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Rating our list

I’m sure this year’s selection as my No.1 will be scoffed at by some. How could you overlook the best ruckman in the AFL? What about giving credence to Clayton Oliver’s amazing second-season? Or again paying homage to Jack Viney - our hardest worker and the biggest reason why no side can smash us these days?

But I just reckon this year Jonesy deserves it. Chunk’s the same player every week no matter what opponent, putting it all on the line. I still reckon people underrate his evasive skills and his kicking vision and against Gold Coast he just said: I’ll show you guys how to do it” and nailed goals that mattered. Sure he’s not a Gary Ablett or a Danger, but he’s still our main man and he’s now got a great support team led by Viney and Oliver and backed by Lewis and Vince and a host of talented kids.

Overall it’s getting harder to do this rating because we now have close to 30 players on our list who are AFL-worthy in any side. Five years ago you could go Nathan Jones and then the gap to our next was immense. But not so nowadays.

And as with any rankings system, it’s fraught with danger. Things can change pretty quickly and in AFL there is plenty of stuff going on behind the scenes that we never hear about.

Feel free to tear strips out of my assessments – it’s a view after all.

One person whom I didn’t try and rate was Simon Goodwin, but if I did, I’d give him a B-plus. Certainly all of us at Demonland have questioned some of his selections – it was Weideman early and then JKH shocked almost all of us. But hopefully everyone also appreciates that Goody has brought to the club a modern-day gameplan with a refreshingly clever tactic of running two-forwards off the back of the square, thereby ensuring that we have numbers at the contest. He’s not afraid to switch players mid-game, although he can also be a bit stubborn (eg: Melky in defence for six weeks). At training he’s also constantly bringing in new drills so that repetition boredom doesn’t set in. So far he hasn’t made any earth-shattering speeches or pronouncements – he’s a long way off becomes a preacher like The Reverend – but perhaps as he matures, he’ll become a bit more confident to use the media to push the club’s barrow.

But this list is about the players, so here goes.

2017: One to 40 – Rating our list (last year’s rank in brackets).

1 Nathan Jones (3) You only have to try and empathise a little as to what it would have felt like to be told that you were no longer sole captain to get an idea of how hard it must have been for Jonesy to confront training this year with a confident, determined air. But the fact that he’s on track to either win or come runner-up to Clarry in the Bluey Truscott is testament to his resilience. He’s getting closer to 250 games (milestone next year), getting closer to 30 (January) and getting closer to being rated as one of our all-time greats – if he wins a fourth B&F he joins a group that includes only Jimmy and Allan La Fontaine. For me his highlight this year was that wondrous, grass-burning left-foot pass to Jack Watts in Alice Springs, part of the most inspiring quarter of football I’ve seen from one player since James Hird devoured West Coast. He’s not in anyone’s AA side, but if the Big V was still going, he’d be a must-have selection in the Flea Weightman mould.

2 Max Gawn (2) Three games in and our most celebrated player goes down against the Cats – the side that he made his name against at Kardinia Park two years earlier. While ruckman are out of vogue in AFL circles at the moment, there’s not a commentator who doesn’t love the bearded one. And the pleasing thing is that he showed no sign before his hammy malfunction that he was going to ease off his training intensity. The big Kiwi’s a cult figure and deservedly so given his knowledge of almost all things – the weirder the better. And once Spencil went down, he’s been the most missed player in the game, although Pedo’s efforts and Goody’s two-men off the back of the square have made his absence less of a death sentence.

3 Clayton Oliver (25) OMG – he’s still just 19 until July 22. Jason Taylor can thank his job security on this kid. Finally we have a genuine superstar in the making – our first real one since “Dollars” Lyon burst on the scene in 1987. There will be a lot of rich Demonlanders if he gets up for the Brownlow, although to be honest that’s a bit of a stretch. He still has flaws – I get incensed when he heads backwards to dish off a handball when he has time and space to head forward. But it may take another year or two for him to realise that he’s quick enough, and strong enough, to take on almost any foe and he is a thumping kick – even if he doesn’t yet believe it. When I saw a Murray Bushrangers video of one of his three-bounce runs in 2015 it reminded me of the old video highlights of just one player – Ron Barassi. And like so many of our new stars, Clarry has character!

4 Jack Viney (1) I suspect Jack was a little like us in being caught out when anointed this season. Obviously we all knew that he had the future skipper tag just like his dad, as every club needs a player with such passion and attack on the pill at the helm. It’s taken him a few games to get going this season and there are many theories around why – some say he was trying too hard as skipper and getting involved in almost every fracas, other say it was because he missed a fair whack of the pre-season because of hip surgery. My view, however, is that he overdid the weights. He’s always been big-bodied, but in January I was thinking I was watching Naim Suleymanoglu train – his leg quads were like tree trunks. When he was caught twice against West Coast pre-season I had my suspicions confirmed, but as the season’s gone on, he’s got leaner and again looks more like a power athlete than a weightlifter and he’s starting to break from packs with pace a bit more – Adelaide game is a case in point. The good thing is that with guys like him around, you know that no side can try the old intimidation game on us. I know tagging is out of vogue with zone structures, but boy I’d love to see him taking on Pendles and Dahlhaus in coming weeks.

5 Michael Hibberd (New) A few posters were getting worried early when his Achilles flared up a couple of times pre-season – did we have another Deledio? The answer came quickly against the Tiges with a game that sent everyone into raptures - his long goal on the run still ranks among the best of our season highlights. He already is acclaimed as our most reliable defender and despite being a smidge over 6-foot, he can play on tall timber as well as small forwards because his body strength is so good. He’s also a good reader and a thumping kick, which means he’s perfect for the modern press and defensive switch. Talk to any Essendon fan and they are still dirty that he got away ... and especially for just a second-rounder.

6 Jayden Hunt (12) In the absence of Gawny, Mr Nippy has become a cult hero this season with his headband war and regular tweets/instagrams making him No.1 for social media followers – his post-game concussion-fueled Nippy’s milk bus video went viral.  It’s still hard to believe that two years ago he looked like a delisting, but now he’s our version of Jason Johannissen – just waiting for a Grand Final to become part of folklore. His game against the Cats when we were under injury-induced siege was epic and I said last year that his arrival at AFL level changed the image of a team just as Scott Camporeale altered the look of the Blues in 1995? In fact there is a case to be made that he’s the most critical player in the entire side. I have him at No.6 for the moment, as he still needs to work on the reliability of his kicking. Sometimes he gets under the ball just a little too much and sprays it into the heavens Brent Grgic style.

7 – Jordan Lewis (New) How lucky were we. In years gone by we’d have to throw truckloads of dosh and our top draft pick to get close to securing a wise, old head like Jordy. We can thank Todd Viney for him falling in our lap and his smarts across the middle and down back generally have been as calming for the side as a chai latte. We all know that his Patrick Cripps moment cost us the Freo game two weeks later and possibly games against the Cats and Tigers as well, but how nice is it to watch him in red and blue. It’s also nice that we now have the ability of heading up the left wing with accurate foot skills – four years ago we were virtually bereft of left footers, now they are almost in the majority. Hopefully we can finish the season off well enough for Jordy’s judgment on our rise being on the money as well.

8 Jack Watts (7) How ironic. The first year that every fan wants him in the side and our new coach decides that he needs to earn his place, or that his skinfolds are poor, or that he’s been talking with fans too much or that he failed the recreational drug test or whatever rumour you want to dredge up – certainly the club and Goody wasn’t willing to explain it. So we all watched two pre-season games without him in shock before the ban, penalty or laziness expired. I reckon the Vandenburg injury forced Goody’s hand and Wattsy managed to play Round 1 (as he always does) and after showing some form against the Blues, he showed some real spunk against the Cats – what a goal from outside 60m on the run. Watching him give up two similar opportunities from around 50m in Alice makes me think that he’s got a bit of a groin niggle, which hopefully settles over the bye because as everyone now knows, he’s our best kick and creator – even if his tackling intensity still could go up another notch (it has improved though). I love him having a cameo in the ruck if he’s been quiet up forward, but I hate it when he stays there for long. At centre bounces he has a habit of turning away from his opponent and losing sight of the ball to protect himself – almost all of us would too if we were six centimetres or more shorter than our foe charging at us. He’s smarter at boundary throw-ins and is quicker to the flight when the ball is thrown short. But really is it worth the risk. Thankfully Goody is now more likely to throw T-Mac to the ruck wolves anyway.

9 Jeff Garlett (11) Why so low you ask? He is after all our leading goalkicker with 25 – equal-ninth in the league and second among small-forwards only to the inimitable Eddie Betts. His tackle-count is also way up on previous years as well with an average of 4.2-a-game putting him in the elite small forward category. I just feel I want to see him do what he did against Gold Coast on a big stage. The pleasing thing is that it wasn’t all over-the-back stuff either. He even led up at the ball a few times. But can he do it when it’s cold and wet? I guess that’s his final test and may ultimately determine whether he sneaks into the All-Australian team this year.

10 Sam Frost (18) Every time I watch him play I think of the late Sean Wight. Tall, athletic and with a gung-ho style that is so refreshing – that’s our Frosty the go-man. And with T-Mac required to pinch-hit in the ruck, he is now getting all the big assignments – Tex and Lynchy in recent weeks.  What’s really impressed me this year is that his kicking has become far more reliable and he can kick a bomb on the run – as North found out. His style means he will have his unlucky days, but there should be plenty more days where he’s almost a matchwinner. Could he hold Gary Ablett Snr goalless like Sean Wight? I’ll settle for a Round 14 spanking of Josh Kennedy that leads to our upset win in the west.

11 Jesse Hogan (8) Watching him train pre-season I thought a breakout year approached – but sadly things have conspired against him and he remains a question mark superstar commodity. He’s always been behind Lynch and he’s now fallen well behind Daniher and Brown in the best young forward stakes and his value depreciates a bit because he’s not quite tall enough to be used as a back-up ruckman. Given his suspension, his dad dying and his cancer, we’ll cut him some slack, but there’s a strong case to say that he’s no longer in our top 10 – even on potential. I mean he does have flaws. I’m not talking about his stutter step which he’s pretty much overcome, it’s his ability to quickly spot up his downfield option, coupled with his lack of a long kick that worries me. The game has changed – some sides are now playing just four bigs – as the obsession with zone defence and tackling intensity takes hold – making slow-moving dinosaurs like Cloke a waste of time. But Hoges ain’t slow. He showed pre-season he’s the naturally fittest bloke in the side and all his teammates know he’s the No.1 man with that Neanderthal-strut. He just has to show it at AFL level again – it has been quite a while since he dished up a game – April 30, 2016 v St Kilda - that made us all sit back and dream of days in September. And aside from a well-earned dose of luck on the homefront, my guess is that he may need a stint in defence to get his game-awareness really going.

12 Christian Petracca (15) I am not sure whether it was the fact that I lost my dough on him winning the Rising Star last season, but I’m afraid I started the year being a bit down on Trac. Sure we all saw what he could do pre-season against Carlton, but then after his ego is stroked by a wave of publicity, he comes out and puts in a stinker in the west and starts off the year well short of star-billing form. But his courageous second-half v the Tiges made it clear that he has the tools and his game under the lights against Adelaide was the first time I truly saw his genius. The power of his baulks are just shattering and makes you wonder if another Dusty is just a season or two away. I still get miffed when he fails to get back quickly after a mark and is forced into an elevated kick that can be intercepted, but there’s no doubt he has that basketball-style vision to be a champion. He’s already on par with Jake Stringer and I’m not talking about his private life.

13 Tom McDonald (5) Please don’t lump me in with the anti-T-Mac Demonland lobby group because he’s fallen to No.13 in my rankings. Or in with those idiots that are suggesting he should be dropped for the Pies game. Tom remains one of the league’s premier tall defenders and is a fantastic spoiler and intercept mark. It’s just that we can’t play him there at the moment because he’s needed in the ruck and up forward, where his courage and his fitness makes him a worthy back-up while we wait for Gawn and Hogan’s return. When they do, it’s going to be interesting to see if T-Mac can double up in his role as key defender and back-up tapman. And also whether he has picked up a few new tricks from his stint up forward on some of the league’s best defenders. But I’m sure T-Mac now has more of an appreciation of just how hard it is to be a forward week-in, week-out.

14 Neville Jetta (6) As with Wattsy, he really had a battle to make Round 1 in time and possibly only the injuries to Josh Wagner and Hibberd left a whole for him. But by the time they’d returned, Nev had again showed why he’s such an important member of our back six. He’s an agile defender who is incredibly safe with ball in hand and he has a phenomenal leap for his size and that means when our zone defence presents unusually tall match-ups, he’s not all at sea and can adapt to any opponent. His leap still occasionally gets us into trouble because when he’s on a small, you want him making sure the crumber is covered at ground level for the ball that spills over the back, rather than to fly fourth-man up. But most of the time he’s Mr Reliable.

15 Bernie Vince (4) Is his fall down the rankings a sign that age is finally catching up with our oldest player? Or is it more that we now have significant depth in our midfield/small defender slots? Watch him at training and he’s still one of the hardest workers and it’s pretty rare that anyone intercepts one of his kick-ins that he works on religiously. He’s also still as tough as nails - his game on Rory Sloane is an even better sequel to his Danger cull of 2015. He also made the most memorable intercept of the year so far against Gold Coast, so he’s hardly not pulling his weight. There’s also the option of playing him as the third key forward as he knows how to kick a goal and lead up for the ball. Will he win another contract? I hope so, although history records we don’t always look after our 30-somethings that well.

16 Christian Salem (17) After dominating two VFL finals, our lethal left-footer seemed to have finally made it big time this year when he absolutely carved up Carlton from half-back with a best-on-ground game that included intercept marks, elite passes and one of his special goals. But for some reason he was spent the next four weeks in the middle while Melky was kept down back. Christian is all class and he doesn’t have either the height or the big body to make it as an inside mid – it’s a fact of life that some aren’t born that way. And we already have about six guys we can rotate through there to do that job. Thankfully he was returned down back for the Adelaide game and he showed the poise we needed for that cauldron. Provided he stays there I can see him challenging for a B&F top 10 this season.  

17 Dom Tyson (9) So far he’s been handy in almost every game, but at the same time not a dominant force in any either and his one or two errors a game have been sending a few bloggers into overdrive. But we are now in winter and this is Dom season – the quick players come back to him and he becomes one our MVPs again with his thumping left-foot capable of clearing the mud-splattered lines.   

18 James Harmes (13) I said last year that he’s like St Kilda’s Jarryn Geary or the Dogs’ Liam Picken – a blue-collar worker that coaches love because they tackle, they chase, they smother, they shepherd and they just do the fundamentals so well that you can ignore the occasional brainfade. I was sure that Goody, a former rookie of similar mould, would be a fan – but I was wrong. Dumped after an 18 disposal/8 tackle game against Richmond which saw him score plenty of votes on Demonland, Harmesy had to wait until Round 10 to get another gig. This time he nailed two kicks from the 50m line along with another clever gem to make sure his coach appreciates that he can provide the odd bit of skill to go with his grunt. As I said last year, he’s a must-have in your starting 22. Goody, it seems, begs to differ.

19 Jake Melksham (New) It’s been a bit like the 2015 “Frosty as a forward experiment”. For six weeks we all waited to see why Melky was playing in defence – clearly it had been Goody’s intentions to use Jake there when he arrived at the club. But that was the pre-season of 2016 before Hunt, Hibberd, Frost and Wags had turned us into a running backline. Thankfully Melky went back to his usual midfield role in Alice and showed what he offers. He is an elite runner and adds speed on the outside and is a tough cookie inside. He still struggles a bit with his disposal under pressure, but if he cleans up that, then he’ll be part of our first finals side since 2006 – either this year or next.

20 Mitch Hannan (New) Not since Sean Charles was rushed by helicopter to Junction Oval training in 1994 has a player won his spot so easily. Hannan had barely overcome his shoulder surgery and had a run in the VFL practice matches when he was named for the clash against the Saints ahead of Harmes, Bugg and others. This is not a Jason Taylor pick, although he may try and claim it. Clearly Goody obviously loved what he saw of the then 22-year-old in last year’s VFL finals series and had him earmarked for Round 1. His first game was a ripper, but then he struggled to impose for a bit before showing us all why he was picked against North and Gold Coast. He’s quick, can put boot to ball even quicker, tackles with intent and has that leap. He’s even shown a bit of ability in his cameos on the ball – could he be an Isaac Smith type pick-up? Here’s hoping.

Footnote: Originally our third round pick was one behind the Dogs. But our last-day trade of Lynden Dunn to the Pies saw us exchange picks and with that the Dogs missed their boy. Bow-wow. Thanks Dunny.

21 Alex Neal-Bullen (27) Another Goody special. I think most of us had our doubts about ANB’s ability to fight his way into the midfield and as a small forward most of us thought he wasn’t quite quick enough. But ANB’s has honed his skills in the VFL and now has the smarts and ability to turn out of trouble (Jonesy style) and then neatly spot up a target. He is a way better version of the ANB that we saw in 2015 help win us our game down at Geelong and it will be interesting to see how far he goes this season. He’s also one that has benefitted from the two-man off the back of the square policy – he’s generally one of the two and he reads that play well.   

22 Billy Stretch (16) As with Harmesy, I don’t really know what he did so wrong to lose favour with Goody. Certainly against Fremantle his running patterns were a bit off and he collided a couple of times with Oliver/Viney, but geez I’m splitting hairs to find a reason – perhaps the old “three losses in a row, someone has to go” syndrome. And with Melky now on a wing, it may be a bit harder for him to secure his spot back, but I’m sure in time he will. We have the hardball clearance area covered, we now need some outside run and he’s our best linkman and he marks his man closely at the same time – the perfect fit for Caleb Daniel or Hunter in his Round 13 return. But BenKen is currently at the top of the VFL queue, so he may have to hone his skills for a bit longer – just like his best mate ANB had to last season.

23 Oscar McDonald (26) Just when you think he’s almost made it, you hear talk of our interest in Steven May, which given that we are now playing just two tall defenders against most sides, would spell his deathknell barring injuries. Oscar has improved markedly this year and if you stop bagging him for a moment, you will see that he has way more intent with his attack on the ball than last year and looks a quality act (most of the time at least). Forgive him his boundary line mix ups in the Alice as the sun and smoke made those lines almost invisible, except to the TV. Like his brother he has a tank and with experience could yet be a better version as he has a thumping kick. My only worry for him is that the game is changing and bigs are out of vogue – it’s a small world after all.

24 Josh Wagner (20) Just emerging from an injury-riddled start to the season, Wags is mega-popular with the coaching staff as he has the ability to play on bigs and smalls. Like Jetta, he’s got a prodigious leap, which against Hawthorn presented problems when we had four-up and no-one down a couple of times. He’s yet to have a high point this season like last year’s honour of being “the man that dragged down Gary Ablett” but it will probably come soon – “the man who shut down Jake Stringer” maybe.

25 Dean Kent (10) I didn’t see this coming, but probably should have. Like most on Demonland I had Superman Kent inked in this side and felt he was on the verge of small forward greatness. But I did notice he was labouring a bit in run-throughs pre-season as he attempted to overcome another hamstring tear. I was shocked when he was dropped after the Freo game but not when it happened again after the North game – six tackles in four games as a small forward is a direct ticket to the VFL. It’s now hard to figure out whether he got cocky after a big 2016 or if he’s just been restricted. He needs to find his passion for the chase again. If not, he’ll be some serious trade-bait.

26 Tom Bugg (14) Hoges’ absence has meant he’s been tried in the permanent forward role and sadly the added pressure has got to his kicking – the wastage has been reminiscent of Craig Sholl on Ben Hart in the 1998 Grand Final. I love the fact that he’s got character but he may just be a yard too slow for the modern game. He even struggles to lay tackles now, and there’s nothing wrong with his intent, he just can’t get there in time. Could he be sent to Steele Sidebottom again on QB? Maybe, but only if Hoges doesn’t come back and take his spot first.

27 Ben Kennedy (21) Those who have been watching Casey will tell you he’s probably leading their best-and-fairest – so there’s no doubt he’s trying his darndest to get back into the side and after his three goal effort against Coburg – he heads the inclusion queue for the Pies game. But with Jeffy on fire and ANB looking so polished, it means he’d have to make it back on the wing. I said last year that I thought he could become a niggling little defender down the track, but so far the club hasn’t tried that option. His contract is up this year, so I hope he gets a go soon and signs on for another season.

28 Jake Spencer (33) How to blunt a Spencil. After not missing a VFL game all last season as he waited for Gawny to need a rest he finally gets a 10-12 week chance to make a name for himself. His first game is pretty good against the Giant of Freo and he starts the Richmond clash outjumping Nankervis when double whammy – first his shoulder, then his knee gives way. He’s expected to beat Gawny back by a week if he’s lucky but now Pedo may be hard to displace anyway. My view is that the ideal situation when both big boys are back is that Spencil should play as a forward like he did pre-season because Weid is not yet ready and then we have the back-up ruck covered and he’s a viable lead-up option. But I suspect Goody is too enamoured with forward-press mobility for that too happen. Someone will try and snare him as a UFA in October, but hopefully he agrees to be back-up for us again.

29 Jack Trengove (34) If you venture down to training or watch him in the VFL – there’s nothing different about Jack. He’s still a clever linkman putting his body on the line and racking up possessions almost at will. He’s the perfect clubman and team player - always happy to give it off to a player in better position. The only issue is that his cards have been marked with the “too slow” tag. So here’s my plea to Goody and his footy department. Now that he’s over his foot issues, send him up to Darwin a week beforehand, with Buggy as well, and get him to do two weeks of hard sprint training in the warmth. Get Misso or a recognised sprints coach to work with them. Bugger the accom expense – if we are going to delist these two, then let’s make sure we haven’t given them the best chance. PS: I have liked the extra sprint sessions Misso incorporated pre-season this year, but these two need more. And they need to do it in a warm environment where they can attack each sprint without fear of tearing a muscle. Hence Darwin.

30 Cam Pedersen (36) If he was 20, then we’d all be in raptures about how he’s stepped up and looked so accomplished. He’s the perfect back-up and almost the perfect player. If he was five centimetres taller he’d be one of the league’s best ruckman and if he was five yards quicker, he’d be one the league’s best key forwards. He’s now likely to hold off Spencil and keep his spot until Gawn returns and even then, some will want him retained as our third tall forward with Watts and Hoges. But as I said about Spencil, Goody wants speed for his forward press to work properly and he’s not alone – almost every side except GWS and WC – is now going for mobility up front. Two bigs up forward and down back is all that is permitted in 2017 and most likely 2018. That probably means that if Spencil stays next year, Pedo will go.

31 Sam Weideman (41) You have to wonder if the game had looked like it does now, whether Taylor would have gone Curnow. That’s not a slight on Weid, it’s just that tall forwards that lack mobility are now almost extinct. At least he’s got a few chances this season to show his worth and his attack on the footy in Adelaide was exciting. He’s still mega young, but he’s going to have to work his butt off to make it in this modern game. He’s got to become fit enough to play as our back-up ruck and agile enough to lay a tackle and confident enough to slam the ball home from 50m. That’s exactly what he did with his highlight goal against StKilda in Round 1.   

32 Tim Smith (New) He’s a classy looking kick and he’s no shrinking violet – hence the Bull nickname. But as with Spencil, he’s been bloody unlucky to get injured at the wrong time and has missed his opportunity to show his wares. I reckon they’ll keep him for another year – in reality he’s Hoges’ backup.  

33 Jay Kennedy-Harris (39) This was another Goody malfunction. I’m sorry to those that love him, but I’m with the set that reckon he’s too light to make it these days and after barely laying a tackle in his three games as a small forward, even Goody couldn’t justify his spot to his co-selectors. I’d still like him trialed as a defender in the VFL as he has good endurance and great skills and he can be a thumping kick – in theory he could be an even better version of Nev Jetta. But I suspect we will all have to look back fondly and recall his magic game and goals in Adelaide in 2014.

34 Mitch White (37) He still got the thumping left-foot kick, but the problem for him is that we now have Hibberd, Salem, Jordy and Wagner with similar left-side skills playing out of defence, so even if his intercept skills keep developing and he makes the VFL team of the year, it may not be enough to glean him a fourth rookie season. Three years ago he would have had plenty of opportunities. Not now.

35 Corey Maynard (New) He made a handy start at VFL level in our first three games before a low act from Lindsay Thomas against Werribee set him back. He looks a bit like Pendles and is quite polished and quick to give off a handball. But at 25, he may have started his AFL bid too late.

36 Declan Keilty (New) We were all rapt to see Casey’s young tall given a go on an AFL list, although he appeared a little star-struck when I first saw him at training. He’s a bit of an in-betweener like Pedo, but he does have more pace and if he can develop his skills could become a handy Pedo-style back-up next season. He generally plays his best footy down back, but he’s not a thumping kick. But then again, neither was Jamie Duursma and he played finals.

37 Dion Johnstone (New) A bit of a surprise pick given we already had quite a few small forwards, but he did show a bit in our intraclub match pre-season which led to his JLT call-up versus Carlton, which wasn’t exactly memorable for him. Since then he’s replicated our Casey season so far as small forwards tend to do – struggling in all of our losses bar the Werribee game. He plays a bit like a wild fox terrier, charging madly at almost everything. But he may ultimately lack a bit of class with his kicking and decision-making.

38 Liam Hulett (40) His second year at the club saw him trialed as a key defender at VFL level and the reports weren’t exactly flattering. He did fare better when sent forward in the win against Port Melbourne and Copburg. When he arrived at the club he looked the part (being strong-bodied) and he’s a lovely kick, but he just can’t seem to get it enough and mobility and a lack of a leap seem the issue. Worth the punt … hard to see him getting another year though.

39 Mitch King (44) With our dearth of available ruckman, Mitch has been thrown to the wolves a bit as our No.1 tapman in the VFL and so far he hasn’t really set the world on fire, but coming off a ruptured ACL that is somewhat expected. The changing game that I’ve discussed earlier probably means that if Spencil re-signs, either Mitch or Lochie has to be jettisoned. Tough call.

40 Lochie Filipovic (New) Gawny gave him a big wrap I know, but I have to admit I wasn’t majorly impressed with his early training efforts. He’s still just a kid though – doesn’t turn 19 until late August, so it would be a big call to say “No” to a second development year. But as I stated about Mitch, I can’t see how any club can justify two back-up, back-up dinosaurs. A mobile forward who can also ruck is what is now required as a project player.

No ratings

Pat McKenna New Worth a shot as a late-order trade and looked handy in defence pre-season, but since then a serious hamstring injury has seen him mainly in rehab. Assess next year.

Aaron vandenBurg (19) I still think if he hadn’t got his stressy after the Carlton pre-season game, then he would have played as our third tall against St Kilda and JW would have been emergency.  But regardless, he’s still a scary unit and I’d be signing him up again.    

Col Garland (24) I was laughed at last year when I said he still had a lot to offer because he’s only just beginning to adapt to the modern game. And he impressed me even more with his willingness to take the game on when he got his chance against West Coast pre-season – I had him in our best five that dismal night. Very happy for him to try his luck again once his knee is ready next season, although I accept that age may now be against him.

Joel Smith (42) How good was this guy looking before that “dirty” Nick Riewoldt got him near the boundary line. Hopefully he comes back even stronger. Don’t be surprised if he has just two games in the VFL before returning to the seniors about Round 16. The club rates him.

Angus Brayshaw (23) I still haven’t gotten over Sharrod Wellingham jumping into a tackle that saw Angus grounded the first time in his debut season. I don’t have any inside information, but perhaps a season staying on our list but working as one of our skills coach could keep him in the loop for a comeback in 2019?

Last year’s rankings:


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Cheers Deespicable for the enjoyable read.

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Thanks for the detailed analysis of this year's rankings - you have put much thought and work into it. I would just like to seek to clarify your rankings. Are they based on output to date this season or by importance to the team, with an eye on any future development - or even a combination of the these?

While I agree with many of your rankings, Max's output has been decimated by his injury so number 3 is too high based on output, however his importance to the team and what we may have achieved had he not been injured makes him arguably 1, 2 or 3 in importance. And poor old Cam Pedersen has been relegated to 30 on your list but based on output to date since he came in and his importance to the structure, particularly in the absence of Gawn and Spencer, would have him rocket up the list to perhaps ahead of Bernie Vince. You qualified your ranking of him by inferring that if he was 20, then he may have been rated higher, but if we are looking purely on 2017 alone and not on past or likely future performances, then he has to be much higher on your list.  He has also played one more game than Jesse Hogan who is ranked 11, who for various and obvious reasons has not performed as well as Pedersen. Again it's performance versus importance versus potential.

Of all your other rankings, you could argue for players to be placed one to a handful of rungs above or below where you have them, but for me anyway, the Pedersen one is the only big anomaly. 

Well done though on a great exercise, and it will be interesting to see, albeit with half a season to play out, how this aligns with the B & F placings and whether your own rankings change much after the season is over - hopefully deep in September!   



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The main thing I got from that article is that our depth below player 23 is pretty ordinary. That might be the same at most clubs but, with the exception of Weideman, there is not a lot of quality youth outside our best 22 still to come through. I hope we can find another couple of hidden gems through the draft this year.

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Interesting take. 

Given you've  got Gawn ranked no.2 I'm assuming this is not based purely on this season but more a rating of the list as it currently stands. Below is mine (OP rankings in brackets)

1 Max Gawn (2)

2 Jack Viney (4)

3 Nathan Jones (1)

4 Clayton Oliver (3)

5 Jesse Hogan (11)

6 Michael Hibberd (6)

7 Jordan Lewis (7)

8 Jayden Hunt (6)

9 Jeff Garlett (9)

10 Christian Petracca (12)

11 Jack Watts  (8)

12 Neville Jetta (14)

13 Sam Frost (10)

14 Tom McDonald (13)

15 Christian Salem (16)

16 Dom Tyson (17)

17 Bernie Vince (15)

18 Cam Pedersen (30)

19 Alex Neal-Bullen (21)

20 James Harmes (18)

21 Jake Melksham (19)

22 Billy Stretch (22)

23 Mitch Hannan (20)

24 Joel Smith (NR)

25 Aaron vandenBerg (NR)

26 Dean Kent (25)

27 Tom Bugg (26)

28 Josh Wagner  (24)

29 Jake Spencer (28)

30 Ben Kennedy (27)

31 Oscar McDonald (23)

32 Jay Kennedy-Harris (33)

33 Sam Weideman (31)

34 Tim Smith (32)

35 Mitch White (34)

36 Corey Maynard (35)

37 Declan Keilty (36)

38 Dion Johnstone (37)

39 Liam Hulett (38)

40 Mitch King (39)

41 Lochie Filipovic (40)

No ratings

Pat McKenna

Jack Trengove

Col Garland 

Angus Brayshaw 

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