Nat Fyfe is the Brownlow Medal favorite after round 1. Picture: Daniel Wilkins.

At the halfway point of the year, Zero Hanger looks at every club’s best player of the year so far, most improved and the player who needs to lift or could hold the key in the second half of the season.

In part one we look at Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Fremantle.


Best Player:

Eddie Betts

It’s hard to go past the little master. He has been phenomenal this season. Hasn’t been as dynamic the past few weeks, but his early season form warrants the mantle of Adelaide’s best player. He sits fourth in the race for the Coleman Medal with 32 goals in 10 games. He is averaging a career best 14.3 disposals per game and 4 marks per game. It’s not just his stats but his pressure and ability to make things happen that sets Betts a part. Whenever he gets near the ball it looks like something extraordinary could happen.

Most Improved:

Rory Laird

Has played all 10 games so far this season after managing 16 and 18 in his first two seasons with the club. He is averaging 22.4 disposals per game (second at Adelaide behind Patrick Dangerfield), compared with just 15 last season. Most importantly he is averaging 3.2 rebound 50s per game, setting up crucial attack from Adelaide’s defence. The 21-year-old looks set to have a breakout year as he cements himself in the Crows’ line-up.

Most important player for the second half of the season/Player who needs to lift:

Patrick Dangerfield

Don’t take his inclusion in this section the wrong way, Dangerfield has been fantastic at times this year. However, if Adelaide want to play deep in September action and push for the flag, which they definitely can at their best, then they need Dangerfield to play at his best week in week out. He is not far off, averaging 25 possessions a game this season, including a whopping 15.2 contested possessions. Unlike others in previous seasons, Danger has not let his current contract situation affect his form, which is a credit to his mental ability as well as his skill. Captain Taylor Walker could also warrant selection in this section, as when he is firing, Adelaide look a different team up forward.


Best Player:

Dayne Beams

Hard to pick a standout player at Brisbane this season, but Dayne Beams has certainly stepped up in recent weeks. Started the year slowly by his high standards, but he is currently averaging 28.8 possessions a game and was a standout in their win over Port Adelaide a few weeks ago.

Most Improved:

Marco Paparone

Paparone is ranked No. 1 at Brisbane for marks, intercept possessions and intercept marks after moving into defence at the beginning of the season. Is averaging 19 disposals a game, compared with 13 last season and has played every game for the lions so far this season.

Who needs to lift:

Allen Christensen

Has failed to live up to the standards he set at Geelong so far this season. Suffered several injuries last season, which has made it difficult for him to regain full fitness and form. However, his influence should still be above what it is at the moment. Has a big role to play in the future of the club and can start by having a big second half to 2015.

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Best Player:

Kade Simpson

It’s almost impossible to pick a best player at the Blues this year. So it’s more a case of the player who has stood out from the rabble that take the field each week, but Kade Simpson has been outstanding in several games that he has played this season. He is averaging 24 disposals a game this year, his best of the past three seasons. His work rate is first class, which unfortunately can’t be said for many of his Carlton teammates.

Most Improved:

Patrick Cripps

Calrton obviously saw the immense talent that Patrick Cripps possessed when they recruited him in 2013 and now we are all starting to see it. He has been one of few shining lights in an otherwise forgettable season for Carlton. He played three games last season in his debut year, before playing eight of a possible 10 games so far this season. He is averaging 22 disposals per game and has four gaols to his name. He is not a star of the competition by any stretch of the imagination, but he has future star of the league written all over him.

Who needs to lift:

Bryce Gibbs

Often heavily criticised, Bryce Gibbs undoubtedly has the talent to match it with the best. He had his best season of his career last year, averaging 28 disposals per game and showed what he is capable of producing. However, this season he is no-where near that kind of form. He is averaging 21 disposals per game. Seven less than last season. As a former No. 1 Draft pick he needs to be the face of the transformation of this football club along with the likes of Murphy, Kruezer and Menzel. He has the second half of this season to prove that he can be, otherwise Carlton would be well within rights to shop the midfielder around, despite having four years left to run on his contract.


Best player:

Dane Swan

Swan has found his mojo again this season, after a disappointing 2014 by his lofty standards, he is back averaging 29 disposals per game. He has also chimed in with 11 goals in the first 11 rounds of the year, the same number he kicked for the entire 2014 campaign.

Most Improved:

Taylor Adams

After moving across from GWS at the end of 2013, Adams enjoyed a solid season in 2014, before really hitting his straps this year. Managed only 12 games last season for the magpies last season, but has already played nine of the Pies’ 10 games this year. Is averaging 26.6 disposals a game and is ranked third behind only Swan and Pendlebury for most disposals this year at Collingwood.

Who needs to lift:

Alex Fasolo

Fasolo is extremely highly regarded at the Pies, however, this season he has struggled to reach the heights expected of him. Was dropped early on in the year but has since found his way back into the side playing some solid footy. He’s played six games this season for a return of nine goals and 13 disposals per game. Needs a higher input to really establish himself as a star of the competition, which his talent deserves.

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Best player:

Dyson Heppell

Apologies to Cale Hooker who has been very solid in defence for the Dons this year. Heppell has been as consistent as ever this season, which is just what we have come to expect from the 23-year-old. He is averaging 26 disposals per game, ranked equal first with Brendon Goddard at the Bombers. Is also averaging five tackles per game and uses the ball very well. Works extremely hard every game no matter the score or situation.

Most improved:

Zac Merret

Merret has stepped up this season for Essendon to be one of the few shinning lights. He is averaging 22 disposals compared with just 15 last year. Is also averaging an impressive six tackles and three inside 50s. His disposals efficiency is 73% and he records 20.8 pressure acts per game, ranked ninth in the league.

Who needs to lift:

Tom Bellchambers

Apologies to Jake Carlisle, who narrowly missed out here, but Bellchambers has been worse. He was dropped for last week’s game against West Coast, with Coach James Hird preferring to go into the game without a recognised ruckman, indicated just how badly Bellchambers is going. Had three disposals in the first half against the Cats two weeks ago before being subbed off.


Best Player:

Nat Fyfe

It goes without saying that Nat Fyfe has been by far the best Fremantle player this season. Fyfe has dominated the competition in all facets of the game, providing highlight after highlight in every match. He is averaging 31.5 disposals and 19.4 contested possessions per game and has 13 goals to his name. He also leads the competitions in clearances with nine per game. It seems that there is almost nothing the Brownlow favourite can’t do. And the 23-year-old is only going to get better and better with age.

Most Improved:

Clancee Pearce

Pearce has taken his opportunity with both hands. With tagger Ryan Crowley suspended for breaching the AFL anti-doping code, Pearce has slotted into the Dockers’ team nicely. Pearce only managed nine games last season, but he has played every game so far this year and is averaging a career high 20.7 disposals and seven marks per game.

Most important player for the second half of the season/Player who needs to lift:

Hayden Ballantyne

Ballantyne had a career best season last year, kicking 49 goals in 20 games. The talented small forward has not enjoyed the same rich vein of form this year, kicking just eight goals in nine games. If Fremantle are to finally win the first AFL Premiership in the club’s history, then Ballantyne will have to be one of the players leading the charge and menacing opposition defences.


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