This past weekend saw two of the most disruptive defensive displays we have seen by a pair of players, as GWSSam Taylor and Port Adelaide’s Aliir Aliir both showed up and showed out. 

Taylor finished with 17 intercepts from 21 possessions, causally turning over the opposition 81% of the time he touched the ball, not to mention doing so as he played on the great Tom Hawkins.

Conversely, Aliir finished his night with a similar stat-line as he added 16 intercepts to his 21 touches (76% intercept rate), basically single-handedly halting the Adelaide attack. 

However, intercepts are just one component of what makes a great defender as many overlooked stats are able to paint a clearer picture of this. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 20: Sam Taylor of the Giants marks during the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Collingwood Magpies at GIANTS Stadium on July 20, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Stats like contested defence one-on-ones, who is put into dangerous defensive situations, contested defence loss percentage, how often a defender fails in these compromising positions are very valuable when measuring pure defensive impact. 

Whereas other stats like defensive half pressure acts, one percenters and spoils are often glanced over as they don't carry the same allure as a monstrous possession, goal kicking or meters gained performance.

For instance, Jacob Weitering had a day out against Tom Hawkins in Round 17 as he had seven spoils from seven one-on-ones, nine intercepts from 14 touches, eight one percenters and six pressure acts. 

While these defensive acts are important to note, defenders now more than ever are also responsible for initiating attacking efforts when transitioning the ball forward, something that is becoming increasingly recognised.

So, with all the hype around these scintillating defensive efforts lets take a moment to reward those under-appreciated heroes that anchor their sides’ back six with a hypothetical defensive player of the year award.

*Note: This 'hypothetical' award SHOULD become a reality)

Here’s a look at who the Zero Hanger team have as their DPOY.

Harris Maglis

Jacob Weitering

I must preface that Harris Andrews is an honourable mention here, but is nudged out by Weitering given that he has to deal with Carlton’s lacklustre effort when not attacking, despite Liam Jones underrated capacity to win one-on-one. 

Weitering is routinely tasked with taking on the opposition's best forward and typically marginalises their impact with his lockdown prowess.

The former number one pick has been involved in 109 contested one-on-ones and has only been beaten on 23 of those occasions, talk about impactful. Not to mention that his 171 intercept possessions have come from an ultra-defensive position where he can’t simply float off his opponent to go third-man-up. 

Balancing out his game is the fact that Weitering is seemingly unafraid of taking aggressive kicks to set up his speedy half-backs as he has a respectable 6961 meters gained on the season. Weitering’s play personifies a true full-back that is adept to take on the modern responsibilities instilled in today’s defenders, which is why I believe he is worthy of DPOY.

Cameron Kellaghan-Tasker

Tom Stewart

At the end of the day, it is a tough ask to grade defensive players from one another due to each having unique roles they are set by their team. Whether it be someone who is tasked with creating offence from the back-half like Nick Hind, or an ever reliable one on one juggernaut like Liam Jones (only losing one 1v1 contest prior to last round).

Overall however, the best all-round defender this season has to be Tom Stewart. Not only can he break up an oppositions play with a number of intercepts, but he can provide contest in a one on one, and start the counter attack for the Cats. The man can do anything his team needs him to making him a worthy defensive MVP.

Benjamin Lawless

Steven May

Melbourne has kept oppositions to the 2nd lowest in the comp 65.3 per game (compare to Geelong 65.2). May anchors the Melbourne defence by taking the best opposition player every week. Just like a centre is the main cog in an NBA defence, the Fullback is the same on the AFL field.

He makes his opponent earn every touch and goal. His ability to reverse play and generate offence also makes opposition teams and direct opponents 2nd guess themselves. One little mistake and the ball is going back in the other direction.
His reliability In one-on-ones allows Lever and other Melbourne defenders more confidence and flexibility to leave their opponents and set up defensive structures.

Mitch Keating

Tom Stewart

There are a number of reasons why the Barwon Cat comes to mind as the league's best defender this season.

Should Darcy Moore have remained healthy, I believe he would be right in this conversation. While you could opt for either Jake Lever or Steven May, the pair's ability to work in tandem perhaps aids argument to select a more solo operator, like Stewart.

Tipped to earn his third All-Australian jacket in just his first five years in the league, Stewart is as strong on the back foot as he is on the front.

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 18: Tom Stewart of the Cats marks the ball during the round 22 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Fremantle Dockers at GMHBA Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

An elite intercept in the air, a deadeye user of the ball and the ability to man both tall and small forwards has Stewart as this season's best defender in my eyes.

Who would you pick as your DPOY? Do you think that the AFL is far off introducing such an award? or do you just not care about defenders? Let us know what you think in the comments!