The term X-Factor is bandied around in AFL circles to the point where it can often make little sense.

Eddie Betts has X-Factor, apparently.

Dustin Martin has X-Factor, too.

But does Jamie Cripps? How about Sam Switkowski?

Breaking down what makes a great X-Factor player wasn’t as easy as it seems. But if anyone is going to do it, it may as well be us.

To begin, we had to take into account that these players are almost exclusively goalkickers. They are the players that run forward and hit the scoreboard on a weekly basis.

As such, a minimum of one goal per game as an average is required. This benefits both the forwards and the midfielders that love running inside fifty and having a ping at goal.

But there is more to being an X-Factor than just kicking goals. You also have to be able to do the other things – take marks inside 50, lay tackles inside 50, and get involved in scoring chains. You can be an X-Factor kind of player with a pressure-based game or with a team-first mentality. Causing chaos and setting up teammates for scoring opportunities are vital to a team’s success. With small forwards, in particular, the tackles inside 50 and one-percenters are a determining factor in whether a player has this mythical “X-Factor” or not. How many times have you seen Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti swing momentum with a tackle inside 50?

So, as The Mongrel sat and pondered how to rank these players (actually I was playing on my phone, pretending to be concentrating so I didn’t have to do the dishes), a number of criteria started to leap out as important. The one goal per game cut-off was important. That stayed put, but once I started factoring in things like goal assists, score involvements, one-percenters, and tackles inside 50, the field started to look a little different from the way it did when I just had the list of goalkickers written down.

Suddenly, there were players’ names bobbing up that I had never expected to see on the list, and it proved an interesting exercise.

Below is the first X-Factor Ranking for 2021 – it is an additional fortnightly column added this season for our Inner Circle Tier Membership. As the season progresses, I will dive deep into the factors that contribute to the success, or failure of those on the list, and provide an analysis of how they got there.

Oh, and one more thing – I opted not to include “inside 50 disposals” as a part of this formula, as I feel it disadvantages those who were genuinely playing close to goal and gave the midfielders an unfair advantage.

So, here we go – the first Mongrel Punt X-Factor Rankings of the season.


This content is for our Inner Circle Members – all season they will get access to weekly player rankings, weekly defensive player of the year rankings, and fortnightly x-factor small forward rankings. Want to join them? It’s bloody good value… says the biased guy who owns the site.


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