Season 2018 has seen a number of incredible individual performances – from players blossoming in successful clubs, to lone hands delivering impressive numbers in a bottom-placed team. With seven rounds remaining, we take a look at the top ten players in the AFL for 2018 so far.
10. Lance Franklin
While his year may not have reached the heights of previous seasons, Lance Franklin has once again shown why many consider him to have a credible claim to being the best forward of the modern era. First in the league for score involvements per game, goals per game and marks inside 50 per game, and sitting behind Ben Brown on the goal-kicking ladder, Franklin has the ability to turn an entire match off his own boot. A tall, powerful, agile footballer, Franklin chases, tackles and still accomplishes the incredible on a regular basis. Lance Franklin is a true star of the game.
9. Rory Laird
First for the league in effective disposals and uncontested possessions per game and second for intercepts per game, Laird is the classiest rebounding defender in the league. He’s also racked up midfield numbers – sixth in the league for total disposals – showing that when soldiers around him fall, Laird is willing and able to pick up the slack. In a rocky year for the Adelaide Crows, Laird has remained an incredibly reliable hand down back.
8. Andrew Gaff
The hard-running midfielder has always been rated highly, but 2018 has been the year he solidified his position among the best. First in the league for total uncontested possessions and second for total disposals and uncontested possessions per game, Gaff’s contribution to the Eagles’ success is undeniable. Gaff averages 30.9 disposals, 3.9 clearances, 3.5 inside 50s and 2.1 rebound 50s per game for 2018, demonstrating that his elite running capacity allows him to have an impact all over the ground.
7. Patrick Cripps
Carlton supporters must shudder to think what their 2018 season would look like without Patrick Cripps. At 195cm and 93kg, Cripps is built like a key forward but plays with the skill and ball-winning ability of a midfielder. First in the league for contested possessions per game and total contested possessions, Cripps is also second in clearances per game and total clearances and seventh in total disposals. To achieve those feats on a team that has only won one match for the year is nothing short of astounding.
6. Tom Mitchell
The man can find the footy. Mitchell’s 2018 season can be summed up with two words – midfield dominance. He currently ranks first in: total clearances, total disposals, total effective disposals, total stoppage clearances, total centre clearances, disposals per game, clearances per game, stoppage clearances per game, and AFL Fantasy points (total and per game). His impact on matches may be questioned, but Mitchell is also second in the league for effective disposals per game, third for total contested possessions, fifth in total inside 50s and thirteenth for total metres gained. The premiere accumulator in the game, Mitchell isn’t just important to Hawthorn’s engine room – he is the engine room.
5. Shaun Higgins
2018 has been an incredible year for Higgins. Long touted as a talented player, Higgins has taken time to find the right role – and the right club. Always a skilled footballer, Higgins has become the Kangaroos link player, receiving the ball and then delivering it with precision into their forward line. Higgins leads the league for inside 50s per game and total inside 50s, and ranks tenth in the league for metres gained per game. Higgins has a clear and measurable impact on the success of North Melbourne, and as his fortunes have risen, so have those of the club from Arden Street.
4. Nathan Fyfe
Before he was suspended, Fyfe was the Brownlow Medallist-elect. The skilled, versatile midfielder was once again showing the footy world how good he is – second in the league for contested possessions per game, third for centre clearances per game, sixth in total contested possessions and seventh in score involvements per game, Fyfe is one of the most dynamic players of the modern era. Lost to injury for the next few weeks at least, the footy world will be a little bit less exciting without him.
3. Brodie Grundy
At just 24 years of age, Grundy is a ruck prodigy. Sitting at second in the league for total hitouts, third for hitouts per game, eighth for total stoppage clearances, ninth for total contested possessions and fourteenth for total clearances, Grundy is a contested beast who wins taps and follows up – both at the stoppage and around the ground. Grundy’s continued improvement has helped his side reach heights they haven’t reached for some time, with Collingwood currently sitting second on the ladder and poised for their first finals berth since 2012.
2. Ben Brown
Another big bodied footballer whose own form has contributed to the changing fortunes of his team, Tasmanian Ben Brown is putting together another brilliant season at full forward for North Melbourne. Brown is leading the league for goalkicking – relatively comfortably, too – and looms as a tall, strong target whose influence on a match is hard for opposing teams to quell. Brown easily has the longest goal-kicking run-up in the game, which is an integral part of his extremely reliable kicking technique.
1. Max Gawn
Gawn is having another dominant season in the ruck – leading total hitouts and average hitouts per game, he’s also first in total contested marks and third in contested marks per game. Melbourne’s strong performances in season 2018 have been led by the rangy ruckman, whose precise taps allow midfielders like Clayton Oliver to do their work. A bonafide champion of his position, Gawn performs to an elite level week in week out.
Narrowly missing the top ten are Sydney halfback Jake Lloyd, Brisbane defender Harris Andrews, Collingwood mid Steele Sidebottom, ball magnet Clayton Oliver, Robbie Gray, Dayne Beams, Mitch Duncan, Stephen Coniglio, Jack Macrae, Jack Riewoldt, Devon Smith, Tom Jonas and too many more to name.