Glorifying the AFL's ball-winners and goalkickers is commonplace across the footballing landscape, but as the age-old adage goes: 'defence wins premierships'.

The club that holds the silverware aloft at the end of a season typically boasts a backline consisting of immovable key defenders, eagle-eyed interceptors and attack-minded flankers.

Last year's grand finalists, for example, each possessed stingy, impregnable defensive units, comprising stars such as Darcy MooreHarris AndrewsBrayden MaynardBrandon StarcevichIsaac Quaynor and Keidean Coleman, among others.

So, taking into account last year's performance, current personnel and injuries, where does each club's defence rank as we prepare to embark on the 2024 season?

We've ranked every AFL club's backline from worst to first. Here's 12 through 7.



1. 12th - Essendon

Core personnel: Jordan Ridley, Ben McKay, Mason Redman, Zach Reid, Jayden Laverde, Jake Kelly, Dyson Heppell, Andrew McGrath, Nic Martin, Nick Hind

The Bombers have chopped and changed their defensive structure ahead of the 2024 season, with their off-season headline by the acquisition of restricted free agent Ben McKay from North Melbourne.

McKay's move to Tullamarine came in the same window as Brandon Zerk-Thatcher's departure to Port Adelaide, with key defensive duo Jayden Laverde and Jordan Ridley set to hold down their roles as supporting lockdown and intercept options respectively.

The senior trio will be hoping to find some competition at selection from former top ten draft selection Zach Reid this season, with the young Bombers backman looking to get a clean run in 2024 after a few seasons mostly spent on the sidelines.

Fiery stopper Mason Redman can also play tall, but it's his explosiveness and long-range accuracy that he prides himself on. Nick Hind can also provide some dash out of defence, with Andrew McGrath and Dyson Heppell looking to be the cool heads on the last line.

Mason Redman during the AFL match between Essendon and Adelaide, Round 4, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media

Wingman Nic Martin has been floated as a defensive option for the year ahead, with the attacking Western Australian emerging as a potential game changer for Brad Scott.

The Bombers conceded the fourth most inside 50s in 2023, seeing them sit equally as high in the league for opponent goals scored. With their defensive efforts a key point of discussion this pre-season, we'll see what Scott is able to turn in his favour.



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