As I write this, there are 28 days remaining until the first ball is bounced in the 2024 AFL season.
Where did the off-season go, huh? I had so many plans…
Anyway, as we close in on the opener, some of you may be aware that here at The Mongrel Punt, we’ve been compiling an award for the Defensive Player of the Year over the past four years, and as such, feel we’re quite well-placed to give an indication as to which players we think will be right at the top of the rankings once the rounds start ticking by,
Before I go further, a bit of history.
Below are the top five rankings for each of the last four seasons in our DPOY award, and we use both this and preseason form as the guide for our overall seedings.
1 – HARRIS ANDREWS
2 – TOM STEWART
3 – DARCY MOORE
4 – LUKE RYAN
5 – JACK SINCLAIR
1 – JAMES SICILY
2 – SAM TAYLOR
3 – TOM STEWART
4 – JACK SINCLAIR
5 – SAM DOCHERTY
1 – JACOB WEITERING
2 – DANIEL RICH
3 – AARON HALL
4 – JAKE LEVER
5 – HARRIS ANDREWS
1 – LUKE RYAN
2 – JAKE LLOYD
3 – HARRIS ANDREWS
4 – STEVEN MAY
5 – LUKE MCDONALD
Now that the history is out of the way, let’s have a look forward to the 2024 season with our seedings.
1 – TOM STEWART
Five All-Australian selections combined with two consecutive top-three finishes in the award indicate that Stewart is one of the best in the game. He has probably been unlucky to this point not to win one, as he has endured both injury and suspension at crucial times, but over the past two seasons, he has absolutely been the man to beat.
With the Cats now in the position where anything could happen with their season (do we know whether they’ll recover or continue to slip?) how the effectiveness of Tom Stewart will have a big say in determining his team’s fate.
2 – JAMES SICILY
The Hawthorn skipper returned from an ACL injury in 2022 and, unlike many in that boat, looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.
He was our runaway winner in that season, and was incredibly solid in 2023, as well, finishing in sixth place.
Sicily is one of the rare players who can control a game from half-back, and if permitted to play the role of loose man, can tear a game apart.
3 – SAM TAYLOR
There were cried for him to added to the All-Australian team in 2023, despite the fact he played just 15 games for the home and away season. His play when he was in the team was excellent, leading some to believe he may very well be the best key defender in the game.
Of course, being the best means you’re out there week after week, and to win this award, consistency is just as important as brilliance.
4 – HARRIS ANDREWS
Our 2023 winner has been a colossus in this award, owning three top-five finishes and regularly owning the most spoils of the round. He is the defensive general of the Brisbane Lions and is one of the very few players to have been allocated a defensive forward to quieten him down… in a Grand Final, of all games.
The big Lion has only one obstacle to overcome on his quest for back-to-back DPOY titles – injury. If he stays healthy, he’ll be right there at the pointy end of the season.
5 – LUKE RYAN
A previous winner and perennial contender, Ryan boasts two top-five finishes and excels in his role when Brennan Cox and Alex Pearce are playing their best footy.
The 2022 Fremantle side was a nightmare to score against. If the 2024 version can emulate those feats whilst giving Luke Ryan the freedom to zone off his opponent, he could very well be the first two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
6 – DARCY MOORE
At one point in 2023, we had Darcy Moore tussling with Nick Daicos at the top of the leaderboard. Moore reeled his teammate in even before Daicos moved into the midfield, but later in the season, others managed to do the same to him. Once he went down injured, they leapfrogged him.
Moore, at his best, can do it all, but like the bloke below, often takes a heap of responsibility, which can damage his numbers. Still, he catches the eye of voters (both coaches and our own) which is an important aspect of the award.
7 – STEVEN MAY
The anchor of the Melbourne defence has been around the mark in this award, with a fourth place finish in 2020 his best result, but he was top ten in 2022, as well.
May always takes the responsibility for the gun forwards, but a lot of how Melbourne structure up will rely on the way they use Harrison Petty this season. If Petty plays back, May will have a little more freedom to do his thing
8 – DAN HOUSTON
Coming off an All-Australian year, could Houston be one of the main beneficiaries of the revamped Port Adelaide defence? His run and carry are potent, and with Aliir, Zerk-Thatcher, and Ratugolea all patrolling D50, there should be plenty of outlet disposals for Houston to get on the end of.
If the Power can utilise his penetrating kick, he could be right up with the league leaders in metres gained, which would serve him well.
9 – MITCH HINGE
A bit of a left-field pick, but watching Hinge in the second half of the 2023 season, he demonstrated that he can be an effective rebounding, metres-gained runner, and those two categories are important when we’re compiling the statistical aspect of the rankings.
Over his last ten outings in 2023, Hinge averaged 23.2 disposals and 6.6 rebounds per game. The second of those stats would see him fifth in the league, which would translate very well to this award.
10 – JACOB WEITERING
The 2021 winner has had a setback in the preseason, with the Blues stating he is doubtful for Round One, and you have to wonder how much this high calf strain has set him back in terms of fitness.
He finished 15th in 2023 and at his best, is one of the top defenders in the game, but an injury early in the piece can derail an entire season.
What… no Jack Sinclair or Cal Wilkie?
I know, Saints fans… I know. I have heard a little too many rumblings about Sinclair moving into the guts to have him in the seedings, and whilst Wilkie was in contention early on in 2023, he fell away to finish ninth after all was said and done. Nothing against the Saints… I like what they’re building.
The Mongrel Punt Defensive Player of the Year is a column for our Inner Circle Members. It appears at least once per fortnight, with additional columns relating to the league’s best defenders appearing throughout the season as well.
We will also continue our coverage of Defensive Double-Doubles, and the elusive Defensive Triple-Doubles as part of our Inner Circle coverage in 2024. Hit the link below to join.