With the another AFL premiership season almost upon us, I'd thought I'd bring back the ever-so controversial Top 50 AFL players today on Bulldogs Centre. I loved doing it and it recieved a lot of feedback too, some positive, some negative. That is the beauty of putting together a top 50.
Like there was last year when I did two sets of top 50s - one pre-season and one post-season, I found it so hard to settle on a top 50, but I eventually did, with many apologies to players from every club.
For those wondering what I based the top 50 on, I've blended together past successes, along with 2016 form and projected 2017 form. There might be some bias here and there for some players, but I've tried to keep it as unbias as possible.
Today is part two of the five-part series as I go through players ranked 40-31. Tomorrow will be 30-21.
For those who missed the first part, players ranked 50-41 are as follows:
50. Tim Membrey (St. Kilda)
49. Dale Morris (Western Bulldogs)
48. Jack Viney (Melbourne)
47. Easton Wood (Western Bulldogs)
46. Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions)
45. Zach Merrett (Essendon)
44. Sam Docherty (Carlton)
43. Jeremy Cameron (GWS)
42. Jack Ziebell (North Melbourne)
41. Patrick Cripps (Carlton)
40. Andrew Gaff - West Coast
Career Games: 132
Career Goals: 49
Arguably one of the best outside players in the game today. Backed up an incredible 2015 season in which he won West Coast's best and fairest and was named an All-Australian, with an equally impressive 2016 campaign despite him not winning West Coast's best and fairest and missing out on a spot in the All-Australian team of 22. People will knock Gaff because he's not a tough, inside midfielder, but he's a fantastic player around the wings, that's his go. Turns 25 at the middle of the year, expect him to break over 30 possessions a game very soon after two seasons of falling so close.
39. Luke Dahlhaus - Western Bulldogs
Career Games: 115
Career Goals: 95
As a Bulldogs supporter, it's truly a remarkable story watching this player emerge from a dreadlocked excitement machine in the forward line to a midfielder closing in on elite status. If it wasn't for a knee injury in the middle of last year, Luke Dahlhaus would've been an All-Australian contender. Last year, he averaged 26 disposals, five tackles and four clearances in a Western Bulldogs midfield that not only runs so deep, but got them the flag
38. Dayne Beams – Brisbane
Career Games: 128
Career Goals: 129
You could argue that Dayne Beams is both Brisbane's most important player, and their best player on their roster right now. Unfortunately injuries have plagued him since crossing over from Collingwood, where he has arguably played his best footy. Last year he only managed two games with knee injuries hampering his campaign I liked how Brisbane took the conservative approach on him last year following knee surgery, and this pre-season he has shown great form, but it'll be intriguing if he can handle the pressure of being captain of this side this year.
37. Callan Ward – Greater Western Sydney
Career Games: 167
Career Goals: 85
I know for a fact that the majority of Western Bulldogs supporters don't have a lot of love or appreciation for this former Dog anymore. Not so with me, I've always been a Callan Ward fan from his debut game right through to his defection to GWS. Last year probably wasn't his best season as his averages of 25 disposals, six clearances and five tackles last year dipped slightly, but over the years, he has been a consistently solid piece in a Giants' midfield that is blessed with talent. If he didn't get knocked out in their Preliminary Final loss to the Bulldogs, then the game would've been a particularly different story.
36. Luke Shuey - West Coast
Career Games: 134
Career Goals: 111
For years, Luke Shuey has been a consistently solid performer in the West Coast midfield, but last year saw Shuey emerge as one of the stars of West Coast, providing damaging run and grunt from the midfield. He averaged a career-high 26 disposals per game as well as career-highs in tackles (6.5 per game) and clearances (6.5 per game) and also led the club in inside 50s (four per game). This resulted in Shuey's first club best and fairest award as well as a spot in the All-Australian squad of 40.
35. Dyson Heppell – Essendon
Career Games: 106
Career Goals: 33
Heppell's season-long suspension for his involvement in Essendon's 2012 supplements scandal not only hurt the Bombers' midfield brigade so much last year, but hurt Heppell's progressive rise as an elite midfielder. In his five seasons in the AFL, he has been ultra consistent, averaging over 20 disposals in each of his five seasons, including a 2014 campaign in which he earned his first All-Australian selection as well as averaging 28 disposals, five clearances, and four tackles per game. Captaining the Bombers this year, the stage is set for Heppell to become one of today's elite midfielders.
34. Robert Murphy - Western Bulldogs
Career Games: 295
Career Goals: 173
After an incredible 2015 season in which he was name captain of the All-Australian team and solidified himself as one of the game's best running defenders, Murphy was set for an even better 2016 campaign, averaging 28 disposals in three matches before a season-ending knee injury ended his year prematurely. Getting through pre-season this year is a big plus and his inclusion in the team this year is a very important one, his creativity with the ball in hand is a thing of beauty and if anything, can make this team even better.
33. Rory Laird – Adelaide
Career Games: 76
Career Goals: 6
2016 was another stellar year for the former rookie draft selection as he found himself in the All-Australian squad of 40 for the second consecutive year. He missed a few games in the middle of the season with a toe injury, but still managed to average more disposals a game than last year than he did in 2015, averaging 27 disposals per game with his sublime kicking skills a feature in his game. Horrifically underrated down here in Victoria.
32. Michael Hurley – Essendon
Career Games: 119
Career Goals: 105
Has been often rotated as a key forward and a key back, but before he was suspended for the 2016 season, Hurley displayed his best footy as a key defender, averaging 20 disposals, five rebound 50s and under seven marks per game, which resulted in an All-Australian for the first time in his career. Such is his influence to this Bombers team his name became hot property throughout last year before committing to the Bombers for a further five years. Arguably Essendon's most important player right now.
31. Dylan Shiel – Greater Western Sydney
Career Games: 87
Career Goals: 46
It's hard to argue against Dylan Shiel being GWS' best midfielder in the team. Last season he averaged just under 28 disposals, 5.5 clearances and four inside 50s per game – all three of those stats being career highs for him, but despite this, he didn't even finish in the top five in GWS' best and fairest count or was in the All-Australian squad of 40. His speed and ability to carry the ball is partially why Shiel has emerged as an elite midfielder in the past couple of years, and at 24 years of age, he's going to get only better.
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