So we’re one final down, with three to go in week one. The Bulldogs shocked the footy world by dismantling the Eagles last night in Perth. As we start to get to our post-season reviews, we take a look at the MVP at each AFL club for season 2016.
1. Adelaide: Rory Sloane
The midfielder has produced his best season to date at the Crows and has seemingly thrived on the departure of Patrick Dangerfield, stepping up as the club’s midfield general. An average of 25.5 disposals from 21 games he was one of the contenders for the Brownlow Medal before copping a one game suspension. Here’s hoping the 2016 All-Australian Vice-Captain can lead his Crows to a successful finals campaign.
2. Brisbane Lions: Dayne Zorko
He was stiff to miss out on an All-Australian nomination but the little midfielder is the still the best going around at the Gabba, winning his second consecutive Best and Fairest Award. Zorko’s first two thirds of the season was outstanding and Brisbane looked like a one-man show throughout that time before his form tailed off considerably towards the end of the season. Head and shoulders above the rest though and that tells you just how many passengers are currently at the club.
3. Carlton: Patrick Cripps
Cripps is one of the league’s best young midfielders – if not the best – and his ability to win the ball on the inside has become a pivotal part of the Blues’ gameplan. Cripps was the AFL’s best clearance and contested ball player this season and somehow missed out on an All-Australian nomination. Plenty of promise heading into his fourth season in the game.
4. Collingwood: Adam Treloar
The only thing that is missing is a finals appearance. Treloar left GWS in search of a flag but it looks like his former club is closer to one than Collingwood are. However, personally, his 2016 has been outstanding. Averaging 30.6 possessions from 22 games, the midfielder is constantly improving and is now the face of the ‘new’ Collingwood going forward into the future.
5. Essendon: Zach Merrett
A future captain no doubt, Zach Merrett produced a fantastic season in difficult circumstances and has now cemented himself as a key part of Essendon’s midfield. Merrett won his first Best and Fairest Award in just his third season at the club, running away with the award from Joe Daniher and James Kelly. A host of star players are returning to the club in 2017 so it should be exciting times ahead for Essendon.
6. Fremantle: Lachie Neale
How did this guy not end up in the final All-Australian team? Neale in 2016 was the AFL’s leading disposal getter, with 737 all up and an average of 33.5 per game in what was a shocking year for the club as a whole. To go with that, he was also in the top three players in the league in terms of contested possessions and clearances. He is set to win the club’s Best and Fairest by a mile but has already taken out the award for the best Fremantle or West Coast player for 2016, joining the likes of Nat Fyfe, Matthew Pavlich, Chris Judd, Matthew Priddis and Paul Hasleby.
7. GWS Giants: Heath Shaw
The former Magpie premiership player has enjoyed a terrific season playing off half-back and is one of a number of players who have had good season after being discarded by their former club. An All-Australian for the second year running, Shaw’s experience in the club’s first Finals campaign will be priceless. A big game player who thrives on the national stage, expect Shaw to continue this form throughout September and possibly October.
8. Geelong: Patrick Dangerfield
Is there even an argument? Many commentators were concerned that ‘Danger’ would take a year or so to settle into a new team, but after 23 rounds, he has shattered those doubts producing his finest season yet in his career. He has fixed many of Geelong’s 2015 problems and has made the Geelong Captain, Joel Selwood, a better player as well. Two games where he racked up more than 45 disposals and 23 goals for the year as well isn’t a bad return. Expect him thrive throughout the finals series and to take home ‘Charlie’ in a few weeks time.
9. Gold Coast Suns: Tom Lynch
Finishing third in the Coleman Medal race, the 23-year old has a had a great season up north at Gold Coast, kicking 63 goals in a season to forget as a whole for the club. A ground-breaking season for the tall forward, picking up his first All-Australian spot as well as defending his Best and Fairest Award in a landslide result, finishing 80 votes clear of his nearest rival, Jarrod Harbrow. We should now see a massive 2017 from Lynch.
10. Hawthorn: Sam Mitchell
Another decent season for the veteran midfielder. Not as good as his 2015 season but still good enough to still be considered the club’s best player. Racked up numerous possessions earlier in the season before tapering off towards the end of the year. Should come up trumps throughout the finals with all the experience he possesses.
11. Melbourne: Max Gawn
The new big kid on the block! Gawn has had an unforgettable season, stamping his authority as the best ruckman in the game, taking over from North’s Todd Goldstein. Earning his first All-Australian selection in 2016, Gawn forms part of a very promising Melbourne side that should push for finals next year under new coach Simon Goodwin.
12. North Melbourne: Brent Harvey
To be brutally honest, there just hasn’t been a better player at North this season, which makes the decision to let him go, a bit of an iffy one. 22 games, 36 goals, 21.4 disposals a game at 75.2 efficiency. 2016 has been one of Harvey’s best seasons in the game and will be vitally crucial to the club’s chances over in Adelaide tomorrow night.
13. Port Adelaide: Jasper Pittard
The rebounding defender took his game to another level in 2016 at the Power. Playing all 22 games, Pittard averaged 22.6 possessions per game, was in the top five for rebound 50s and was Port’s only player in the preliminary 40-man All-Australian squad. A tough season for all involved at Port Adelaide, but the signs look good with players like Pittard coming through.
14. Richmond: Alex Rance
Cemented himself as the game’s best key defender with a third consecutive All-Australian selection in what as a nightmare year at Tigerland. Narrowly missed out on winning the club’s Best and Fairest Award to midfielder Dustin Martin, Rance still stands as the best full-back in this decade along with Geelong great Matthew Scarlett. This was probably Rance’s best season statistically so expect plenty more from Rance in 2017.
15. St Kilda: Jack Steven
Claimed his third club Best and Fairest this season joining the likes of Wels Eicke, Darrel Baldock and Robert Harvey as well as Jack Davis, Bill Cubbins, Jim Ross, Nathan Burke, Lenny Hayes and Nick Riewoldt as three-time winners. Steven produced his best year yet statistically and still got shunned for All-Australian selection.
16. Sydney Swans: Lance Franklin
There is a long queue of players lining up and staking their claim as the best player at the club given just how good the Swans are. However, dominant key forwards are hard to come by these days and when you have a player like Buddy on your list, you’re destined for success. 74 goals to come second in the Coleman Medal, Franklin has overcome so many personal struggles from 2015 to help his side to first on the ladder and premiership favouritism in 2016. As passionate Cats fan, I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Buddy but I will never deny his ability as one of the greatest modern day forwards.
17. West Coast Eagles: Josh Kennedy
From one key forward to another. Kennedy took out this year’s Coleman Medal for the second year running, booting 82 goals from 23 games. He is the leader of a dominant Eagles forward line and continually drags his team over the line with his goal hauls. Disappointing end to the season with defeat last night, but still plenty to be proud of personally.
18. Western Bulldogs: Matthew Boyd
Boyd has had to hold down a backline that has been ravaged with injuries this season and has done a tremendous job, earning himself All-Australian selection in the process. The Bulldogs have established themselves as one of the best defensive sides in the competition and that is testament to the work the veteran has done throughout the year. An average of 27.8 disposals to go with that isn’t bad either. Their finals run continues for another week and Boyd is definitely a key part of that.