MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 25: Levi Greenwood of the Magpies remonstrates with David Zaharakis of the Bombers during the 2016 AFL Round 05 ANZAC Day match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Essendon Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne on April 25, 2016. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Almost 40 players have called time on their AFL careers in 2021, with their legacies varying in degrees of individual and team success.

With a variety of legends, club champions, role players, and folk heroes amongst this class of retirees, we thought it’d be a fun thought experiment to come up with a best 22 side.

The team will be constructed based on position, accolades (both team and individual), in addition to potential (for those impacted by injuries).


Grant Birchall

Birchall was a four-time premiership player who embraced his role as a reliable defender and clean ball user over his 287 games between Hawthorn and Brisbane.

David Astbury

Astbury was best known for being a rebounding defender with a stellar intercept game. He leaves the game as a three-time Premiership player with Richmond.

Bachar Houli

Houli was an All-Australian and three-time Premiership player with Richmond, best known for his knack to accumulate touches down back and generate attacking play off the half-backline.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26: Bachar Houli of the Tigers celebrates victory with Brandon Ellis (L) ane Trent Cotchin (R) after the round 19 AFL match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 26, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Jarrod Harbrow 

Harbrow leaves the game behind as a Gold Coast Club Champion and the Suns' all-time games holder (192). His dash off half-back was just as valuable as the example he set for the Suns' youngsters.

Daniel Talia

Talia was a valuable lockdown defender. The two-time All-Australian was renowned for smothering his opponents and doing the basics well. He ended his time with Adelaide after 200 games and a Malcolm Blight Medal.

Easton Wood

Wood was a fierce interceptor and valiant leader in his time with the Western Bulldogs. He overcame early injury struggles to end his career as a premiership captain, All-Australian and Charles Sutton Medal winner.


David Mackay

Mackay was not only versatile, but he was also reliable, always able to find the footy and put the team first. He walked away after 248 games with Adelaide and a grand final appearance.

Marc Murphy

Murphy was a dangerous man with the footy in his hands. The former Pick 1 and All-Australian was crafty and efficient when moving the ball forward. He left footy an AFLCA Champion Player of the Year, dual John Nicholls medallist and 300 gamer for Carlton.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 20: Marc Murphy of the Blues addresses his teammates during the 2018 AFL round nine match between the Carlton Blues and the Melbourne Demons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 20, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Stephen Hill

Hill made use of his devasting speed and agility to torture oppositions throughout his time in the league. He was crafty and calm with the ball in his hands and also displayed a natural ability in front of goal. After 218 games he left footy a Dockers as a legend.


Chris Mayne

Mayne was scarily efficient pressure forward in his 172 games with Fremantle before settling into a defensive-winger position at Collingwood, where his experience helped anchor the younger team around him for a further 76 games.

Cale Hooker 

Hooker showed flashes of brilliance as a key-defender and marking forward. The All-Australian managed 219 games and a W. S. Crichton Medal in his time with Essendon.

Shaun Burgoyne

Burgoyne was a brilliant footballer. He could hurt you just as bad up forward as he could reading the play down back. He retired as an All-Australian, four-time premiership player and third in all-time games played (407).

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 24: Shaun Burgoyne of the Hawks celebrates a goal during the round 23 match between the West Coast Eagles and the Hawthorn Hawks at Optus Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Eddie Betts

Betts was a goal-kicking freak who was capable of scoring from anywhere and at any time. He leaves behind a career resume with three All-Australian selections and 640 goals in his 350-game career with Carlton and Adelaide.

Josh Jenkins

Jenkins was a big-bodied forward who was not shy to throw his weight around when in aerial contests. He managed to kick 296 goals from his 149 games between Adelaide and Geelong.

David Zaharakis

Zaharakis was a reliable midfielder who was confident in front of the big sticks. In his 226 games with Essendon, he won the W. S. Crichton Medal and is perhaps best known for kicking the game-winning goal in the 2009 ANZAC Day game.

David Zaharakis


Shane Mumford

Mumford was a bully if you weren't on his team and a warrior if you played alongside him. The bruising ruckman would throw his weight around and dominate others physically. He leaves the game as a premiership player and Kevin Sheedy medallist in his 216 games between Geelong, Sydney, and Greater Western Sydney.

Nathan Jones

Jones was hard at the footy and fearless in his approach to the game, always willing to take risks and put the team on his back when they needed a spark. The 302-gamer retired a three-time Keith 'Bluey' Truscott medallist and Demons icon.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 19: Nathan Jones of the Demons celebrates winning the round 22 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and Melbourne Demons at Optus Stadium on August 19, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Tom Rockliff

Rockliff was a true ball-magnet who always seemed to have the footy in his hands, and if he didn't he would be laying a tackle to make sure he had it back soon enough. The All-Australian called time after 208 games between Brisbane and Port Adelaide, where he won the Merrett-Murray Medal twice.


Tom Scully

Scully was a running machine who always patrolled the wings and offered an element of danger when venturing forward. The former Pick 1 played 187 games between Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney and Hawthorn.

Levi Greenwood

Greenwood was a tough midfielder who not only emphasised attacking the footy but also wasn't afraid of tagging the opposition's most dangerous player, something he routinely displayed in his 160 games between North Melbourne and Collingwood.

Neville Jetta

Jetta played his best footy as a small-bodied defender who used his pace to shut-down opposition forwards during his 159 games with Melbourne.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 12: Neville Jetta of the Demons celebrates with fans during the round eight AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Melbourne Demons at The Gabba on May 12, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Lin Jong

Jong was a solid midfielder who had game-breaking ability out of the contest but unfortunately, due to an array of injuries, only managed 65 games in his time with the Western Bulldogs.

The 22 of '21

FB: Grant Birchall, David Astbury, Bachar Houli
HB: Jarrod Harbrow, Daniel Talia, Easton Wood
Mid: David Mackay, Marc Murphy, Stephen Hill
HF: Chris Mayne, Cale Hooker, Shaun Burgoyne
FF: Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins, David Zaharakis
FO: Shane Mumford, Nathan Jones, Tom Rockliff
Int: Tom Scully, Levi Greenwood, Neville Jetta, Lin Jong