Preseason review: Draftees, breakout prospects, rebound contenders

With the Marsh Series and several practice matches now finished, Christopher Doerre assesses your club's draftees, breakout contenders and returning stars to predict who will step up when the real stuff starts.


Most impactful draftee: Looking comfortable during Marsh 2 against Gold Coast, Fischer McAsey appears a potential Round 1 starter and is good enough to hold his position in the senior side. In junior ranks, he shone on the big stage and has the game to translate. His intercept marking, defence and skills are impressive for a first-year key position player.

Breakout contender: Ned McHenry will be pushing to debut this season. With available spots both up forward and on the outside, McHenry, with his endurance and forward pressure, should earn senior appearances. It appears unlikely McHenry starts the season in Adelaide's senior side as he only played one half in Marsh 1 and was not selected for Marsh 2, but once selected he has the scope to earn a string of games if not earn regular senior selection.

Rebound season: Coming off a ruptured ACL, Tom Doedee is ready to re-establish himself in Adelaide's defence as a tall intercept marking specialist. Due to a hyperextended knee, Doedee was unavailable to play during the Marsh Series. Expect a return to match play during the opening rounds.


Most impactful draftee: Winning the Larke Medal for best performer during the Under-18 Championships, Deven Robertson has the capacity to earn regular opportunities if midfield opportunities present. With his combination of ball-winning and speed, he should be able to play either inside or outside midfield. Robertson who played Marsh 2 was quiet in the first half but worked his way into the game in the second half and did enough to suggest he should be in the round one mix.

Breakout contender: Looking to add to his career tally of five games, Brandon Starcevich has had a strong offseason. During the Marsh Series, the former first round selection was serviceable, and the utility will be hoping for a string of games to prove himself and earn regular opportunities.

Rebound season: Playing just eight senior games over the past three seasons, Grant Birchall has had a strong preseason. Birchall did enough during the Marsh Series to suggest he should replace Luke Hodge as part of Brisbane's best team.


Most impactful draftee: While unlikely to earn senior games this season, Sam Philp is Carlton's most likely as a ball-winning midfielder who performed strongly last year in the NAB League. He only managed 26 percent game time in Marsh 1 and had little impact but will be better for the opportunity.

Breakout contender: Set to inject energy, effort, aerial prowess and tackling intensity, Jack Martin has had a strong preseason and performed well during the Marsh Series. With Martin looking reinvigorated with the new opportunity, expect him to add to the Blues' core and take the next step in his development this season.

Rebound season: After two years on the sidelines due to ruptured ACLs, Sam Docherty is ready to re-establish himself as one of the competition's premier running defenders. While there were signs of rust early in Marsh 1, Docherty performed to a standard that suggests he'll be a difference maker again this season.


Most impactful draftee: With Collingwood's midfield aging and lacking youth, Jay Rantall is a possible candidate for senior games. While he was not selected during the Marsh Series, there is room in Collingwood's midfield for a genuine first-possession winner if he can build chemistry with Brodie Grundy.

Breakout contender: Showing plenty during Marsh 1 against Richmond, Darcy Cameron held down the No. 1 ruck post in Brodie Grundy's absence and provided a solid marking target up forward, kicking two goals. Cameron appears a capable depth ruckman if Grundy is unavailable for selection at any point and is likely to place selection pressure on Mason Cox in the short term as a possible relieving ruckman.

Rebound season: Playing just 12 games in 2019 and performing below his capabilities, Taylor Adams will be relied upon to lift his output and have a greater influence this season. Signs during the Marsh Series have been positive with Adams winning the ball and moving it on aggressively. While Adams was sustained a groin injury in Marsh 2 and was sidelined for the second half of the contest, the move was precautionary.


Most impactful draftee: Injured and likely to earn senior games once healthy is ex-Kangaroo Mitchell Hibberd, who was delisted at the end of 2018. In 2019 upon joining Williamstown in the VFL he had a breakout season, transitioning into a genuine big bodied, ball-winning midfielder who tackles with aggression. A missing ingredient Essendon need to improve their midfield mix.

Breakout contender: Signing on for four years after St Kilda made a bold play for the ruckman, Sam Draper is currently unavailable after rupturing his ACL in 2019. Expected to contend for Essendon's No. 1 ruck post, Draper is likely earn the position once healthy and displace Tom Bellchambers. A capable tap ruckman with an already mature body, Draper is a considerable contested marking threat forward of centre and once playing at AFL level, can become one of the competition's next breakthrough ruckmen.

Rebound season: After missing 16 games in 2019, Devon Smith should pick up where he left off in 2018 as one of the competition's premier tacklers. Likely to split his time between midfield and forward, Smith performed to expectation through the Marsh Series and should return to play a strong standard of football in 2020.


Most impactful draftee: With a ready-to-go game, Hayden Young -- one of the premier kicks out of last year's draft -- has the capability to step into the Dockers' best side and adopting the kick-in duties.

Breakout contender: Slotting into Fremantle's midfield and looking ready for regular minutes, Andrew Brayshaw provided a capable complement to Nat Fyfe at stoppages during the Marsh Series. Brayshaw will take much needed ball-winning pressure off Fyfe with the defensive side to his game a strength.

Rebound season: Playing just three games in 2019 due to quad and calf injuries, Stephen Hill appears ready to return to play some stronger football following a positive preseason. With the offseason trades of Brad Hill and Ed Langdon, he is likely to be relied upon to play a more prominent role this season. Playing Marsh 2, Hill looked in good touch with his run and skills a welcome addition.


Most impactful draftee: Returning from a broken leg, Cooper Stephens was impressive enough in his underage year to still get chosen by Geelong as a first-round choice. A strong bodied midfielder, Stephens is a ball winner with explosiveness who, in a Geelong midfield that lacks midfield depth, can earn senior opportunities this season. Stephens will be better for the opportunity of playing during Marsh 1 and has the capacity to earn a string of opportunities at some point this season.

Breakout contender: After spending most of 2019 as a key forward, Darcy Fort is looking like an improved athlete, covering the ground better in 2020. During the Marsh Series, Fort was one of Geelong's few shining lights and did enough to suggest he can contend for regular games as either the club's relieving or primary ruckman, with his follow-up work against Andrew Phillips impressive.

Rebound season: Playing just seven games in 2019 and taking time out to deal with his mental health, Jack Steven looks rejuvenated and a class above on return during Marsh 2. Steven split his time between playing across half-forward and through the midfield. With his classy ball use and composure, Steven is likely to spend time in both positions this season.

Gold Coast

Most impactful draftee: Looking as advanced as Sam Walsh last year, Matthew Rowell was one of Gold Coast's most impressive midfielders in Marsh 1. Rowell backed it up with a solid first half in the second game before the Suns decided to rest both Rowell and No. 2 selection Noah Anderson for the second half. Not only did Rowell show he can win the ball and tackle, but he worked hard both ways, made his presence felt off the ball, bumping and blocking for teammates, and provided overlap run. He's a coach's dream.

Breakout contender: Playing only three NEAFL games in 2019, Izak Rankine can not only be a regular for the Suns this year but a difference maker both as a forward and through the midfield. With so much impact per possession, he can win games off his own boot and likely will as soon as this season.

Rebound season: With a frustrating start to his career, and a career-low 12 games last year, Ben Ainsworth finally looks ready to establish himself. The signs Ainsworth showed through the Marsh Series suggest he will become an impact player through the midfield and up forward for the Suns.

Greater Western Sydney

Most impactful draftee: Of the recent draftees, other than Matthew Rowell, Tom Green has been the other star of the Marsh Series. Green was winning first possession at stoppages, showing composure and class in traffic. He appeared just as comfortable up forward, playing front and centre, roving and snapping truly for two goals in Marsh 1. He's a natural footballer and despite how stacked the Giants' midfield is, he's ready-made and too good not to play.

Breakout contender: Showing promise during the Marsh Series, Jackson Hately showed signs to suggest he can establish as a regular this year. With his ball-winning capabilities and run, Hately has the capacity to earn opportunities either through the midfield in and inside or outside role or running off half-back.

Rebound season: After missing the 2019 season due to a knee reconstruction, Callan Ward should return during the opening rounds of the season and add to Greater Western Sydney's already potent midfield.


Most impactful draftee: Far from guaranteed to earn senior games in 2019, Finn Maginness, either as a midfielder or forward, is the more likely of Hawthorn's first year players. With his skills, acceleration, ball winning through the midfield and marking capabilities forward of centre, Maginness has the scope later in the season to debut if injuries impact key players.

Breakout contender: With Hawthorn shifting Ben McEvoy into defence, Jonathon Ceglar appears set to take over Hawthorn's lead ruck duties. During the Marsh Series, Ceglar held his own against two of the competition's best ruckmen in Rowan Marshall and Max Gawn in successive weeks and should be prove better suited to playing as a ruckman than he has in the past as a forward.

Rebound season: After a broken leg which saw Tom Mitchell sit out the 2019 season, he appears ready to pick up where he left off as one of the competition's premier ball winners. Playing Marsh 2, Mitchell was prolific and showed no signs to suggest he will struggle to transition back to playing regular senior football.


Most impactful draftee: Likely to bring energy and effort to the front half with his pace and forward pressure, Kysaiah Pickett can slot into Melbourne's best side as a small forward this year and play a role.

Breakout contender: Looking primed for midfield minutes after dominating during Marsh 1 against Adelaide, Christian Petracca was the dominant midfielder with 38 disposals, 23 contested possessions and three goals. He backed it up with a strong Marsh 2 against Hawthorn where he had enough influential moments and again looked like Melbourne's best midfielder. What stands out with Petracca through the midfield is his power, explosiveness and how dynamic he is in traffic. With Melbourne's on-ball brigade otherwise slow and one-paced, it's a must for Melbourne to play Petracca through the midfield for regular minutes.

Rebound season: After placing third in the Brownlow Medal count in 2018, Angus Brayshaw will be looking to rebound from what was a disappointing 2019. With the additions of true wingmen Adam Tomlinson and Ed Langdon, Brayshaw should return to playing regular on ball minutes again in 2020. Brayshaw missed time during the preseason with a strained ligament in his left elbow but was back for Marsh 2 where he contributed effectively.

North Melbourne

Most impactful draftee: With a ready-to-go game, Jack Mahony is a plug and play fit inside North Melbourne's forward 50m as a crumber. He impressed in each of the past two seasons during the Under-18 Championships and will be better for his Marsh Series appearances. Expect Mahony to earn senior appearances this season.

Breakout contender: Impressing during the Marsh Series, Curtis Taylor showed enough to suggest he should be selected in Round 1 and hold his position in North Melbourne's front half. Taylor showed class, aerial prowess, and regularly worked to the right positions to have an impact at ground level.

Rebound season: Following on from a strong pre-season and intra-club match, Majak Daw made a successful return to AFL play, taking part in both Marsh Series games. Expect Daw to re-establish himself as one of the club's key defenders after recovering from horrific injuries which saw him sit out most of 2019.

Port Adelaide

Most impactful draftee: A late bloomer, Miles Bergman showed promise during the Power's intraclub match, kicking two goals. Bergman missed the two Marsh Series games due to a minor ankle injury, but has the scope to earn senior games this season as an athletic medium marking forward.

Breakout contender: Earning regular midfield minutes late in 2019, Dan Houston looks likely to figure prominently in the Power's midfield this year. Having trained with the midfield group over the offseason, expect Houston to take the next step in his development and consolidate himself as one of the Power's better midfielders.

Rebound season: Following a strong finish to 2019 in the SANFL and a strong preseason, Trent McKenzie has done everything possible to re-establish himself as a best-22 player. Taking some of the club's kickout during the Marsh Series, the long-kicking defender will be looking to become the weapon he threatened to become earlier in his career.


Most impactful draftee: With the strength of Richmond's best side, it is unlikely any of their new draft choices receive senior games. Of an unlikely group, Thomson Dow should push closest to senior selection in 2020 after appearing during the Marsh Series in limited minutes.

Breakout contender: Showing he belongs at AFL level during Richmond's Grand Final victory against Greater Western Sydney, Marlion Pickett should play a regular part in Richmond's midfield. A high-hurt-factor midfielder, Pickett put Round 1 selection beyond doubt with his Marsh 2 performance against Greater Western Sydney.

Rebound season: Struggling through the first half of 2019 due to a limited preparation following off-season knee surgery, Tom Lynch looked better during the second half of the 2019. With a strong preseason, expect Lynch to recapture his best form.

St Kilda

Most impactful draftee: With the scope to break into St Kilda's best 22 over the second half of the season with strong play, Ryan Byrnes would add much-needed speed, skill and ball winning through the Saints' midfield. Not tried during the Marsh Series, to earn games Byrnes will need to impress first through the VFL.

Breakout contender: Stronger and arguably more talented than his twin brother Ben, Max King stood out during the first half of Marsh 2. He plucked marks out of the air and looked clean at ground level. He is a considerable presence in the forward 50m with his height, long limbs and strong overhead marking. He should establish himself as a regular this season.

Rebound season: Returning after two years interrupted with heart health queries, Dylan Robertson should re-establish himself in defence as one of St Kilda's premier rebounders if he stays fit. With Robertson returning to St Kilda's leadership group and performing strongly during Marsh 2, the signs are there that his return will be successful.


Most impactful draftee: A two-time All-Australian defender, Will Gould can be an asset this season once introduced into the senior team. The strong-bodied defender plays with a rare physicality, is more than strong enough to win one-on-one contests and will generate meaningful drive by foot. While Gould was not selected for Marsh 2, his play during Marsh 1 was solid and suggested he will have no trouble adjusting to AFL play.

Breakout contender: After debuting for one disposal in 2019, Justin McInerney was one of Sydney's better performers in Marsh 1, managing 19 disposals against Greater Western Sydney. Greater opportunity is expected in 2020 with McInerney's run, clean kicking and composure standout features.

Rebound season: Playing just 10 games in 2019 -- the lowest he has recorded in his career -- Lance Franklin will be hoping his body holds up better this season. Pre-Christmas, Franklin was training the house down only to succumb to a minor knee injury which required surgery. While Sydney are likely to be conservative when they reintroduce Franklin into their senior side, once back, he'll be a difference maker for the Swans.

West Coast

Most impactful draftee: Mature age rookie forward Anthony Treacy is the most likely of West Coast's selections to debut in 2020. A lively forward, Treacy played in Marsh 1 and is most likely an injury replacement if he does receive opportunities this season.

Breakout contender: Showing signs that he can step into West Coast's senior side if opportunity presents, Bailey Williams impressed during Marsh 1. A high leaping athlete, Williams was a threat inside 50m and presented up strongly at the football, kicking one goal. Williams can contend for the relieving ruck position and at worst provides a ready-to-go injury replacement.

Rebound season: Playing only five games in 2019, Nic Naitanui looks set to re-establish himself as one of the competition's most influential ruckmen. Naitanui outduelled Andrew Phillips in Marsh 1 in 51 percent game time and backed it up with another strong performance in Marsh 2.

Western Bulldogs

Most impactful draftee: With role playing potential in the front half as a small forward, Cody Weightman has the capacity to earn games this season. With more seasoned forwards Bailey Dale, Sam Lloyd, Toby McLean, Tory Dickson and Billy Gowers ahead of him in the pecking order, expect Weightman to start the season in the VFL and take some time to earn opportunities.

Breakout contender: Ready to play a more prominent midfield role in 2020, Bailey Smith has the scope to be as good as any midfielder from the 2018 draft. With his contested ball-winning, tackling, competitiveness around the ball, explosiveness and kicking, Smith can be an impact player for the Dogs this year. With a strong showing during the Marsh Series including 10 tackles in both games, Smith should become a regular part of the club's midfield rotation.

Rebound season: Looking to re-establish himself as a part of the Dogs' best side, Bailey Williams contributed positively during both Marsh Series matches for the Dogs with the drive he provided from defence a positive. After playing just nine games in 2019, Williams will be contending to re-establish himself as a component of the Dogs defence.