A+, A, B+, B, C+, C, D+, D , E+, E, N/A
What we said: Eddie Betts. The speedy forward kicked 75 goals in 2016. Since moving from Carlton, he has developed into a genuine match winner and his highlight reel is miraculous. He is the barometer of the team. When Betts fires, Adelaide usually wins.
How he really performed: Eddie Betts was named in the All-Australian team as a small forward in 2017. Kicking 55 goals, Betts dominated along with his grand-final side. Bett’s magic was a wonder to witness, adding to an already outstanding highlights reel.
What we said: Defender Jake Lever is set to have another promising year in the backline. He will continue to push to cement his spot in the back six. His tall and strong defensive style has him up with the likes of Daniel Talia and Kyle Hartigan. As a strong reader of the play, there are high hopes for a promising 2017.
How he really performed: Lever had a fantastic season in 2017, averaging 6.3 intercept marks in his key defensive role. Collected 29 disposals against Fremantle in round 10. Lever worked hard to halt scoreboard pressure from key forwards, thus rewarded with a nomination in the All-Australian squad. He has now been traded to the Demons after much debate and annoyance from the Crows, but Lever will dominate the backline down in Victoria next season.
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What we said: Speed demon Charlie Cameron is spending his preseason training in the midfield with the likes of Rory Sloane, and he would add a sense of speed to the across the middle of the ground. His ability to burst out of a pack and set himself up in the right positions highlights how Cameron can expand his versatility in 2017.
How he really performed: Cameron had a fantastic finals series as well as an overall season. Kicked 29 goals and exceeded expectations as the Crows key small forward. Played all season with a high intensity and proved he could be a defensive forward, averaging 4.3 tackles. Now at the Brisbane Lions, Cameron’s speed and versatility will guide the young Lions to a better 2018.
What we said: Onballer Dayne Beams had his 2016 season cut short, however, his presence in general will lift the young group and bring some direction into the playing future. His clean ball skills will allow movement between attack and defense. Known for his hardness around the pack and ability to win contested football, it would be no surprise if Beams becomes dangerous again wherever he is needed, especially in attack.
How he really performed: Averaging 27.1 disposals in 2017, Beams stepped into his leadership role comfortably. However, suffered a quad and shoulder injury, restricting him from maximum game time. In his shorter season, Beams still managed to kick 20 and lay an average of 4.2 tackles a game. Was fearless in every contest and consistently threw his body in the line. The aim of 2018 is to play an injury free season.
What we said: Prized draftee Hugh ‘Bags’ McCluggage, will look to put his best foot forward and earn his spot in this rebuilding period. A unique goal kicker for a midfielder, he is a strong kick that is mobile enough to move outside the packs and use his speed to his advantage. McCluggage is noted as a classy and composed yet determined young and upcoming star.
How he really performed: McCluggage averaged 15 disposals in his 18-game season. Kicked 8 goals and fitted in to Coach Fagan’s future plans of building a dominant young side. Was commended for his vision and decisiveness by disposal. Has shown enough confidence to be decent in the years to come. Still quite young but an intense pre-season will assist him on his 2018 journey.
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What we said: An explosive Allen Christensen, who, after a disappointing 2016, has been all guns blazing on the preseason track, dropping excess weight and building muscle. His versatile and quick game style should be improved from previous years. It will be no surprise if Christensen steps up to lead this young Lions group on the field.
How he really performed: Part of the leadership group for the first time in 2017, Christensen made his comeback in the NEAFL after fracturing his collarbone. However, the premiership midfielder’s season failed to even begin, after pulling up with shoulder soreness and discovering a crack in his steel shoulder plate. This ruled him out for 2017.
What we said: Jack Silvagni. With a lot riding on his name, his short 2016 season was bumpy, but had highlights proving his future is positive. The young gun showed potential when reading the play, was fearless and took the game on. His ability to chase and tackle as well as hurt teams on the scoreboard will be a major winner in 2017.
How he really performed: The Rising Star nominee kicked 19 goals in 2017 and averaged 10.1 disposals. Was not as outstanding as the Blues would have liked but worked his way through the season, gradually building confidence up forward. Showed signs of undeniable pace and proved he could read the play well, but should aim to lead and improve his finer skills in 2018.
What we said: Sam Docherty will continue his positive and consistent form in the 2017 season. A solid year of defence has set him up for another strong year, where his ability to read play and anticipate scenarios will come in handy when matching up on big power forwards. A year where Docherty will continue his leadership duties, the backline will look to him to steady the ship and use his football smarts to his advantage.
How he really performed: Docherty took the next step in his career and was noted as one of the games elite. Named in the All-Australian half back line, he averaged 3 tackles, 28 disposals and 6.3 intercepts weekly. Docherty dominated and lead the backline, taking uo a sweeping role off the Half-back flank. His versatility was taken to new heights when he was moved to the midfield at season’s end to guide his young teammates again. He lead the club in rebound 50’s with 129 also. Unfortunately, he has torn his ACL in his knee and will miss all of 2018. A big blow for the Blues.
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What we said: Harry McKay kicked 20 goals from 13 VFL games in 2016. He is yet to play a senior game, however Carlton are hoping he lives up to the hype. Is strong overhead and is agile for his size. Alongside Silvagni, the question must be raised; is he the long term answer to the Blues attacking issues?
How he really performed: McKay played his first game in round 18, collecting 11 disposals, seven being contested. He kicked two goals the following week against Geelong but was ruled out for 2017 after a toe injury. In his two games, McLay demonstrated poise and level-headedness, but also a fierce brutality that defenders will struggle to match in years to come.
What we said: Matthew Scharenberg is on the verge of a full return to AFL, showing off his skills throughout the preseason, playing across half back. When fit, he is a ready-made footballer, a polished mover in heavy contests. His mix of height and pace will prove a winner as he can become a more versatile addition to the lineup. He’s flexible and precise by foot which will be handy.
How he really performed: With an average of 20.2 disposals, the best of his career, Scharenburg played his role across half back in a struggling side. Scharenburgs ability and injuries were questioned at the start of the season, but built up strength to finish the season as a vital player in the Pies best 22. Played his role when he could but should be expected to regain confidence to demolish forwards in 2018 and beyond.
What we said: Josh Daicos, son of club legend Peter has been working through his preseason with Jamie Elliot as a small forward. A player who has been praised for his poise, his debut season will hopefully cement him as a strong forward player. His kicking style is unique, and he reads the play well. Collingwood will look to Daicos to bring speed and steady their forward line after the loss of power forward Travis Cloke to the Bulldogs.
How he really performed: Daicos played just two games in 2017 and kicked one goal. His highlight was laying ten tackles in round 22. His talent is still left on a cliff hanger as 2017 ends, but with a massive pre season, Daicos can craft some magic in the forward line in 2018.
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What we said: Jordan De Goey, a versatile midfielder who is electric on the field. Can be used as a forward when needed, as he showed off his impressive goal kicking skills throughout 2016. He plays at a high intensity and can play as a rotating medium forward and midfielder. A strong and quick decision maker, always one step ahead of his opponent. De Goey is fearless and will put his body on the line in 2017.
How he really performed: Kicked 14 goals in 14 matches and played his role somewhat to his best ability. However paid the price for initially lying to his club about how he broke his hand, by being suspended for six weeks. His recovery for the second half of the season saw him average 25 disposals. Surgery on his hip ended his season and closed what was a year to rebuild from.
What we said: Andrew McGrath, the number one draft pick will have a lot to prove in his 2017 season. Has been noted as a future leader who will bring some class to the Bombers young list. Will play as a midfielder who can move to half back. He has line breaking speed off the half back flank and is willing to take risks in contests and one on one. Known to read the play extremely well, this skill will be a necessity to intercept opposition forward line entry. There will be no surprise if McGrath’s 2017 season is one to remember.
How he really performed: McGrath had a brilliant debut this season, fitting in perfectly to his new side. Played with a defensive mindset, averaging three tackles a game and seamlessly shutting down fast opponents. Worked best when on the wing. McGrath also won the 2017 NAB Rising Star award, progressing astoundingly quickly as a mature footballer. Just signed a two year deal so will be ready to take on the bright future ahead.
What we said: Young gun Zach Merrett had a fantastic 2016 season. He showed his capabilities in his attacking style and pressure applied consistently. Confident in the midfield, Merrett can tackle ferociously, break through packs at high speed and has the ability to anticipate next movements. A sharp left footer with valuable speed, he has plenty to continually offer. Merrett will now step up as vice-captain and will have to show well-earned responsibility and leadership.
How he really performed: An outstanding season from Merrett secured his spot in the All-Australian midfield. His precise left foot and ferocity through the middle saw him notch up a 29.9 disposal average. He lived up to the expectations and was able to keep ahead of play. Took his Bombers into the finals and should be proud of his leadership achievements too.
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What we said: Cale Hooker, who was named vice-captain, will come back into the Bombers side and pick up from where he left off. A reliable backman, he can shut down key forwards regularly. He should return to his form fairly quickly. Can be used in the forward line as he has shown the ability to kick goals. Has propensity to dominate the competition with his contested marking.
How he really performed: Kicked 41 goals in season 2017, proving his versatility to be moved up forward as a key target. In a fantastic year for the younger Bomber side, Hooker lead from the front, working alongside Joe Daniher up forward. His contested marking and unforgiving burst secured his spot after a year away from football.
What we said: After an injury ridden 2016, Garrick Ibbotson will look to cement his spot in the Dockers best 22.The defender will use his speed and height to his advantage to hold down power forwards. Ibbotson is versatile playing across half back and also occasionally up forward. Ibbotson should be looking to use his interception ability to his power in 2017.
How he really performed: After a 177 game career, Ibbotson has called it quits after 2017. Played his rebounding and intercept defence role as best he could, attempting to halt scoreboard pressure from opposition. Only played the first ten rounds of the 2017 season, but averaged 14.4 disposals from the backline. Not the picture perfect end to his career and Ibbotson struggled with the retirement decision, but should be commended for his endurance to keep bring throughout.
What we said: Michael Walters is hard at it this preseason. The super skilled small forward will stay at an elite level and step up as a leader. Walters doesn’t need much time or space to devastate his opponents with his clean and fast left foot. His confidence to kick long goals or hit targets in pressure situations shows Walters is able to carry himself in the right manner. A good decision maker, be sure to watch for another powerful year where he can kick at least 30 goals.
How he really performed: Averaged 19.2 disposals – the highest of his career and did what he could to keep his team afloat. Kicked 22 goals and lead his team of the best of his ability. His best game was against Richmond, where he notched up 38 disposals. His fierce and unbeaten speed assisted his run on and made him a key target up forward. 2018 should see him lead once again and hopefully apply the scoreboard pressure to opposition.
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Shane Kersten and Joel Hamling.
What we said: Hamling was fourth choice defender for the Western Bulldogs in the 2016 season. After the collapse of numerous Dogs due to injury, Hamling was last man standing and ended up playing a key role as part of the Dogs 2016 premiership side. Now at his third club, is Hamling is the real deal, or was he just in the right place at the right time?
How he really performed: Struggled big time to fire up at his new hometown club. Recruited to fill the defensive lack, Hamling was required to become a key defender so some of the games biggest names. Along with his club, he lacked intensity and defensive pressure, averaging only 1.9 tackles per game. Needs to step up and become the key feature in a backline and a team that needs a fresh start.
What we said: Shane Kersten a tall mobile forward, has headed back to his home town for 2017 and beyond. A second tall forward option to Tom Hawkins previously at Geelong, Kersten lost his place late in 2016 and did not play finals. This year, Kersten will be able to become a main target up forward. His confidence needs to improve so he can show how important and efficient he really is.
How he really performed: Kersten did not exceed or achieve any expectations this season, seeming lost in the forward line. Great expectations, arrived with a lot of hype. However, averaging less than 10 touches as a key forward, the ex-Geelong recruit did not step up to the plate in 2017 and must review his season extensively.
What we said: In 2016, Sam Menegola had to wait until round 18 to make his debut, but did not disappoint. He averaged 24 disposals over his 6-game break out. A mature aged 2016 recruit, Menegola was used as an inside midfielder. His ability to read play and burst out of packs is handy as he will be play a main role in Geelong’s midfield. It’s time for Menegola to take the next step in his career and lead the new midfielders in the right direction.
How he really performed: Menegola averaged 24 disposals, keeping up his consistency overall. He averaged 5.9 tackles, an improvement from the 3.8 average in 2016. Worked hard behind the scenes as he wasn’t consistently noted for his heroics on field. Put his body of the line and used his defensive pressure to his advantage, however did not stand out as he was expected to. Must keep pushing to find his place in a packed midfield in 2018.
What we said: Zach Tuohy. Recruited from the Blues, Tuohy is the running half back the Cats have been looking for. After the loss of Bartel and Enright, the Cats made the right choice picking up a mature half back to fill the gap between their elite defenders and rookies. An aggressive runner off half back and a pounding kick, Tuohy will be able to take the game on whenever he wants. A fresh start at Geelong will help him to rekindle his love for footy. Tuohy will become a backline asset, now all he has to do is follow through.
How he really performed: Zach Tuohy had a fantastic season, coming third in Geelong’s Best and Fairest, fitting in well with his new-found team. He averaged 24.6 disposals off the half back line and showed why he is vital in Geelong’s 22. He brought the versatility and speed the Cats were desperate for and also eased the pressure off other defenders. Used hit grit and sill to continually shut down small forwards and relieve scoring pressure. Overall, a stellar season for Tuohy, deserved all the credit he received.
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What we said: Jackson Thurlow, who is making a return after a knee reconstruction in 2016, showed promising signs in 2015 and prior. He has used his rehabilitation to come back as a bigger and stronger backline asset. Will be able to play on a wide range of forwards. Thurlow has a lot to prove this season, as he needs to show why he deserves his spot in the Geelong backline.
How he really performed: Sill yet to find his feet, Thurlow played 11 games in the backline. He unfortunately did not become a vital presence that could take on big bodies forwards. Thurlow constantly struggle to keep up with the play, as it was obvious his knee was restricting his movement and ground work. He will play in 2018 but must step up to fill the void left by retiring stars Lonergan and Mackie.
GOLD COAST SUNS
What we said: Kade Kolodjashnij is a smooth mover who can use his pace to his advantage. The Suns will look to cement Kolodjashnij in a half back spot for years to come. He is an excellent left foot kick and is a continually improving the defensive side of his game. Can be used on third tall forwards and possibly as a tagger. Kolodjashnij should be expected to step up as a young leader.
How he really performed: Kolodjashnij played only 11 matches in 2017, being ruled our mid-season with ongoing concussion complications. However, the young gun averaged 21.1 disposals, 4 more than 2016.
What we said: 2016 saw a mixed bag for Alex Sexton, who proved he could play deep in the midfield as well as wider on a wing. After a few injuries early, Sexton returned and spent some time in the middle of the ground. A hard runner with clean cut skills, Sexton can also win the contested ball. Can also hit the scoreboard. Looking forward to watching this versatile talent come back to his best in 2017.
How he really performed: Sexton finally played a full season and carried himself fairly well. His highlight game was 26 disposals in round 6 against the Kangaroos. Coaches moved him between the wing and forward line, proving the right choice as he kicked 12 goals in 2017. His versatility allowed him to be flexible wherever he was placed. 2018 is the time to further his ability and bring his team up.
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What we said: Adam Saad has stamped himself as one of the Suns most important. After an injury ridden 2016, Saad is expected to make a flying start to 2017 across the defence. His fast-paced run and carry off the back half will help the Suns who are in need of some confidence and composure.
How he really performed: Saad’s season was an improvement from 2016, with the half-back flanker laying 50 tackles, which is 25 more than last season. Now a Bomber after trading back to his home town, Saad will be a value with his great run and carry as well as defensive mind set.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
What we said: Steven Coniglio had the most disposals for GWS in 2016, with a breakout year. With leadership skills like his, it would be fair to predict a future captaincy for Coniglio. The development of Coniglio’s skills sees his midfield spot cemented for 2017 and beyond. Noted as ruthless when it comes to contests, his clean-cut skills mixed with fearless attitude will definitely help him take another step forward this season.
How he really performed: Lead from the front in his first season in the leadership group. He averaged 25.7 disposals and was fearless in the middle. He lived up to his ruthless name by laying an average of 6.4 tackles a game. A decent season that saw him team only falter when it counted.
What we said: Dylan Shiel had an outstanding 2016 season and will look to follow up his fantastic form in 2017. His ability to carry the ball at a fast pace proved a real winner. He averaged over 27 disposals a game which proved his importance to his team. He is versatile and able to break out of packs and win contested ball. A natural born leader, Shiel should be expected to step up yet again to guide this young team to something special.
How he really performed: Averaging 26.6 disposals, Shiel yet again went above and beyond in 2017. Picked as an All-Australian, Shiel dominated in the middle and lead his team at the same time. He is to be commended for his high intensity all over the ground and his ability to burst through the middle consistently. Couldn’t be beaten and stepped up when the Giants required him most.
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What we said: Devon Smith. The skilful forward can be damaging inside 50. A very flashy and explosive player, yet he can apply extra pressure which often goes unnoticed. Smith is versatile enough to switch between the midfield and forward line, setting himself up to be a 35+ goal player in 2017.
How he really performed: Playing 16 games in 2017, Smith averaged 18.5 disposals and kicked 15 goals. His inside 50 and tackle pressure was the highlight of the forward’s year, as he took his team to another preliminary final. Now on his way to Essendon, it is likely that Smith will become the high intensity forward the Bombers need.
What we said: Jaeger O’Meara hasn’t played since 2014 due to injury, however is expected to fit right into the Hawks powerful midfield in 2017. His ability to read the play and become versatile when needed is what the Hawks need after the loss of veterans Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis. If O’Meara can play with the fearlessness and explosiveness out of the midfield as he did at the beginning of his career that will go a long way to keeping his new team in finals contention.
How he really performed: The big recruit of 2017 managed only 6 games this season, due to ongoing knee troubles that ultimately interrupted the year. However, a glimpse of O’Meara’s magic was captured, when he gathered 36 disposals against Port Adelaide in round 2. Despite the injuries, O’Meara has been given another chance to show us what he’s made of in 2018.
What we said: Billy Hartung now has the opportunity to step up into the gap left by Brad Hill, meaning he can take up the speedy role starting on the wing. With an average of 19 disposals in 2016, Hartung showed some promise in his game. He is a speedy young gun with the ability to break through contests and score if necessary. He will be expected to step up and become elite on the wing in 2017.
How he really performed: Although he averaged 22.1 disposals per game – the best in his career, Hartung was delisted by the Hawks at then end of the season. He was commended for improving his run and carry as well as his uncontested touches, but was not the fit for the Hawks. Picked up by North Melbourne in the Rookie Draft, Hartung’s lifeline may give him a rebirth in 2018.
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What we said: James Sicily kicked 30 goals in 2016. A straight and reliable kick, Sicily can be trusted with the ball in many situations. He is a fine contested mark and works well in pressure situations, confident in himself. In 2017 he will have the opportunity to cement a spot in the Hawks front half.
How he really performed: A change saw Sicily head to the backline in 2017, where he averaged 18.5 disposals. Dropped after round 1, Sicily worked hard to regain his spot, and when he did, he didn’t waste his opportunity, kicking 11 goals in seven games. However, was moved to the backline for the latter part of 2017 where he averaged 9.1 marks. Sicily may have found his true calling down back, but let’s see where he is in 2018.
What we said: Jesse Hogan is one of the best young forwards of the competition, he needs to prove himself as a force to be reckoned with in 2017. Booting 41 goals in 2016, Hogan highlighted how he has the ability to hurt opposition on the scoreboard. Melbourne has faith in the young gun, who has a steady kick as well as a strong mark. Even though young, Hogan has spent this preseason building himself up to become stronger in contests.
How he really performed: Dealt with the hardest year of any player in a long time. Battled the death of his father, testicular cancer and many other issues that put numerous stops on his season. Still performed reasonably well considering, kicking 20 goals and averaging 14.2 disposals. Hopefully can have an uninterrupted 2018.
What we said: Half forward gun Christian Petracca spent 2016 trying to establish himself in the Demons best 22. He played as a lead-up forward who averaged 17 disposals and kicked 12 goals in only 17 games. The Demons rate him as a key player in their drive to finals football. Petracca has the physical strength and the right mentality to only improve in 2017.
How he really performed: Had a great season for the Demons and has plenty left to give to his club over the coming years. Averaged 18.8 disposals and was dominant in front of goal kicking a total of 26. Petracca established himself as a key puzzle piece in the young Demons side and will be praised for his fearlessness and ferociousness in every contest. Overall, the young gun settled well into the Demons side and is on track to lead in the midfield and in front of gaols in years to come.
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What we said: Clayton Oliver. The strong and big bodied midfielder left a mark in the young Demons team in 2016. He is capable of winning the contested ball gathering high clearance numbers. Has great vision in contests and heavy traffic. If he improves his stamina he will become a key cog in the Demons midfield.
How he really performed: Oliver exceeded all expectations and became vital for the Demons. He averaged 30 disposals per game as well as nearly 7 tackles, proving his defensive pressure was evident too. Oliver took out the Demons Best and Fairest, 184 bites clear of second-placed Jack Viney. By finishing in the top ten for average disposals, tackles, contested possessions and clearances, fans are still wondering why Oliver wasn’t sketched in the All-Australian squad.
What we said: After 10 seasons in the AFL, defender Robbie Tarrant had a breakout 2016, winning North’s best and fairest. He has finally settled into a key defender role and dominates opponents with his strength and pace and intercepting marking as well as playing a shut down role. Tarrant will be looked up to as a leader yet again for a changing North team.
How he really performed: Tarrant played 22 matches in 2017, with an average of 17 disposals – the highest of his career. He lay 55 tackles and averaged 2.5 per game. Although North’s season did not go to plan, Tarrant continually led from the front and held the backline together. 2018 expectations are high and Tarrant will be up with the best again.
What we said: Jarrad Waite. A wonderful start to 2016 unfortunately ended in injury, however showed his best forward form in years. Before his injury, Waite kicked 27 goals in nine rounds, showing off true ability. In 2017, Waite will look to have a massive impact on the scoreboard with his presence, steady kick and strong mark.
How he really performed: Positively, from his 10 games played, Waite kicked 22 goals for North, averaging two a game. He also averaged 14.1 disposals and showed he is still worthy for consideration. Contracted until the end of 2019, Waite has a major chance it redeem what he and the Kangaroos lost in 2017.
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What we said: After the loss of Drew Petrie, Majak Daw has his opportunity to step up and take his chance to become a forward target and back up ruck to Todd Goldstein. An incredible athlete who needs to to step up and dominate this season.
How he really performed: Playing only 7 games and averaging 16 hit outs, Daw’s season drew to a close due to knee and foot issues. Unfortunately, he did not get the chance to showcase and build on his talent.
What we said: Ollie Wines has already built a reputation as a leading midfielder at his young age. Regarded as one of the best young leaders in the AFL, it will be no surprise if Wines steps up yet again and takes his game to the next level. In 2017, he is expected to improve his disposal efficiency to become elite.
How he really performed: Wines lived up to the expectations, averaging a career high 27.3 disposals. Further, Wines added a defensive element to his game, where he averaged 5 tackles a game. His clearance game was strong, proving his worth in the congestion of the middle. Wines highlighted his pure brutality and strength by throwing himself into every contest and winning much of the footy in 2017.
What we said: Hamish Hartlett needs to step up in 2017 in the tough Port defence. Hartlett has been elevated into the leadership group and is expected to improve his disposal average. At his best, Hartlett uses the ball well and will run and carry out of defence. After a tough off season, he needs to work harder and re-establish himself at Port this coming season.
How he really performed: Averaging 17 disposals in 2017, Hartlett put his body on the line and proved his worth in the backline. He was known for reading the play well during the season, thus adding to his fantastic defensive pressure he consistently applied. He averaged 2 tackles a game and lead his team from the front in his first leadership year.
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What we said: Angus Monfries is finally returning after his ASADA ban over 2016. Monfries will be desperate for the season to start, and will hopefully be back in blistering form in the forward line. He is a dynamic forward who has the ability to kick bags of goals on a regular basis. He is confident with his kicking, has good hands and will be looking to slip right into the Power team once again.
How he really performed: Monfries played only one game in 2017, due to shoulder surgery and hamstring issues throughout the year. He was heavily managed through the season but unfortunately was deemed unfit on numerous occasions, thus ending his 2017 campaign.
What we said: Taylor Hunt, a true competitor at heart, has cemented his spot in the Tiger’s team. The small defender/midfielder adds pace and vision to the backline. After coming from Geelong, Hunt is now a vital part of the run and carry off half back. A confident tagger, Hunt should be expected to play his shutdown role yet again in 2017.
How he really performed: Unfortunately, Hunt only played 2 games in 2017, missing out on becoming a vital part of the Tiger’s backline. The small defender has now been delisted from the 2017 premiers’. Has signed with Collegians in the VAFA (Victorian Amateurs) after playing 105 matches at AFL level.
What we said: Brandon Ellis. A durable midfielder who is an established outside runner who has fantastic vision through traffic. With clean hands, Ellis can make his way through contests and possibly hurt teams on the scoreboard. In 2017, he aims to work hard to build an inside element to his game.
How he really performed: Ellis’ 2017 saw him step out of his comfort zone to become a vital defender and midfielder in the Richmond premiership team. Averaging 22.3 disposals, Ellis was noted to have worked hard to improve his pivoting, twisting and ground ball work, evidently improving his run-and-carry. His season 2017 has allowed Ellis to flourish not only as a footballer, but as a club leader too.
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What we said: Now at his third AFL club, Josh Caddy is at the cross roads of his career. Starved of on-ball opportunities at Geelong, Caddy finds himself as an experienced player in a club under immense pressure. A great talent who needs to be consistent in 2017.
How he really performed: Caddy found his feet at his new club, now a premiership player and a vital part of the Richmond midfield and forward line. Kicking 21 goals and averaging 17.3 disposals, Caddy proved his versatility wherever he was put on field. He played 22 games, thus maximising his leadership potential, as well as strength and fitness for the future.
What we said: Maverick Weller. The forward is a value to his young St Kilda team. An aggressive player who applies pressure and tackles hard, he may look to spend more time in the midfield this season He has good skills and can also mark extremely well overhead adding a great variety to the Saints forward line.
How he really performed: An unfortunate overall drop in performance saw Weller struggle throughout 2017. Held back due to accuracy issues, he kicked only 11 goals, as compared to his 24 in 2016. The strong half-forward was dropped later in the season, finishing him with 18 games. Although he did not quite live up to expectations, Weller is working hard this summer to reinvent himself into the dominate half-forward the Saints need.
What we said: Jarryn Geary. The defender took a massive leap in 2016 earning him the captaincy in 2017. Reliable on small forwards, Geary is an fast, attacking defender and a confident play reader who can spoil and run. 2017 will be a real test for the young man who will not only lead the backline, but the whole club.
How he really performed: Captain Geary stepped up to the plate in 2017, securing his spot as a vital small defender for the Saints. His defensive pressure was immense, seeing him average nearly 3 spoils a game, as well as laying an average of 2.6 tackles. Overall, Geary was judged as elite and will continue strongly on the right path with his young Saints behind him.
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What we said: Tim Membrey had a breakout 2016 and has established himself as a vital part of St Kilda’s attack. Membrey has the footy smarts and strong mark that makes him a dangerous player up forward. A smooth and straight kick, he can be trusted with ball in hand. Membrey works hard and travels up the ground allowing movement behind him in the forward line. Membrey should be able to become even more effective in 2017.
How he really performed: Membrey kicked 38 goals in 2017, the most for the Saints. He continue his stellar 2016 form, becoming more consistent as the season played out. He did however take some time to settle in, but finished his season strongly. Membrey kicked multiple goals on 13 occasions, his best being 5 goals against Richmond.
What we said: At only 20 years of age, Isaac Heeney has quickly established himself as part of the Swans strong midfield. His 2016 finals series was exceptional. His ability to hurt teams on the scoreboard increases his value. He is strong with great pace. This is his year to step up and become an elite versatile midfielder.
How he really performed: Young Heeney worked hard in 2017, averaging 20.6 disposals, four more than his 2016 average. His immense defensive pressure earned him a 4.7 tackle average and cemented his spot in the strong midfield. Dealing also with Glandular fever, Heeney sped to recovery and still dominated when the Swans needed him most. He should be congratulated on his hard grind in 2017 to maintain his high level of football.
What we said: Aliir Aliir had a breakout season in 2016, starring in defence in the second half of the season. He showed his amazing intercept marking and ability to read the game while playing shut down roles on key opposition forwards. In 2017, Aliir should look to become a consistent reliable attacking defender.
How he really performed: Unfortunately was injury ridden throughout the 2017 season. Aliir played only three matches for the season. Hamstring and soft tissue issues evidently held Aliir back. Was dropped from the Swans round 7 team for failing to attend training.
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What we said: Callum Mills. The 2016 Rising Star starred in defence showing the maturity and confident of a well-seasoned veteran. Will he be used to boost the midfield in 2017? After a very promising 2016, the football world belongs to him. He will show us why he deserves the same respect in 2017.
How he really performed: The 2016 Rising Star was vital as a small defender again for the Swans. He lead from the front when the Swans needed him most, therefore cementing his spot in the team. He averaged 17 disposals, with his best game seeing him collect 26 disposals and nine marks. Overall, Mills emerged as a young leader and subjugated his position on the half-back line.
What we said: Luke Shuey. Won the best and fairest last season and proved to everyone how elite he has become. Shuey has impeccable vision and a great ability to break the lines and tackle ferociously. This year, Shuey is expected to keep up the high standard he set and will work hard again to play a key role in 2017.
How he really performed: Shuey averaged 26.3 disposals in 2017, a career high. He used his agility and strength to burst out of packs and dominate not only in the centre, but in front of goal too. Ranked second in tackles for the Eagles also. He dominated in the elimination final against Port Adelaide with 32 disposals, 11 tackles and two goals, rounding off his 2017 season in style.
What we said: Jeremy McGovern, who won an All Australian spot last year, had a great year in defence for the Eagles. A great intercept mark and strong in the contest, McGovern will prove himself yet again as an asset to a changing Eagles side. 2017 should be a year for McGovern to continue grow as a footballer.
How he really performed: McGovern took on 2017 with confidence, averaging 16.7 disposals, an improvement from 2016. He stabilised himself as a key defender, taking on some of the games best forwards over the year. McGovern also proved himself as a swing man, using his skills up forward kicking 10 goals. Selected again in the All-Australian backline, there is no doubt McGovern lived up to his hype.
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What we said: Nathan Vardy has only played 25 games in the past 5 seasons due to persistent injuries and hasn’t had a proper opportunity to showcase his talents in the AFL. A strong mark, he can play alongside Drew Petrie and rotate through the ruck. A steady kick and a fair play reader, Vardy has a massive opportunity at the Eagles. Is he the key forward/ruckman replacement for the injured Naitanui? Will he live up to the hype put on him at Geelong, and will his body pull through?
How he really performed: Nathan Vardy rediscovered himself as a first pick ruckman, who was versatile up forward too. Playing all 23 games in 2017 (almost as many as he played at Geelong over 5 seasons), Vardy became vital for the Eagles averaging 22.5 hit outs per game, as well as kicking 10 goals. His ability to play low saw him lay 64 tackles and proved Vardy’s worth after being delisted by Geelong the year before.
What we said: After break out year in 2015, Tory Dickson proved he belongs in the AFL. An accurate kick in front of goal, Dickson has the ability to hurt teams on the scoreboard, while also applying defensive pressure. It is almost forgotten that he can play on a wing, and can be used providing strong run and attack on the ball. Dickson has much to prove in 2017 to maintain his spot as an important forward. Needs to kick at least 35 goals if he wishes to stay on top of a young Dogs side who have to show why they deserve success again.
How he really performed: In his return to senior football in Round 9 against the Cats, Dickson laid a season-high seven tackles. However, the premiership player only played nine games in season 2017, with ‘niggles back and forth’ restraining him from full-time football. Dickson did however collect over 70% of his possessions in the midfield this season, up from 56% in 2016 and kicked 11 goals in less than ten games.
What we said: Early in 2016 Jake Stringer was being compared to some of the great forwards of the game, however dropped off as the season continued and struggled to maintain his consistency eventually being dropped eventually returning to play his part in the Grand Final win. Stringer is a trusty kick in front of goal, reads the play extremely well and finds space. The only question is his focus and hunger for the game, which he must show in 2017.
How he really performed: Started the season well, however fell away when the Dogs needed him most. Played 16 games and kicked 24 goals, equalling Liam Picken as the top Bulldog scorers of 2017. Stringer did not dominate like previous years, only averaging 12.4 disposals as compared to the 14 he averaged in 2016. The obvious distraction from off-field issues proved costly. However, now a Bomber, Stringer has a serious chance at redemption from his failed past.
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What we said: Clay Smith, had a stand out 2016 finals series as he proved how his defensive pressure added another element to his game as a forward and midfielder. A good, confident, run and carry player with great vision puts Smith up there with the best players at the club. 2017 will be another big year and he needs to maintain his work efforts to repeat his 2016 performance.
How he really performed: Clay Smith, who played eight games in 2017, injured his calf in Round 9 and was side-lined for three weeks. Smith did not return to AFL level until round 16. The remainder of his season (minus AFL game in Round 20) was played out in the VFL. A somewhat downgrade from his burst of 2016, dropping from his average of 14.9 disposals, to a mere 11.5 this season. Smith took some positives from his year, with a four-goal haul in Round 7 against Richmond.