AFL Rd 8 - GWS v Richmond
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Jack Riewoldt of the Tigers looks on during the round 8 AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Richmond Tigers at GIANTS Stadium on July 24, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The 2021 season has finally been and gone, with the Dees getting up in the big dance against the Dogs to break a 57-year drought and cap off an action-packed year.

With this, Zero Hanger has collated a list of the top-50 players in the competition now the year is over, with part one containing spots 40 through 31.

40. Tim Taranto

The Giants onballer has been magnificent since his AFL debut in 2017 with Leon Cameron's side, and 2021 was very much business as usual for Taranto.

The 23-year-old put up elite numbers for a midfielder across the board. Inside 50s, intercept possessions, tackles, clearances - whatever it may be, Taranto polled high in it.

The 2016 Pick 2's contract with GWS is set to expire at the end of 2022 and if he hasn't put pen to paper, expect a host of clubs in his home state of Victoria to come knocking at the door.

39. Bayley Fritsch

Melbourne's six-goal grand final hero lands just inside the top 40 on this list, with Fritsch coming off his and perhaps the Dees' best season yet.

2021 saw the medium-sized forward rack up 59 goals across 24 matches for Simon Goodwin's side and finish fifth-best in the league for total marks inside 50.

The 24-year-old's grand final haul was the perfect culmination of everything he'd been working towards for the past few years, with Fritsch now considered one of the game's elite forwards heading into 2022.

38. Patrick Cripps

The Blues co-captain had a difficult season in 2021, with questions being raised within the media regarding his ability to deliver when counted upon.

However, there is no denying the talent that Cripps has when he turns it on, with his bullish behaviour making him one of the most dangerous players in the league on his day.

PATRICK CRIPPS
Carlton
2021 SEASON AVG
23.4
Disposals
4.3
Tackles
5.3
Clearances

Averaging elite numbers in contested possessions, centre clearances and score involvements, it shows that even when the 26-year-old isn't on his game he can still have some sort of influence on proceedings.

With a new opportunity for Carlton under coach Michael Voss, Cripps will be at the forefront of their resurgence should it transpire in 2022.

37. Jack Riewoldt

The Richmond spearhead has taken a backseat in the past few seasons, however with the drop in form that the Tigers saw in 2021, Riewoldt came back into his own.

The 32-year-old managed to boot 51 goals in 22 matches for Damien Hardwick's side this year, finishing third in the Coleman Medal whilst being ranked fourth for total marks inside 50.

Word around Tigerland is that 2022 could be Jack's final year of footy, however there is no denying that the veteran will go down as one of the club's greatest ever players off the back of his illustrious career at Punt Road.

36. Dylan Grimes

The steadfast defender was tested at many points in 2021 with Richmond's defence coming under real pressure from injuries all around the ground.

In saying that, Grimes still managed a magnificent year and won the club's best and fairest as a result.

The triple premiership player was ranked ninth in total intercepts across the entire competition and put up elite averages in pressure acts and ground ball gets, showing that the 30-year-old can mop it up on the deck as well as in the air.

With the Tigers' defensive stocks taking a hit with the retirements of Bachar Houli and David Astbury, it'll likely be down to Grimes to lead the back-six through what promises to be a riveting 2022.

35. Nat Fyfe 

The dual Brownlow medallist had a troubled 2021 with injury but still managed to display why he has taken 'Charlie' home on two separate occasions.

The 30-year-old was ranked sixth in score involvements per game across the entire league, and averaged elite midfield figures of 13.4 contested possessions, 5.7 total clearances and 22.6 pressure acts per game across his 15 appearances.

With Justin Longmuir's side very much a rebuild in progress despite narrowly missing out on September footy, Fyfe's tutelage to the younger members of the playing group in his remaining years will be invaluable to Fremantle's development as a club.

34. Andrew Brayshaw

A member of the aforementioned crop of Fremantle youngsters is Andrew Brayshaw, who has come on in leaps and bounds during the last few years.

However, 2021 has been by far and away his best season yet, with the 21-year-old's role within Justin Longmuir's side being one of increased presence in the middle of the ground.

His averages have been superb in all of the key stats and at such a young age, Brayshaw's ceiling is extremely high.

2022 promises to be another huge year for the Dockers with the youngest Brayshaw set to turn it on again.

33. Christian Salem

The Dees running half-back has been a stalwart in a backline that was so watertight for so long in 2021.

There were many occasions this year where the 26-year-old went home after the game with leather poisoning, unable to be separated from the ball all day.

Salem averaged 25.3 disposals, 437.7 metres gained and 12.7 effective kicks per game as he pulled the strings for Simon Goodwin's side, setting up attack after attack all day long.

With the club finally breaking their premiership drought this season, it's no secret that they will be incredibly hard to stop - especially if their back six functions like they did this season.

32. Jacob Weitering

The Blues key defender is by far and away the best at his job within the club and 2021 further exemplified how good Jacob Weitering really is.

The 25-year-old was ranked sixth across the entire league for average intercepts, fourth in total marks and ninth in rebound 50s per game in a Carlton backline that was exposed at so many points throughout the season.

At just 23 years of age, Weitering obviously still has his best days ahead of him. With the composure and ability that he has, it's not hard to envision him being hailed as the outright best defender in the league in the near future should he keep up his form.

31. Dayne Zorko

The Brisbane skipper had an outstanding season 2021, winning the club's best and fairest for the fifth time and leading Chris Fagan's side to a top-four finish for the third consecutive season.

The veteran was ranked third, fourth and ninth for inside 50s per game, score involvements per game and tackles per game respectively with the 32-year-old showing no signs of age waning his ability.

Although the team haven't been able to meet their lofty ambitions over the past few years, Brisbane are still well poised to battle at the top again in 2022, with Zorko set to be leading them into the heat of battle for a little while yet.