Champion Data reveals every AFL club’s elite-rated players ahead of the 2022 season

Champion Data’s A-list is in, and some massive names have missed out — including last year’s Brownlow medallist. Find out who is rated elite at your club.

Who are the real A-listers of the AFL world?

Does a Brownlow Medal automatically equal elite status? Not the case for Ollie Wines.

And what about being an All-Australian and premiership captain? Or, it seems, for Max Gawn.

These are all questions to emerge after Champion Data revealed its full list of players that the stats show are A-listed guns.

Ollie Wines is among the big names to miss out. Picture: Getty Images
Ollie Wines is among the big names to miss out. Picture: Getty Images

The list of elite-rated players is based on Champion Data’s AFL Player Ratings for season 2021.

To qualify, players must have played a minimum of 10 matches last season and the rating is relevant to the players’ position – general forwards and defenders, key forwards and defenders, midfielders, mid-forwards, rucks and wings.

According to Champion Data, the AFL Player Ratings measure how you win the ball, where on the ground you win the ball and what you do with the ball.

Players that win the ball in a contest, in dangerous areas on the ground and use the ball well rate highly.

Of the midfielders who played 10 matches last season, only eight rated elite – and there were a few big names to miss out.

ADELAIDE

Elite players: Three – Jordan Dawson (general defender), Taylor Walker (key forward), Paul Seedsman (wing).

After a forgettable 2020 season, the Crows were the only team in the league without an elite player heading into 2021, according to Champion Data’s ratings.

But this year they have three, bolstered by the arrival of off-season recruit Jordan Dawson from the Sydney Swans.

After struggling with his form throughout parts of 2020, 31-year-old Walker earned his elite rating coming off a 48-goal season from his 17 games. He averaged 2.8 goals (elite), 5.3 marks (above average) and 13.4 disposals (elite) a game.

Seedsman didn’t miss a match for the Crows last season and averaged 26.1 disposals a game (above average).

The Crows also have six players with an above average rating – Brodie Smith (general defender), Tom Doedee (key defender), Ben Keays (midfielder), Rory Laird (midfielder), Rory Sloane (midfielder) and Reilly O’Brien (ruck).

Adelaide forward Taylor Walker. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
Adelaide forward Taylor Walker. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images



BRISBANE LIONS

Elite players: Five – Daniel Rich (general defender), Lincoln McCarthy (general forward), Harris Andrews (key defender), Dayne Zorko (midfielder), Hugh McCluggage (wing).

After their semi-final run last season, the Brisbane Lions retained the same number of elite players as they had in season 2020 – but with some changes.

Veteran Rich retained his elite rating after a season in which he earned his first All-Australian selection, averaging 26 disposals and 640.4 metres gained (both elite).

Vice-captain Andrews – rated elite for spoils (8.6) and intercepts marks (3.8) – and midfielder McCluggage, averaging 25 disposals a game, also held their rating.

After an injury interrupted year, 2020 Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale’s rating slipped to above average along with fellow midfielder Jarryd Lyons.

Captain Dayne Zorko joined the elite group after a season in which he claimed the club’s best and fairest for a fifth time, while forward Lincoln McCarthy’s rating also lifted after a 36-goal season.

The Lions had eight players with an above average rating – Charlie Cameron (general forward), Joe Daniher (key forward), Daniel McStay (key forward), Neale (midfielder), Lyons (midfielder), Zac Bailey (mid-forward), Oscar McInerney (ruck) and Mitch Robinson (wing).

Brisbane Lions star Dayne Zorko. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/Getty Images
Brisbane Lions star Dayne Zorko. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/Getty Images

CARLTON

Elite players: Three – Adam Saad (general defender), Zac Williams (general defender), Jacob Weitering (key defender).
Captain Patrick Cripps has missed out on an elite status for the second year in a row, falling from above average at the start of last year to “average” based on Champion Data’s ratings.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was Blues young gun Sam Walsh’s above average rating, slipping from his elite ranking the previous year.

Walsh averaged 29.8 disposals a game, won his first club best-and-fairest award and finished fourth in the Brownlow Medal count.

Champion Data acknowledged Walsh’s fantastic season, rating above average in every area for a midfielder, which resulted in his overall rating being above average.

Recruit Adam Saad was the only Blue to retain his elite rating from the previous year.

Saad was joined by vice-captain and defensive general Jacob Weitering – who holds an elite ranking for spoils and disposals – and fellow recruit Zac Williams, despite an injury interrupted start to life at his new club and mid-season questions about his fitness.

He met the minimum 10-game qualifier with his 14 senior games.

The Blues had seven players rated above average – Sam Docherty (general defender), Nic Newman (general defender), recruit George Hewett (general defender), Fisher (general forward), Lachie Fogarty (general forward), Harry McKay (key forward) and Walsh (midfielder).

Retired defender Liam Jones would have also been listed among the Blues above average players.

But midfield young gun Sam Walsh missed the cut and was rated “above average”. Picture: Michael Klein
But midfield young gun Sam Walsh missed the cut and was rated “above average”. Picture: Michael Klein

COLLINGWOOD

Elite players: Four – Jack Crisp (general defender), Jamie Elliott (general forward), Darcy Moore (key defender), Brodie Grundy (ruck).
After season 2020, the Magpies were one of five teams to boast the equal-highest number of elite-ranked players in the league with five but that number has slipped to four.

Jack Crisp was the only Magpies player to retain his elite status after an outstanding season in which he claimed his first Copeland Trophy as the club’s best-and-fairest.

He is joined by Jamie Elliott, who kicked 25 goals for the year, ruckman Brodie Grundy and star defender Darcy Moore.

Moore and Elliott both met the minimum qualification with their 13-game seasons. Moore’s came to an early end in Round 13 when he suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury.

Brayden Maynard, Jordan De Goey and Steele Sidebottom were all rated elite at the start of last season but all slipped to above average.

The other Magpies player who had rated elite in 2020 – big man Mason Cox – did not meet the minimum games requirement with his seven matches in 2021.

The Magpies had eight players with an above average rating – Maynard (general defender), Isaac Quaynor (general defender), Darcy Cameron (key forward), Taylor Adams (midfielder), Scott Pendlebury (midfielder), Sidebottom (mid-forward), De Goey (mid-forward) and Will Hoskin-Elliott (wing).

Jack Crisp had a standout season for the Magpies last year. Picture: Michael Klein
Jack Crisp had a standout season for the Magpies last year. Picture: Michael Klein

ESSENDON

Elite players: Three – Nick Hind (general defender), Darcy Parish (midfielder), Jake Stringer (mid-forward).

The Bombers’ three elite-rated players is up from one in season 2020.

Defender Jordan Ridley was the Bombers’ only elite-rated player entering season 2021 but his rating slipped to above average.

Recruit Nick Hind earned an elite rating in his first season at the Bombers after comfortably filling the void at half-back left by the departure of Adam Saad.

Young gun Darcy Parish, who averaged 30.5 disposals a game, and midfielder-forward Jake Stringer – coming off a 45-goal season – were also elevated to an elite ranking.

The Bombers had seven players rated above average – captain Dyson Heppell (general defender), Mason Redman (general defender), Ridley (general defender), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (general forward), Will Snelling (general forward), Zach Merrett (midfielder) and Kyle Langford (wing).

Darcy Parish has been elevated into the elite according to Champion Data. Picture: Michael Klein
Darcy Parish has been elevated into the elite according to Champion Data. Picture: Michael Klein

FREMANTLE

Elite players: Two – Sam Switkowski (general forward), Sean Darcy (ruck).

Dual Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe was the Dockers’ only elite-rated player from the 2020 season but his status has slipped after an injury-interrupted year.

Restricted to 15 games in 2021, 30-year-old Fyfe’s season – which ended in Round 19 due to a recurring shoulder injury – was rated above average by Champion Data.

Ruckman Sean Darcy earned an elite rating after a year in which he averaged 28.5 hit-outs a game (above average), 10 hit-outs to advantage (elite) and 4.7 total clearances (elite).

Forward Sam Switkowski just met the minimum qualification with his 12 senior games, in which he had a return of nine goals.

The Dockers had seven above average rated players – Travis Colyer (general forward), Michael Walters (general forward), Brennan Cox (key defender), Luke Ryan (key defender), Rory Lobb (key forward), Fyfe (midfielder) and veteran David Mundy (midfielder).

Sean Darcy had a huge 2021 campaign. Picture: Getty Images
Sean Darcy had a huge 2021 campaign. Picture: Getty Images


GEELONG

Elite players: Three – Tom Stewart (general defender), Tom Hawkins (key forward), Sam Menegola (wing).

The number of elite rated players at the Cats is down from four in 2020 to three in 2021.

Spearhead Tom Hawkins, who kicked 62 goals for the season, and wingman Sam Menegola retained their rating but defender Mark Blicavs and midfield star Patrick Dangerfield slipped.

Blicavs and Dangerfield, who was restricted to 16 games due to suspension and injury, were rated as above average by Champion Data.

Defender Tom Stewart earned an elite rating following a season when he received his third All-Australian nod and was crowned the Cats’ best and fairest before a syndesmosis injury in Round 21 ended his season, cruelling the Cats’ premiership hopes.

Dangerfield and Blicavs were among 10 Cats rated above average, including Zach Tuohy (general defender), Brad Close (general forward, Gary Rohan (general forward), Jack Henry (key defender), Jeremy Cameron (key forward), Mitch Duncan (mid-forward), and Isaac Smith (wing).

Ruck recruit Jonathon Ceglar also joins that list after his arrival from the Hawks.

Patrick Dangerfield lost his elite rating. Picture: Getty Images
Patrick Dangerfield lost his elite rating. Picture: Getty Images

GOLD COAST

Elite players: One – Touk Miller (midfielder).

The Suns had two players with an elite rating in 2020 – Matt Rowell and Sam Collins – but Touk Miller was the only one to make the grade last year.

The 25-year-old midfield ace earned a spot on the interchange bench in the All-Australian team following a career-best season in which he averaged 31.8 disposals and 7.1 tackles a game.

Collins was one of five Gold Coast players rated above average while Champion Data rated young gun Rowell below average in his injury-hit 12-game season.

Rowell missed most of the first half of the season after injuring his knee in Round 1 last year.

Jack Lukosius (general defender), Wil Powell (general defender), Nick Holman (general forward) and Lachie Weller (mid-forward) were the Suns also rated above average.

Touk Miller was the only Sun to be rated elite. Picture: Michael Klein
Touk Miller was the only Sun to be rated elite. Picture: Michael Klein


GWS GIANTS

Elite players: One – Toby Greene (general forward).

Harry Perryman was the only GWS player to hold an elite rating in 2020 and now his place has been taken by match-winner and controversy magnet Toby Greene.

The rating highlights the huge hole that will be needed to be filled by the Giants for the start of this season with Greene to miss the first five rounds through suspension.

Greene copped a six-week ban for making contact with an umpire in the Giants’ elimination final win over the Sydney Swans in last year’s finals series.

The All-Australian forward kicked 45 goals last year and averaged more than 17 disposals a game.

Perryman (general defender) was one of seven Giants’ players to earn an above average rating alongside Isaac Cumming (general defender), Lachie Whitfield (general defender), Daniel Lloyd (general forward), Harry Himmelberg (key forward), Tim Taranto (mid-forward) and ruck Matt Flynn.

The Giants will be without their only elite player for the early part of the season. Picture: Getty Images
The Giants will be without their only elite player for the early part of the season. Picture: Getty Images

HAWTHORN

Elite players: Four – Jack Scrimshaw (general defender), Luke Breust (general defender), Dylan Moore (general forward), Chad Wingard (mid-forward).

The Hawks were down from five players with an elite rating in 2020 to four in 2021 as the club moves into a new era under coach Sam Mitchell.

Triple premiership player Luke Breust and Chad Wingard are the only two to retain their elite rating from the previous year

They are joined by young defender Jack Scrimshaw and 22-year-old forward Dylan Moore, who kicked 27 goals for the Hawks last season.

Captain Ben McEvoy and James Sicily – sidelined with a knee injury last year – and Jack Gunston, who played just one match as he battled a back complaint, were the Hawks other players with an elite status in 2020.

The Hawks had seven other players with an above average rating – Blake Hardwick (general defender), Jarman Impey (general defender), Changkuoth Jiath (general defender), Sam Frost (key defender), Tom Mitchell (midfielder), Daniel Howe (wing) and Tom Phillips (wing).

Hawk Chad Wingard has retained his elite status. Picture: Michael Klein
Hawk Chad Wingard has retained his elite status. Picture: Michael Klein

MELBOURNE

Elite players: Three – Jake Lever (key defender), Clayton Oliver (midfielder), Christian Petracca (midfielder).

The premiership Demons had five players earn selection in the All-Australian team last year, headlined by skipper Max Gawn.

But Champion Data only gave three elite status based on its analysis – the same number as in 2020 despite the team’s premiership win.

Star midfield duo Clayton Oliver and Norm Smith medallist Christian Petracca retained their A-list status from 2020 while defensive marshall Jake Lever replaced Gawn.

Gawn was one of seven Demons to earn an above average rating.

Champion Data explained Gawn only marginally missed out on elite status with little separating the Demons’ star from Tom Hickey, Brodie Grundy and Sean Darcy.

Bayley Fritsch, Alex Neal-Bullen, Kysaiah Pickett (all general forwards), Lever’s defensive partner in crime Steven May (key defender), Tom McDonald (key forward) and Ed Langdon (wing).

Gawn, May, Lever, Oliver and Petracca all earned All-Australian selection last year.

Max Gawn was a premiership captain, but his 2021 season wasn’t rated elite. Picture: Michael Klein
Max Gawn was a premiership captain, but his 2021 season wasn’t rated elite. Picture: Michael Klein

NORTH MELBOURNE

Elite players: One – Aaron Hall (general defender).

Ruckman Todd Goldstein was the only player to score an elite rating in 2020 but he has been replaced by defender Aaron Hall as the only Kangaroo to make the cut in 2021.

Hall averaged 27.9 disposals a game, a whopping 650.5 metres gained and 7.5 marks a game – all elite rankings.

Goldstein was one of six North players to be rated above average, including Jack Ziebell (general defender), Jaidyn Stephenson (general forward), Hugh Greenwood (midfielder), Ben Cunnington (midfielder) and Tarryn Thomas (midfielder).

PORT ADELAIDE

Elite players: Six – Zak Butters (general forward), Robbie Gray (general forward), Aliir Aliir (key defender), Jeremy Finlayson (key forward), Charlie Dixon (key forward), Karl Amon (wing).

The Power boast the second-highest number of elite-rated players on their list in the league, but with one big omission – Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines.

In 2020, Port Adelaide had four A-graders – Robbie Gray, Charlie Dixon, Zak Butters and Steven Motlop.

That number has jumped to six, bolstered by the arrival of former Giant Jeremy Finlayson in the off-season.

Butters, Gray and Dixon retain their elite status and have been joined by All-Australian key defender Aliir, who emerged as one of the recruits of the year after his move from Sydney.

But midfield star Wines was only rated as above average by Champion Data in a season he won the Brownlow Medal, club best and fairest and All-Australian selection.

Wines was the ninth-highest rated midfielder – just outside the eight elite.

Champion Data explained the only reason he wasn’t rated elite was his ball use by foot, rating as a below average kick in 2021.

Wines was one of seven players rated as above average for the Power, also including Travis Boak, Tom Jonas and Connor Rozee.

Finlayson, who kicked 23 goals last year for the Giants, will provide another tall forward option for the Power, who were dealt a pre-season injury blow with Dixon undergoing ankle surgery last week.

Zak Butters is one of six elite players from the Power. Picture: Getty Images
Zak Butters is one of six elite players from the Power. Picture: Getty Images

RICHMOND

Elite players: One – Dustin Martin (mid-forward)

After slipping out of the finals mix last year, the number of Tigers with an elite rating also fell.

After claiming a third flag in four years in 2020, the Tigers has three players hold an elite status – Nick Vlastuin, Shane Edwards and Dustin Marin.

Superstar Martin was the only player to retain his elite rating in 2021 as his season came to an early end when he suffered a serious kidney injury in Round 18 against the Brisbane Lions.

Until then, he had averaged 22.6 disposals, 3.6 clearances a match and kicked 19 goals.

But the Tigers had 11 players rated above average, headlined by Shai Bolton, Dylan Grimes, Jack Graham, Jack Riewoldt and Nick Vlastuin.

Dustin Martin retained his elite rating. Picture: Getty Images
Dustin Martin retained his elite rating. Picture: Getty Images


ST KILDA

Elite players: One – Jack Sinclair (general defender)

Dan Butler and Jack Steele earned an elite rating for the Saints in 2020 but Jack Sinclair was the only one to make the cut last season.

Runner-up in the St Kilda’s best-and-fairest behind captain Steele, Sinclair found his niche at half-back to become one of the Saints’ most dependable players.

Despite being named on the interchange bench in the All-Australian team and finishing equal-fifth in the Brownlow Medal count, Steele, who averaged 29.2 disposals and 8.5 tackles a match, was rated only above average by Champion Data.

The Saints had six more players rated above average – Jack Higgins (general forward), Dougal Howard (key defender), Rowan Marshall (ruck), Paddy Ryder (ruck), Daniel McKenzie (wing) and Seb Ross (wing).

Will that level of talent be enough to help propel the Saints back into finals contention in the final year of coach Brett Ratten’s contract?

Sydney spearhead Lance Franklin. Pic: Michael Klein
Sydney spearhead Lance Franklin. Pic: Michael Klein

SYDNEY

Elite players: Three – Isaac Heeney (general forward), Lance Franklin (key forward), Tom Hickey (ruck).
The Swans have retained the same number of elite players heading into the 2022 season but two of the names have changed.

Heeney retains his elite status from season 2020 but superstar forward Lance Franklin – who booted 51 goals last season – and ruckman Tom Hickey replace co-captain Dane Rampe and defender Jake Lloyd.

Lloyd’s grading slipped to above average – one of seven Swans with that rating, including co-captain Luke Parker and forward Tom Papley.

Midfield warrior Josh Kennedy and new co-captain Callum Mills, who battled achilles issues for the second half of last season, were rated average by Champion Data.

West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui of the Eagles looks to clear q3. Pic: Michael Klein
West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui of the Eagles looks to clear q3. Pic: Michael Klein

WEST COAST

Elite players: Two – Liam Ryan (general forward), Nic Naitanui (ruck).
The Eagles were among the five clubs to boast the equal-highest number of players with an elite rating in 2020 but that slipped to two in 2021.

Electric forward Liam Ryan and star ruckman Nic Naitanui, who was named on the interchange bench in the All-Australian team, both retained their elite status.

Ryan kicked 24 goals last season while Naitanui averaged 31.2 hit-outs, 12.3 hit-outs to advantage and 7.2 clearances a match.

Champion Data said Naitanui was rated a long way clear of any other ruckman in the league last season.

The Eagles had nine players rated above average by Champion Data, including defender Jeremy McGovern, key forwards Oscar Allen and Josh Kennedy and midfielder Elliot Yeo.

Vaccine-hesitant forward Jack Darling, who is unable to train with his teammates until he gets vaccinated, was also among those rated above average.

Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images
Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images

WESTERN BULLDOGS

Elite players: Seven — Bailey Dale (general defender), Caleb Daniel (general defender), Marcus Bontempelli (midfielder), Tom Liberatore (midfielder), Jack Macrae (midfielder), Adam Treloar (mid-forward), Bailey Smith (wing).


They might have been heavily defeated in the Grand Final against Melbourne but the Western Bulldogs emerged as the club with the highest number of elite rated players in the competition in season 2021.

Up from their five the previous year, skipper and midfield star Marcus Bontempelli and defender Caleb Daniel were the only two to retain their elite status.

Defender Bailey Dale, who prospered after a switch to defence last pre-season to be named in the All-Australian team, midfielders Tom Liberatore, Jack Macrae and wingman Bailey Smith also made the A-grade.

And Adam Treloar also a strong recruit, earning an elite rating as a mid-forward.

The Bulldogs also had five players rated above average – Bailey Williams, Cody Weightman, Alex Keath, Josh Dunkley and Lachie Hunter.

rebecca.williams@news.com.au

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