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The Roar's AFL top 50 players, 30-21: Who should be higher, Dusty or De Goey?

20th February, 2024
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20th February, 2024
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The 2024 AFL season is here!

Not officially – no, the first bounce of the season proper isn’t for another few weeks, but The Roar’s annual countdown of the league’s top 50 players has arrived.

If you’re new here, it’s all very simple. Five Roar AFL experts – Liam Salter, Tim Miller, Dem Panopoulos, myself and Matt Russell– each listed our top 60 players as of this very moment.

Those cumulative lists were added up, and over the next five days how things shook out will be revealed, finishing up on Friday with our top 10.

Today, it’s my turn to handle names 21 to 30 – and this is a seriously strong group.

Agree with our picks? Let the debate start in the comments section below.

If you haven’t checked out our list so far, you can do so below.

>> The Roar’s AFL top 50 players, 50-41

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>> The Roar’s AFL top 50 players, 40-31

30. Touk Miller

Gold Coast Suns | Midfielder

With the Suns often plying their trade off-Broadway, it’s easy to forget that Miller has been around since 2015, and is third on the all time list for games played at the club.

A knee injury in Round 6 last year saw him basically miss the middle section of 2023, but his two seasons before that were of the highest calibre – two All-Australian selections in 2021 and ’22, two best and fairest awards, and third place in the 2022 Brownlow Medal.

At his best, Miller is a prolific ball-winner, tackling machine, and is more than capable of inflicting damage on the opposition both inside and outside the contest. Still only 27 years old and right in his prime, we can expect to see him back to his best this year.

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I probably want to see Touk fully bounce back from injury before lifting my rating, ranking him 58th on my own list.

29. Joe Daniher

Brisbane Lions | Forward

After having his last three years at Essendon ruined by injury, a period of time where he was only able to play 15 games at AFL level, Daniher has again cemented himself as one of the best key forwards in the competition in his three seasons at Brisbane.

His 2023 was certainly his best year at the Lions, kicking 61 goals and being nominated in the All-Australian squad.

Daniher’s reputation was enhanced during Brisbane’s finals run last season – he was their best player with five goals in the qualifying final win over Port; kicked two crucial goals in their match-winning second quarter against Carlton in the prelim; and despite not polling a Norm Smith Medal vote in the grand final, was the Lions’ best player on the day. He took big marks, kicked big goals, and was the best big man on the ground, almost hauling his team over the line.

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I had Daniher at 26, and there was broad agreement from the Roar experts on him.

28. Tom Green

GWS Giants | Midfielder

Green is one name on today’s list that could easily find himself in the top 10 or even top five this time next year.

Having just turned 23 in January, and coming off a year where he was nominated in the All-Australian squad for the first time, he has just entered his prime.

Green averaged 15 contested possessions per game in 2023, more than every other elite inside midfielder in the competition – but he also averaged 17 uncontested as well, and topped 30 disposals 16 times. He is almost a more powerful version of Tom Mitchell in his 2018 Brownlow year, able to win his own ball at the coalface as well as find space and provide a link in the chain.

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I’m a big fan of Green, ranking him 19th coming into 2024.

27. Caleb Serong

Fremantle | Midfielder

It’s hard to believe Serong has only been in the AFL for four years, given he has already packed a career’s worth of achievements onto his CV.

Winning the Rising Star in 2020 despite only playing 14 games laid the platform, and last year he won his first Fremantle best and fairest while also making the All-Australian team and finishing seventh in the Brownlow. He is surely the next captain at Freo.

Serong has become more of an inside player as each season has progressed, and dominated that area for the Dockers last season, but lacks for nothing on the outside either. He’s smooth and clean in traffic, but then has composure under pressure and is a classy user too.

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Like a few midfielders outside the top 10 or 20 as rated by The Roar experts, he could do with kicking some more goals, especially playing for a team that is forever lacking in them.

I had Serong at 17 in my personal top 50, and it won’t surprise me to see him rank higher again this time next year.

26. Dustin Martin

Richmond | Midfielder

Is it possible for Dustin Martin to be underrated?

While it was folly to think so half a decade ago when he was collecting trophies, medals and jackets for fun, he was probably the stiffest player to miss out on All-Australian selection in 2023 after a superb final two-thirds of the season.

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From Round 8 and beyond last year, Dusty averaged 25 touches and almost 1.5 goals a game, helping the Tigers to a 9-5 win-loss record. The longer the season went, with more midfield time along the way, the more like his dominant self he was.

With the promise of spending even more time in the middle under new coach Adem Yze, I had Martin at 18 on my personal list, and can see him once again being appreciated for the all-time great he surely is.

Dustin Martin

Dustin Martin: three flags, three Norm Smith Medals, and still one of the best in the business. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

25. Jacob Weitering

Carlton | Defender

Weitering is well respected as one of the premier key defenders in the competition, but has yet to secure an All-Australian blazer despite being nominated in the extended squad in each of the last four seasons.

He still won the best and fairest for Carlton last year, his second – a worthy achievement in a preliminary final team.

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2023 was certainly his best season, winning more of the ball than ever before, both as an intercept defender and linkman. He posted career high numbers for contested marking, but still generated plenty of run from defence for a big man.

The 2015 No.1 draft pick is a bedrock for the Blues in his ninth season, and they will need him to stay fit in order to contend again.

I had Weitering at 36 on my own personal list, but I usually do rate key defenders lower than others.

24. Sam Taylor

GWS Giants | Defender

Taylor caught the eye as a promising young defender in his first few seasons at AFL level, but it was in 2022 when he stamped himself as one of the elite key backs in the league, securing his first All Australian selection and winning the GWS best and fairest.

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He was likely on track for a second of each in 2023 before missing six games with a hamstring injury.

The best key defenders have always backed themselves to win the ball back in the air as their first option, with spoiling their opponent as the second, and this is the area where Taylor keeps improving each year.

He is a brilliant decision-maker as to when to outmark his opponent, when to fly and intercept as third man up, and when to go for the fist.

23. Andrew Brayshaw

Fremantle | Midfielder

I suppose as an AFL fan you’re either a Serong person (who I rated at 17 personally) or a Brayshaw person (55), and while I am certainly in the former camp, the Roar experts as a collective have plumped for the latter.

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Brayshaw won the Freo B&F in 2022, with a podium finish either side, and was All Australian, AFLPA MVP and top five in the Brownlow in 2022 as well.

For mine, Serong has a more balanced game, is cleaner on the inside and with more polish on the outside. But Brayshaw possesses a phenomenal work rate, runs all day, and is always prepared to work both ways while accumulating prolifically.

Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers celebrate.

Who would you pick first out of Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw? (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

22. Zach Merrett

Essendon | Midfielder

Merrett usually rates somewhere in the 20s on these kind of lists (I had him at 29 myself), and has collected three All-Australians and four best and fairests in a career that is now entering its 11th season.

He has also polled 10 votes or more in the Brownlow in each of the last eight years.

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Merrett is never going to be an inside beast with his build, and while I took aim at him as a captain and the Essendon culture after their season ended so pathetically last year, he is still a very fine player.

You know he’s not going to shirk the task when he does have to put his head over the ball, will keep working to find the ball in space using his good footy brain, and more often than not, he’s going to use the ball effectively to help his team.

21. Jordan De Goey

Collingwood | Midfielder

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De Goey has never been an All-Australian, never won a best and fairest, and has only polled an average of six Brownlow votes per season across his career; yet he is still held in high enough regard to be considered at the pointy end of lists like these.

When Collingwood made the grand final in 2018, De Goey kicked 48 goals in the Dustin Martin-type forward-mid role, yet played as a full-time midfielder in the flag-winning side last year, averaging 24 touches and nearly six clearances a game while still hitting the scoreboard.

His reputation as a ‘moment’ player was entrenched with two big goals in the 2023 grand final, including the one that put the Pies ahead for the last time.

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