The AFL could look at recruiting senior club figures as part of a push to shift public perception around umpiring.
Each year, I try and track not only the team ratings and performances, but also how individual players are performing as recognised by both media and coached, as well as the statistical and fantasy metrics.
In all, I collect fourteen different sources of evaluation for the men, including game ratings from several different media sources and the AFLCA “team of the week” collections from five sources, and four pure statistical evaluators as well.
My hope is to balance types of sources to give not only balance from who does the judging, but also which positions are favoured – although, as is the case with most player-of-the-year tallies, midfielders tend to get an inordinate portion of the glory.
At the end of the season, the high point-getter is named the Meta-Player of the Year, for which we’ve never provided a physical award in the past (we’re what you’d call a low-budget outfit!)
Last year, the winner was Melbourne’s inimitable ruckman Max Gawn, with Hawthorn’s leather-poisoned midfielder Tom Mitchell just behind in second place. It was the first year of the four I’ve compiled the MPotY totals in which our winner didn’t match the Brownlow Award.
Throughout the season, I’ll track the total points for the top players and bring you occasional updates on the 2019 version of the Following Football Meta-Player of the Year, the All Australian team that comes from those point totals, and how the team point totals relate to the actual AFL ladder.
In fact, let’s start with that. Notice how closely the total of each team’s points match the Week 3 ladder –
1. Geelong – 449 points
2. Brisbane – 446
3. GWS Giants – 433
4. Port Adelaide – 418
5. Western Bulldogs – 395
6. Hawthorn – 380
(tie) Fremantle – 380
8. West Coast – 356
9. Collingwood – 346
10. Gold Coast – 335
11. St Kilda – 301
12. Carlton – 286
13. Sydney – 280
14. Richmond – 276
15. Adelaide – 271
16. Essendon – 261
17. North Melbourne – 230
18. Melbourne – 226
Now, is it that the players are not performing as well, so their teams lose? Or is it that the teams are losing, so their players aren’t recognised as much as the winning team’s players?
As always, the answer is probably “yes”.
So, here’s the top 24 players, in the eyes of the various evaluators over the first three games of the season. Keep in mind what we just talked about – the more successful teams are going to have players who’ve earned more attention from the voters.
The gentleman in first place has certainly deserved his attention, and he leads the number one team in the league as of early April:
1. Patrick Dangerfield, Cats – 94 points
2. Patrick Cripps, Blues – 89
3. Lachie Neale, Lions – 88
4. Jeremy Cameron, Giants – 82
5. Marcus Bontempelli, Bulldogs – 71
6. Lachie Whitfield, Giants – 70
7. Travis Boak, Power – 64
8. Tim Kelly, Cats – 63
9. Jade Gresham, Saints – 60
10. Tom Stewart, Cats – 59
11. Stephen Coniglio, Giants – 57
12. (tie) Isaac Heeney, Swans – 56
(tie) Nat Fyfe, Dockers – 56
14. Michael Walters, Dockers – 55
15. (tie) Rory Sloane, Crows – 54
(tie) Tom Liberatore, Bulldogs – 54
17. Justin Westhoff, Power – 53
18. Scott Lycett, Power – 52
19. Cam McCarthy, Dockers – 51
20. (tie) Luke Shuey, Eagles – 50
(tie) Tom Rockliff, Power – 50
(tie) Alex Sexton, Suns – 50
(tie) Jordan de Goey, Magpies – 50
(tie) James Worpel, Hawks – 50
Here are the leading players for the four teams not represented above: Essendon Bombers – Dyson Heppell, 31 points, Melbourne Demons – Angus Brayshaw and Clayton Oliver, 34 points, North Melbourne Kangaroos – Ben Cunnington, 38 points, and Richmond Tigers – Shane Edwards, 29 points.
Everyone who had Edwards first in their Richmond best and fairest pool, raise your hands.
A few comments on the names that do appear on that list above: I’m pleased to see what could be breakout seasons for several of those top names. We’re used to Dangerfield being near the top, of course, and the only thing stalling the ascension of Patrick Cripps to the top of the heap is his team’s lack of victories.
Gary Ablett, Jr, won his second Brownlow on a Gold Coast team that only won eight games; Cripps could very easily match that accomplishment this season.
But the next three names – Lachie Neale, Jezza Cameron, and the Bont – are players who have had significant success before 2019, and with the strong performances each of their teams has had in the first eighth of the season, they have been credited (rightfully) with leading their teams into that success as they themselves work to make that leap from great to transcendent.
Many of the names immediately behind that top five are young players coming into their own in 2019 – Tim Kelly, Isaac Heeney, James Worpel. Many others are veteran players having great starts to this season – Stephen Coniglio, Tom Stewart, Tom Libertore.
And then there are the names we expect to see on this list who linger in the teens or even the single digits after three games.
Eddie Betts has only eight meta-points. Despite his team’s success, Dayne Zorko has just eleven points. Both are well off their career averages in goals, disposal efficiency, and most other stats.
Ben Brown has ten points, Robbie Gray fourteen, Dustin Martin fourteen (with the number unlikely to increase in R4), Lance Franklin 17, and Elliot Yeo just ten meta-points.
None of those players are washed up – they’ll have stronger streaks of play to come this season. But it’s odd not to see them higher on this list.