We all love pinning our hopes to a promising youngster.
Whether it be the high-marking forward, the dashing defender or the midfield accumulator, we are always looking for the next big thing.
We've broken down all 18 clubs and identified the one or two most intriguing and exciting young players ahead of season 2020.
Adelaide has lost a lot of firepower in the last few years, with Charlie Cameron, Eddie Betts, Mitch McGovern and Josh Jenkins departing for other clubs. Enter Darcy Fogarty who looms as the natural successor.
Fogarty was stuck in the SANFL for most of 2019, but finished the year with a showcase of what he is capable of, kicking eight goals in two weeks against the Eagles and Magpies.
In a year where the Crows are resetting most of their line-up under new coach Matthew Nicks, expect the 20-year-old to be one of the more interesting players to keep an eye on.
He received high praise from Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd, saying Fogarty is the best kick for goal he has seen in a decade.
In a perfect world, the number one pick in the 2017 National Draft would be a major part in taking the Lions back to the top this season.
Brisbane finished second on the ladder in 2019, but crashed out of finals in straight sets and an X-factor player like Cam Rayner making a leap could be hugely important for them.
He has spent most of his career playing as a deep inside 50, but the expectation coming out of the draft was that he would eventually make the transition into a forward-midfield hybrid.
It’s unlikely that happens to its fullest in his third year, but if Brisbane can throw him into the midfield on occasions in the same way Collingwood uses Jordan de Goey and Essendon uses Jake Stringer, it will give them another dangerous element.
Paddy Dow is an interesting case, falling out of Carlton’s starting midfield under David Teague as the Blues turned back towards a more veteran line-up.
The former top-five pick has shown glimpses of his potential with his burst from stoppage and penetrating kick, but ball use has let him down and he has also only averaged 14 disposals per game.
Dow might not be Carlton’s most exciting young player in 2020, but he is their most intriguing.
Sam Walsh, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Will Setterfield, Zac Fisher and their other young midfielders are all well ahead of him in the pecking order, but given Dow was a former top-three draft pick, Carlton will be hoping he can have a breakout third year and be a key part of their midfield.
Rebounding defender Isaac Quaynor played with dash and dare in four games in his debut AFL season.
He looked right at home before a foot injury and then a hip issue forced him to the sidelines, ultimately costing him a finals berth. But with a full pre-season under his belt and the experience of senior footy fresh in mind, we can expect to see Quaynor in full flight more frequently this year.
The 20-year-old has the attributes to become an electrifying defensive playmaker and we'll watch with interest in 2020 as he is given further opportunities to enhance his game.
He may have only ever played one game for Essendon, but much is expected of versatile defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher in 2020.
After strong form in the VFL last year, Zerk-Thatcher made his debut against Fremantle, collecting 11 touches and taking six marks.
With Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley entering the backend of their careers, the 21-year-old looms as a crucial cog for Essendon’s backline in the future.
Luke Valente’s first season was ruined by ongoing groin issues, but the U18 South Australia captain is ready to have an immediate impact for the Dockers.
Teammate Adam Cerra had high praise for the midfielder earlier in the pre-season.
“It’s really good to see him back out there. He’s really enjoying it and, hopefully, he can have a really good year with no injuries,” Cerra told the Fremantle website.
“He injects a bit of class into the game. He’s elite both sides of the body and he’s got a really good game sense. He’s really valuable to us.”
Valente is capable of stepping straight into a Fremantle midfield that needs to start rebuilding its depth.
The now 20-year-old burst onto the underage football scene after kicking seven goals in the TAC Cup Grand Final in 2017 and fresh off a breakout 2019 season, Gryan Miers will be looking for more improvement in 2020.
Playing in all 25 of the club’s matches last year, Miers excelled as a small forward with an uncanny ability to bob up and kick important goals at important moments.
Even in the most pressurised environment during Geelong’s preliminary final loss, Miers kicked two goals to cement himself as one of the Cats’ more promising youngers. So how much better can he get in 2020? He’ll be looking to improve on the 28 majors he finished with last year.
There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Gold Coast Suns and that’s largely because of draftees like Matt Rowell.
The big-bodied midfielder should slot right into Stuart Dew’s side this year, but perhaps more importantly for the competition, Rowell appears committed to the Suns for the long term.
“It’s pure joy and excitement with what this opportunity brings,” Rowell said in November.
“They (the Suns) have been really positive throughout the whole year. I think they’ve got a great group of players up there and good people. I think it’ll be great place to play footy and live.”
There’s been big wraps on GWS Giants academy player Tom Green for a number of years now and after finally making it onto the Giants’ list with pick 10 in last year’s draft, the footy world in 2020 will finally get to see how he stacks up at senior level.
A big-bodied midfielder, Green should slot in nicely with the likes of captain Stephen Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly.
“As a strongly-built midfielder, size and craft around stoppage is his asset and we believe that given his determination and character we had to prioritise bringing him in,” GWS Giants national recruiting manager Adrian Caruso said on the club’s website.
“Tom captained the Allies in 2019 and has shown great improvement in the last 18 months so we believe that in a full-time environment he will continue to grow.”
Hawthorn have a promising key forward in their grasp who undoubtedly has the brown and gold faithful looking forward to 2020.
Mitchell Lewis found his feet in 2019, particularly in the second half of the season, and the stage is set for him to kick on in his fourth year in the system.
His 12 games last season delivered 20 goals, 15 behinds and 35 direct shots on goal at just under three per game. With more opportunities now that Jarryd Roughead has vacated, it would be expected that the 21-year-old will only increase those numbers if he can work in tandem with new recruit Jon Patton.
Only one Hawks player (Jack Gunston) took more marks inside 50 than Lewis last year while just three took more overall contested marks, highlighting his strength, and we are certainly excited to see him take that further in 2020.
We are also keen to see if reigning Peter Crimmins Medallist James Worpel can continue his rapid rise to stardom now that Brownlow Medal winner Tom Mitchell is back in the picture.
The Demons used pick three to select the talented Luke Jackson and while Max Gawn has the monopoly on the number one ruck spot, he may not be seen in his preferred position.
But that’s not to say he won’t have an impact elsewhere in his first AFL season. Coach Simon Goodwin has already indicated that the athletic West Australian could potentially be used as a midfielder or in the forward line.
There is no doubting Jackson’s raw football ability and we are very keen to see him strutting his stuff on the big stage, even if he does spend limited time in the ruck. It is also likely he hones his craft at VFL level but we are sure to see him donning the senior jumper before too long.
Another Demons draftee who sparks the imagination is Kysaiah Pickett and we cannot wait to see his hardness and skill on show.
He already excited us in his debut campaign but we want to see more and more of Tarryn Thomas in 2020. He showed that he has some serious tricks at his disposal, particularly the cleanliness of his hands at ground level.
As Thomas increases his fitness and his body comes of age, expect to see him rolling through midfield more frequently where his polish with ball in hand will fully be on show.
The 19-year-old got 20 games under his belt in 2019 and that experience will no doubt hold him in good stead for a big 2020. Get excited North fans, this kid can seriously play.
After some impressive individual performances in 2019, which included two bags of five goals, we are also excited to see what Nick Larkey delivers on the back of a 26-goal season.
Connor Rozee grabbed plenty of headlines in his first season which saw him win Port Adelaide’s goal kicking, finish fourth in the John Cahill Medal and take out the Gavin Wanganeen Award as the best Power player under 21.
But not too far behind him was fellow first-year talent Xavier Duursma whose efforts may have been underestimated such was Rozee’s output.
Duursma was never far away from the excitement in 2019 (we recall the bow and arrow celebration) and gained more experience through the midfield than Rozee, so is already more advanced in that role.
He is a genuine threat in the air, extremely courageous, provides plenty of dash and takes the game on. We are intrigued to see more.
It may seem a simple choice but it is hard to contain excitement surrounding Sydney Stack.
In 2019, he showed glimpses of what he is capable of in his 17 AFL games, getting the ball rolling on what will eventually be an extensive highlight reel full of massive marks, quality goals, big hits and composed ball use.
Stack, 19, had appeared to establish himself in the Tigers’ best 22 before he was dropped late in the season prior to the ankle injury which derailed his season.
He managed to be part of the VFL premiership and after tasting success, quickly threw himself into pre-season training and is doing everything in his power to force his way back into the line-up in 2020. The sky is the limit for Stack and we can’t wait to see what he delivers.
Tiger fans will also be keen to find out what Jack Ross has to offer upon his return, having opened a small window into his playing ability and footy smarts in his debut campaign.
St Kilda will hope 2020 is the year Max King announces himself to the AFL world. King, a lifelong Saints fan, was wrapped in cotton wool following an injury scare in the VFL during his return from an ACL injury he sustained early in 2018.
The former No.4 pick is a young forward with immense promise and with Josh Bruce’s departure to the Western Bulldogs, he will be viewed as the second tall to partner Tim Membrey inside attacking 50.
Saints fans are bursting with excitement at the prospect of seeing King unleashed wearing Nick Riewoldt’s iconic No.12 jumper.
Nick Blakey earnt cult-hero status in an impressive debut season for Sydney. Known as ‘The Lizard’, Blakey booted 21 goals from 19 games and received a Rising Star nomination for his match-winning performance in the Round 14 win over Hawthorn.
A rangy, athletic forward with strong aerial prowess, the 19-year-old father-son will only get better as he continues to develop his physical strength.
North Melbourne champion David King, who played with Nick’s father John at the Kangaroos, says Blakey will prove to be the best player to come from the 2018 draft class.
The Eagles are very positive about Oscar Allen and it’s easy to see why. He is developing nicely as the heir apparent to the Josh Kennedy throne and looks a serious player in the making.
With Nic Naitanui back in the fold, Allen may not be used as much as a pinch-hit ruckman given the presence of Tom Hickey so may be handed the opportunity to spend more time roaming around forward 50 and honing his attacking craft.
He is an aggressive key forward whose game will only benefit the more he plays at senior level. West Coast’s best emerging talent can also play in defence which adds yet another layer of excitement.
With Willie Rioli out of the picture, there could be a spot on which to pounce for Jarrod Cameron. Twice he kicked four goals in his first four games and is a genuine excitement machine.
There’s a lot to like about the litter of pups down at The Kennel. There are many promising youngsters in the red white and blue, including Aaron Naughton, Tim English, Ed Richards and Pat Lipinski, but we love the excitement factor of Bailey Smith.
He slotted straight into a star-studded midfield in 2019 and did not once look out of place. He also tasted finals footy in his first season. Smith hits the pack with explosive pace, is a devil of a tackler, uses the ball cleanly and isn’t shy of a buoyant goal celebration – all the ingredients to create a bit of buzz.
As well as Smith, father-son Rhylee West showed signs in his three games last year and Dogs will be keen to see more of him. From the names we’ve mentioned, it’s safe to say that the youth side of things is well taken care of at the Whitten Oval.