Rookie round-up from the first weekend of AFL preseason games

Nick Daicos runs with the footy tucked under his arm

A round of AFL practice games are in the books, and as ever it is fraught to read too much into them.

It was a weird few days of footy, with a handful of clubs rolling out more than 40 players, some games defying mathematics to feature six quarters of play, and there wasn’t a recorded statistic in sight.


And while it is safe to surmise that teams like Melbourne, Brisbane and the Western Bulldogs are just as strong as we left them, it’s a risky game to be putting a line through a team on the back of a scratchy.

What we can do though is give an assessment on how the new faces looked, the fresh draftees each club rolled out for their first looks at AFL-standard action.

It was good news for some, not so good news for others.

Jason Horne-Francis

The number one draft pick stood out immediately even as North Melbourne were badly beaten by the reigning premiers Melbourne.

Horne-Francis seemed to spend a fair bit of time in the first half shadowing Clayton Oliver, gaining a crash course in how one of the best in the business operates at stoppages and around the ground.


But in the third quarter, Horne-Francis ran his own race and genuinely became the most dangerous player on the ground. Some of his disposal was a little nervy, but he powered around the ground winning his own footy and nailing tackles.

The question isn’t if Horne-Francis will play Hawthorn in round one, but how the Hawks will try to stop him.

Nick Daicos

In his first game for Collingwood, Nick Daicos looked basically the exact same player that dominated underage footy in 2021.

He floated across the ground, bobbing up whenever the Pies needed him, and made creative and clever decisions every time he had the ball.

Nick Daicos runs with the footy tucked under his arm
Nick Daicos was a calm and constant presence for Collingwood.(Getty Images: Darrian Traynor)

Daicos also hit the scoreboard — another feature of his junior career — linking up with brother Josh for a classy goal streaking through the 50.

Another nailed on round one starter, the Nick Daicos hype is justified.

Josh Rachele

It was a tough arvo on the Gold Coast for Adelaide, but Josh Rachele was a clear bright spot.

He pushed up the ground from a half-forward position to win plenty of the ball, but was most damaging lurking inside the forward 50.


Rachele is solidly built with a booming right foot, and is ready to not only play AFL footy but make a significant impact.

Darcy Wilmot

Darcy Wilmot got a good run out for Brisbane and impressed, looking composed and assertive with ball in hand and committed and physical in defence.

Wilmot is now the youngest player in the league, but didn’t look out of place at the level. His future is bright.

Josh Sinn

Another who looks firmly in the round one frame, Josh Sinn was his aggressive and electric self in his first showing with Port Adelaide.

Josh Sinn kicks with his left foot as a Suns player falls behind himJosh Sinn kicks with his left foot as a Suns player falls behind him
Josh Sinn is in the frame for an early Port Adelaide debut.(Getty Images: Chris Hyde)

A few of his offensive kicks failed to find targets, but that won’t discourage him or his coaches. It’s that sort of dare and creativity that will make him an asset at Alberton.

Sinn also pushed forward to kick a goal in a game that gave a taste of what Port fans can expect going forward.

Josh Gibcus

The reviews out of Richmond on Josh Gibcus this summer have been pretty effusive, and he didn’t put a foot wrong in his first showing.

The intercepting defender is still lightly framed, but even so he held his own matched up on Jeremy Cameron. Gibcus will get games this year.

Around the grounds

Josh Ward found a bit of the ball in a Hawthorn midfield that was well beaten by Collingwood’s (until the VFL team subbed in, that is).

Ben Hobbs played the last quarter for Essendon and won his own ball in typical fashion. Disposal let him down, but he will stake his claim for selection throughout the year.

Campbell Chesser lies on the ground and clutches at his foot while holding the footballCampbell Chesser lies on the ground and clutches at his foot while holding the football
Campbell Chesser will have to wait for an AFL debut, with an injury likely to sideline him for months.(Getty Images: Daniel Carson)

There were glimpses from midfielders Connor MacDonald at Hawthorn, Tyler Sonsie at Richmond and Jake Soligo at Adelaide, but they are a little further back than some other draftees.

West Coast’s Campbell Chesser injured his foot within five minutes of the game against Fremantle and looks set to miss several months. A cruel blow.



Author: Ivan Robinson