The AFL’s top 20 key position players

Sam Bunn Roar Rookie

By Sam Bunn, Sam Bunn is a Roar Rookie


11 Have your say

    While the football world are selecting and debating their top 50 players, I decided to go with a different approach, ranking the top 20 key-position players (key-defenders, key-forwards, and rucks) as I see it in today’s AFL.

    1. Lance Franklin
    The greatest forward in the modern era, will finish his career with over 1000 goals and multiple flags. Buddy’s got it all.

    2. Alex Rance
    Best key defender in the competition over the last few seasons, his influence on games of football is still underrated despite his consistently elite performance. Beats his opponent week in week out, and rebounds effectively.

    3. Tom Lynch (Gold Coast Suns)
    Goalkicking machine in a struggling side, still young and with plenty of room to grow. Will be the dominant forward in the competition for the next decade.

    4. Max Gawn
    All-Australian ruckman for good reason, his dominance in ruck contests is accompanied by an ability to contribute around the ground with his safe hands and towering figure. Could improve even further, just entering his prime at 25 years of age.

    5. Josh Kennedy (West Coast Eagles)
    The Coleman medallist is as consistent as they come, kicking a goal in every game he played last season. Safe hands and an elite set-shot, Kennedy is the focal point of a potentially contending Eagles line-up.

    6. Todd Goldstein
    Another consistent performer, the skilled ruckman not only controls the centre of the ground through his tap work, but is also an accurate disposer of the football. Goldstein also provides a dangerous scoring threat, kicking 20 goals last season.

    7. Jeremy McGovern
    An exceptional intercept marker (ranking second in the league for intercept possessions), McGovern catapults the Eagles from defence into attack at will, and is the centrepiece for the ‘Weagles Web’.

    8. Nick Riewoldt
    Moved up the field more in season 2016, which resulted in a stellar ball-collecting season, while still managing to average two goals per game. The former skipper took the most marks in the AFL and continues to be a headache for opposition coaches.

    9. Nic Naitanui
    Say what you want about Naitanui, but the Eagles big man is arguably their most influential player, and will leave a significant gap in their ambition for a top-four finish recovering from an ACL injury. Palms the ball with ease to running players, and oozes game-winning ability. X-Factor written all over this bloke.

    Nic Naitanui West Coast Eagles AFL 2016 tall

    10. Daniel Talia
    A relentless lockdown defender who has shone against the biggest names in the AFL since his debut season. Already a two-time All-Australian, Talia is starting to contribute offensively as his game matures.

    11. Jarryd Roughead
    The Hawks skipper has been an elite goal-kicker for the best part of a decade, and is now arguably the most flexible player in the competition, with the ability to play as a forward, midfielder, or even in the ruck. His inspirational return will have a profound impact on Hawthorn in season 2017.

    12. Jeremy Cameron
    Burst out of the blocks at a young age, being named in the 2013 All-Australian side in just his second season. Hasn’t quite exploded like many expected, however is a constant threat in the forward half, leading the Giants’ goalkicking every year since their inception.

    13. Steven May
    Simply a gun key defender, May has not received the plaudits of others in this list as a result of playing for an underperforming, non-Victorian side. May excels in all areas as a key defender, winning one-on-one contests, intercepting possessions, and gaining crucial meterage.

    14. Harry Taylor
    The Cats legend just keeps on keeping on. Three-time premiership centre half back who has built his game on elite marking and kicking ability, and now is often swung into the forward line to create a scoring presence.

    15. Dale Morris
    Was outstanding on the last day in September, playing a vital role in breaking the Bulldog’s 62-year premiership drought. Can play on tall, medium, and small sized forwards.

    16. Jack Riewoldt
    His goalkicking has declined since putting through 78 goals in 2010, however Riewoldt’s consistent performances often go unheralded. A team-orientated player who puts his heart on the line every week, Riewoldt is still among the game’s top key forwards.

    17. Robbie Tarrant
    Tarrant experienced a breakout 2016 campaign, winning the Syd Barker Medal (North Melbourne’s best and fairest) as the team’s most reliable key defender. Still can’t label him ‘Tazza’ quite yet though.

    18. Cale Hooker
    A difficult player to rank for obvious reasons, the Dons swingman was an elite intercept marker before making the move to centre-half-forward. Is an influential force either side of the ground, and holds the key to Essendon’s finals aspirations.

    19. Taylor Walker
    Tex ‘Frothies’ Walker kicks goals, sets up his teammates, and does it all while leading the Crows with his larrikin style. Never change, Tex.

    20. Ben Reid
    The Pies’ most important player, Reid transforms the Collingwood backline every time he steps out onto the field. Reads the play and can hit targets with his raking left boot, the injury-riddled defender is a calming influence on his young teammates, and the leader of an inexperienced backline.

    Do you find yourself logged out of The Roar?
    We have just switched over to a secure site (https). This means you will need to log-in afresh. If you need help with recovering your password, please get in contact.

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (11)

    • March 17th 2017 @ 10:01am
      steve said | March 17th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      WOW, so the highest scoring forward line last year by a fair margin can only sneak in 1 player at 19????

      • Roar Rookie

        March 17th 2017 @ 10:22am
        Sam Bunn said | March 17th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

        Would you have Jenkins in there? We are talking key-position players

        • March 17th 2017 @ 9:22pm
          Steve said | March 17th 2017 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

          You mean the guy that kicked 62 goals last year. But I suppose your going to come out with the “they were all out the back” line. He did his fair share of tough stuff but what all his detractors don’t seem to notice is the big miles he puts in during games he work up the ground hard and back even harder leaving the big defenders in his wake. If you put smaller, quicker guys on him you risk allowing him to use his bulk. And as Redbacks fan pointed out Tex has toweled up Rance and also May and Tarrant yet he scrapes in at 19. The best forward line in the AFL is not just Eddie (but we do love Eddie!)

          • Roar Rookie

            March 17th 2017 @ 10:22pm
            Sam Bunn said | March 17th 2017 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

            Jenkins is an excellent player, but didn’t think he was in the top 20. Tex also a gun, but rankings are based on overall performance, not individual towelings

    • March 17th 2017 @ 10:55am
      Rebacks fan said | March 17th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

      The top 10-12 key position players are all very good. It is a noticable drop once you start talking about Cale Hooker and Robbie Tarrant though. Walker is about 10 places to low in my opinion, the fact that he gives Rance – rated 2 – a bath every time they play is a pretty good indication of why.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 17th 2017 @ 10:23pm
        Sam Bunn said | March 17th 2017 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

        Agreed, the top 10-12 were easy to rank, was a difficult task to put the rest of them in order due to a noticeable drop off

    • March 19th 2017 @ 3:25am
      Scott said | March 19th 2017 @ 3:25am | ! Report

      Rance is getting spoilt in lots of thes rankings. Yeah he’s good but more valuable then West Coast Kennedy?? I think he’s an awesome defender but if I was to pick a player for a team from the list above, I’d prob take Kennedy, Riewoldt, Lynch or any of the 3 ruckman ahead of him

      • Roar Rookie

        March 20th 2017 @ 4:47pm
        Sam Bunn said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

        I can understand anyone who would rank the coleman medallist higher, however Rance is the best key defender by a fair stretch and still believe his output is underrated

    • March 19th 2017 @ 12:09pm
      Don Freo said | March 19th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      Tou have ruckmen as key position players?…then no Sandilands?

      • Roar Rookie

        March 20th 2017 @ 4:48pm
        Sam Bunn said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

        Don’t believe Sandilands commands a spot in the rankings as of right now

        • March 20th 2017 @ 7:23pm
          Don Freo said | March 20th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

          Head and shoulders the best ruckman since Dean Cox. He is never beaten. Ever.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.