Super sub: Who could be your AFL team’s swingman in 2023?

The back-to-the-future AFL ruling that will allow coaches to activate a substitute at any time of a game in 2023 has clubs dissecting who best should fill the role.

Having had four men on the bench plus a medical substitute over the past two years, the AFL has this season ditched the medical sub – as it became, in part, too hard to monitor – in favour of a “super sub”.

Who will be your club’s super sub in 2023?Credit:Pat Scala/Jamie Brown

It was through 2011-15 that there were three men on the bench plus a substitute – the latter able to be activated at any point for any reason in the game.

Game plans, the strength and health of a list, and opposition tactics will have a bearing on who is the 23rd man. Ahead of the practice match campaign officially beginning on Thursday, Demons head of football Alan Richardson said clubs had to weigh up several factors when determining their sub.

“You wouldn’t want to enact it too early in a game just in case you get an injury. It’s probably going to be something after half-time I reckon, then it can depend,” Richardson said.

“It will be a combination for us of how the team is going in a certain area, or do we potentially want to bring someone in that might bolster an area for us? It might be a combination, along with what the opposition are doing. What have the opposition got, and what are we going in fearing, and what do we need to control? Is there someone that can exploit something, or control something?

“That is sort of where we are at. It will be good in these couple of games to look at it.”

Speed in the game, or injecting a tough-nut extractor, are likely to be the primary weapons considered, according to most clubs, but other club chiefs have wondered whether a fresh marking tall, or even a ruck, could be activated.


Shane McAdam, who has had an injury-impacted pre-season, can play as a high half-forward and take a strong mark. And veteran Matt Crouch, after an indifferent 2022 when he managed only 11 games, could provide midfield class and experience with the contest on the line.

Brisbane Lions

The versatile Callum Ah Chee was used as the substitute several times last season. Irishman Conor McKenna, back in the AFL fold, has the speed to burn tiring opponents across half-back and further afield.


Jack Silvagni may be squeezed from the Blues’ best 22 this season, but his versatility – as a forward, reserve ruckman and even midfielder – makes him an ideal 23rd man. Draftee Oliver Hollands and Josh Honey can provide run and carry. Matthew Cottrell was injected four times as the sub last season.

Could Jack Silvagni be the Blues’ ideal super sub, or will Michael Voss prefer an injection of speed in 2023?Credit:Getty Images


Will Hoskin-Elliott faces a fight to be in the Magpies’ best 22, but his run off the bench would be more than handy. Finlay Macrae, who may struggle to break into a blue-chip midfield, could also do the job.


Big-bodied former Carlton midfielder Will Setterfield shapes as an ideal fit off the bench, while Ben Hobbs, on the mend from a calf strain, can head into the midfield or forward line and influence a game.


High-pressure small forward Bailey Banfield is an ideal fit, having been regularly used as the sub last season, including in both finals. If Banfield forces his way into the starting 22, speedster Liam Henry could do the role.


Versatile Irishman Mark O’Connor, who replaced an injured Max Holmes in the premiership 22 last year, is an ideal fit. Talented recruits Tanner Bruhn, Ollie Henry and Jack Bowes face a squeeze to make the Cats’ best 22, but could easily start as the spare man.

Gold Coast

Brayden Fiorini has the speed to trouble opponents off the bench, while defender Sean Lemmons and Rory Atkins, the latter used as a sub last year, are also options.

Greater Western Sydney

Toby Bedford will hope to avoid the role, as the former Demon started several games as the medical sub last season. Fellow small forward Brent Daniels could be an ideal fit, while Jacob Wehr and Callum Brown provide versatility.


The Hawks will have a new-look midfield this season. Finn Maginness, a tagger last season, may be squeezed out of the 22 if the Hawks look to attack early in games. Lachlan Bramble has the versatility.


Premiership defender Jake Bowey fell out of the starting rotation last year. Buoyed by a strong pre-season, he could provide run off the bench. Tom Sparrow, fighting for a midfield spot, is another option.

North Melbourne

Alastair Clarkson trusts his former Hawthorn mates, so having either veterans Liam Shiels or Daniel Howe off the bench, particularly early in the season, makes sense. Is Jaidyn Stephenson, used at half-back and half-forward in last weekend’s intra-club clash, an option?

Port Adelaide

Xavier Duursma, seeking to revive his career, and midfielder Sam Powell-Pepper are strong options, while youngster Jase Burgyone, with eight games last season, is also a possibility.


Jason Castagna was used as a substitute last year, and his run through high half-forward and ability to hit the scoreboard could be important for the Tigers. Hugo Ralphsmith is versatile and can provide rebound from half-back, while also going to a wing. Jack Ross is another option.

Will the Tigers again turn to Jason Castagna to spend time as a substitute this season?Credit:Getty Images

St Kilda

Former Blue Liam Stocker is seen as a burst player who could have an impact at half-back and through the midfield. Nick Coffield, once fully fit, and Hunter Clark are also options.


Emerging half-back Braeden Campbell can provide run and carry and push into the midfield. Joel Amartey, Hayden McLean and Sam Wicks can also provide punch off the bench.

West Coast

Former hard-running Demon Jayden Hunt shapes as an ideal fit to help turn a game after half-time, while veteran Jamie Cripps can deliver up forward. Versatile defenders Josh Rotham and Jamaine Jones and midfielder Greg Clark were used in the role last season.

Western Bulldogs

Jason Johannisen is an ideal fit, for he has pace, and can play multiple roles, but is likely to be in the best 22. Anthony Scott can go into the midfield or forward, while Hayden Crozier and Riley Garcia can deliver in bursts. Veteran half-forward Mitch Hannan could be a calming hand.

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