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Opinion

The Roar's AFL top 50 players: 30-21

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10th March, 2020
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Stirling started things off with 50-41 on Monday, and Josh had the numbers to back up players 40-31, and now it’s my turn as we enter the top 30.

30. Toby Greene

GWS Giants | Forward

Footy’s greatest villain kicks off day three of the countdown. Like most Giants, Greene’s grand final was a forgettable one, which is a pity, because up until then he’d probably been the player of the finals for reasons both good and bad. Twenty touches and three goals in the elimination final scratching of the Bulldogs was backed up by 30 and two and a suspension against the Lions in what was the game of the season.

Has all the tools to become the first player since Steve Johnson in 2011 to end a season averaging 20 disposals and two goals a game. He’s one of the most damaging players in the competition, unfazed by the big moments and a complete mongrel on the field. I had him at 19.

Toby Greene

(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

29. Ben Brown

North Melbourne | Forward

Brown’s 188 goals over the past three seasons are the most of any player in the competition during that time. So why isn’t he higher? He’s a little one-dimensional.

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He leads straight and kicks straighter, but he’s not great when the ball hits the ground and he doesn’t offer much when the other team has the ball. There’s no shame in that, the North spearhead is a damn good footballer – as his ranking would suggest. The Roos will be hoping he can get back on the field as soon as possible.

Ben Brown

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

28. Clayton Oliver

Melbourne | Midfielder

I was surprised by how much my fellow Roar rankers cooled on Oliver after his 2019 season. Sure, it wasn’t as good as his incredible 2018, but he was hardly a scrub. His numbers were up across the board – admittedly he didn’t have the same impact on games.

He remains one of the most creative players in the competition when in congestion and when you combine that with toughness, a relentless appetite for the contest, great awareness and the fact he’s still only 22 years old, I’m still all the way in on the two-time Melbourne best-and-fairest.

I had him at 11, three others had him outside the top 35.

Clayton Oliver of the Demons kicks the ball

(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

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27. Dayne Zorko

Brisbane Lions | Midfielder/Forward

The footy world fell in love with Zorko for a while and, while he’s still highly regarded – 27th overall is nothing to sneeze at – he’s perhaps settled into his position in most observers’ eyes as a very good but not great player.

Zorko finds the footy forward of centre and can be exceptionally damaging by foot whether setting up teammates or kicking goals. He can fall into the bad habit of chasing glory a little too often, which is probably an outcome of being in a bad side for so long. He can seriously play.

Dayne Zorko poses during the Brisbane Lions AFL team photo day

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

26. Jack Darling

West Coast Eagles | Forward

Few players have transformed their reputations quite like Darling. From perennial whipping boy to the best forward in a premiership team and one of the best key forwards in the competition, Darling’s strength, speed and agility make him a nightmare match-up.

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His second efforts and defensive pressure are attributes that have long allowed the Eagles to play taller in the forward line than modern conventions might otherwise allow.

Jack Darling

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

25. Michael Walters

Fremantle | Forward

Walters’ talent has long been undeniable, it was his ability to string together long runs of top-notch footy that kept him off lists such of these. That’s no longer a concern, he was deservingly awarded his first All-Australian selection in 2019 and, like Greene, is one of the few players in the competition who could average 20 touches and two goals a game across a season – he went 21.8 and 1.8 last year.

Whether deployed in attack or the midfield, Walters makes his touches count. I’m starting to think 25 might be too low.

Michael Walters

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

24. Tom Hawkins

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Geelong Cats | Forward

Here are Tom Hawkins’ goal totals across the past eight seasons: 62, 49, 68, 46, 55, 51, 60, 56. That’s eight straight years of at least 45 goals; Jeremy Cameron at five is the next best streak. Hawkins has been so good for so long that it’s easy to forget about him, probably because he’s always been a notch below the very best key forwards in the competition.

A notch below the best key forwards in the competition is something some teams might breach the salary cap for. He’s a super player, and 24 feels about right.

Tom Hawkins of the Cats celebrates kicking a goal

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

23. Jack Macrae

Western Bulldogs | Midfielder

Few players in the competition can find the footy like Macrae. His endurance and work rate are second to none and he probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his toughness and ability in tight. His quick hands might test the boundaries of legality, but they’ve been the launching pad of many a Bulldogs scoring chain, and he can occasionally pull off an inboard, cross-body kick that would make Steve Johnson proud.

But when you get this close to the pointy end of the list you need to start nitpicking and, as prolific as his stats might be, he lacks penetration and rarely troubles the scorers. 

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Josh wasn’t discouraged, putting the Bulldogs’ ball magnet at six on his list.

Jackson Macrae

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

22. Luke Shuey

West Coast Eagles | Midfielder

Shuey is starting to get the recognition he has long deserved as one of the league’s most complete onballers. He wins his own ball, uses it well and has the speed to escape forward of stoppages – he’s the player we’ve always hoped Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel would become. The 2018 Norm Smith medallist has a terrific record in big games and should embrace his role as the Eagles’ latest skipper.

Luke Shuey of the Eagles looks to mark the ball

(Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

21. Harris Andrews

Brisbane Lions | Defender

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The panel was almost unanimous on Andrews, with everyone rating him between 22 and 25. The giant Lion is about as solid as it gets when it comes to key defenders. To take his game to the next level and enter the top-10 mix, he probably needs to turn more of his spoils into marks.

But, like most of the guys on this list, that’s nitpicking. He’s only 23; the Lions are very well placed for a long time with him as the fulcrum of their defence.

Harris Andrews

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The top 50 so far

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
30. Toby Greene
29. Ben Brown
28. Clayton Oliver
27. Dayne Zorko
26. Jack Darling
25. Michael Walters
24. Tom Hawkins
23. Jack Macrae
22. Luke Shuey
21. Harris Andrews

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