Talented youngsters often give football supporters a reason to get excited.
The youthful exuberance of a dashing defender, the bubbling energy of a budding forward and the frenzy of a blossoming midfielder are traits which fill fans with confidence and assurance.
The list below is our view of the Top 10 AFL players who will play the majority of 2018 under the age of 22.
AFL Nation’s Top 10 Under 22
1. Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
What an impression Oliver has made on the competition.
The 20-year-old emerged as a bolter when he was selected with Pick 4 in the 2015 draft before producing 13 solid games in 2016.
But what he achieved in 2017 was nothing short of exceptional.
Oliver would street the field in the Demons B&F, winning by almost 200 votes, while picking up almost 30 possessions a game to have the equal fourth best average in the league.
He has transformed his body over the past 12 or so months, giving himself the best possible chance to mix it with the absolute elite midfielders in the AFL, and becoming a contested possession beast in the process.
Oliver, who has been compared to the great Michael Voss, has the foundations to be a top-line inside mid for the next decade having already won a firm place in the hearts of all Melbourne supporters.
Just has to keep his Twitter antics in check…
*Turns 21 in July*
2. Andrew McGrath (Essendon)
The positive impact of McGrath’s debut season for the Bombers was undeniable.
He claimed the 2017 NAB AFL Rising Star award following a remarkably consistent year which saw him break the 20-disposal barrier in 13 of his 21 games.
Subsequently, the Dons moved quickly to lock him down until the end of 2020 so he can continue to evolve in the red and black.
A move into a more advanced midfield/wing position is being touted for 2018 and beyond so expect the assured ball-user to vastly increase his possession volume and as a result, his impact on matches.
Is full of composure and balance and his cool head will only get cooler the more he plays.
*Turns 20 in June*
3. Ryan Burton (Hawthorn)
Many felt he was the best rookie in 2017 but ultimately fell just short of McGrath in NAB AFL Rising Star voting.
His elite ball use, rebound off half-back and ability to accumulate make him a very dangerous weapon for the Hawks.
Averaged over 20 touches last season and that will only increase as he takes the natural progression into midfield. He may also spend some time as a roaming forward given his capacity to create.
Burton arguably has more scope than Oliver and McGrath given his physical attributes and versatility.
*Turns 21 on January 31*
4. Charlie Curnow (Carlton)
Powerfully built forward who loves a contested mark.
Took just one less grab than teammate Levi Casboult in 2017, his second year of AFL footy, proving just how well he can compete with the AFL’s best defenders.
A fourth-placed finish in the NAB AFL Rising Star and a 10th-placed finish in the Blues B&F were the results of an extremely promising sophomore season which also saw him kick 20 goals.
The idea is to eventually see Curnow become a prime mover in midfield as he continues to hone his craft up forward, so expect to see him start increasing his disposal output.
Possesses all the attributes to become one of the classiest young players in the competition and should be a key Blue for many years to come.
*Turns 21 in February*
5. Daniel Rioli (Richmond)
Already has a premiership medal to go with his 43 games experience.
Rioli is one of the cleanest at ground level you will see and his creativity is somewhat underestimated as evidenced by his 25 goals and 14 goal assists in 2017.
The famous surname delivered on the big stage with a match-turning 4-goal haul in the Preliminary Final win, making clear he possesses in spades the temperament required to be an accomplished AFL player.
Does not go around gathering a heap of the ball but when he does take possession, he makes it count. Add to that his ferocious tackling and the Tigers have an attacking weapon on their hands.
After two seasons, some of his numbers are comparable to cousin Cyril which can only bode well for the future.
*Turns 21 in April*
6. Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide)
Another to make an enormous impression so early on in his career.
Powell-Pepper loves the hard ball as shown by his 184 contested possessions in his debut season.
His overall numbers in 2017 were similar to that of teammate Ollie Wines’ in his first year back in 2013.
Has just turned 20 but already looks like a seasoned professional. Just needs to add consistency which will naturally come as he plays more games.
*Turned 20 on January 8*
7. Callum Mills (Sydney)
The 2016 NAB AFL Rising Star was solid without being spectacular in his second season with the Swans.
Now with 46 matches to his name, Mills is expected to only further grow as both a player and leader by exuding the courage and heart that has served him so well thus far.
The Sydney coaching staff have already shown an enormous amount of faith in Mills, as evidenced by his sixth-most minutes in 2017, and they will continue to do so as he matures and evolves.
Can see him playing around 250 games and experiencing plenty of success for his home city club.
*Turns 21 in April*
8. Darcy Parish (Essendon)
Has barely put a foot wrong since his impressive debut in Round 1, 2016.
Parish has notched up 40 matches already and his numbers are not too far behind those of captain Dyson Heppell at the same age.
The retirement of Jobe Watson is likely to provide Parish, who is fond of winning a contested footy, with plenty of opportunities in midfield having played more of a forward line role in 2017.
Will need to step up his defensive running in 2018 before he is classified as a truly elite youngster.
*Turns 21 in July*
9. Brayden Maynard (Collingwood)
After three seasons, Maynard is primed to take the next step after surpassing the 50-game milestone.
Is expected to be given more freedom in midfield next year having sharpened his craft as a rebounding half-back.
The Pies have secured Maynard, who finished eighth in the 2017 B&F, until 2020 proving the powers that be rate him highly.
A massive 2018 is in store for the 2014 draftee provided he can increase his overall disposal output which will allow him to stamp his impact on matches for longer periods.
*Turns 22 in September*
10. Alex Witherden (Brisbane)
Just nine games into his AFL career but boy can he play!
After getting his body right, Witherden debuted for the Lions in Round 14 last year and never looked back.
Seven times he managed 20-plus possessions at an average of 23.6, mainly as a running defender.
With a full pre-season under his belt, the 19-year-old will only improve this year which could see him become one of the elite operators on Brisbane’s list.
*Turns 20 in September*
Jacob Weitering (Carlton) – Composed, no frills key defender who simply goes about his business. Also has the tools in his locker to go forward if needed. Future leader who may well play 250+ games.
Jade Gresham (St Kilda) – Kicked 30 goals in 2017 as a small forward to finish 9th in Saints B&F. Will further enhance his credentials by spending more time in midfield in 2018.
Liam Duggan (West Coast) – Enjoyed his most fruitful season to date after moving from midfield to the back line. More opportunities to present in the centre following exits of Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis.
Peter Wright (Gold Coast Suns) – Has put up very solid numbers over the past two seasons playing in a difficult position in a very average side. Can take the next step by kicking 40+ goals in 2018.
Harris Andrews (Brisbane) – Has been impressive as a tall defender playing on some of the game’s best forwards. 8th in Lions B&F last year. Already amassed 58 games at just 21 years of age.