."

BENDIGO, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: Ryan Maric of Gippsland Power in action during the round four Coates Talent League Boys match between Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power at Queen Elizabeth Oval on April 16, 2023 in Bendigo, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Maric's prospects took a hit last year due to injury, with 2023 proving to bear greater fruit for the mobile attacking threat.

Alvaro believes the consistency and opportunity Maric has gained in recent months is likely to be the difference in finding a chance to join the elite level.

"He was just unlucky last year. He had a few injuries and didn't really get an extended run to play as a top ager with the Power. Came back as a 19-year-old and he probably wasn't even the highest-touted 19-year-old out of that program," Alvaro added. 

"Maric was just the one who really popped up early on. He kicked a bag of four goals in his first game against Murray. He's just been on the radar ever since.

"You only need one opportunity to catch the eye and then he's kept on taking his chances. Credit to him, he just needed that extended run and that's really the difference, just opportunity."

Another top prospect comes in the form of Eastern Ranges ruckman Clay Tucker, who has shown glimpses of great potential across the Coates Talent League and with the Young Guns.

Another teenager that missed out on selection at the 2022 National Draft, Tucker stands at 204cm and is seen as more of a project player for AFL clubs to consider.

Several sides will be looking toward ruck options that can have an immediate impact through this month's intake, while others will see Tucker's long-term upside as a tempting avenue for their list build.

"It is typically a taller draft and Clay Tucker is going to be right up there. I think he is a little more long-term. There's probably guys who are more of a mature age and ready to go if clubs are in desperate need of that ready-made ruck," Alvaro said. 

"Able to play across all three lines of the field, Tucker firms as an appealing prospect for clubs with vacant list spots

"Clay's probably a guy who needs a little bit more development. He probably hasn't necessarily taken games by the scruff of the neck yet, but the signs are there.

"He's awesome at the centre bounces, he's got really good ruck craft. Over 200cms, so he ticks that box and covers the ground quite nicely. He's been able to sort of expand his game around the ground, whether that be dropping back to take intercept marks in defence or going forward. We saw in the most recent Young Guns game he kicked two goals in a quarter, storming out on the lead presenting really strongly.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 20: Clay Tucker of the Ranges runs with the ball during the NAB League Boys match between Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons at RSEA Park on August 20, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

"He's a guy who's slowly adding pieces to the puzzle. Talented 204cm players who are quite athletic don't come around too often. (Leading ruckmen from) previous drafts were probably second-rounders, whereas we might have three or four first-rounders this year.

"So whether a club wants to take the chance on Tucker or wait for the end-of-season draft we'll see."

Among the next wave of prospects is Box Hill flanker Ethan Stanley, who was added to the Young Guns squad after showing glimpses of his run and ball use for the Hawks in the VFL.

The 188cm wingman is seen as a viable talent for clubs hoping to add to their outside options, with his second appearance for the Young Guns showing why he might be a prospect that can offer an immediate impact.

Stanley booted two long-range goals and would score 104 rankings points for his performance against Vic Country to be among his side's standout contributors.

"He was a little quieter in the first one. The conditions out at Trevor Barker Oval in Sandy probably weren't conducive, a bit windy and wet. He's a great outside runner, we got to see that at Ikon Park," Alvaro said of Stanley's two Young Guns performances. 

"A drier day and he got to cover heaps of ground, carry the ball and use his booming right foot. He kicked two absolutely ripper goals from long range. They're just the glimpses that you like to see.

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"He's one that I like. Whether the recruiters do... it's a different question. He's definitely got those traits that you like to see. As a winger, it's a bit of a specialist role too, and there's going to be a lot of clubs that want to tie that down.

"Given he's had the extra year, he's had to do it the hard way and popped onto the radar at VFL level goes to show he's probably primed and ready to go."

Heading west of Victoria, both the SANFL and WAFL are home to exciting forward threats that clubs are likely to consider at this month's draft.

North Adelaide's Noah Casalini and Subiaco teenager Robert Hansen Jnr have impressed over the opening rounds of their respective campaigns to be seen among the chasing pack of Mid-Season Draft prospects.

Casalini's 2023 season culminated with a six-goal haul against reigning premiers Norwood on Anzac Day, with the mobile 192cm forward quickly having an impact with the Roosters after signing with the South Australian side last November. The 21-year-old would claim the Sydney Premier competition's best and fairest award in 2022 after booting 35 goals from just 11 games.

After missing out on the draft last year, Hansen has proven to show no issue in taking the step toward senior football in the opening month of the WAFL, impressing as an agile small forward target.

"Guys like Noah Casalini from South Australia. He's moved over I believe from New South Wales. He came from the Northern Academy system there," Alvaro said.

"He's a forward, he won the best-afield medal in North Adelaide's Anzac Day game. He's certainly a pretty handy goalkicker.

"Another one is Robert Hansen Jnr. A really quick, ground-taking, line-breaking forward for Subiaco. He's a bit of a goalsneak too. He's put his name on the radar after being overlooked last year."

The 2023 Mid-Season Draft will be held remotely on Wednesday, May 31.