Top five best first year players

Jason Horne-Francis 

The number one pick is already making an impact on the Roos, reportedly already dominating the intra-club matches. His ability to win his own ball while still hitting the scoreboard makes him an exciting prospect. The consensus number one option starred in the SANFL playing a pivotal role in his club’s finals push.

In the biggest game of his career so far, he kicked three goals and had 24 touches in the preliminary final loss to Glenelg. North Melbourne have a ready-made prospect who has the potential to be one of the league’s best players before his career is over. Expect a big first season from Horne-Francis.

Nick Daicos

The son of Collingwood legend Peter Daicos, Nick comes into the season as one of the most highly anticipated players. While lockdowns impacted his 2021 season, when given the opportunity to play he outclassed his opposition. In the NAB League he averaged nearly 36 disposals and two goals a game dominating in every appearance. Besides Horne-Francis, he was the only other prospect prior to the draft that was a genuine threat to be taken with the first selection.

With an ageing midfield and another bottom of the ladder finish again in 2022, it is likely that the Magpies will give Daicos plenty of opportunity. He has been praised for his performances in the pre-season so far by teammates and for his willingness to learn from his teammates. Daicos will likely have an impressive first year season, with multiple best on ground performances throughout the year. 

Josh Rachele 

Taken with the sixth selection in the draft, Rachele is already looking like one of the premier young players for the upcoming season. The Crows have been impressed with his size and strength, which is something that many young players take a few preseasons to develop. He is considered a big chance for playing in Round 1, and is drawing comparisons to Toby Greene amongst Adelaide circles.

While he will spend more time forward, he provides some versatility to the Crows with an ability to play in the midfield if required. He fills a need for Adelaide and will likely play plenty of football in 2022. Coming in with one of the most ready-made frames, he is ready to have a big impact for his club early in the season. 

Josh Ward 

Taken one selection later, Ward fills a midfield need for the Hawks in 2022. Prior to last season, Ward wasn’t considered a top ten selection, but leaped his way up draft boards with an impressive NAB League campaign.  With averages of 30 touches and five marks and tackles, he has shown to be a prolific ball winner who makes an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

He has been impressive during his intra-club matches, playing himself into Round 1 contention. With Hawthorn still favouring youth, Ward will be presented with plenty of opportunities throughout the season. With Mitchell, Worpel and O’Meara taking the opposition’s best midfielders, it will allow Ward ample opportunity to dominate in the early stages of the season.  

Josh Sinn

The number 12 selection Josh Sinn was once considered one of the top draft prospects. He was in contention for a top three selection prior to a series of injuries and lockdowns meaning limited match experience. Now healthy, it looks like Port Adelaide have found themselves a bargain in the draft, just like footy fans can with this week’s IGA catalogue. Already he is turning heads with his impressive play for the Power.

Kicking goals, dodging tackles and setting up teammates, Sinn has already shown many of the skills that made him once one of the top prospects. Port Adelaide are known to play their young players which should see Sinn be played early. He is likely the player on this list to be the most impacted by opportunity playing on a top four hopeful. It also gives him the most opportunity to play in meaningful matches and get national attention. 

Some notable exclusions

Sam Darcy will likely find himself behind on the depth charts and could see limited game time in 2022. Similar to Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Darcy could be playing more time in the reserves this season as the Dogs try to make their way back to the Grand Final. 

Finn Callaghan joins a GWS team that is stacked in the midfield. Hopper, Kelly, Taranto, Green, Greene, Coniglio, Whitfield and others will see time in the midfield over Callaghan. While there will be opportunities for him, it is unlikely that he will see enough senior midfield opportunities to be in the top five this season. 

Mac Andrew has suffered an ankle injury in the pre-season, which will result in a delayed start for the number five pick. Already expected to be more of a project, expect a limited 2022 campaign for the Suns tall. 

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