Adelaide – Brad Crouch
A bullocking inside midfielder, Crouch got off to a slow start in his debut season of 2013 due to a hamstring injury. But in his last 10 games of that season, he led the Crows in disposals and handball receives, was second in tackles, third for marks and fourth for clearances. To be the best midfielder at your club before the age of 19 in a side that has Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane is a superhuman achievement.
Brisbane – Dayne Zorko
Anyone with the surname Zorko is bound to be something special, and Dayne doesn’t disappoint. A pacey but solidly built midfielder, Zorko plays much like teammate Tom Rockliff in that he can be very damaging up forward. At just 174 centimetres tall, he also gives all the sub six-footers out there hope that height is no obstacle to making it in the big league.
Carlton – Tom Bell
If you ran head first into a brick wall, then head first into Tom Bell, the result would be the same. This super fit midfielder presents the perfect excuse for commentators to wheel out a favourite cliché: “Gee he’s a good size.” At 187 centimetres and a whopping 98 kilos, it takes a lot to move Bell off the ball, which makes his high fitness level so impressive. Will be a huge weapon in the Carlton midfield.
Collingwood – Brodie Grundy
Don’t care much for Brodie Grundy’s topknot. However, the player that resides below said haircut is going to be one of the league’s best ruckmen very, very soon. He showed remarkable form late in 2013, almost Cox-esque, running his comparably oafish opponents off their feet, winning hitouts, and making an impact around the ground with his skills.
Essendon – Joe Daniher
Joe Daniher is one of the worst kicks at goal in the AFL. If you had to put the ball in a player’s hands to win a game after the siren, Cale Hookermight be a better bet. But this guy can also outmark anyone given half a chance, hell, even a quarter of a chance. Once he sorts out his goalkicking issues, expect Daniher to be the kind of key forward who used to torment full-back dad Anthony.
Fremantle – Michael Walters
As for the league’s best small forward, Walters has it in the bag. With a scalpel-like left foot around goal and in general play, “Sonny” is as comfortable hitting the scoreboard and tormenting defenders with partner in crime Hayden Ballantyne as he is hitting up leads. Walters missed four games in 2013 for a total of 21, and still managed 46 goals and 21 assists. Chad Wingard, named All Australian ahead of him in the forward pocket, kicked 43 goals and had 16 assists in 24 games. Go figure.
Geelong – Cam Guthrie
If we’re honest, Cam Guthrie can thank Steven Motlop for playing two too many games to make this list. Make no mistake though, Guthrie is being groomed as some sort of Corey Enright replacement, and that’s just as important to Geelong’s side as Motlop’s line breaking. A wonderful kick of the ball with a solid build, Geelong’s rebounds are in good hands with this man.
Gold Coast – Jaeger O’Meara
Bet you didn’t see this coming… O’Meara ran away with the 2013 NAB AFL Rising Star Award. Boasting footy smarts to go with remarkable strength, hardness, skills and good pace, the building blocks are all there for O’Meara to become the best player in the competition, a title he’ll hold sooner rather than later.
Greater Western Sydney – Jeremy Cameron
Jeremy Cameron is like a Joe Daniher that doesn’t miss. Competent above his head, unbeatable on the lead, and freakishly skilled when the ball hits the deck, Cameron is a nightmare matchup for any backman, regularly kicking bags of goals in a side that has been largely wiped off the park. As the rest of the Giants grow around him… look out.
Hawthorn – Bradley Hill
Whenever Bradley Hill gets the ball, every list manager that overlooked him in the 2011 draft sighs with regret. Taken at pick 33, the younger brother of Stephen is now probably one of the first magnets placed on the whiteboard at selection on Thursday afternoon. With unbelievable stamina, exquisite short kicking and decent speed, Brad is just about the complete wingman.
Melbourne – Jack Viney
Picking a player out of this group was difficult, but Jack Viney is the most likely. This bloke loves the hard stuff, and showed enough, or at least more than his teammates, in 2013 to suggest that he’s the goods. A classic inside midfielder with tackling and contested ball winning as features of his game, Melbourne would want to do everything possible to keep this kid on their list – and get more like him.
North Melbourne – Aaron Mullett
Though his hair unfortunately does not deliver on the promise of his surname, Mullett has exceeded expectations. Taken in the rookie draft, Mullett is now an indispensable part of the North Melbourne backline, packing neat skills complemented by a willingness to beat his opponent. A defensive cog and an attacking weapon, rolled into one.
Port Adelaide – Chad Wingard
Ollie Wines just misses out here, purely because this list has enough midfielders. Chad Wingard was All Australian in his second season, named in a forward pocket after kicking 43 goals for the season, including several game-winning bags. Wingard is an explosive small forward who loves a goal, and is capable of doing damage in the middle of the ground too. Special talent.
Richmond – Nick Vlastuin
The pronunciation of his surname is surprising, but at pick 9 in the 2012 AFL draft, his skill is not. Capable of playing off half back and in the middle of the ground, Vlastuin has already proved he can win the ball and use it well, which will be extremely important as the Tigers seek to shake the tag of AFL’s most consistently disappointing team.
St Kilda – Rhys Stanley
Rhys Stanley is two metres tall but would probably be faster than most small forwards or wingmen. He’s still raw, but is blessed with physical attributes that will help him excel at either end of the ground, with closing speed that would be valuable in defence and tough to catch on the lead up forward. One to keep an eye on.
Sydney – Tom Mitchell
Of the ridiculous number of blessed young midfielders at Sydney, Tom Mitchell looks the most likely to play a starring role. After a promising debut, Mitchell burst onto the scene in his second game, picking up 31 touches and 10 tackles against the Crows. He’s gone from strength to strength since then, developing his inside game frighteningly quickly.
West Coast – Elliot Yeo
Brisbane lost years of development when a number of top 30 draft picks decided to return home. Yeo was that pick 30, and outside of Port’s Jared Polec has probably shown the most promise of the lot. WA born and bred, expect Yeo to stick around this time and provide West Coast with years of rebounding efficiency as understudy to Shannon Hurn.
Western Bulldogs – Jack Macrae
One of the most promising young players in the game, Jack Macrae is a tall midfielder with outstanding skills and an innate ability to find the ball and use it well. Still needs time to put on muscle mass, but when he does, he could become a tall, Fyfe-type contested ball machine. Off to an absolute flyer in 2014 – get him in your Fantasy team now.