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Opinion

Who can break into your club's Best and Fairest top 10? Part 1

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Roar Rookie
21st January, 2023
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An AFL club’s Best and Fairest award is among the highest players can win. The award is judged by the coaches.

Each club chooses their own unique way to adjudicate the winner. This can include how players train and apply themselves to the team values as well as how they perform on the weekend.

In 2022, Jeremy Cameron and Cam Guthrie shared the great achievement of winning the Best and Fairest for Geelong in a premiership year. Recognition for being the best and most professional players in the best club.

However, it’s not just winning the Best and Fairest that receives praise. Finishing second or third is still a very good achievement. To finish in the top 10 shows that you’ve performed your role and stuck to the team values.

Ahead of the 2023 AFL season, I wanted to look at which players could crack into the top 10 of their club’s Best and Fairest who weren’t in there last year. Perhaps, they were injured during the 2022 season or their form didn’t quite stack up.

I will be exploring this by examining the league in three groups of six teams, starting with Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Fremantle.

Adelaide Crows
2022 Best and Fairest: Rory Laird, 118 votes

2. Jordan Dawson
3. Ben Keays
4. Taylor Walker
5. Brodie Smith
6. Darcy Fogarty
7. Shane McAdam
8. Tom Doedee
9. Sam Berry
10. Jake Soligo

A surprising absence in the top 10 was Riley O’Brien, who won the best and fairest in 2021. He had a pretty good season in 2022. He was second in the competition for hit outs. For Adelaide he was ranked fourth in clearances and sixth for score involvements. Expect him to have another good year and be a big presence in the ruck, which is what Adelaide will need.

Brisbane Lions
2022 Best and Fairest: Lachie Neale, 66 votes

2. Hugh McCluggage
3. Brandon Starcevich
=4. Harris Andrews
=4. Charlie Cameron
6. Jarrod Berry
7. Daniel Rich
8. Lincoln McCarthy
9. Oscar Mclnerney
10. Zac Bailey

Cam Rayner played every game apart from the elimination final in his return season from an ACL. He was once again dynamic in bursts. He may never be a big possession winner, but he does make an impact when he gets the ball. He was fifth for contested possessions, fifth for centre clearances and seventh in score involvements. Look for him to take his game to another level this season.

Trent Cotchin of the Tigers is tackled by Cam Rayner of the Lions

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Carlton
2022 Best and Fairest: Patrick Cripps, 181 votes

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2. Sam Docherty
3. Sam Walsh
4. Charlie Curnow
5. George Hewett
6. Adam Saad
7. Harry McKay
8. Zac Fisher
9. Matt Kennedy
10. Adam Cerra

Jack Silvagni had a good season without being very good. He was used in a range of different roles, occasionally being asked to second ruck when Marc Pittonet was injured. His accustomed role is as that third tall in the forward line behind Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay.

For a return of only 17 goals, he’d want to improve on that. He’s coming into his eighth season now – Round 1 will be his 100th game. This might be the season we see the best of Silvagni.

Collingwood
2022 Best and Fairest: Jack Crisp, 291 votes

2. Scott Pendlebury
3. Darcy Moore
4. Jeremy Howe
5. Steele Sidebottom
6. Patrick Lipinski
7. Nick Daicos
=8. Josh Daicos
=8. Brayden Maynard
10. Jordan De Goey

Darcy Cameron really grew into his own last season after Brodie Grundy went down with a posterior cruciate ligament injury. Playing ruck/forward he managed to win his fair share of hit outs, ranking 10th in the competition. More importantly, he was able to get around the ground and provide an outlet. For Collingwood he was ranked equal first for contested marks and kicked 20 goals.

Brodie Grundy is now at Melbourne. Cameron will have the onus on him to combine with Mason Cox and form a dynamic duo.

Essendon
2022 Best and Fairest: Peter Wright

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2. Zach Merrett
3. Matt Guelfi
4. Mason Redman
5. Jordan Ridley
6. Jayden Laverde
7. Jake Kelly
8. Nic Martin
=9. Darcy Parish
=9. Dylan Shiel
=9. Nick Hind
12. Andrew McGrath

Jye Caldwell was brought over from GWS at the end of 2020. After only 14 games in three seasons, he played his best season to date for Essendon in 2022. He showed he could win plenty of his own football and also lock down the star midfielders.

This was illustrated when Essendon travelled up to the Gabba and Caldwell was given the task against Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale. Caldwell did the job superbly, keeping Neale to 21 disposals and zero goals, whilst he gathered 26 of his own possessions and kicked a goal.

Caldwell has good balance in his game – he ranked third for score involvements and equal first for tackles at Essendon. The fact that he only kicked six goals for the year and is ranked top three for score involvements shows there is plenty of upside to his game.

Fremantle
2022 Best and Fairest: Andrew Brayshaw, 273 votes

2. Brennan Cox
3. Caleb Serong
4. Alex Pearce
5. Lachie Schultz
6. Griffin Logue
7. Michael Walters
8. Hayden Young
9. Jordan Clark
10. Rory Lobb

Michael Frederick could take the next step and finish in the top 10 at the end of the 2023 season. Frederick played 22 games out of a possible 24. He missed one game for breaking club rules.

When he did play, he was electrifying, highlighted by the fact that two of his best games were in wins against fellow finalists. He kicked three goals against Brisbane and two against Melbourne, where he also set up a goal for teammate Lachie Schultz with an ingenious tap backwards.

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The 2023 season will be his fourth and he’ll be 23 years old. He kicked 28 goals in 2022. If he can up that to 35-40-ish, he becomes one of the most dynamic players in the game.

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