We talk and talk about some of the best in the game, like Gary Ablett and Lance Franklin. And in recent times, we have talked a lot about which of the AFL’s stars are overrated.
Over the past month, people in the media have placed the likes of Nic Naitanui and Aaron Sandilands in this category.
But what about the unsung heroes? The players that are brilliant at what they do, but for a mix of reasons don’t get the credit they deserve.
I have compiled a shortlist of the most underrated players in the competition.
Joel Patfull – Brisbane Lions
The Lions’ best and fairest winner of the past two years simply never gets the kudos he has earned. Patfull is a sturdy and ever-reliable defender who, with Daniel Merrett, leads the young Lions backline.
Brodie Smith – Adelaide
The young Crow could walk down any Melbourne street and nobody would know who he was. In South Australia, he’s a big name. A high draft pick in the 2010 draft, he has played 60 games to date.
He is capable of using his run and carry to attack dangerously from defence, a player who is incredibly valuable to the Crows, but remains relatively unknown away from home.
Matt de Boer – Fremantle
Quite ironic that he has been omitted from the Dockers clash against West Coast this weekend. But ask any Fremantle supporter, they’d have him in their best 22. He is a brilliant tackler and stopper who can sacrifice his own game to go head-to-head with an opponent.
Not known for his polish, but a valuable part of the Fremantle side who too probably deserves a little more credit than he gets.
Eric Mackenzie – West Coast
If you ask me, he’s one of the best backmen going around. But again, a lot of people probably haven’t heard of him. He was deservedly awarded with an All-Australian nomination in 2013.
Tries and tries all day, and I’d say one of the Eagles’ first to be picked if they were playing in a grand final tomorrow.
Colin Garland – Melbourne
Was he lucky to make the list? Well, maybe. But his side currently miss him in a big way. Garland is primarily a defender, but has shown he can be thrown forward when needed, and his influence up forward has made an impact in the past.
Justin Westhoff – Port Adelaide
This time last year he was probably the most underrated in the game, but since then more and more have come to realise just what he does. He works hard, covers the whole ground, can play back or forward, and when he does play in attack, he kicks goals.
Took a while to really come on, but he has now, and we are seeing him in his prime.
Only six players, but if I had to pick the six most underrated going around at the moment, this is the ones I would have.
Interestingly, four of them are primarily defenders. Does this suggest anything about how we perhaps give the defenders less acknowledgement than they deserve?