Welcome back to the fourth day of The Roar Top 50, the list this year compiled by Stirling Coates, Josh Elliott, Adrian Polykandrites, Jay Croucher and I.
We’ve had some fun over the first three days, with Stirling (50-41), Josh (40-31) and Adrian (30-21) all helping us count up, and we’re really getting into the pointy end of proceedings now. Each player listed from now is undisputed as one of the best in the competition.
Richmond | Forward
Three-time All Australian, including both key posts of full forward and centre half forward, three-time Coleman medallist, dual best-and-fairest winner, dual premiership player and one rendition of Mr Brightside alongside The Killers. It’s been a fair career.
Riewoldt’s five goals in the decider against GWS were the equal most in a grand final this century, and a fitting individual reward for a player that has embodied the sense of team for longer than he’s been given credit.
A master of his craft, he makes an entire forward-line function better due to his smarts and skill.
Riewoldt was rated pretty solidly across the group, with myself having him at a high of 18, and Stirling at a low of 26.
Collingwood | Forward
Jordan de Goey’s list of accolades doesn’t match that of his match-winning reputation, yet to don an All Australian jacket for instance, but his ball-tearing best is an ever-present threat wherever on the field he is patrolling.
Best known for playing deep forward with bursts through the middle, de Goey has all the tools in the mould of current-day Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield, or a Mark Riccuito if looking back to the past; Brownlow medallists all. That’s the sort of company most believe the Collingwood star belongs in, and if he doesn’t reach the top ten on a list like this one day, then he’ll have under-delivered.
Very few players in the league have games or quarters where they are actually unstoppable, but de Goey is one.
Josh and Adrian were highest on de Goey, pegging him at 17, while Jay was a little more unconvinced, putting him at 28.
Sydney Swans | Forward
Buddy is an eight-time All Australian, four-time Coleman medallist, dual premiership player, and has led the goal-kicking at his club on 11 occasions. Entering his 16th season he has played 300 games and kicked 944 goals, and we’re all counting up until he hits 1000.
That Franklin is still considered a top-20 player after all this time, coming off an injury-riddled year, tells you everything about his esteem in the game. Probably the finest combination of athlete and footballer that we have ever seen, it is still a laugh-out-loud experience to watch Buddy pull off some of his feats.
Here’s hoping we get to see the champion forward for enough games this season to see him get to that magic number.
Jay has the most faith that Buddy still has it, ranking him 13, while Adrian at 26 thinks the end is coming a bit quicker.
GWS Giants | Defender/Midfielder
Lachie Whitfield has almost quietly become one of the best players in the game, as lethal a deliver by either foot as has ever existed. Winning 2018 All Australian selection, as well as the GWS best and fairest that year, he probably would have doubled up on those in 2019 if he didn’t miss seven games through injury.
Whether scything through the midfield, running off halfback, or delivering through half-forward, everything Whitfield does is class. Not many can have 40 touches and kick three goals in a game, as he did against Carlton last season.
After injury impacted his last two finals in 2019, including the grand final, he will have a burning desire to impress this year.
I had Whitfield the highest at 14, while Stirling still wants to see him go to another level, rating him 27.
Collingwood | Midfielder
A six-time All Australian, five-time best and fairest (playing for good sides), premiership player and Norm Smith medallist, alongside many other awards, Scott Pendlebury has been in the upper echelon of top 50 lists for a decade. He stands alone as the best midfielder of his generation not to win a Brownlow medal.
Making time stand still is such a cliché when describing footballers of Pendlebury’s ilk, but it’s true. It just does move more slowly when he has the ball, like he is permanently in his own bullet time.
His class and silk still takes the breath away, and as my personal favourite player of the last decade I hope he continues to do so for many years yet.
Jay loves Pendles the most, putting him at 11, while Adrian has no time for him at a lowly 33.
Brisbane Lions | Midfielder
With a move to a new club in 2019 and no Nat Fyfe alongside him, many wondered how Lachie Neale would cope in the role of main man. They need not have worried. A third best and fairest, first All Australian and a third-placed finish in the Brownlow behind his old teammate was the result, carrying Brisbane to a second-placed finish on the ladder.
While he may lack the style of some others on this list, he is as prolific as they come when he catches fire, and is as comfortable at the coalface or on the outside as a linkman. While Neale’s form tapered a fraction in the second half of the year as taggers and their physical work on him took its toll, he will once again be a perennial threat in 2020.
Stirling had Neale highest at six, while Josh thinks he doesn’t hurt the opposition enough and placed him at 29.
West Coast Eagles | Defender
Coming off his fourth straight All Australian jacket, and with the retirement of Alex Rance, McGovern is rightfully acknowledged as the best backman in the AFL. It’s worth saying that many would have had him rated as such even when Rance was playing.
McGovern is the best judge of a high ball in the AFL, and a master reader of the play when the ball is being delivered inside forward 50. He plays the ball first and the man second, and forces teams to go around him. Not many players have the power to make opposition sides adjust their ball movement and forward planning to counter one man, but this is his skill.
If you don’t allow for McGovern, he will swallow you up. If you do allow for him, he might just do it anyway.
Adrian, Josh and I all had McGovern ranked at the lower end of our top tens, while Stirling and Jay had him at 18 and 22 respectively.
Richmond | Forward
Plying his trade in relative anonymity for eight years up on the Gold Coast, many might have wondered what all the fuss was about when he was reportedly offered a million dollars a year to cross to Richmond at the end of 2018.
Sixty-three goals later, including five in a powerhouse preliminary final performance, and all questions were answered. No-one in the AFL took more contested marks than Lynch last season, and without his six-goal performance away at Port in Round 4 it’s doubtful the Tigers win that game and have enough spark to find their way to a top-four finish on the ladder.
With a premiership already under his belt and every reason to think he’ll be better again in 2020, his rating is well justified.
Tom Lynch was ranked somewhere between ten and 15 by the entire panel, so broad agreement was reached.
Melbourne | Ruckman
With three All Australian selections and two best and fairests to his name, Max Gawn is clearly a dominant ruckman in the game, and in the conversation as first ruck in the team of the 2010s.
An effective linkman when required to be through the middle of the ground, Gawn’s main attributes lie in his tap-work mastery and contested marking. If you get the chance, go to a game and put the binoculars on Gawn’s palm work at stoppages, a true joy to behold. Being a presence in the air is an important part of what makes him a star.
The question of Gawn or Grundy is the modern-day equivalent of ‘Buckley, Hird or Voss?’ from the late ’90s and early 2000s. The Roar panel has gone with Grundy, but there are no wrong answers.
Adrian and Jay had big Max rated at eight, while I, ardently in the ruckmen-are-overrated camp, had him at 20.
West Coast Eagles | Midfielder
Twice All Australian and dual best and fairest, including one in a premiership year, which would offer more satisfaction than a Brownlow to many, Elliot Yeo has no real weakness in his game.
While most might think of his work at stoppages, outstanding contested marking or thumping right boot and 60-metre goals, it might surprise to learn no-one laid more tackles in 2019 than Yeo. Finishing top 15 in both clearances and contested possessions as well, this is a guy who isn’t afraid of physical punishment.
In the absolute prime of his career now at 26 years of age, you wouldn’t back against Yeo climbing even higher on this list next season.
Josh and Jay both had Yeo ranked at nine, while Adrian and I each had him at 16.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to get Jay’s take on who we have determined to be the top ten players in the AFL. The quality of player will only be surpassed by Jay’s writing.
11. Elliot Yeo
12. Max Gawn
13. Tom J Lynch (Richmond)
14. Jeremy McGovern
15. Lachie Neale
16. Scott Pendlebury
17. Lachie Whitfield
18. Lance Franklin
19. Jordan de Goey
20. Jack Riewoldt
21. Harris Andrews
22. Luke Shuey
23. Jack Macrae
24. Tom Hawkins
25. Michael Walters
26. Jack Darling
27. Dayne Zorko
28. Clayton Oliver
29. Ben Brown
30. Toby Greene
31. Charlie Cameron
32. Tom Mitchell
33. James Sicily
34. Adam Treloar
35. Dylan Grimes
36. Travis Boak
37. Bachar Houli
38. Dion Prestia
39. Tim Taranto
40. Shaun Higgins
41. Isaac Heeney
42. Tom Stewart
43. Ben Cunnington
44. Andrew Gaff
45. Robbie Gray
46. Josh Dunkley
47. Hugh McCluggage
48. Nick Vlastuin
49. Phil Davis
50. Tie: Zac Williams and Rory Sloane