Depending on your perspective, having the top ten players in the game crammed into a list will look very different. Your list may be vastly different to mine, so it is important to keep in mind that just because my list says one thing, it is not a criticism of what you think – too many people react to theae things like it is. It’s not at all. It’s just the way I’ve seen the year play out.
I watch a lot of footy and my attention is spread across every team. Do I watch every game? No – I used to, but I found Mrs Mongrel’s threats to kill me were moving from humorous to being a little more serious in nature, so I have taken the foot off. I watch 6-7 games per week and catch up on several parts of others.
This viewing is rotated so of the 17 games teams have played to date, I would have seen 14 from each club. Not a bad frame of reference for an undertaking such as this.
So, rather than just having a list of ten midfielders, as you’ll see when the final Brownlow votes are read out by Big Gil, I have opted for something a little different.
This list must contain two defenders, two forwards, a ruck, and then we can jam five mids in, because they seem to be the blokes who often get the nod as “the best” even though there are so damn many of them.
Right, got that? Good.
So, in no particular order, here are my top ten players of the season to date.
Is there a better kick in the game than Errol Gulden?
I mean, sure… he will occasionally miss a target going inside pressure, as we witnessed in Round 17, but his overall precision with the footy in hand is superb. There are a few that may be on par with him, but I doubt there is anyone consistently better when it comes to lowering his eyes and spotting up a target.
Playing both midfield and wing this season, he has elevated his game to a new level, with his numbers at career-high stats across the board.
He is +6.3 in disposals per game on his 2022 numbers… and he was pretty good in 2022, anyway! He is working hard at both ends of the ground and has demonstrated a tenacity when the ball is in dispute, as well. He is fast emerging as a star of the game, and if the Swans had won more games, his name would be right up there with potential Brownlow winners this season.
Though he may have been beaten against the Dees, he is having a throwback year to his All-Australian seasons in 2023. Andrews has re-established himself as the premier key defender in the game with a stellar season this point. Some may argue that he never really went away, but there was an undoubted drop in form from 2020-22, with Andrews looking less mobile. He has more than remedied that situation, now.
With the Brisbane defence looking shaky to start the season, Andrews has formed a fantastic combination with Jack Payne to turn a perceived weakness into a strength. The number one spoiler in the game, he controls the defensive 50, and his last month has been nothing short of exceptional.
Again, the timing of this may not do him favours, as his influence against the Demons was subdued, but his overall season has been right up there with his best.
If you’re one of those people who tried to tell everyone that he picked up cheap kicks across half-back and amassed stats from kick-ins… where do you sit now that he has made the move into the midfield and is continuing to dominate?
My esteemed colleague, Alex Docherty, made a statement the other day – we are seeing Nick Daicos become the next generation version of Gary Ablett Junior. High praise, but not misguided at all if you watch him play.
Despite spending most of the season in defence, Daicos has somehow managed to find himself in 12th overall when it comes to score involvements. The bloke just makes things happen! And with 15 goals to his name, he gets forward and finishes plays with the best of them. There is no top ten without him in it.
I’m taking him over Charlie Curnow because when it comes to the Crows’ forward line, Tex provides the focal point that straightens this team up. Yeah, you could argue that Darcy Fogarty does it, too, but when the Crows need something, it is regularly Walker that steps up and provides it.
This season has seen him close to career-high numbers in goals per game, with just his 2012 numbers better, whilst his contested marking has been as good as it has ever been. There was a time, not too long ago, when people were speculating that Tex was about to hang them up. It was 2020, I believe, as he and his Crows limped through the season, but as we turn for home in the 2023 season, Walker has put together a three-year span where he has produced consistently excellent football.
And yeah, I must admit, I am barracking for him to win the Coleman, as well. It’d guarantee him his first All-Australian blazer- go Tex!
Back up to over a goal per game this season after dipping to 0.79 last season, Petracca is the number one man in the league for score involvements and third when it comes to inside 50s.
In the absence of Clayton Oliver, Trac has continued to shoulder the load in the Demons’ midfield, with 27 touches per game making him the most dangerous mid/forward in the competition.
He is still missing his fair share of shots at goal (he has kicked 20.21 for the year), but it’s a damn sight better than his wasteful 19.31 in 2022.
The Norm Smith Medallist looks hungry and his last three weeks have returned averages of 29 disposals and 1.66 goals per game.
Ultimately, I had Petracca and Bontempelli battling for this spot… some may prefer Bont but I prefer Petracca.
The time has come for the man who was bullied in the ruck to take the crown and become The Man.
English is never going to dominate the hit-outs (unless he gets to play against the Swans without a ruckman every week) but he has been murdering teams around the ground all season. In the past, there has been more baby giraffe than graceful gazelle about English, but that has been turned around this season, with the big fella covering the ground beautifully and both a get-out-of-jail option as the Dogs exit defence, and an intercept option when the opposition build toward attacking fifty is slow.
Some may look at this selection as the best of a bad bunch getting the nod, and in some respects you’re right, but no other player is providing what English is giving the Dogs at the moment. He has made the leap and is finally the oak tree everyone saw in the acorn five years ago.
If Zak Butters was the size of Christian Petracca, he may have killed someone on the field at this point in his carer, such is the way he attacks the footy. It’s almost like he forgets that he is one of the smaller fellas.
Skilled, desperate, quick… he sounds like he is a good/terrible lover, but in a footy sense, Butters has every aspect of the game covered and it is finely tuned with the right element of competitiveness. He wills himself into contests and takes great delight in doing the physical stuff blokes larger than him flinch at.
His combination with Connor Rozee is the stuff Port fans would dream about, as the pair have years left together at their peak, and that spells good times for Power supporters.
The second inclusion from Port, Rozee is all class, and has found the perfect balance between hard-running midfielder, and scoreboard-hitting footballing maestro.
With 15 goals to his name, Rozee casts doubt into the heart of his direct opponent – do they hunt the footy, or do they keep an eye on the bloke who can get forward and finish as well as anyone in the business? His acceleration and change of direction are rivalled only by Shai Bolton as a package, and his skill with the ball in hand makes him an incredibly tough player to stop. Tag him, and he just moves forward, where his ability to find the footy inside 50 hurts n a whole new level.
Many are touting his running mate, Zak Butters, as a Brownlow chance, but I would not be surprised to see Rozee right up there with him. Everything he does looks like it has come right off the top shelf – you cannot NOT notice what he does out there.
I’ll give his critics this – he gives you every chance to beat him, but you’d better be bloody good if you plan on doing that.
Moore has been the catalyst for dozens of Collingwood’s attacking forays this season, with his blend of timing and athleticism. He not only impacts the contest, but his follow-up and run out of defence send the opposition into panic. Elevated to the role of captain, Moore’s leadership has been evident since early in the season. He is on the fast track to being named the All-Australian captain in his first season at the helm of Collingwood – a remarkable achievement.
As of writing, he is ranked second in total intercepts and fourth in total one-percenters, as he continues to anchor the solid defence of the number-one ranked team in the game.
You guys know I love this bloke, and I admit, I may be a little biased by having him in the top ten in the game right now, but when I watch GWS play, my eyes are drawn to Toby Greene as he always seems to be the player most likely to create something.
It is as though he knows what to do in all situations. He doesn’t screw around with the footy, moving it quickly to his fellow forwards, competes in the air like someone much larger, has elite balance and ability t read the play, and is a proven finisher.
Despite missing a few games, he is a difference-maker, ranking second in score involvements per game, and fifth in goals per game. When you look at how GWS has rallied and moved into finals contention, you don’t need to look too far for reasons. Not that Greene is the only one – they have had quite a few players step up – but he is one of the main ones. And it is great to see the AFL community realising there is so much more to this player than just the times he has stepped outside the rules. The bloke is a footy savant.
Righto, I know there will be Lions fans screaming for Lachie Neale’s inclusion, Adelaide fans annoyed that Jordan Dawson is missing out, and there can be strong cases made for Charlie Curnow, Nick Larkey, Tom Stewart, the Bont, Merrett, and even Charlie Ballard, who is having a great season in defence for Gold Coast… but maybe they can be on your list?
Feel free t add it in the comments, or on our socials – I am interested to see what, or who you come up with.