Some of the work that Phil Davis does in defence can go unnoticed, but those who support GWS will tell you that he is one of their most important players in the team. Not just because he's a co-captain, but because he is capable of finding the ball for a key back and can use it well along with shutting down key forwards. Absolutely blanketed Buddy in the Elimination Final, and averaged 15.2 disposals, 5.8 marks, 3.6 rebound 50s and 1.7 tackles per game in 2018.
39. Jack Steven – St. Kilda Pre-Season Ranking: 46 2018 Games: 22 2018 Goals: 13
It wasn't a great year for the Saints, but Jack Steven was perhaps the best Saint this year (Apologies to Seb Ross and Jade Gresham), but his class has been something that St. Kilda lacked for most parts of the year. His 2018 averages include 27 disposals, four marks, 5.5 clearances, 4.7 inside 50s and 3.5 tackles per game. These numbers and his influences in games this year were enough for the Saints to crown him a four-time club best and fairest winner.
The key defender broke out in his fourth season with a spot in the All-Australian squad of 40. We can only ponder what could have been if Jeremy Cameron didn't elbow his brains out in that marking contest. He may have just had his first All-Australian jacket this year if he had played every game. Nonetheless, the seeds are planted for an even better 2019. Averaged 15.6 disposals, 6.6 marks and 2.9 rebound 50s this year.
In his first year playing as a rebounding half-back flanker, Lachie Whitfield exceeded all expectations and flourished in his new role. I haven't bought the hype as much as others, but I can agree that he's had a pretty good year. He was named All-Australian for the first time as well as securing his first GWS best and fairest win. His numbers include averages of 26.7 disposals, 6.7 marks, 3.7 rebound 50s and 3.2 tackles – numbers which are bordering on elite.
I don't think there is a better one-on-one defender in the game right now than Neville Jetta. The stats don't really do his influences in contests any justice – averaging 11.9 disposals, three marks, 3.1 tackles and 1.8 rebound 50s per game. But anyone that watches the Demons closely can tell you that he hardly gets beat in contests. How he didn't even get into the All-Australian squad of 40 completely baffles me.
Season 2018 was probably not the year that Dayne Zorko was not looking for. After a sluggish start in which he got tagged out of games constantly, he lit it up when he took over from Dayne Beams as captain midway through the year and ended up taking home a fourth consecutive club best and fairest award, pipping Dayne Beams by a single vote. Averaged 20.8 disposals, 2.5 marks, 7.2 tackles, five inside 50s and 4.5 clearances per game.
Taylor Adams backed up his terrific 2017 campaign with perhaps an even better season. Despite averaging numbers that were down on last year (27 disposals, 3.4 marks, 5.2 tackles, 4.1 inside 50s), he averaged a career-high 6.2 clearances and stood up for the Pies during the Finals Series and really stamped his authority all throughout September.
When you think about the Richmond defence, the first thing that will come to the minds of many is Alex Rance. But Rance wouldn't be where he is at without his assistance. Grimes is amongst the best one-on-one defenders in the competition – like Jetta, he's hardly beaten. His versatility to play on either talls or smalls are vital in what is one of the stingiest defences in the league right now.
32. Tom Stewart – Geelong Pre-Season Ranking: N/A 2018 Games: 22 2018 Goals: 1
Not many people would've said at the start of the year that Tom Stewart was going to be an All-Australian, I would have simply laughed at the thought. But credit where it's due, he took an impressive debut season and evolved into one of the game's emerging rebounding defenders. Averaged 20.1 disposals, six marks and 5.5 rebound 50s in just his second season and deserved his All-Australian jacket.
After a solid 2017, Josh Caddy had himself a cracking 2018, playing more forward than midfield and was super accurate in front of the big sticks, kicking 46.15 for the year. Not sure how he missed out on an All-Australian selection, but his work up forward is pretty impressive. Averaged 16.5 disposals, 3.6 marks, 3.1 tackles and 3.1 inside 50s, as well averaging over two goals per game.
On Wednesday, I will reveal who has made positions 30-21 as we approach the half-way mark of my top 50. Stay Tuned