AFL 2019: Every club's best internal recruit

The trade and draft period delivers hope for all fans as new faces arrive to deliver excitement and expectation ahead of the following season.

However, it's not just the newbies who have the ability to push your club up the ladder - there are always existing squad members who are just as impactful as the new faces who arrive over the off-season.

Whether it be through form or fitness struggles, we've picked one player from every club who battled in 2018 but could make a huge impact in 2019.

Without further ado, it's your AFL club's best internal recruit...


Brodie Smith. Everyone remembers the heartbreaking moment in the 2017 qualifying final where Brodie Smith ruptured his ACL while attempting a tackle against GWS. While it's unfair on Richmond to say that the Crows would have won the 2017 Grand Final had Smith been healthy, he was a crucial cog off half back during their impressive 2017 campaign.

Throughout that season, Smith averaged 21 touches, four inside 50s, three rebound 50s, four one-percenters and was good for a goal every two games. He also complimented 2017 All-Australian half back Rory Laird beautifully.

Smith played in Adelaide's last two games of 2018 and looked right at home, so if he can maintain his return to form in the early parts of 2019 then Adelaide could rise back into contention for a top-eight finish.


Charlie Cameron. Before Charlie Cameron suffered a lisfranc injury in Round 11, 2018, he was on track to be the recruit of the year. Having made the switch across to Brisbane from Adelaide in the 2017 off-season, Cameron exploded onto the scene in Queensland, snagging 17 goals from 10 full games in a team which won just the one match in that period.

In addition, he also secured a "goal of the year" nomination, and was touted by Queensland media as a potential All-Australian just before he was sidelined through injury.

If Cameron can regain his fitness and reproduce his impressive start to his career at Brisbane, then the Lions might be more than a handful in 2019, considering they already boast one of the most impressive and exciting young lists in the AFL.


Tom Williamson. Ask any Carlton supporter who they would like to see fill the hole at half back left by injured co-captain Sam Docherty, and most will tell you they hope that Tom Williamson can slot right into the role.

The 20-year-old played 15 games in 2017 and was lauded for his tenacity, attack on the ball and raking left leg, but a back injury picked up in the 2018 preseason kept him sidelined for the entire season.

Back at full training, the young halfback could add an extra element of X-factor to the Blues' defence, and offer a rebounding avenue out of the backline Carlton has missed since Docherty went down late in 2017.


Jamie Elliott. Mason Cox has done a fine job up forward for the Pies, as has Rising Star Jaidyn Stephenson, Jordan De Goey and Will Hoskin-Elliott. But what Collingwood fans wouldn't give to have a fit Jamie Elliott prowling around the forward 50.

Sidelined for the entire 2018 season with a bad run of soft tissue injuries, Elliott could be the difference between giving up a five-goal lead in a grand final, and actually winning one. It's easy to forget just how good the Pies' sharpshooter is. In 2017, and from just 17 games, he booted 34 goals and 16 behinds, including nine bags of at least three majors.

If Elliott can get on the park and have a meaningful impact, then the Pies' already dynamic forwardline could get just a little more intimidating, and allow the likes of De Goey and Stephenson to spend a little more time up the ground.


Joe Daniher. They nabbed Dylan Shiel in the most recent trade period, and brought in some genuine stars in Smith, Saad and Stringer the year before, but the cherry on top of the "Essendon winning a final" cake might just be a player who has been at the club for seven years: Joe Daniher.

The prodigious 200-centimetre key forward will be 25 years of age and beginning to hit the prime years of his career once the 2019 season begins. Despite missing most of last season with a persistent bout of osteitis pubis, the club is confident Daniher will be able to play in Round 1 and make an immediate impression.

For those who have forgotten just what an explosive and impactful player Daniher can be, in 2017 he kicked 65 goals and averaged 15 touches, nearly seven marks and four hit-outs per game.


Griffin Logue. Selected by Fremantle with pick No. 8 in the 2016 AFL draft, local product Griffin Logue was one of the most highly-touted athletic defenders in his draft. In 2017, in a Ross Lyon side which didn't see much of the youth, Logue played 13 games -- the most of any of the Dockers' draftees from that crop.

Sidelined for the entire 2018 season with at first a congenial foot issue and later an ankle injury, Logue will be back at full training once the preseason resumes. His preseason has already begun in fine fashion; he finished fourth in the two kilometer time trial of first-to-fourth-year players in November.

If Fremantle can get some consistent, quality football out of the 193-centimetre rangey defender, it might not be a year of doom and gloom at the Dockers in 2019.


Nakia Cockatoo. Last season continued Cockatoo's spluttering journey since being taken at No. 10 in the 2014 AFL Draft. A hand injury early followed by a season-ending knee problem restricted Cockatoo to just two games in 2018, after hauls of 11, 10 and 11 matches in his previous campaigns. His struggles staying on the park continue to hurt the Cats, as the explosive forward/midfielder is exactly the sort of player they need.

Last year, Geelong were only mid-table in clearances (eighth) and inside-50s (ninth), highlighting the need for more midfield options and the ability to deliver the ball with pace into their forward line. Cockatoo has the physical attributes and football smarts to lessen the burden on the Cats' champions especially as Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett, Harry Taylor and Tom Hawkins near the end of their glittering careers.

If the 22-year-old can put together a huge preseason and play the majority of next year, he might finally become the match-winner many assumed he would be during his junior days.

Gold Coast

Peter Wright. Anyone who witnessed Wright's 20-disposal, 12-mark, five-goal game against Brisbane in just his second season would have confidently predicted 'Two Meter Peter' would quickly become one of the league's most imposing key position players. But fast-forward to the end of the 2018 season and Wright is just about in no man's land.

The No. 8 pick of the 2014 draft endured a forgettable 2018 after playing all 22 games and kicking 31 goals in 2017, managing just seven matches due to a lingering calf issue and hardly impacting when he did get on the park.

This year shapes as a crucial one for not just Wright, but his team after Gold Coast basically hit the reset button over the offseason. After Tom Lynch's departure to Richmond, Wright has to assume ownership of the forward line. If he does, maybe the Suns won't be too hopeless in 2019.


Ex-Tigers taking a punt at college

Former Richmond Tigers Ben Lennon and Ben Griffiths talk to ESPN about their move from professional Aussie rules to college football.

Greater Western Sydney

Zac Williams. The Giants sorely missed their half-back jet last year after a ruptured Achilles restricted him to only two late-season matches. He is one of the league's most dynamic rebounding defenders and he reminded the AFL world of his star power with 23 touches (at 78 percent efficiency), nine marks and four tackles in his comeback game in last year's elimination final win over Sydney.

Williams was one of many big names on GWS' lengthy injury list last year but the 24-year-old is the one who can make the biggest impact if his body allows.

His return may also allow 2018 All-Australian Lachie Whitfield -- who was shifted to half-back due to the Giants' diminished defensive stocks -- to return to the midfield, or perhaps coach Leon Cameron will use both as attacking rebounders ... what a luxury that is.


Grant Birchall. Remember Birchall? You know, the four-time premiership player and one-time All-Australian? Birchall is one of the league's forgotten men, having missed the entire 2018 season as well as the vast majority of the year before with myriad fitness concerns.

Before his injury woes, Birchall -- who will turn 31 before the new season -- was an ultra-reliable, courageous mid-sized defender with the ability to launch attack after attack with his lethal left boot.

There is a spot in Hawthorn's best 22 for Birchall if he does regain full fitness, especially after the departure of promising half-back Ryan Burton as part of the Chad Wingard deal, so Hawks fans will no doubt be crossing their fingers in the hope the 245-gamer's luck finally changes.


Jack Viney. Melbourne fans will be salivating at the prospect of Jake Lever teaming up with Steven May once he returns from his ACL injury, while many are hopeful the speedy Jayden Hunt can rediscover his best form considering the Dees' lack of line-breakers across the park. But a fully fit Viney takes Melbourne's already imposing midfield to the next level.

Viney, the dogged, happy-to-run-through-a-brick-wall co-captain, endured a frustrating 2018, missing the first two months of the season with a foot injury before another two-month layoff from Round 16. He was rushed back for the emotional elimination final win against Geelong and immediately set the tone for hit team, putting his body on the line and amassing an equal game-high 11 tackles along with 20 disposals (13 contested).

The 24-year-old should be about to enter his prime years and if he can get in a big preseason and be available for the majority of Melbourne's 2019 campaign, the league's longest current premiership drought may be over come September next year.

North Melbourne

Taylor Garner. Garner isn't too well known outside of North Melbourne circles but he is an incredible talent who just hasn't had much luck with continuity during his fledgling career so far.

The dynamic half-forward, who is an outstanding mark for his size, has been plagued by hamstring injuries since being taken at No. 15 in the 2012 draft. He appeared to be over those issues during a consistent 2017 season but was again struck down by the hammy curse last season, failing to play a single senior match.

At his best, Garner can be one of his team's most impactful players forward of centre, with his aggression and marking a feature. His 25-disposal, 10-mark, 7-tackle performance against Essendon midway through 2017 attests to what he can do if given a chance.

Port Adelaide

Sam Powell-Pepper. The big-bodied Power midfielder managed 16 games in 2018 but struggled enormously for on-field consistency. Six times he failed to reach 16 possessions in a game and often his disposal, when he did get the ball, was nothing short of appalling. He finished the season with a low 64.3 percent disposal efficiency while also struggling in front of the big sticks, kicking a disappointing five goals and 13 behinds.

But there's no doubt Powell-Pepper is a talent and a long-term prospect for Port Adelaide and he proved that against Melbourne in Round 14 by laying a club-high 17 tackles in what was one of the games of the season. With another preseason under his belt, and a little more maturity, 2019 could be a significant year for the 20-year-old Western Australian.


Daniel Rioli. Tigers fans might still be seething from a shock preliminary final loss to Collingwood, but one thing that's sure to put a smile on their faces is the prospect of Rioli playing a full season. The 21-year-old was able to have a significant impact in 2018 even though he only featured in 12 of a possible 24 games.

With his ability to hit the scoreboard and apply ferocious pressure, Rioli is the type of player that can make any forward line stronger. If you have any doubts, just watch how he dismantled Hawthorn in 2018's qualifying final with three goals and 12 contested possessions.

Playing alongside Coleman Medallist Jack Riewoldt and new recruit Tom Lynch, Rioli is set to thrive and if he can stay fit, it could spell danger for the rest of the competition as Richmond searches for a second premiership in three years.

St Kilda

Paddy McCartin. He's one of the most heavily criticised players on an AFL list but there is reason to remain optimistic on McCartin. Just 35 games in four seasons shows how little of an impact the 22-year-old has had since being taken by the Saints with pick No. 1 in the 2014 draft. Last year he managed a career-high 13 games but still wasn't anywhere near as threatening as his potential of four years ago suggested he could be.

However, from all reports, McCartin has slimmed down in the off-season and worked tremendously hard on his fitness. He has had a torrid run with concussion but if he can stay healthy, 2019 shapes as a breakout year for him as the young Saints look to climb back up the ladder. In terms of a career, McCartin is still very young and the next couple of seasons could see St Kilda rewarded for keeping the faith.


Sam Reid. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking Lance Franklin holds the key to success at Sydney but the reality is his forward line partner could make or break this team. Reid has endured an injury-plagued career but when healthy has proven to be an integral part of the Swans' makeup. In years gone by, he has shown that he can be a 30 goal per season type player and one that would take plenty of stress and pressure off Franklin.

The 29-year-old played just one game in 2018 before going down with a quad injury which forced him to watch on from the sidelines as the Swans battled to sixth on the ladder by the end of the home and away season before being dumped out the finals by cross-town rivals GWS in week one.

On paper Sydney's forward line looks strong. Franklin, Reid, new former Cat Dan Menzel, Will Hayward, Tom Papley and Ben Ronke would give any defensive coach nightmares. The question is whether or not they can all stay on the park together...

West Coast

Jack Darling. In the first third of 2018, Jack Darling was just about the best player in the competition. Through the opening nine rounds of the season he managed 28 goals and a staggering 30 contested marks. However, he would go on to miss six weeks with an ankle injury sustained against St Kilda in Round 11 before returning without the same vigor and X-factor.

It made little difference for the Eagles who went on to claim the premiership but just imagine how much better they could have been with Darling at the peak of his powers?

West Coast is in good shape heading into 2019 and if Darling can reproduce that early 2018 form, and stay on the park, he could challenge teammate Josh Kennedy for the Coleman Medal. Yes, you read correctly, he can be that good and make this premiership team even stronger.

Western Bulldogs

Tom Liberatore. Two years ago Liberatore was a premiership hero. One year ago he was well out of form, now he's almost a forgotten man. The 2018 season was a complete write-off for Liberatore who played just 10 minutes in Round 1 before suffering a horrific ACL injury which would see him sidelined for 12 months.

He's likely to take a few rounds to get back to full fitness but when he does get to even 80 percent, Liberatore is a class player that can add another dimension to what is a young midfield. The 26-year-old may not be a high possession winner but he is a brute on the inside averaging over five clearances and five tackles per game since entering the league in 2011. The premiership hangover is well and truly over for Liberatore and 2019 could see him back to his best.