Generally around this point of the season, where teams have played half their games and players are either finding form or have been in form for weeks, media commentators start to rattle off their mid-year All-Australian line-ups. Here at AFL Space, we’ve decided to take a different approach.
We’ve decided the best course of action would be to look at each club and decide which players are taking them to the top of the ladder or simply keeping them competitive in games. Here’s a look at which players would be and should be leading each team’s best and fairest award
The Cats are absolutely flying down at Skilled Stadium. They’ve beaten every team that’s crossed their path, including Collingwood, Hawthorn, Carlton, Sydney and Fremantle, all teams that are in the top eight. That’s some quality scalps right there.
Their superb start to the year can be attributed any number of their veteran playmakers. Matthew Scarlett, Harry Taylor, Joel Selwood, Paul Chapman, Cameron Ling. The list goes on. Picking a winner here is no easy task. Any one of these players mentioned could win it and would be a worthy recipient, but, I can only choose one.
Due to his consistency and pure football brain, the half-year Carji Reeves medal would go to Steve Johnson over Paul Chapman by the smallest of margins, due to Chapman missing two games through injury.
Another team that has stymied nearly all foes this season without playing their best football. When a team is flying, there are so many players that could win the Copeland Trophy – Dane Swan started the year in great touch until being slightly slowed by injuries, Leon Davis has been reborn as a running defender, Heath Shaw is causing havoc down back and Dale Thomas and Scott Pendlebury are in career-best form.
With Ross Lyon coming out last week and calling Dale Thomas the AFL’s best player, it would be easy to get caught up in the hoopla, but I believe that Thomas right now finishes 3rd in the half-yearly Copeland Trophy, just behind Travis Cloke, whose forward 50 presence and pressure is at an all-time high, and Scott Pendlebury, who simply makes time stand still when he has the ball and always seems to create plays for his teammates.
At the top of the ladder, picking a best and fairest is an extremely hard task. Like the teams above them, many players are playing great football. Sam Mitchell is again the engine that makes the midfield tick. He’s averaging a shade over 30 disposals a game and is simply relentless at the stoppages. A perfect foil for the more creative Luke Hodge, Cyril Rioli and Shaun Burgoyne.
Having said that, Buddy Franklin has put in unbelievable performances against Richmond, West Coast, St. Kilda and Sydney. With best-on performances in four of nine contests, Buddy gets the nod for the Peter Crimmins Medal.
Chris Judd is in Brownlow Medal form and was the clear cut best player on the field in games against Richmond, Sydney and Melbourne but, although I’ll get slaughtered by Blues fans who believe Judd is the second coming of Jesus Christ, Judd isn’t my recipient for the half-yearly John Nicholls Medal. That honor belongs to Marc Murphy.
Murphy is proving why the Blues took him with the first pick in the 2005 AFL Draft, producing his most consistent and most brilliant season of his short career. His disposal by hand and foot has gone from excellent to elite this season and he, along with the development of the athletically gifted Andrew Walker as a forward, is a major reason Carlton are sitting inside the top four.
The presence of Adam Goodes every time he is on the field is awe-inspiring. He is the perfect blend of size, speed and skill. While he has been very consistent this year, there are no stand-out performances from the dual Brownlow medallist.
Second year Swan Josh Kennedy is impressing so far, as is Ryan O’Keefe now that he is injury-free after suffering through almost the entirety of the 2010 season. Heath Grundy is an underrated defender and Ted Richards is playing his best football ever. But one man that is defying his age and limitations is Jude Bolton.
The 31-year-old veteran from the 2005 premiership side exploded out of the blocks. He was the stand out in Rounds 1-3, was an absolute workhorse against Port Adelaide and his game against Brisbane in Round 11 was absolutely marvelous. With best-on performances in five games, Jude wins the half-year Bob Skilton Medal as Sydney’s best player of 2011.
West Coast Eagles
Another tough decision here (what a surprise!), but it really only comes down to two men. Matt Priddis goes about his game in a workmanlike fashion and Daniel Kerr and Andrew Embley are playing their best football since 2007, but this one comes down to Dean Cox and Josh Kennedy.
Cox has re-established himself as the premier ruckman in the competition. His aerobic capacity for such a tall man is unrivaled in the AFL and his creativeness and effective disposal is brilliant
As for Josh Kennedy, he is putting together a remarkable season. He’s been consistent in from of goal, having scored in every match, including an excellent 10-goal haul against the Western Bulldogs.
It’s extremely hard to split these two, but in the end, I have to give the nearly 30-year-old Dean Cox the nod for his consistency and unbelievable ability to win his own ball. He really does play like a 200cm rover.
The half-year Crichton Medal is easy here. Even though he’s missed two games with injury, Essendon captain Jobe Watson has been the best, most consistent Bomber in what has been an inconsistent first half of 2011.
Once a liability, his kicking has improved astronomically this season, and has gotten to a point where he can actually damage opponents on the scoreboard, an area of his game that was by far the weakest leading into this year.
Aaron Sandilands has again had a great start to the season. Before his injury, he was the glue that held this team together. David Mundy has picked up where he left off after winning last year’s Doig Medal as the club’s best and fairest and would be a worthy winner for my half-year award.
However, a youngster by the name of Nat Fyfe has really caught my attention this season. He is averaging an unbelievable 26 disposals a game and booted nine goals. His form between Rounds 3-9, where he averaged 28 touches and 5 tackles, gets him the nod as the best player so far in 2011 for an inconsistent Dockers outfit.
This could have been Jack Trengove before his suspension, but seeing as he missed three games, other players have caught up to him.
Even though the Demons can’t seem to play consistently competitive football, Colin Sylvia has impressed, especially against Adelaide and Sydney in Round 1, as has Brad Green. Brent Moloney has gone missing in a few games, so the mid-year Truscott Medal goes to young gun James Frawley.
Nephew of St. Kilda great Danny, Frawley has been consistently excellent despite an injury-interrupted preseason. Gets the nod each week to take on the opposition’s best forward and always provides a good contest. Has been the most consistent Demon so far in 2011.
The Tigers’ mid-year Jack Dyer medal could be a four-way tie between Brett Deledio, Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and, surprisingly, Robin Nahas. Each of that quartet have had some impressive, match-winning performances in the first half of the year and are nearly impossible to split.
Brett Deledio has developed into a great leader on the field and is one of the premier players in the competition. Dustin Martin is pure toughness and almost impossible to tackle one-on-one, while Nahas has revived his career and Cotchin oozes class.
In the end, though, there can only be one. That one is Trent Cotchin. Finally healthy after a number of injury woes, the youngster is 2nd in the AFL for clearances and 3rd for inside 50s. At just 21 years of age, this kid has the potential to be anything he wants to be in the AFL.
Is there really a worthy winner here? There are few bright spots for the Saints so far this season. Leigh Montagna and Nick Dal Santo are still racking up the numbers, but the impact they are having when the ball is in their hands is minuscule compared to what we are used to from this pair.
Nick Riewoldt is out of touch, as too Brendon Goddard (discounting his game against Melbourne and an improved performance last week). In a down year for the Saints, the only player who seems to have given it their all this season is defender Sam Fisher, who relishes the contest and has been a real anchor in defense for the Saints.
Brady Rawlings continues to toil away for the Kangaroos but doesn’t do a great deal with his disposals. He lacks the class and creativity of the competition’s elite midfielders, despite his excellent work rate.
There hasn’t been a lot to smile about for the Roos this year, but Scott Thompson has impressed, Michael Firrito never gives up and Drew Petrie is a quality target in the forward fifty.
The real star of the show the first half of the season for the Roos, though, has been Andrew Swallow, and not just from his breathtaking game against Adelaide. His consistency over the first half of the season has been second to none down at Arden Street. His willingness to throw himself at the contest is great to watch and he always seems to be the player to come out of the pack with the ball, ready to fire out a handball to his outside runners.
Nearly every player at Whitten Oval is out of form – Brian Lake is underdone, prized recruit Justin Sherman is a lazy, front-running footballer, Adam Cooney can’t stay healthy, Shaun Higgins has worked hard but his development into a superstar has plateaued, while Daniel Giansiracusa, Bob Murphy and Lindsay Gilbee have all but gone missing in all but a handful of contests.
Right now, the award is between Matthew Boyd and Ryan Griffen, who are the only two who have shown the spark that is the staple of the football the Bulldogs like to play.
The nod, however, must go to new captain Boyd. Dealing with being the captain of the AFL’s most disappointing side, Boyd is having arguably his best season, leading the competition in disposals and clearances while trying to be the heart and soul of his troops on and off the field.
Another tough one here, but mainly because there are no standouts. Their forward line is totally anemic and their defense isn’t it’s usual stingy self. Scott Thompson and Nathan van Berlo are racking up their possessions but aren’t creating good opportunities for their forwards.
Without a great bunch of selection, Graham Johncock narrowly beats out Thompson for the top honor at the midway point for the Crows. His relentless pursuit of opposition forwards creates turnovers for the Crows and his ability to rebound out of defence is one of the most unacknowledged skills in the AFL.
The Lions are suffering through an horrendous season that have a severe lack of bright moments. Their first half against Sydney in Round 11 was possibly the worst half of football we’ve seen from any team all season (discounting Gold Coast’s start against Essendon).
Having Jonathan Brown for only four games hasn’t helped, but the Lions are simply uncompetitive this year. Mitch Clark has improved after a lackluster 2010, but there simply isn’t enough talent on this team.
That being said, Simon Black is still one of the premier midfielders in the game. Despite getting rather long in the tooth, the incomparable Black still ranks in the top ten in 8 major categories. His relentless work at stoppages earns him Brisbane’s mid-year best and fairest.
Again, not a great deal to like from the Power, so I’ll keep this brief. Battling through one of their hardest seasons since their inception, Travis Boak continues to work hard through the corridor, but Steven Salopek and Danyle Pearce don’t do as much as their skill level suggests they could.
For now, an uninspiring winner of the half-year Cahill Medal is defender Troy Chaplin, who plays a lone ranger in defense, regularly beating his direct opponent. His work rate out of defense and leadership in the defensive 50 has been impressive so far in what can only be summed up as a disaster season.
Gold Coast Suns
What collection of young, exciting talent coach Guy McKenna has at his disposal here. Right now, young giant Zac Smith would probably get my vote for the NAB Rising Star, but the best and fairest has to go to captain Gary Ablett.
Even without the off-ball screens and care of his former Geelong teammates, Ablett’s pure footballing ability and intelligence is shining through as a Sun. With best-on performances against Adelaide and West Coast, along with very respectable games against the Bulldogs and former team Geelong, Ablett wins the half-year best an fairest for the Suns in an absolute landslide.
So there you have it! My mid-year best and fairests. Disagree? Agree? Be sure to leave your comments at the bottom!