What’s the best way to measure a player’s football worth?
Do you compare statistics or highlights reels? All-Australian honours or club best and fairest awards? Or less tangible measures like leadership or the ability to change a game when the result is hanging in the balance?
The great Leigh Matthews once said, “As a player, there are two things you are always striving for – a premiership, and the respect of your peers.”
“I had one good game on Anzac Day and that was about it” – Dane Swan on his 2014 season
Leigh’s answer is good enough for us. Premierships speak for themselves – but as far as celebrating individual players goes, nobody is in a better position to make an assessment than the players themselves.
So in the modern game, which players are most respected by their peers?
We asked the players to share their opinions via a survey for AFL.com.au’s Players’ Top 50.
Players ranked 50 to 41 were revealed today – the bulk of which were stars that have forged a reputation over a decade or more in the game. All but two of the ten were aged 27 or older, with 33-year-old Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich the eldest of the group and Hawthorn’s Shaun Burgoyne (32) and Geelong’s Jimmy Bartel (31) not far behind. 2011 Brownlow Medallist Dane Swan (31) also made his way onto the top 50 list, despite a 2014 season he described as “putrid”.
“I had one good game on Anzac Day and that was about it”, Swan said in December.
It seems players respect rivals that have carved out a long career, something that was made clear in 2014 when the likes of Jimmy Bartel, Leigh Montagna, Brent Harvey, Lenny Hayes, Chris Judd and Adam Goodes made their way into the top 50 but were left out of Mike Sheahan’s top 50.
Of those listed in the players’ 50-41 today, two 23-year-olds – Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom and Hawthorn’s Luke Breust – stand out from the rest due to their youth, but are amongst the most experienced players in the AFL for their age bracket. Together, the duo has played more than 220 games and has won three premierships. For reference, 2014 AFL Players’ MVP Nat Fyfe is also 23, but yet to play his 100th match or win an AFL premiership.
Players’ Top 50 – 50 to 41
50. Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood)
49. Brett Deledio (Richmond)
48. Dane Swan (Collingwood)
47. Travis Cloke (Collingwood)
46. Luke Breust (Hawthorn)
45. Matthew Pavlich (Fremantle)
44. Ryan Griffen (Greater Western Sydney)
43. Josh Kennedy (West Coast Eagles)
42. Jimmy Bartel (Geelong)
41. Shaun Burgoyne (Hawthorn)