While Werribee’s Ben Ross won the Liston, clearly in my eyes, Baird has been the best player in the VFL in 2012 and after overcoming a career threatening Achilles injury in 2010, it has been a remarkable achievement to return to the peak of his game.
The 32-year-old has been rock solid, particularly in matches that have been on the line for his team, and his presence is now arguably one of the most important in seeking back-to-back flags.
His team-mate Shane Valenti was the inaugural leader of FN’s Top VFL Players but slipped slightly back in ratings this season mainly due to receiving more attention from clubs and struggling to shrug off heavy tags.
Valenti comes in at No.4, behind Williamstown’s Ben Jolley, another seasoned body who has been one of the back-bones behind the Seagulls’ rise this season, and Werribee’s Ross, who took out the Liston Medal after a blistering season at the Tigers to renew draft hopes.
Out of the top 10, Ross, Adam Marcon (5), Evan Panozza (8), Myke Cook (9) and Kyle Martin (10) are the most likely to be drafted by an AFL club.
Marcon’s rise has been somewhat similar to that of Baird this season in that he took out the VFL’s Coaches Award after a fine season at the Blues.
Sam Pleming, at No.6, has had another fine season and arguably the best defender in the competition. He is, remarkably, one of 10 Port Melbourne players listed in this Top 50 which somewhat exemplifies the all-round talent and depth the club has despite some massive departures at the end of last season.
Another Port player, Dean Galea, who took of the Frosty Miller Medal for the most goals kicked, came in at No.7. He is clearly the best forward in the competition – and if rumours are correct – it would be a shame if he dumps VFL footy to play country footy next season.
Almost equally to Pleming, Casey’s Panozza has been a jet in defence this season and comes in at No.8 ahead of the much-improved Cook and Martin.
- John Baird (Port Melbourne) (3)
- Ben Jolley (Williamstown) (6)
- Ben Ross (Werribee Tigers) (13)
- Shane Valenti (Port Melbourne) (1)
- Adam Marcon (Northern Blues) (27)
- Sam Pleming (Port Melbourne) (4)
- Dean Galea (Port Melbourne) (16)
- Evan Panozza (Casey Scorpions) (10)
- Myke Cook (Sandringham) (2)
- Kyle Martin (Frankston) (34)
- Billy Burstin (Port Melbourne (33)
- Myles Sewell (North Ballarat) (24)
- Ben Duscher (Bendigo Gold) (7)
- Khan Haretuku (Frankston) (12)
- Luke Tynan (Casey Scorpions) (16)
- Luke Andrews (Box Hill Hawks) (-)
- Toby Pinwill (Port Melbourne) (38)
- Brett Goodes (Williamstown) (32)
- Leigh Osborne (Frankston) (31)
- Kyle Hartigan (Werribee Tigers)
- Sam Dwyer (Port Melbourne) (5)
- Kris Pendlebury (Collingwood (9)
- Chris Cain (Port Melbourne) (20)
- Adam Cockie (Sandringham) (19)
- Matt O’Dwyer (Werribee Tigers) (25)
- Kane Lambert (Northern Blues (17)
- Dean Towers (North Ballarat) (46)
- Michael Sikora (Sandringham) (8)
- Stephen Witkowski (Williamstown) (14)
- Lachlan Delahunty (Frankston) (-)
- Andrew McLean (Geelong) (41)
- Matt Little (Bendigo Gold) (40)
- Troy Selwood (Geelong) (44)
- Michael Searl (North Ballarat) (-)
- Wayde Skipper (Port Melbourne) (29)
- Nick Meese (Northern Blues) (-)
- James Wall (Williamstown) (39)
- Jordan Williams (Bendigo Gold) (22)
- Stephen McCallum (Williamstown) (-)
- Daniel Pratt (Box Hill Hawks) (36)
- Adrian Bonaddio (Port Melbourne) (-)
- Michael Dillon (Port Melbourne) (-)
- Leigh Harding (Werribee Tigers) (-)
- Bill Driscoll (North Ballarat) (18)
- Jamie McNamara (Williamstown) (30)
- Jack Charleston (Williamstown) (-)
- Mitch Wooffindin (Port Melbourne) (-)
- Nick Carnell (Coburg Tigers) (47)
- Dylan Van Unen (Frankston) (-)
- Robbie Castello (Werribee Tigers) (-)
The Big Movers from Mid-Season
1. Luke Andrews (Box Hill Hawks) (-) to (16) – Andrews wasn’t even in the top 50 mid-way through the season and such was his startling rise in the second half of the season, Andrews has jumped into the top 20. Considered to be Box Hill’s best hope at the draft table this season, almost like a Isaac Smith story in the way he has rapidly developed.
2. Adam Marcon (Northern Blues) (27) to (5) – Certainly is one of the big stories of the top 10. There was big wraps on him during the pre-season and he has proved that he is worth a punt with a few AFL clubs already circling the youngster with leadership qualities. Is now definitely one of the best midfielders in the competition.
3. Billy Burstin (Port Melbourne) (33) to (11) – There is a certain amount of excitement about Burstin and his skill level has certainly matched his bursts of brilliance this season. Is creative, provides plenty of drive and would be in the top handful of players at Port now.
4. Lachlan Delahunty (Frankston) (-) to (30) – Tall wingman who has found his feet at Frankston this season. The Dolphins have five players in the Top 50 despite finishing on the bottom of the ladder such is their rise in on-field talent this season. Most are considered draft chances.
5. Nick Meese (Northern Blues) (-) to (36) – Much-improved ruckman who was worth his weight in gold for the Blues this season. Rewarded with being named ruckman in the VFL Team of the Year.
The Big Sliders from Mid-Season
1. Willie Wheeler (Coburg Tigers) (21) to (-) – Last season he was one of Coburg’s best on nearly every occasion. This season, perhaps he was more noticed by clubs and tagged out of matches. Didn’t seem the type of flashy player he was last year which will hurt his draft hopes.
2. Michael Sikora (Sandringham) (8) to (28) – Probably in similar fashion to Sandy’s season, the big ruckman was not as influential in the second half of the season and appeared to run out of puff at times. Another pre-season at the same destination will help him. Coach Simon McPhee said he still needs to significantly develop.
3. Bill Driscoll (North Ballarat) (18) to (44) – Although he looked dangerous at times, he just didn’t have the same effect kicking 32 goals in 17 matches. He was still the Roosters’ top goalscorer but perhaps suffered with the little supply going forward at times.
4. Wade Lees (Casey Scorpions) (26) to (-) – Suffered an injury mid-year that derailed his season. Will be looking to get back on track next season.
5. Matt Boland (Collingwood) (23) to (-) – Started off in a blaze of glory at his new club since crossing from Sandy with a few bags of goals but by the end of the season, he was one who struggled to get amongst the goals. A real learning curve for him.
In all of these exercises, there are always those who are unfortunate to miss out on a spot.
Trent Shinners, Tyson Thomas, Travis Tuck, David Mirra, Michael Stockdale, Jack Hellier, Jackson Coleman, Stephen Brewer, Ben Sharp, Hugh Sandilands, Adam Bentick – could all have been in the top 50 this season perhaps had it not been in some cases for injuries or poor form throughout the year.
Tell us what you think. Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below…would you have had John Baird at No.1? Who else should have been in the Top 50?
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