Thirty of the best AFL Draft prospects -- including consensus No. 1 pick Harley Reid -- suited up for the AFL Academy on Saturday and solidified claims that 2023's draft crop is up there with the best to come through in recent years.
The Academy claimed a four-point win over Carlton VFL, who boasted AFL-listed players including Jack Martin and Lochie O'Brien. The group of draftees played cohesively across the ground and made the Blues look slow and unorganised at times throughout the day.
Reid was superb with time in the middle and behind the ball, but his day ended early after a high hit in the third term. He watched the last quarter from the Academy's bench where players rotated heavily all game.
These are five of the top performers who furthered their standing in front of club recruiters at Marvel Stadium.
Rogers was explosive through the middle of the park all afternoon, putting pace on the ball and taking territory wherever available. He started at the first centre bounce alongside Harley Reid and Colby McKercher and was quick to make his presence felt with clean hands and sound decision-making.
His small stature (171 centimetres) wasn't an issue against the bigger VFL bodies, collecting 26 disposals and six clearances which included two eye-catching bursts out of the middle of Marvel in the fourth term when legs were tiring. He speared the ball into Archer Reid's path for a goal assist, showing a lethal right boot as well.
Rogers changed the complexion of the game when he was around the ball. The speedy midfielder adds to a SUNS Academy that includes top-five touted key forward Jed Walter, and potential first-round ruckman Ethan Read in what could end up being the biggest academy haul in Gold Coast's history.
McKercher is putting together a compelling top-age draft year that could see him become a top 10 pick. The Tasmanian has an abundance of class through the middle of the park, crafting deft handballs and kicks to link play together with pace.
He finds teammates out in space with quick hands in congestion, and on Saturday he repeatedly broke the game open with his foot skills picking holes through the Carlton defence. McKercher started in the centre square and finished with 20 disposals and three clearances, making each touch count in a polished display.
Ryley Sanders enjoyed 24 disposals through the midfield and Jack Callinan kicked a goal to add to the Apple Isles' performers.
Edwards cemented his standing as the best ruckman in the pool with nine touches, 13 hitouts and a goal, and he continues to draw comparisons to Tim English with his athletic profile and clean hands.
Edwards covered the ground well and had hugely impressive moments both up forward and in the ruck. He leapt over his opponent at centre bounces a couple of times and produced the best mark of the day, clunking the ball on the goal line amongst a handful of defenders before centring it unselfishly to a teammate.
Edwards developed rapidly last season, and if he produces an impressive back-end to his draft year the WA product will have a host of suitors towards the top of the draft board.
The pick of the forwards, Caddy started on the bench but made his presence felt immediately when thrust into the action. He plays taller than his 192 centimetres suggests, crashing packs and operating as a traditional centre-half forward around the ground.
Caddy finished with 14 disposals and a booming goal from outside 50 in a really impressive display against bigger bodies. As his draft season progresses, expect Caddy to spend more time up the ground and even in the midfield for the Northern Knights, where his unique ground-level prowess exemplifies an enticing style of play.
Recruiters know what Duursma can do on the footy field - he's a beautifully balanced forward that swoops on loose balls and twists out of trouble with fast feet.
On Saturday, he was thrown around the ground and good things happened when he was near the contest. He had moments of extraordinary skill, able to scoop the ball off the ground and in one motion find teammates in space with handballs and kicks. He slotted the goal of the day in the second half, getting the handball receive as he broke 50 and steering it home at full pace, and also set up teammates with three inside 50s resulting in two goal assists.
Duursma glided across the turf and looked the most natural footballer of the elite group he played with, but it remains a question of how coaches can get the ball into the mercurial talent's hands more than the nine times he got it on Saturday.
While Harley Reid's day ended early, highly-touted small forward Nick Watson was amongst the goals and spent time at halfback to finish the day with 10 touches, while leading SA prospect Ashton Moir spent large portions of the game on the bench and had an 'almost' day in the forward 50.