AFL 2018: How Will Last Season’s Top Players Fare?

March 22, 2018 by Posted in Articles

Patrick DangerfieldThe new AFL season is about to begin and all eyes will be on an elite group of players to see if they can maintain the dazzling form they displayed in 2017. Several players cemented their superstar status last year, while others moved into the highest bracket of individual brilliance by posting some phenomenal stats. But can last year’s season leaders keep up their outrageously high level of performance heading into the new season? Here we analyse the likelihood of each star staying at the top of the game.

Matt Crouch

Crouch led the league in 2017 with 825 disposals, leaving him 38 clear of second placed Tom Mitchell of Hawthorn, with Dustin Martin, Rory Laird and Patrick Dangerfield rounding out a star-studded top five. Crouch is Adelaide’s star ball magnet and the All-Australian midfielder has just signed a contract extension to keep him with the Crows until 2021. Crouch is just 22 years of age and list manager Justin Reid believes he will only get better in the years ahead. “His best football is still ahead of him and we are excited to continue to see him grow as a player and a leader,” said Reid. That is a terrifying prospect as he already beat Rory Sloane and Rory Laird to be named best and fairest last year. With brother Brad lining up alongside him, the Crows have a formidable side heading into the new season, and they are favourites to win the Grand Final with the bookmakers at Oddschecker.com. Crouch should enjoy another strong season, but he could well be usurped statistically by Dangerfield and Martin.

Lance Franklin

Franklin booted a massive 73 goals last season to finish top of the pile, four ahead of the extremely impressive Josh Kennedy. The bookmakers think the Swans will be in for a better season this time around, as they are joint favourites along with Adelaide. If they pull it off, it will largely be based on defensive strength, and Franklin could do with greater support up top as he was the only Swan to register more than 30 goals last season. But as Sydney’s foremost offensive threat, he is likely to rack up another strong tally this year. He has regularly put together monstrous goal counts: 81 in 2016, 79 in 2014, 82 for Hawthorn in 2011, 113 in 2008. At 31 years of age, Franklin is still in his prime and he should be right up there again in the top scorer chart by the end of 2018. But beware Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch in this market, while Kennedy continues to go from strength to strength.

Sam Docherty

Docherty led the league for marks last season with 199 and equalled the record for the most uncontested marks as he took 188. He also delivered the most effective kicking since records began, with record tallies of short kicks and kicks backwards. It was a phenomenal season for the 24-year-old, and it is something of a tragedy for Carlton that a ruptured ACL will cause him to miss the entire 2018 season.

Rory Sloane

Sloane made 186 tackles last season to leave him atop the league in this metric and the diligent, dependable Crows star is sure to enjoy another fine season this time around. He attacks each contest in unequivocal fashion and serves as a real battering ram at stoppages. He works harder defensively than his elite peers and his three pressure acts per game in 2017 left him ahead of Dangerfield, Martin, Kennedy, Joel Selwood and Trent Cotchin. He is also a powerful offensive threat, but his relentless defensive attributes are the hallmark of his game and he should continue to thrive in this department in 2018.

Patrick Dangerfield

Martin may have walked off with the Brownlow medal after leading Richmond to the premiership last season, but Dangerfield led the league comfortably for Schick points and fantasy points. He broke the record for the most uncontested possessions in a home and away season, with 385 – which is 37 more than he recorded when he won the Brownlow medal in 2016. This time around he will be desperate to win it back from Martin and return to the summit of the game, so fans will expect a huge year from Dangerfield. Geelong have re-signed Gary Ablett and they now have three of the league’s top 10 players in the Dangerfield-Ablett-Joel Selwood triumvirate, so they will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

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