AFL 2022: Here are the top contenders for each club’s best-and-fairest award this season
Charlie Curnow, Patrick Cripps, Adam Saad or Sam Walsh? Carlton’s best-and-fairest is as open as it has been in years — and it’s not the only close count. See the likely winner at your club.
Who has been the most important player to your club this season?
Champion Data has crunched the numbers to find the potential contenders for each club’s best-and-fairest award this year.
Supported by analysis over the first 19 rounds of the season, the stats gurus have honed in on three players for each club who could be vying for the club champion title.
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After claiming his second best-and-fairest last year, Champion Data has Rory Laird in prime position to claim a third Malcolm Blight Medal. Laird, who also claimed the club’s best-and-fairest in 2018, has a midfield ranking of No.2 in the league for disposals (33.8) and tackles (8.1) and third in the competition for contested possessions (15.2), ground ball gets (10.3) and clearances (7.6). Fellow midfielder Ben Keays, runner-up to Laird in last year’s count, is again expected to be in the best-and-fairest mix. Keays rates elite among midfielders for clearances (9.6) and is above average for disposals (28.8), contested possessions (12.8), metres gained (412) and tackles (5.3). Champion Data is also predicting star recruit Jordan Dawson to feature prominently in the voting. Dawson is ranked No.1 at the Crows for effective kicks, marks and intercept marks.
After his season as the reigning Brownlow medallist was impacted by injury last year, Lachie Neale has returned to his most damaging best-and-fairest form. Among the favourites to add another Charlie to his collection this year, Neale is the second-ranked midfielder in the competition for contested possessions and ground ball gets, fourth for clearances and sixth for overall possessions. He is already a two-time best-and-fairest winner at Fremantle (2016, 2018) and at Brisbane (2019, 2020) and will take some beating at the Lions again this season. Fellow midfielder Hugh McCluggage was just pipped in the Lions’ best-and-fairest by captain Dayne Zorko last season and will be pushing for a podium finish again in the Merrett-Murray Medal as he continues his career trajectory. Significantly increasing his midfield minutes this year, McCluggage holds an elite midfield rating for marks and average for uncontested possessions, metres gained and score involvements. Exciting small forward Charlie Cameron will also be a top-three contender, leading the club’s goal kicking for the fourth year in a row. He also boasts a general forward-rating of No.1 in the league for forward 50 marks.
From the best part of two seasons out of the game through injury to potential Coleman medallist and club champion contender. It has been some turnaround for star forward Charlie Curnow. After he missed all of the 2020 season, the Blues were patient with Curnow’s recovery with ongoing knee injuries last year, not emerging until round 20. The Blues have reaped the benefits this year with Curnow leading the league’s goalkicking after 19 rounds with 57 goals. He has kicked bags of five goals or more five times already this year, averaging 3.2 goals a game. Curnow is also ranked in the top-five in the league for forward 50 marks, forward 50 ground ball gets and score involvements. But his path to what would be a remarkable best-and-fairest win will face competition from captain Patrick Cripps and young midfield gun and reigning John Nicholls medallist Sam Walsh. Cripps is the only Blue to average more than 25 disposals plus a goal a game this year, while Walsh is the top-ranked midfielder in the league for uncontested possessions, third for disposals and sixth in the league for ground ball gets.
Could a son-of-a-gun be a Rising Star winner and club champion in his first AFL season? Already considered to be a lock to claim the 2022 Rising Star award, 19-year-old Nick Daicos’ eye-catching debut season is also set to extend to him challenging for the Copeland Trophy this year. Taken as a highly-touted father-son selection at No.4 overall last year, Daicos has delighted Magpies’ fans and will poll heavily in the second half of the season, averaging 30.4 disposals, 518 metres gained and 6.6 intercept possessions a game from rounds 12-19. But the son of legendary goalkicker Peter will have tough competition from reigning Copeland Trophy winner Jack Crisp. After topping a career-best year in 2021 with his maiden best-and-fairest win, Crisp has continued to be one of the team’s most important players in a now predominantly midfield role. As a midfielder, Crisp has an elite ranking for inside-50s and pressure points and above average for metres gained and tackles. Evergreen captain Scott Pendlebury remains a crucial contributor and will be in the mix for a sixth Copeland Trophy, which would draw him equal for the most club champion awards with former coach Nathan Buckley. Pendlebury ranks among the top five at the club for disposals (fifth), score involvements (fifth) and tackles (third).
Midfielder Zach Merrett could be on track for a fourth club best-and-fairest award after his Crichton Medal wins in 2016, 2019 and last season. Champion Data has Merrett among a group of three leading Bombers in contention, including defender Mason Redman and key forward Peter Wright. Two-time All-Australian Merrett is ranked second in the league among midfielders for uncontested possessions (21.5), fifth for score involvements (7.1) and top 10 for disposals (30.2), metres gained (464) and inside 50s (5.5). Redman’s impact has lifted notably since the bye and has a top-10 ranking among general defenders for disposals, uncontested possessions, marks, intercept marks and intercept possessions. These measures will all be classified as elite if he sustained this level throughout the year. Leading the club’s goalkicking, Wright has an elite ranking among key forwards this year for marks (5.9) and contested marks (2.0) and is above average for forwards 50 marks (2.8) and average goals (2.5).
Andrew Brayshaw has been creeping up the Brownlow Medal odds and is now a favourite with some outlets to win footy’s highest individual prize, so it’s no surprise you would expect him to feature heavily in the club’s best-and-fairest voting. Brayshaw, who finished third in the club’s Doig Medal count last year, has an elite midfield ranking for disposals, kicks and tackles and is also above average for marks and total clearances. In a career-best season, Brayshaw’s pressure has been a hallmark of his game with his average tackle count up by 25 per cent on last season. Champion Data also expects recruiting steal Will Brodie to feature heavily in the team’s best-and-fairest counting for a season in which he ranks above average for disposals, contested possessions, ground ball gets, clearances and tackles. Completing the Dockers’ midfield best-and-fairest contenders, Caleb Serong ranks above average for disposals, contested possessions and pressure points.
Injuries restricted Cameron in his first season at Geelong, kicking 39 goals from his 15 games. But the former Giant has delivered on the blockbuster trade this season. Cameron sits second on the Coleman Medal table with 52 goals and his measures for disposals, marks, forward 50 marks, goals and score involvements are up across the board on last year. He has formed a formidable pairing with Tom Hawkins, who continues to flourish as a key forward at the age of 34. Among key forwards, Hawkins is ranked first in the league for forward 50 marks and score involvements, second for ground ball gets and fifth for average goals. Big man Mark Blicavs continues to be a weapon for the Cats with his incredible versatility. Between rounds 8 and 19, Blicavs divided his time between the ruck (53 per cent), wing (26 per cent), midfield (19 per cent) and defence (2 per cent). Blicavs is ranked among the top four at the Cats for ranking points (third), contested possessions (fourth), clearances (fourth) and tackles (third).
After claiming his maiden club best-and-fairest last year when he was also rewarded with All-Australian selection, Touk Miller continues to be one of the most important players at the Suns. The 26-year-old has a midfield ranking of No.2 in the league for clearances (7.7), third for metres gained (536m) and fourth for contested possessions (14.9) and ground ball gets (9.9) this season. After round 20, Miller also leads the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player Award voting. Ruckman Jarrod Witts has also been critical to the Suns’ rise. Witts leads the competition for hitouts to advantage (13), is ranked second among rucks for score launches (3.5) and third for contested possessions (9.6) and clearances (4.6). After polling the second-highest number of Brownlow votes for the Suns behind Miller last season, young gun Noah Anderson’s star has continued to rise. The 21-year-old‘s measures – disposals, contested possessions, metres gained, clearances and score involvements – are all up on season 2021.
After claiming his second best-and-fairest award last year, Champion Data expects midfield gun and co-captain Josh Kelly to be among the top contenders again for the Kevin Sheedy Medal. Kelly is ranked first among the Giants for disposals (27.1), uncontested possessions (17.4) and metres gained (408), while he is also second for score assists (1.2) and tackles (5.2). Fellow Giants co-captain Stephen Coniglio has hit back after an injury-frustrated 2021 season to rank among the elite for midfielder forwards for disposals, tackles and total clearances. Champion Data also expects defender Sam Taylor, fifth in last year’s best-and-fairest, to rate highly in the team’s count this year. Taylor holds and elite ranking among key defenders for intercept possessions (9.3) and spoils (8.4) and above average for disposals (14.8), marks (5.3) and intercept marks (2.9).
After missing all of last season recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, James Sicily has returned to assume his role as the Hawks’ backline general while cementing his status among the league’s leading key defenders. Sicily is ranked No.1 in the AFL among key defenders for disposals (23.3), uncontested possessions (13.3), metres gained (596m) and marks (8.3) and second for intercept possessions (8.9). After finishing fourth in last year’s best-and-fairest count, forward Dylan Moore has also taken his game to another level this year. Moore, who has kicked 23 goals for the season, including a career-best four goals against Geelong in round 5, holds an elite rating among general forwards for disposals (19.7), uncontested possessions (12), score assists (1.4), score involvements (5.9) and tackles (4.1). Veteran Luke Breust continues to make an impact as he approaches 32 with an elite rating among general forwards for goals (2.1) and score involvements (6.2) and above average for forward 50 marks (1.1) and forward 50 ground ball gets (1.8).
Clayton Oliver is on track to add to his three best-and-fairest awards (2017, 2019 and 2021) as he continues to lead the Melbourne midfield – and the league’s midfield rankings. Third in last year’s Brownlow Medal count, Oliver also sits second in the AFLCA Champion Player Award. Oliver is the No.1 ranked midfielder in the competition for disposals (34.2), contested possessions (17.4), ground ball gets (12.8) and clearances (8.4). He is also ranked fourth for score involvements (7.2). Champion Data has also pegged Oliver’s midfield partner Christian Petracca to be among the top ‘Bluey’ Truscott Medal contenders, averaging 526 metres gained and 8.3 score involvements a match. The importance of captain and ruckman Max Gawn, third in last year’s best-and-fairest count behind Oliver and Petracca, to the Demons’ premiership defence is also clear. Gawn ranks No.1 in the AFL among ruckmen for hitouts to advantage win (17.5 per cent), uncontested possessions (10.8), second for disposals (19.2) and score involvements (7.2) and third for clearances (4.6).
There hasn’t been a lot for the struggling Kangaroos to get excited about this season but the performances of Luke Davies-Uniacke have been one bright light. Davies-Uniacke ranks above average for midfielders for disposals, marks, tackles and total clearances. Since round 11, his output has increased significantly with a 39 per cent rise on his inside-50 numbers and a 37 per cent increase on his average clearances. Backman Luke McDonald has also had a strong season, rating above average for general defenders for disposals, metres gained, marks, intercept marks and kicking efficiency. Veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein remains an important contributor for the Kangaroos, ranking above average among ruckmen for hitout to advantage winning (percentage), centre clearances and goals.
Ollie Wines romped in the Port Adelaide best-and-fairest last year, but Champion Data is predicting young gun Connor Rozee, former skipper Travis Boak and defender Dan Houston to be among the top contenders this year. Rozee is ranked first at the Power for score involvements, second for disposals and third for inside-50s and clearances. Since round 5, Rozee has divided his time between the midfield and forward 67-33 per cent. Boak, second to Wines in the John Cahill Medal count last year, ranks above average for midfielders this year in disposals (26.9), contested possessions (11.8), inside 50s (5.2), clearances (6.2) and score involvements (5.8). Houston holds an elite ranking as a general defender for contested possessions and above average for disposals, metres gained, intercept marks and intercept possessions.
He has been dubbed as the heir apparent to Dustin Martin’s mantle as the club’s best player and Shai Bolton’s star has continued to rise in 2022. Champion Data has identified Bolton, Jayden Short and defender Liam Baker as the Tigers’ trio at the top of the team’s best-and-fairest calculations. Fourth in the club’s Jack Dyer Medal count last year, Bolton is the only mid-forward in the competition to rank elite for goals, assists and score involvements. Short’s impact has also been significant and since round 7 he has ranked No.1 at the club as a midfielder for uncontested possessions and metres gained, third for disposals and fifth for clearances. Baker, equal second in the club’s best-and-fairest count last year, is also ranked highly at the club for pressure points (fourth), score involvements (fifth), disposals, contested possessions (sixth) and metres gained (ninth). In the opening six rounds, Baker spent 82 per cent of his time forward but this switched to 93 per cent of his time in defence between rounds 7 and 14. Between rounds 15 and 19, he has had a 27-23-50 breakdown between defence, midfield and forward.
A pair of Jacks topped the St Kilda best-and-fairest voting last year and Champion Data is expecting a similar result in 2022. In All-Australian form off half-back, Sinclair’s measures for disposals, uncontested possessions, metres gained, marks and intercept possessions are all up significantly on last season when he was runner-up to captain Jack Steele for the Trevor Barker award. One measure stands out with his average metres gained 36 per cent up from 336 in 2021 to 525 this year. Despite his stint on the sidelines with an injured AC joint, Steele’s influence will have him in the running for a third straight best-and-fairest award. The skipper ranks among the elite AFL midfielders for tackles and above average for disposals, contested possessions, ground ball gets and clearances. Former Crow Brad Crouch finished fifth in the best-and-fairest in his first season with the Saints last year, but his output across all the major measures is up on last season.
Luke Parker claimed a third best-and-fairest last season and Champion Data expect the midfielder to be in the running again alongside former rising star Callum Mills and young gun Chad Warner. Warner is having a big impact in his third AFL season and is among only three midfielders in the league – alongside Christian Petracca and Marcus Bontempelli – to rate elite for goals, score assists and score involvements. Mills, fifth in last year’s Bob Skilton Medal count, rates among the elite midfielders for tackles and is above average for uncontested possessions, metres gained and score involvements. Parker, club champion in 2014, 2017 and 2021, is ranked No.1 at the Swans for contested possessions, ground ball gets and clearances and third for disposals.
In what has been a tough year for the Eagles, Champion Data has honed in on defender Tom Barrass, midfielder Tim Kelly and veteran backman Shannon Hurn as the most likely trio set to fight it out for the John Worsfold Medal, won by Nic Naitanui last year. Among key defenders in the competition, Barrass is ranked No.1 for marks, intercept possessions and intercept marks. He is also ranked fourth and fifth for spoils and disposals. Kelly is ranked No.1 at the club for contested possessions, inside-50s and pressure points and second for disposals and metres gained. In his 17th AFL season, Hurn is ranked elite among general defenders for marks and intercept marks and above average for disposals, metres gained and intercept possessions. A two-time All-Australian, Hurn’s top best-and-fairest result was second in 2009.
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Already a four-time winner of the Charles Sutton Medal, Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli can thrust his name alongside one of the most famous in the club’s history if he can claim another club best-and-fairest this year. A fifth award would draw Bontempelli level with Ted Whitten Sr, Norm Ware and John Schultz as a five-time winner. Since the bye, the reigning club champion has spent 80 per cent of his time in the midfield (after splitting it 60-40 in the midfield-forward earlier in the season) and his impact has grown. Between rounds 14 and 19, he was the highest rated player in the competition and was also ranked No.1 in the league for inside 50s and score involvements. Champion Data is also tipping fellow midfielder Tom Liberatore and defender Bailey Dale to poll highly. Liberatore has a midfield ranking of fifth in the league for clearances and seventh for ground ball gets. Dale is ranked second among general defenders for metres gained and third for disposals and is ranked 15th across the competition for kick rating this season.
Originally published as AFL 2022: Here are the top contenders for each club’s best-and-fairest award this season