Following on from yesterday, here is part two of my list of The Ten Best Players in 2012.
No 6 – Joel Selwood (Geelong)
Three time premiership player. Two time All-Australian. Best and fairest winner. Captain. All at the age of 23?
“Yes please”, if your name is Joel Selwood.
And “please sir, can I have some more?” if you are a hungry, driven Cats fan.
It’s easy to dislike the Geelong young gun. He has a way of drawing free kicks that irritate opposition supporters, he always wins that crucial clearance just when you think you’re a chance to beat the Cats, and many argue that he’s had it all delivered to him on a platter.
But do not make the mistake of underselling this guy. There may be footballers as hard at the contest as Joel, but there are certainly none harder. This was highlighted by his fearless (and foolhardy?) attack at the ball and St Kilda’s Farren Ray in round one of last season, knocking himself unconscious in the process. This is why he wins the umpire’s favour, not because he has some magical hold over them or a cache of compromising pictures.
His desire to win the ball and attack the man is unquenchable. What about against Melbourne last year, in that infamous round 19 obliteration? Not content with 43 disposals he also laid eleven tackles. Eleven! I’m not even sure the Demons won the ball eleven times!
Effectiveness? He got the footy 26 times a game last year, and over a third of those possessions led to a Geelong score, ranked number one of all midfielders in the league. Last year he started to get his own scoring up closer to a goal a game, an area that can be expected to improve again.
And speaking of improvement, I’ll mention once more that Selwood is only 23. Why would anyone think that he’s not going to get better still?
No 5 – Chris Judd (Carlton)
While it may not be the case of some others on this list, the name of Chris Judd transcends the sport of AFL. That is, you may not follow Australian rules football, but you know who he is.
There are four achievements in football that can lead one to be called a champion of the game – win a Brownlow medal as the competition’s best and fairest in any given year, win a Norm Smith medal as the best player on the ground in the Grand Final, captain a team to a premiership, and win a club best and fairest in the year your team wins the flag. All four speak of a combination of individual and/or team brilliance.
Chris Judd is the only player in history to have achieved all four.
The stats speak for themselves on Judd’s behalf, if they are even required. Two stand out. Last year Judd was ranked number one for hardball-gets as well as score assists. This shows that he is the best in the business at winning the ball at the coalface, but then has the ability in heavy traffic to ensure his team is advantaged where it counts the most – on the scoreboard.
We can all picture Judd gathering the ball in a mass of players and either fishing off a lightning handball to a teammate in the clear or evasively accelerating out of the pack to find a target by foot. Even as an opposition supporter, you are compelled to applaud. And for those that think Judd is an umpires’ pet? He only averaged 1.3 free kicks a match last year, hardly a darling of the men in red, green and yellow.
Chris Judd is a true champion of the game and, at 28 and being driven by the thirst for more premiership glory, he will not be going backwards.
No 4 – Travis Cloke (Collingwood)
The question of DNA testing for the Pies’ Travis Cloke is a legitimate one. Is he man, or beast?
Certainly those at the AFL Grand Final last year were asking the question after a series of towering marks and three goals, from what seemed like the opposition goal-square, to give the Pies a 12-point lead.
Despite being able to roost the Sherrin sixty metres plus when on song, a feat that is breathtaking enough, this is not actually the main feature of his game.
Whether it’s watching football at the elite level, having a drunken kick with mates at half time of the ‘granny’ or learning kick to kick at primary school, there is one part of AFL football that is prized above all else – the contested mark.
There is nothing like seeing the footy kicked onto the head of a group of players, and seeing one man hold it aloft once it hits. More often than not, at AFL level, than one man is Travis Cloke.
He broke the contested mark record for a home-and-away season last year, and it is no wonder why. At 196cm and a whopping 108kgs, he is not moving anywhere against his will unless a German tank tries to push him over. And even then it’d still be a 50/50 game.
While all the aforementioned reasons are probably enough I’ve also ranked Travis Cloke this high because his work rate is also elite, heaving that massive frame up to centre wing and back and running his defenders into the ground. This enables him to make even more use of the strength mismatch that is already in his favour, especially when he gets back inside forward fifty, and this in turn leads to goals.
At 25, ‘The Beast’ is just coming into his own, and you can watch for his 69 goals in 2011 to become even more in 2012.
Tomorrow, the final three will be revealed.