The 10 best AFL players of the 2023 season
Jake MichaelsESPN Senior Author10 Minute Learn
Twenty-four rounds. 207 video games. The 2023 AFL home-and-away season is completed and dusted, however earlier than we embark on finals, it is time to replicate on the season that was and have a look at the standout performers.
Listed below are the 10 best players (ranked), and identical to the All-Australian crew, there are a variety of extraordinarily robust omissions. Shoutout, most notably, to Jordan Dawson, Errol Gulden, Jack Sinclair, Connor Rozee and Caleb Serong, who all narrowly missed the minimize.
10. Taylor Walker (Adelaide)
You’d have been laughed out of the room for suggesting Walker would boot 76 targets in 2023 and be in rivalry for the Coleman Medal till actually the ultimate recreation of the season. However that is precisely what the star Crow managed as he continued his beautiful profession resurgence.
Walker’s highest purpose tally, mixed with the fourth-most rating involvements and fifth-most marks amongst forwards earned him his first All-Australian blazer (loopy, huh?). However the half of his recreation which actually separates him from many of his friends is his kicking. This 12 months, Walker had the second best kick score in the recreation based on Champion Information. He additionally ranked No. 1 for score factors generated from his ball use.
Best efficiency: Take your decide of the Eagles video games, actually. In Spherical 13 he saluted along with his first bag of 10 targets in his profession, whereas in Spherical 24 he kicked 9 from a file 19 photographs at purpose. Each instances he had 21 disposals and each instances he had 10 contested possessions.
9. Lachie Neale (Brisbane)
One other 12 months, one other 23 video games of excessive class manufacturing from the 2020 Brownlow Medal winner. And who is aware of, in just a few weeks time he might grow to be a two-time winner of the league’s best and fairest award, becoming a member of the absolute elite of the fashionable period.
Neale continued to do his best work at the coalface, profitable extra clearances than every other participant in the league and rating second for scores generated from these clearances. Eight instances he had at the least 10 clearances and 15 instances he had at the least eight of them. Neale additionally completed the 12 months ranked third for contested possessions, fifth for floor ball will get and eleventh for whole disposals. With these sort of numbers, it was a shock to see him miss out on All-Australian choice.
Best efficiency: Neale kicked simply three targets this 12 months however two of them got here in opposition to the Tigers in Spherical 16, a recreation the place he additionally amassed 34 disposals, 15 contested possessions and 10 clearances.
8. Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs)
Liberatore’s omission from this 12 months’s All-Australian crew shouldn’t be solely laughable however indefensible. This season, he was arguably the No. 1 inside midfielder in the league, rating first for floor ball will get, second for clearances, second for contested possessions, second for stress acts and third for whole score factors, all whereas averaging extra disposals and uncontested possession than at every other level in his completely underrated and appreciated profession.
You solely want to take a look at how the Bulldogs struggled late in the 12 months when he missed a recreation and a half with concussion to grasp simply how beneficial he’s. Not at all is choosing an All-Australian crew a easy job, however the selectors made an absolute howler right here and Liberatore has each proper to really feel aggrieved. There was no probability he was lacking out on this checklist.
Best efficiency: After back-to-back losses to the Magpies and Swans, Liberatore put the Canine on his again in Spherical 19 in opposition to the Bombers. He had a season-high 36 disposals and 22 contested possessions, in addition to 12 clearances and eight rating involvements.
7. James Sicily (Hawthorn)
I used to be mocked for rating Sicily as the twelfth best participant in the competitors heading into the season, but it surely’s honest to say that take has now been completely justified. The Hawks skipper is the best defender in the recreation. Interval. His versatility — skill to play small, tall in addition to float in the backline — mixed along with his excessive IQ and pin-point foot abilities additionally makes him one of the most respected players in the competitors.
Sicily completed the 12 months rating first for marks and second for intercept possessions per recreation and gained extra ball than every other key defender in the league. He additionally ranked No. 1 for whole rating involvements amongst defenders, and that is even with lacking 4 video games!
Best efficiency: I nonetheless imagine Sicily’s recreation in opposition to the Saints in Spherical 11 was the best anybody has performed all 12 months. His stat line at fulltime was simply wild: 43 disposals, 24 kicks, 16 marks, 11 rating involvements, 22 intercept possessions, eight intercept marks and 658 metres gained.
6. Zak Butters (Port Adelaide)
It was a breakout season and extra from Butters, one which has already landed him each the AFLCA champion participant of the 12 months and the AFLPA’s most brave award. The Energy gun established himself as one of the actual must-watch players in the league, combining breathtaking evasiveness with really elite kicking abilities. His want to hit each contest at full tilt has additionally grow to be legendary.
Butters averaged 27 disposals, 10 contested possessions, 5 clearances and 5 inside 50s this marketing campaign, however the quantity which actually tells the story is the truth he completed the 12 months ranked second in Champion Information’s participant rankings. Butters additionally had the second-most score factors from subject kicking this 12 months, behind solely Zach Merrett. He’ll head into the Brownlow Medal rely on the third line of betting.
Best efficiency: You will battle to see a greater moist climate recreation ever performed than what Butters produced in opposition to the Demons in Spherical 10. The 22-year-old had a career-high 41 disposals (at 78% effectivity), 10 clearances, 12 rating involvements, eight intercept possessions, eight inside 50s and kicked two targets in the four-point win.
5. Toby Greene (GWS)
Final month I argued Greene merely needed to be the first participant chosen on this 12 months’s All-Australian crew, so it is honest to say I used to be delighted to see the dynamic Large named skipper when the facet was formally launched.
Greene actually has ascended to a degree the place he just about has no peer in the place of small to mid-sized ahead. He booted a ridiculous 60 targets this 12 months — in 19 of his 21 video games he completed with a number of targets — and averaged 18 disposals per contest. For context, solely 5 players in the historical past of the sport have ever achieved that feat! Greene additionally ended the 12 months with the second-most rating involvements per recreation and continues to rank ‘elite’ at Champion Information in nearly the whole lot.
Best efficiency: So many to select from but it surely’s exhausting to go previous Spherical 7 in opposition to the Swans. Greene kicked 4 targets and had two different direct purpose assists from his 22 disposals as the Giants pipped Sydney by a degree.
4. Christian Petracca (Melbourne)
He was on monitor to carry his place at the summit of this checklist proper all through the season, however his transfer into the Demons ahead line halted his manufacturing, albeit solely barely. Petracca is the bookmakers’ favorite to ballot Brownlow Medal votes in additional video games than every other participant, which tells you the whole lot it is advisable to learn about his consistency and talent to have an effect each time he steps onto the subject.
Petracca led the league in rating involvements and was second in direct purpose assists. He additionally completed the 12 months averaging a tick underneath 28 disposals and 6 clearances per recreation. Once more, these numbers do not fairly paint the full image, given he spent the bulk of the ultimate third of the 12 months enjoying in the ahead 50m. My favorite stat about Petracca’s 12 months is that he had 4 20-disposal and three-goal video games – the equal-most of the 12 months, alongside Greene and Walker.
Best efficiency: One of these 20-disposal, three-goal video games got here in Spherical 7 in opposition to the Kangaroos. Petracca completed the evening with a season-high 35 disposals, in addition to 16 contested possessions, 9 inside 50s and 14 rating involvements.
3. Charlie Curnow (Carlton)
Some will argue the back-to-back Coleman Medal winner is now the undisputed best participant in the sport, and whereas I am not fairly there but, the proof in favour is actually mounting. Who is aware of, a large finals marketing campaign might get him over the line.
Curnow kicked 78 targets this 12 months, 14 greater than in 2022, and was the solely participant in the league to kick a significant in all 23 video games. He kicked at the least three targets 13 instances and at the least 5 on six events. Curnow additionally completed the house and away season with the most contested marks, second-most rating involvements, and the fourth-best general kick score in the league. The scariest half? He is nonetheless simply 26 years of age!
Best efficiency: It is exhausting to kick 10 targets in a recreation and it not be your best of the season. Curnow reached double figures in opposition to the Eagles in Spherical 19, a recreation the place he additionally had a season-high 20 disposals, 5 contested marks and 15 rating involvements.
2. Nick Daicos (Collingwood)
He produced maybe the best sophomore 12 months in AFL historical past, and even lacking the ultimate three video games of the house and away season, stays a large probability to assert the Brownlow Medal – what can be a very unprecedented achievement in the fashionable period.
Daicos wasted no time in becoming a member of the competitors’s true elite, hitting the floor working from Spherical 1 in opposition to reigning premiers Geelong. In reality, by way of the first six weeks of the season, Daicos averaged a shade underneath 37 disposals and a purpose per recreation. Extraordinary stuff! He completed the 12 months averaging the second-most disposals in the competitors, in addition to the sixth-most metres gained amongst midfielders. Daicos’ 7.4 score factors per recreation from his ball use ranked him third in the league in the space, behind solely Walker and Curnow.
Best efficiency: I am nonetheless unsure Daicos has topped his epic Anzac Day effort. The younger Pie starred on the greatest stage, ending the recreation with 40 disposals, 9 rating involvements, 600 metres gained and two essential targets – a efficiency adequate to take house the Anzac medal.
1. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
The longer the season went the higher ‘the Bont’ appeared to get. His facet might have did not make it into September, however the Bulldogs skipper actually performed his half and greater than staked his declare as the best participant in soccer. Bontempelli was topped the AFLPA’s most respected participant and best captain final month, and can head into the Brownlow Medal rely as the joint favorite, alongside Daicos.
Bontempelli completed the season with extra contested possessions than anybody else in the league. He ranked third for clearances, fourth for tackles and third for metres gained, amongst midfielders. This season was additionally his best in phrases of uncooked disposals, averaging 27.65 per contest. Champion Information’s score factors have him as the best participant in the recreation, and it is exhausting to disagree.
Best efficiency: Bontempelli’s recreation in opposition to the Giants in Spherical 8 was merely outrageous. He tallied 32 disposals, a career-high 26 contested possessions, a career-high 14 clearances, laid seven tackles and kicked a purpose. Epic.