From the most porous to the AFL's equivalent of Fort Knox, ahead of the bounce of the ball on Thursday night, we've ranked the league's best backlines.

We've already seen the back sixes that forwards across the competition dine out on. We've also seen the units that are making strides towards greatness. Now, we present the backlines that are primed to push for premiership success, the Crème de la crème, if you will.

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These are the teams with premiership-level defences, units with essentially no holes when healthy. Their key men can stop most opposing threats and their medium-small backs can prevent chaos and hit targets.

Many of these teams also benefit from a deep overall list and plenty of capable midfielders finding a role through the half-back line.

A couple of the sides may appear to suffer from a lack of star power, but the structure and organisation of the gameplan allow their role-players to utilise their strengths to the maximum; see Robbie Fox for Sydney or Jake Kolodjashnij for Geelong.

These are the elite backlines entering the 2023 AFL season, the teams ranked 6-1.


6. 6. Sydney

Sydney were a revelation in the 2022 season, climbing to become one of the league's best sides seemingly out of nowhere with their scary young talent.

While the brunt of the excitement comes from the anticipation of what Chad Warner, Errol Gulden, Logan McDonald and many others could do, only small amounts of credit typically reach their rock solid defence.

Paddy McCartin's performance last season encapsulated one of the stories of the year as he resurrected his football career with a move to Sydney's key defender slot. The aerial strength and dominance the public had come to expect early in his career were on full display as he impacted contest after contest, constantly initiating turnover.

Brother Tom, was the perfect supporting act, showcasing his own ability in marking contests while confidently patrolling the ground-level also.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Tom McCartin of the Swans (left) and brother Paddy embrace after the 2022 AFL Round 01 match between the GWS Giants and the Sydney Swans at Accor Stadium on March 19, 2022 In Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

By his side, Dane Rampe has proven to be one of the most impactful veterans in the competition time and time again, taking initiative by locking down opposing bigs and smalls while adding his fair share of team-lifting tackles, spoils and smothers.

His veteran partner, Jake Lloyd no longer needs to produce the 120-point SuperCoach average we had previously seen from him given the support around him now, but he is still more than capable of winning the ball and exiting the defensive 50 with poise and pace.

Rotating through the key defender line, Robbie Fox is a player influenced by the 'Bloods Culture' at Sydney; his smother in the goal square to prevent a Melbourne surge in the qualifying final will be remembered among this playing group for years to come.

Adding the flare to this wall of resistance, Nick Blakey provides one of the best kicks in the competition off the half-back flank to go with his damaging run and dash. At 23, the best is still to come from 'The Lizard'.

Adding to the youthful exuberance, Oliver Florent brings a toughness and level of class to the rearguard when resting from a midfield spell, while Justin McInerny can complement the role of Nick Blakey to a tee when shifting off the wing.