AFL 2 years ago

Alex Docherty's Top 50 AFL Players Post-2016 Part 2: 40-31

As part two of my Top 50 AFL players of the 2016 season goes up today, there's already been a few big names dropped in at the early stages.

In case you missed who made 50-41: Click Here

Today is no exception, as a number of best and fairest winners - both past and present fill in the 40-31 slots. So without further ado, let's get stuck into it.

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40. Callan Ward – Greater Western Sydney
Pre-Season Ranking: 28
Career Games: 167
Career Goals: 85

A co-captain of the Giants since their introduction to the AFL, Ward has hardly skipped a beat since defecting from the Western Bulldogs and has been somewhat of an inspiration to his younger team mates. Played every game this year for GWS and rode every bump of the way, averaging 23 disposals, five clearances and four tackles per game. If he didn't get knocked out early in that preliminary final, it might've been a completely different story.

39. Jack Macrae – Western Bulldogs
Pre-Season Ranking: N/A
Career Games: 77
Career Goals: 19

Macrae is one who prefers to let his footy do the talking, and for the third-straight season, he averaged 25 disposals or more. He was huge for the Dogs in their semi-final win over Hawthorn, he kicked the goal to put his team in their first Grand Final since 1961 and he had another fantastic performance in the Grand Final victory. The worrying thing for Bulldogs supporters is that he's only 22 years of age.

38. Rory Laird – Adelaide
Pre-Season Ranking: 49
Career Games: 76
Career Goals: 6

Made the All-Australian Squad of 40 last year after a breakout season and made the squad again this year after an even better season, averaging 27 disposals, seven marks and three rebound 50s. If it wasn't for a toe injury early on in the year, he would've near-certain lock in the team. His ability to win the ball from the half-back line is unbelievable.  

37. Sam Docherty – Carlton
Pre-Season Ranking: N/A
Career Games: 70
Career Goals: 11

Docherty elevated his game to a new level in 2016, playing every game and posting elite numbers for a defender, averaging nearly 26 disposals a game, as well as eight marks, and five rebound 50s per game. Capped off a sensational year for the Blues by being nominated for the All-Australian squad as well as winning the club's best and fairest award. 

36. Nick Riewoldt – St. Kilda
Pre-Season Ranking: N/A
Career Games: 319
Career Goals: 689

Whilst I'm not the biggest Nick Riewoldt fan going around, it's hard to argue against how good his 2016 campaign was. At the age of 34, Riewoldt was still averaging 20 disposals, 10 marks and three inside 50s per game, as well as kicking 41 goals for the Saints this year. He kicked nine goals and took 21 marks in the final game of the season, although we can argue it was against a despicable Brisbane team. Tell me Riewoldt doesn't deserve a spot in the top 50.

35. Andrew Gaff  - West Coast
Pre-Season Ranking: 24
Career Games: 132
Career Goals: 49

Gaff is widely considered as one of the greatest outside players of the AFL right now, he led the AFL in uncontested possessions in 2016, averaging 22 a game, as well as averaging nearly 30 disposals a game for the second consecutive year. His phenomenal finish to 2016 sparked West Coast's late surge, averaging 35 disposals in the last month.

34. Stephen Coniglio – Greater Western Sydney
Pre-Season Ranking: N/A
Career Games: 85
Career Goals: 33

One of many of the young Giants that broke out in 2016 and played a key part in why the Giants got within a kick of their first-ever Grand Final. Coniglio averaged career-highs in disposals (28 per game), tackles (six per game) and clearances (five per game). Not only has he proven he can win his own ball, but he can provide the clamps on some of the game's best mids. 

33. Sam Mitchell – Hawthorn/West Coast
Pre-Season Ranking: 4
Career Games: 307
Career Goals: 67

Mitchell took home his fifth best and fairest at Hawthorn before being shipped away to West Coast during the trade period, but why does he drop so dramatically from the top five? Despite averaging nearly 30 possessions a game this year, I felt Mitchell's impact in games fell away in comparison to last year and wasn't overly damaging during the finals. I still think he can give West Coast something in 2017 as they look to go back to their form that got them to Grand Final 12 months ago.

32. Patrick Cripps – Carlton
Pre-Season Ranking: N/A
Career Games: 44
Career Goals: 16

It's fascinating how a kid like Patrick Cripps – who hasn't even played 50 games yet and only turned 21 in March – can already become such a midfield star. Granted the Blues don't have a lot of midfield talent, still though, for someone as young as Cripps to average 27 disposals, six tackles and nearly nine clearances a game says so much about where he's heading in his future.

31. Daniel Talia – Adelaide
Pre-Season Ranking: N/A
Career Games: 122
Career Goals: 6

Talia doesn't make as much noise as the other key defenders but he still gets the job done for the Crows on a consistent basis. He was rewarded for his efforts in 2016 with his second selection in the All-Australian team. But the thing that pleases me the most about him is that he's continuing to work on getting his hands on the ball more, averaging career-highs in disposals (15 per game), marks (six per game) and rebound 50s (nearly three per game).

Stay tuned on Bulldogs Centre as we go through the halfway mark of the top 50 on Wednesday as we go through 30-21.

Photos Courtesy of Getty Images

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