And then there were five. Welcome to lucky part number 13 of my season reviews on every side.
Today, The Roar’s top AFL 50 player countdown series continues as I take us through the players ranked 40-31 – featuring three Tigers, a Brownlow medallist, a 22-year-old and two 31-year-olds.
Putting together my own top 50 this year I looked at which players had finished top 50 in 2019 for some of the AFL’s most crucial stats – any statistical rankings in this piece refer to 2019 averages from players who featured in at least 10 games.
North Melbourne | Midfielder/Forward
One of the league’s classiest players, Higgins’ 2019 season wasn’t quite as prolific as his All Australian year in 2018, but certainly at a standard high enough to keep him firmly inside the top 50.
In terms of the individual statistics, Higgins ranked 10th in the league for effective disposals in 2019, 12th for inside 50s, 13th for score involvements, 19th for goal assists and 34th for metres gained.
He ties with several other North Melbourne players for being the most beautiful human being playing in the AFL. I had him ranked 37th overall in my personal top 50.
GWS Giants | Midfielder
In just his third season playing AFL footy, the former No.2 draft pick filled the void left in the GWS midfield by injuries to Callan Ward et al and raised himself to elite status.
In 2019 Taranto laid the eighth most tackles per game in the league and gathered the 19th most disposals. He also fit inside the top 50 for clearances, contested possessions, inside 50s and score involvements.
While I didn’t personally have him in my top 50 – I had him ranked 60th overall – he’s definitely deserving of a spot in the final count.
Richmond | Midfielder
Injury curtailed Prestia’s 2018 season at Richmond but in 2019 he was a rock for the Tigers when so many of their key players seemed to drop like flies.
In a prolific season, Prestia wound up being 10th in the league for average inside 50s, top 20 for score involvements, metres gained, clearances and disposals, top 30 for contested possessions and effective disposals, and top 50 for tackles.
Pundits once argued Richmond were wrong to spend pick 6 trading for him, but the now two-time premiership Tiger has made them look foolish. I had him 38th overall in my top 50 which is where he comes in here.
Richmond | Defender
Like a fine wine, Bachar Houli just keeps getting better with age, having a career-best season as a 31-year-old in 2019 and breaking through for his first All Australian guernsey.
Houli finished the year fifth overall for average running bounces, seventh for metres gained, eight for effective disposals, and top 20 for intercepts, disposals, and rebound 50s.
He is one of the most respected players in the AFL and for good reason. I had him ranked 32nd overall in my personal top 50.
Port Adelaide | Midfielder
After finding himself pushed out of Port Adelaide’s midfield in the years prior, Boak was returned to his best position in 2019 and responded with probably the best season of his career yet.
Boak finished the year sixth in the league for average contested possessions and clearances, seventh for disposals, top 30 for effective disposals and inside 50s, and top 50 for score involvements, tackles and metres gained.
One of the more surprising omissions from the All Australian team last year – just ask our own Adrian Polykandrites – Boak has rocketed back into the elite tier of the league at 31 years of age. I had him ranked 40th overall.
Richmond | Defender
Many wrote off Richmond as a premiership chance when they lost Alex Rance in Round 1 last year, but the emergence of Dylan Grimes was one of the key reasons the Tigers were able to take out the cup in 2019 regardless.
Of course, Grimes has been an underrated player for a long time – 2019 is when the world finally took notice. He was 21st in the league for average intercepts, 26th for one-percenters, and snuck into the top 50 for running bounces.
Filling the shoes of one of the greatest players of the generation is no easy task. Grimes not only stepped up, he made the position his own. I had him 36th in my top 50.
Collingwood | Midfielder
After producing consistently strong numbers in his time at Collingwood so far, 2019 was the season where Treloar took the next step forward and became undeniably one of the AFL’s elite midfielders.
He finished 2019 second in the league for average disposals (behind only Jack Macrae), fourth for effective disposals, top 20 for contested possessions, bounces and clearances, top 40 for score involvements, goal assists and tackles, and 42nd for inside 50s.
Despite these on-field achievements, what I respect him for most is the open and public way he has talked about his struggles with mental health. His recent podcast interview with Neroli Meadows is well worth a listen.
I ranked him No.39 in my personal top 50.
Hawthorn | Defender
One of the AFL’s most famous modern-day hotheads, what Sicily can lack in on-field composure he more than makes up for with the elite quality of his football.
In 2019 he was third in the league for average intercepts and ninth for rebound 50s, 25th for metres gained, and in the top 40 for contested marks and top 50 for effective disposals.
I had him ranked 33rd overall which is exactly where he has come in here. One of those players you just can’t tear your eyes away from, he should play on Toby Greene more often.
Hawthorn | Midfielder
Mitchell obviously didn’t play at all in 2019 after breaking a leg in the preseason, but after winning the 2018 Brownlow he is entering the new year looking to re-establish himself as one of the game’s elite midfielders.
He was, of course, No.1 in the league in that 2018 season for average clearances, disposals and effective disposals, and it’s no surprise he was a comfortable winner on Brownlow night.
Mitchell has his strengths and his limitations, but no player in the league is better at making the most of their strengths, and the least of their limitations. I had him ranked 41st in my top 50.
Brisbane Lions | Forward
I’ll admit that when Brisbane paid a high trade price for Charlie Cameron I had my doubts he would prove worth it, worrying that perhaps he had been shielded from the best defenders by playing alongside Eddie Betts, but he has gone to another level at the Lions.
In 2019 he ranked fifth for average points scored (contributing around two and a half goals a game), 21st for score involvements, 33rd for marks inside 50 (behind only Jamie Elliott for small forwards), and top 40 for tackles inside 50.
53 per cent of Cameron’s disposals in 2019 were score involvements, the ninth-best rating in the league. I had him 35th overall in my top 50.
50. Zac Williams and Rory Sloane
49. Phil Davis
48. Nick Vlastuin
47. Hugh McCluggage
46. Josh Dunkley
45. Robbie Gray
44. Andrew Gaff
43. Ben Cunnington
42. Tom Stewart
41. Isaac Heeney
40. Shaun Higgins
39. Tim Taranto
38. Dion Prestia
37. Bachar Houli
36. Travis Boak
35. Dylan Grimes
34. Adam Treloar
33. James Sicily
32. Tom Mitchell
31. Charlie Cameron