The Roar’s 2018 AFL top 50: 20 to 11

Josh Elliott Editor

By Josh Elliott, Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor


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    Yesterday Ryan Buckland took us through the top ten players in the AFL – today, we continue The Roar’s 2018 AFL top 50 with a look at the players from 20 to 11.

    20. Michael Hurley
    One of the interesting things about doing a collaborative exercise like this is that it reveals your biases – or, in my case, the cases where I’m right and everyone else is wrong.

    One of those is how I value key position players. On a comparative basis, there are very few key position players who I didn’t rate as high or more highly than every other contributor in our top 50.

    Hurley is a classic example of this – I have him at No.18 on my personal list, while he ranges in between 23rd and 29th overall for the rest of the team.

    Maybe you feel less (or maybe more!) bullish on talls than I do, but even if you’re an ardent smallball believer, well, that way of thought should say that the truly elite talls are even more valuable.

    Hurley is a tall defender who averaged 25 disposals last year – more than the average midfielder, really. He might not have Alex Rance’s influence or Jeremy McGovern’s unbeatability, but he’s definitely a top-three tall defender in the league.

    Michael Hurley

    19. Callan Ward
    Where the collaborative top 50 reveals how highly I value key position players, there’s a flipside to the coin – apparently, I don’t rate midfielders of the Callan Ward archetype highly enough.

    Don’t get me wrong, on a purely personal level, I’ve got a deep-seated affection for the archetypal cement-headed inside grunt worker, and Ward is one of the best.

    He’s also obviously got significant leadership skills – not only has he been captain at Greater Western Sydney for six years, but you’d have to think his influence is a large part of the good culture the club has created.

    Maybe those are things that you really, really value when you’re putting together a list of the best AFL players – for me, as much as I admire them, they aren’t.

    I still had Ward in my top 50 of course, albeit at 44, the lowest of the bunch. Maddy and Ryan both had him at 15, the highest he featured on anyone’s individual list.

    Callan Ward

    18. Tom Mitchell
    A lot of what I said about Callan Ward goes for Tom Mitchell – he’s the kind of player who is definitely in my top 50, but not as high up as some others might put him. I had Mitchell at 28 overall, while Cam put him in at 15.

    If you want to talk purely about those guys who are ball magnets, then Mitchell is the best in the league.

    He may not do as much damage per disposal as most players in the top 50, but by sheer weight of numbers he has to be considered one of the best midfielders in the game.

    This was perfectly encapsulated by the stat that in May last year, Mitchell was ranked 123rd overall in the comp for metres gained, but led the league for assisted metres gained.

    From a purely philosophical point of view, I’d still argue that the player who gets the metres gained is playing the more valuable role – but, Mitchell is the best at what he does, no question.

    Tom Mitchell Hawthorn Hawks AFL 2017

    17. Josh J Kennedy
    There were two players in my personal top ten who didn’t make it into the consensus top ten, and Josh J Kennedy is one of them (yes, the other one is also a key forward).

    The simple thing about Kennedy is that he has kicked more goals in the last three years than any other player in the competition and it isn’t even close.

    He’s won two Coleman medals in that time and if it wasn’t for injury he would have won a third in a canter in 2017.

    These days there’s a lot of focus on what key forwards do when they’re not kicking goals and how much of a contribution that makes to a team’s success. Look, I like it when my new smartphone has some groovy new features too – but I wouldn’t buy it if it didn’t make calls.

    Kennedy is a top-ten player in the league, and I won’t hear any different.

    Josh J Kennedy West Coast Eagles AFL 2016

    16. Josh P Kennedy
    Let me start by saying that I’m a huge fan of Josh P Kennedy – so hopefully when I say that I had him ranked a little lower than this, you won’t think I’m one of his detractors.

    If you wanted to pick the modern player who has been most often skipped over for All Australian status when he really should be in the team, Kennedy would be at the top of the list.

    If he played in a Victorian side and didn’t have the likes of Luke Parker, Dan Hannebery and Isaac Heeney to shine alongside him, he’d probably be a much more widely appreciated footballer.

    Perhaps the highest compliment I can offer as a North supporter is that if Luke Davies-Uniacke turns out to be a clone of him, I will be a very happy man indeed.

    Josh P Kennedy Sydney Swans AFL 2017

    15. Trent Cotchin
    It’s amazing to think that just 12 months ago, many – myself included – thought Cotchin’s position as captain might be one of the biggest problems at a struggling Richmond.

    Fast forward to right now and he is a premiership captain, and one of the most respected leaders in the league.

    How did it happen? Personally, I’d suspect that the truth is never as good, or bad, as it seems.

    Cotchin was probably never the worst captain in the league, but probably isn’t the best one now either – safe to say though that the criticism he used to draw week-in, week-out is a thing of the past.

    He’s one I had a little lower – 29th overall, while the rest had him in the teens. I can’t argue too much with that, he’s a fine player.

    Trent Cotchin Richmond Tiger AFL 2017

    14. Jeremy McGovern
    In keeping with my habit of ranking key positions players highly, I put Jeremy McGovern in at No.11 overall, higher on my personal list than eventual consensus top-ten members Rory Sloane and Scott Pendlebury.

    Why? He is the best one-on-one key defender in the league. Sorry, Alex.

    Yes, Alex Rance is the best key defender overall, and a very fine one-on-one player. What puts him on top though is his ability to play off his man, his rebounding attacking edge.

    McGovern on the other hand is just as good as pure stoppers come – and where someone like Daniel Talia will spoil the ball to halve the contest, McGovern will take the mark to win it.

    Jeremy McGovern West Coast Eagles AFL 2017

    13. Dayne Zorko
    There was a long stretch of time where Zorko was known as one of the most underrated players in the league, but after yet another stellar season in 2017 it feels like he’s getting the recognition he deserves.

    It was his third best-and-fairest win in a row for the Lions and he was named All Australian for the first time. He’s also been Brisbane’s leading goalkicker three years straight.

    With the exceptions of Dustin Martin and Paddy Dangerfield, there’s no one in the league who defines the phrase ‘goalkicking midfielder’ as prolifically as him.

    I really, really hope we get to see the 29-year-old light it up in finals someday before his time is out.

    Dayne Zorko of the Brisbane Lions AFL

    12. Joel Selwood
    This is exactly where I had Selwood in my rankings and it’s where Cam had him as well. Maddy had him the highest of us all, at No.8, Ryan put him at 19.

    Joel Selwood and Scott Pendlebury (who I’ll mention here too because they’re both in this boat) are two of the best players of the modern era.

    While players like Dangerfield and Martin have had those individual seasons where they are just a class above everyone else in the game, Selwood and Pendlebury have been consistently among the best midfielders year after year.

    They’ve never quite been at the absolute top though and it’s why neither has a Brownlow Medal to their name – despite the fact that Selwood has the tenth most Brownlow votes of any player in history, and Pendlebury the 17th.

    In fact, in 2018 Selwood might somehow be only the third best midfielder at Geelong.

    However, if he earns 22 more Brownlow votes in his career (an inevitability) without winning a Brownlow (hopefully not one), he’ll have the most career Brownlow votes in the history of the game of any player not to have actually won the gong.

    Joel Selwood Geelong Cats AFL Finals 2016

    11. Robbie Gray
    On the topic of players who haven’t won Brownlow Medals but really ought to have one way or another, this section of the top 50 finishes off with the man who probably should’ve claimed the 2014 prize, Robbie Gray.

    It’s amazing to think of the amount of injuries that Gray copped in the early half of his career, only to become one of the best in the game.

    In the midfield, he’s a dyanmic presence, Gary Ablett-esque. In the forward line, he is as dangerous as they come.

    Outside the top few, Gray was one the most consistently ranked players in our top 50, with everyone putting him somewhere between 10 and 14.

    Robbie Gray Port Adelaide Power AFL 2015

    The Roar’s 2018 AFL top 50 so far
    1. Dustin Martin
    2. Patrick Dangerfield
    3. Lance Franklin
    4. Nat Fyfe
    5. Alex Rance
    6. Josh Kelly
    7. Marcus Bontempelli
    8. Scott Pendlebury
    9. Gary Ablett
    10. Rory Sloane
    11. Robbie Gray
    12. Joel Selwood
    13. Dayne Zorko
    14. Jeremy McGovern
    15. Trent Cotchin
    16. Josh P Kennedy
    17. Josh K Kennedy
    18. Tom Mitchell
    19. Callan Ward
    20. Michael Hurley

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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    The Crowd Says (112)

    • February 13th 2018 @ 7:37am
      Rob said | February 13th 2018 @ 7:37am | ! Report

      Bit suprised the best ruckman in the league hasnt hit a spot in the top 20 – given his team would have pushed top 4 had he not been injured for 3 months last season id say Max Gawn is at least in the 11 to 20 category…

      • Columnist

        February 13th 2018 @ 10:37am
        Cameron Rose said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Yeah, I’d say we rated ruckmen overall quite lowly this time around. Injuries last year to Nic Nat and Gawn also muddied the waters.

        • February 14th 2018 @ 1:31am
          Don Freo said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:31am | ! Report

          Sandi has always been overlooked in this stuff, but 4 (or is it 5?) All-Australians. The best since Deano.

          40 goals from a forward pocket this year while getting his usual 50 taps per game. What joy!

    • February 13th 2018 @ 7:48am
      Harsh Truth Harry said | February 13th 2018 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      Good to see Hurley recognised but where is Joey D!!!! Also Duckwood is rated too high as is Zorko. Mitchell should be about 30-35 too as all he does is feed it out.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 10:05am
        Tom M said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Here is a harsh truth for you harry. Joey D isn’t that good.

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 10:15am
          Paul D said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          Best harsh truth I’ve read in a while from anyone Tom

          • Columnist

            February 13th 2018 @ 10:38am
            Cameron Rose said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

            I’m more with Harry than you guys on Joe Daniher, but he was the most divisive player we had this year.

            • Roar Guru

              February 13th 2018 @ 11:55am
              JamesH said | February 13th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

              I was wondering where he turned up in everyone’s lists, Cam. I suspect he cracked at least one top 20.

              As for not being that good, Tom and Paul – bahahahaha. He’s a top 3 key forward in the league (alongside Franklin and Kennedy) who can play tall, small and ruck, and he’s not quite 24.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 12:43pm
                Tom M said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

                Is Daniher a top 50 player yes. Is he a top 10 player in the AFL as HTH has been claiming for the last couple of days? No he isn’t

              • February 13th 2018 @ 12:46pm
                Pope Paul VII said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

                He is incredible because he finished 4th.

              • Roar Guru

                February 13th 2018 @ 12:53pm
                Paul D said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

                I just liked it because it was an actual harsh truth. Harry also claims to be 68 going on 38, can do 400 pushups in 10 minutes, has caught more crabs than a lady of the night and has a member as long as the great ocean road – I think you’re safe in disregarding a fair whack of what he says, although I’ll admit he’s more entertaining than the previous incarnations of our hydra.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 1:39pm
                Harsh Truth Harry said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                He will end up THE most important forward for the next 5 -7 years, way better than Lynch who will probably earn more at Collingwood when McGuire throws his cheque book at him (and Ross Lyon as coach). He could well end up one of the great forwards in our games history that young bloke!

              • Roar Guru

                February 13th 2018 @ 1:44pm
                JamesH said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

                Doesn’t a harsh truth have to be true, though?

                I’m well aware of HTH’s posting history!

              • Roar Guru

                February 13th 2018 @ 2:31pm
                Dalgety Carrington said | February 13th 2018 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

                Mind you Daniher has been in this stellar form for one season. This time last year Tom Lynch and Jeremy Cameron were up in these sorts of heights (higher even), there are no guarantees the form trajectory will continue into this year. Do it again this year and onwards and there’ll be more of a case for him in the top ten or knocking on the door.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 3:57pm
                Slane said | February 13th 2018 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

                Daniher finished 4th in the Coleman at the age of 24?

                Jack Riewoldt had 2 Coleman medals under his belt by that stage of his career.

                I’m obviously biased, but Jack Riewoldt is criminally underrated in these lists. He has a career average of 53 goals a season(he only kicked 7 and 18 in his first 2 seasons). He has incredible football smarts and is always bringing his teammates into the game. Often at the sacrifice of his own game. The only player in the comp that has a better speccy reel is Jeremey Howe.

                Buddy is probably the undisputed number 1. He kicks an insane amount of goals compared to his contemporaries and has a massive amount of score involvements. He terrifies defenders with his mere presence.

                I can live with Kennedy in number two because as a goal kicker he probably has Jack covered. I think Jack is better around the ground and defensively but I think Kennedy will probably still kick more goals next season. The guy is a machine.

                You can’t tell me that Daniher is a lock for the next spot. I won’t have it.

              • Roar Guru

                February 13th 2018 @ 4:46pm
                Paul D said | February 13th 2018 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

                I would have thought Collingwood had learnt their lesson about paying top dollar for blokes called Lynch

          • February 13th 2018 @ 1:33pm
            Harsh Truth Harry said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            Come off it blokes you would both want him in your side!

            • February 13th 2018 @ 3:22pm
              truetigerfan said | February 13th 2018 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

              Yeah, naaaaah. Good player but no room for him at the Tiges. Jack and his little mates are doing just fine.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 6:43pm
                Doctor Rotcod said | February 13th 2018 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

                Jack will have to improve his efficiency though.
                Even allowing for all the grey around efficient disposals,57% is woeful

            • February 14th 2018 @ 1:39am
              Don Freo said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:39am | ! Report

              If Joey was any good, Eddie’s cheque book say goodbye to him in red and black.

              You’ll be ok though. He’s just another Cale Hooker. Good but…meh!

              • Roar Guru

                February 14th 2018 @ 9:33am
                JamesH said | February 14th 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

                He’s just another All-Australian defender capable of playing forward?

                Lol Eddie knows Joe can’t be pried away from the Bombers, Don. Otherwise Ross the Boss would have had a crack by now.

    • February 13th 2018 @ 7:55am
      Ditto said | February 13th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      Is the list profile actually getting older? Well done Tom Mitchell, sole contributor from the 23 to 25 age group.

      • Columnist

        February 13th 2018 @ 10:40am
        Cameron Rose said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Interesting point, but we’ve obviously had Bont and Kelly as younger than that.

        • February 13th 2018 @ 2:38pm
          Macca said | February 13th 2018 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

          Tough job Cam but you must be looking forward to next years when it will so much easier

          1) P Cripps
          2) C Curnow
          3) S Petrevski-Seton
          4) J Wetiering
          5) M Kennedy
          6) J Pickett
          7) H McKay
          8) C Marchbank
          9) Z Fisher
          10) T Williamson


          • February 13th 2018 @ 7:57pm
            cctdeb said | February 13th 2018 @ 7:57pm | ! Report

            As always, your obvious bias is showing, Macca,

            A truly objective, unbiased observer would not try to pass off a best in the AFL top ten list for the end of the 2018 season that didn’t include Murphy, Simpson and Curnow (E), and possibly a revitalized Garlett, a dominant, goal-kicking M Kreuzer and of course L Plowman when he effectively steps into Docherty’s shoes.

            • February 13th 2018 @ 10:12pm
              Macca said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:12pm | ! Report

              It was a tough call but there was only ten spots, clearly those 6 plus Cuningham, Dow, Jones and J Silvagni would round out the top 20

      • February 13th 2018 @ 4:07pm
        Scott said | February 13th 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

        McGovern is still 25 as well

        • February 13th 2018 @ 4:52pm
          Ditto said | February 13th 2018 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

          Yes,you’re right, sorry I thought he was older

    • February 13th 2018 @ 8:24am
      truetigerfan said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      Fantastic to see Cotch so high on this list! Always had the class, now has grunt, too. What a weapon!

    • February 13th 2018 @ 9:58am
      Aransan said | February 13th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      An interesting exercise would be to predict who among the younger brigade of the AFL will develop into elite (1-20?) players.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2018 @ 10:01am
        AdelaideDocker said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        Yeah, that’s what I mentioned yesterday. I’d love to see that.

        • February 13th 2018 @ 10:17am
          Rissole said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

          Didn’t one of the writers already do an article on the best players in 2022 or some year near there?

          • Roar Guru

            February 13th 2018 @ 10:48am
            AdelaideDocker said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

            Yes, I believe that was Josh a few weeks ago. That was predicting the best player in 2025 or something?

            I’d enjoy a list of the top young players in the competition this year, though. The under 23s? I dunno.

            • February 13th 2018 @ 1:31pm
              Brian said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

              Or maybe at the end publish all the under 25s who made someone top 50 but not the overall. Clayton Oliver, Adam Treloar, Jack Martin. There are young players around.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 10:46am
        Birdman said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        conversely if Ablett and T Mitchell were on the market today, who would attract the most interest?

        Gablett may have been the best of all time (not in my book) but I can’t see him justifying this ranking right NOW particularly after his 2017 season – wouldn’t have him in the top 25.

        • February 13th 2018 @ 10:51am
          Aransan said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

          Mitchell would attract the most interest because he has more playing years ahead of him. Older players do need to be managed but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ablett play 18 games this year and garner 20 Brownlow votes.

          • Roar Pro

            February 13th 2018 @ 2:36pm
            Darren M said | February 13th 2018 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

            The only problem with that will be Dangerfield taking votes of Ablett.
            Although,they said the same for Selwood when Danger moved to the Cats, so who knows.

            I think Ablett will be lucky to play 14 games this year.

            • Roar Guru

              February 13th 2018 @ 2:55pm
              Cat said | February 13th 2018 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

              They said the same thing about Ablett when Selwood and Johnson were taking votes off him in ’09 too

    • Roar Guru

      February 13th 2018 @ 10:16am
      Paul D said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Beams is probably better than Zorko, but I can see why you like his flash and style

      The name has a clang to it as well. The amazing Zorko, no wonder they call him the magician. Good list so far.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 1:40pm
        Harsh Truth Harry said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

        Zorko should be about 35-45 on the list, Beams should be threatening the top ten, maybe 12-15

      • February 13th 2018 @ 3:18pm
        Slane said | February 13th 2018 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

        I think our opinions of Beams are coloured by his injuries. He’s always seems to either be out injured or coming back into the side a little underdone.