This is where the list starts to get interesting, and it was the section where we had some of the biggest discrepancies in our list rankings.
21. Tom Lynch
Lynch was one of the most polarising players for the group – three of us had him ranked in the 20s, but two outliers had him in their top ten, and as their 51st player respectively.
Perhaps this is a result of Lynch playing as a key forward in a fairly non-competitive, non-Victorian team. However, as this list is based on potential and what we think they’ll be able to do in 2018, I was comfortable having him in ranked in this group.
He’s young, at 25, and already one of the best key forwards in the game – still behind Josh Kennedy and Buddy Franklin – averaging 15.2 disposals, 2.3 goals and 6.3 marks per game in 2017.
If he can have a clear run with injury, and under the guidance of new coach Stuart Dew, Lynch may well push himself into the top 20 next season.
22. Toby Greene
If not for his suspensions in 2017, Greene may be ranked higher on this list. Given a clean bill of health and a better suspension record this season, we’ll likely have him in our top 15 next year.
Despite playing only 19 games last year, Greene was ranked sixth in goals per game, tenth in score involvements, and 15th in contested marks – with average figures of 18.2 disposals, 2.4 goals and 2.8 tackles.
23. Dylan Shiel
One of the best developing contested midfielders in the game, his importance to the Giants was evident when he was missing for their finals through injury.
I had Shiel ranked at 31, a result of having several players who I judged to be slightly ahead of him at this stage. It’s really splitting hairs though – Shiel should be much higher next time.
24. Matt Crouch
All five of us had Crouch ranked around this mark, so he was a fairly unanimous choice. The fact that he was able to step up to practically lead Adelaide’s midfield last year in the absence of the injured Rory Sloane and the departed Patrick Dangerfield – averaging 33 disposals, three marks and 4.8 tackles per game – is testament to his ability.
25. Joe Daniher
Daniher was the player with the biggest ranking differential between the five of us. Cam and Josh had him in their top ten, Jay had him raked around this mark, while Ryan and I had him (either very astutely or very stupidly) ranked 51st and 53rd respectively.
I suspect Ryan’s reasoning may be that he personally rates ‘small ball’ forwards more highly than key position players, and I’m a bit the same.
Daniher finished third on the Coleman Medal tally last year, a fantastic feat for a player only 23 years old. Based on potential, maybe he should be ranked higher, but I’m not sold on Essendon’s forward line, which may affect Daniher’s form.
26. Dayne Beams
The fact that Beams is ranked this far down is probably a result of the injuries he’s had over the past two years.
He’s a gun, and after averaging 27 disposals, 4.5 marks and 4.2 tackles in his 19 matches in the side that finished on the bottom of the ladder last season, a clean bill of health should see him much higher up next year.
27. Zach Merrett
Merrett was rewarded for another excellent season with All Australian selection, and was a fairly unanimous choice at this stage on our list.
He averaged nearly 30 disposals (ranked fourth in total disposals per game in the competition), 4.3 marks and 5.5 tackles last season, and developed into one of the competition’s most consistent midfielders, pushing himself close to the elite bracket.
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28. Mitch Duncan
Researching this article, it was a surprise to learn Duncan is only 26 – it seems like he’s been around for ages, and he’s constantly getting better and better.
Last year, with Patrick Dangerfield going forward for periods of time, Duncan was one of the prime movers in the Cats’ midfield, which should continue this season as returning favourite son Gary Ablett and Dangerfield share midfield and forward time.
One area where he can improve is goal scoring – he only scored 15 in 2017 and would be hoping to develop into a ‘goal-kicking midfielder’, to use a current AFL buzzphrase.
29. Eddie Betts
Betts was another player who divided opinion, with the five of us ranking him 16th, 51st, 38th, 27th and 23rd respectively.
I had him 38th, which is only fair – he didn’t perform as consistently well in 2017 as he did the year before, but we all know he has the talent to be one of the best players in the competition.
I’d still rate him as one of the best small forwards going around, probably behind Green and Michael Walters.
30. Jack Riewoldt
Riewoldt’s stellar 2017 culminated in a well-deserved premiership. He played a lone hand as the tall, marking forward in the Tigers’ forward 50, and looks set to reprise that role this year.
He ranked first in the competition for total marks inside 50, and finished eighth on the Coleman Medal tally, with 54.