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The big improvers in 2021

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Roar Guru
24th December, 2020
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What would a team look like if it had one player from each team that has the most potential for growth?

To be eligible a player must have played a minimum of five games in season 2020.

For this exercise there’s one captain, Andrew McGrath of the Essendon Bombers as being given the role of being the main leader would help him to get to the next level.

Starting 18
B: Callum Mills (Sydney Swans), Kyle Hartigan (Hawthorn Hawks), Jack Henry (Geelong Cats)

HB: Liam Duggan (West Coast Eagles), Jake Lever (Melbourne Demons), Nick Coffield (St Kilda Saints)

C: Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton Blues), Jacob Hopper (Greater Western Sydney Giants), Andrew McGrath (Essendon Bombers)

HF: Callum Brown (Collingwood Magpies), Matt Taberner (Fremantle Dockers), Kane Lambert (Richmond Tigers)

FF: Mitch Wallis (Western Bulldogs), Eric Hipwood (Brisbane Lions), Alex Sexton (Gold Coast Suns)

Foll: Reilly O’Brien (Adelaide Crows), Trent Dumont (North Melbourne Kangaroos), Tom Rockliff (Port Adelaide Power)


Callum Mills had a reasonable season in season 2020 as he averaged the fourth-most disposals of any Sydney Swans player. He finished sixth in the Sydney Swans’ best and fairest despite the fact that he missed two games through injury in Round 15 and 16. He only had less than 12 disposals on one occasion in season 2020.

He is most likely to play in the back pocket for the Sydney Swans in season 2021. He should improve and play a key role for the team and a player that should get more recognition.

Kyle Hartigan is a player that’s capable of playing anywhere in the back six. He only featured in 12 out of 17 games for the Adelaide Crows in season 2020, but still managed to finish eighth in their best and fairest. He is most suited to playing fullback and will be a pivotal part of the team in season 2021 as they will be without James Sicily due to injury.

Jack Henry featured in all 21 games for the Geelong Cats and finished eighth in their best and fairest in season 2020. He will benefit from playing every game as it will give him the confidence to get even better.

Liam Duggan performed admirably in 2020. He featured in 17 of the 18 games that the West Coast Eagles played, as he missed the one game in Round 12 against the Hawthorn Hawks through injury. He averaged the sixth-most disposals per game of any West Coast Eagles player, accumulating at least ten disposals in every game he played in season 2020.


He should be in the contention to be selected in the All-Australian squad in season 2021 if he plays to his optimum level and shows what he is capable of.

Liam Duggan West Coast Eagles AFL 2017

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Jake Lever featured in every game that the Melbourne Demons played in season 2020. Despite that he failed to finish in the top ten in the Melbourne Demons’ best and fairest. He had a poor season by his standard.

The fact is that season 2021 is make or break for Lever as far as his career is concerned. He has shown potential at times but needs to be more consistent.

Nick Coffield finished fifth in the St Kilda Saints’ best and fairest in season 2020. He only had less than 12 disposals on one occasion in Round 8 in a win for the St Kilda Saints over the Port Adelaide Power. There’s only one way that his trajectory should go as he has a lot of potential.

Sam Petrevski-Seton may have averaged the tenth-most disposals of any Carlton Blues player in season 2020, but he made a difference when he used the ball. He only missed one game when he was managed in Round 14 against the Collingwood Magpies.

He should benefit from the Carlton Blues recruiting Adam Saad as it will allow Petrevski-Seton to play in a position that he is suited to, the wing as he struggled, at times playing in defence.

Jacob Hopper of the Greater Western Sydney Giants averaged the fifth-most disposals of any player in the team in season 2020. He played every game during that season and finished fourth in the best and fairest. There is plenty of scope for improvement for Jacob Hopper in season 2021, given he had a fairly consistent in season 2020. He will only get better as he improves and his confidence grows.


Andrew McGrath had a good season in 2020, as he averaged the third-most disposals of any player in the Essendon Bombers team. He finished fifth in the best and fairest, missing the last three games of the season through injury. He is a player that should improve and be classified as an elite player if he improves in season 2021 and fulfils his potential.

Andrew McGrath

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Callum Brown deserves to play every game he is fit and available for in season 2021. He needs to hit the scoreboard more, which he should do. He has the potential to be renowned as one of the most improved players next season if he has the right tutelage and if he stays in the team on a consistent basis.

Getting dropped must have hurt his confidence. Expect 2021 to be different.

Matt Taberner only finished sixth in the Fremantle Dockers’ best and fairest in season 2020, but he was in the All-Australian squad of 40. He kicked at least one goal in every game besides Round 16. In season 2021, he should improve on his average of 1.8 goals per game, which he averaged in season 2020.

In the last game of the season in 2020 he missed through injury, the Fremantle Dockers lost by five goals, which indicates he may be a bit of a barometer for the team. He has the talent to improve and be named in the All-Australian 22 in season 2021. He should be a player that becomes referred to as elite this season.

Kane Lambert should get more recognition than he did in season 2020. In that season he featured in 20 of the 21 games that the Richmond Tigers played and finished ninth in their best and fairest.

Kane Lambert of the Tigers celebrates after scoring a goal

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)


Mitch Wallis kicked the most goals of any Western Bulldogs player in 2020. He kicked 25 goals, which was ten more goals than any other player in the team. He has the capability to kick more goals in season 2021, as the role of playing as a forward will be less foreign to him than it was in season 2020.

He will benefit from featuring in every game as it means that there’s a good chance for him to gain confidence thanks to his durability. He only finished tenth in the Western Bulldogs’ best and fairest, which he should improve on in season 2021.

Eric Hipwood has plenty of potential. He needs to improve on his consistency if he is to reach his ceiling. The recruiting of Joe Daniher to the Brisbane Lions should take pressure off Hipwood from a structural perspective. Despite having an average season statistically in 2020, Hipwood still managed to finish in the top ten of the Brisbane Lions’ best and fairest. It’s a true indication of how important he is to the Brisbane Lions structure.

Eric Hipwood of the Lions celebrates a goal

(Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Alex Sexton kicked the second-most goals of any of the Gold Coast Suns players in season 2020. He missed three of the 17 games the Gold Coast Suns played. He wasn’t performing to his optimum level, it’s as simple as that. He will benefit from the adversity that he faced in season 2020, as he was dropped. It should make him hungrier to perform to an acceptable level where he first and foremost warrants selection and subsequently improves on the season that he had in 2020.

Reilly O’Brien deservedly won the best and fairest for the Adelaide Crows in season 2020. He averaged the sixth most hitouts of every ruckman in the competition, which was pretty impressive considering the Adelaide Crows’ dismal season. He can get even better. In season 2021, he could well be at the very least in the All-Australian squad as he should be determined to improve and driven to get better.

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Trent Dumont is a play at the North Melbourne Kangaroos that often goes under the radar. He averaged the fifth-most disposals and coincidentally finished fifth in the North Melbourne Kangaroos’ best and fairest in season 2020. Expect him to gain belief from playing every game in season 2020. He will grow into potentially the North Melbourne Kangaroos’ best player in season 2021.

Tom Rockliff from the Port Adelaide Power had a reasonable season in 2020. He was dropped for three games in a row: Round 6, 7 and 8. He responded to being left out of the team in the right fashion. He had an average of 6.2 tackles per game, which showed how high his work rate was. He will want to improve on his eighth-place finish in the season 2020 best and fairest. He won’t want to be dropped again and will want to prove he is a player that is of high quality.