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Over the hill or improving with age? Your club's 30-somethings assessed

David Mundy and Matthew Pavlich are both chasing an elusive flag before Freo's window shuts - ${keywords}
David Mundy and Matthew Pavlich are both chasing an elusive flag before Freo's window shuts


Scott Thompson: At 32, Thompson is by far the most experienced player on the Crows' list, with 285 senior matches. His contested possession game remains elite and without Patrick Dangerfield it will have to remain so in 2016. He averaged almost 27 touches in 21 games last year as if to prove to any doubters that he still had it. - Harry Thring 


Daniel Merrett: Reinstated to the leadership group, Merrett will be the rock in the Lions' backline. Now 31, he still has explosive speed and strength and will be a crucial voice around emerging youngsters Harris Andrews, Justin Clarke, Darcy Garinder and Dan McStay. – Michael Whiting


Kade Simpson: Veteran whose experience will be invaluable. One of the game’s most durable and courageous players was used mostly as a running half-back in 2015 and had another consistent year, finishing seventh in the club best and fairest award. Simpson, 31, is contracted until the end of this season. - Howard Kotton


Dane Swan: After an injury-plagued, below-par 2013, the Brownlow medallist bounced back in fine style last year. Will turn 32 on February 25 and coach Nathan Buckley told Swan would spend increasing time up forward as the Pies spread the load in a deepening midfield, so a 30-odd-goal season could be on the cards. Contracted to season's end, the champ has suggested that he will play on next year if he remains injury-free and feels he is still contributing. - Ben Collins 


Adam Cooney: The veteran midfielder battled hamstring injuries in 2015, which in part kept him to just 11 games. In the final year of his contract, the 30-year-old will be called on regularly to provide a helping hand to his younger teammates.
Ryan Crowley: Signed as the Bombers' first top-up player, Crowley did not play a game in 2015 due to a 12-month ban for breaching the AFL's anti-doping code. The Bombers reached out to the 31-year-old to add a hard edge through the midfield.
Brendon Goddard: Elected as captain following Jobe Watson's suspension for doping. Goddard, 30, has immense experience and his leadership style will be interesting to track, considering he has been criticised in the past for being too demonstrative towards teammates.
James Kelly: The three-time premiership Cat, 32, thought long and hard before committing to the Bombers as a top-up player. With 273 games of experience behind him, Kelly's job will be to help mentor the club's young players and show them the uncompromising nature required to play at the top-level.
Matthew Stokes: It is understood the 31-year-old wanted to continue his 189-game career at Geelong but the club decided to move in a different direction. Stokes, a dual premiership player at the Cats, will bring a light-hearted personality and a professional attitude in his one season as a top-up Bomber.
*Jobe Watson, 30, received a season-long ban for taking banned substance Thymosin Beta-4. - Ben Guthrie


Jonathon Griffin: Performed very well in the finals series after assuming the second ruck role late in the season and is set to start 2016 in that role after a good summer. The 30-year-old has fully recovered from the knee reconstruction he had in 2013 and is contracted until the end of 2017.
Michael Johnson: The 31-year-old was voted back into the Dockers' leadership group for the coming season after a five-year absence. Remains a very important figure in defence, particularly following the retirement of Luke McPharlin. Has spent some time in the rehab group during the summer but it has been purely precautionary. Contracted until the end of 2017.
David Mundy: Has assumed the captaincy for 2016 on the back of a player vote after Matthew Pavlich stood down. Mundy, 30, is one of the competition's best midfielders and was named All Australian last season. His body is in very good shape and he is contracted until the end of 2017.
Matthew Pavlich: He was close to retiring at the end of last season but elected to play one more year. At 34 he is the oldest player on the club's list and will remain in the leadership group despite relinquishing the captaincy. Will need to be managed through the season but has been a regular participant during the pre-season.
Aaron Sandilands: Has just turned 33, but seems to be getting better with age. He won the Dockers' best and fairest last year after an outstanding season and enters 2016 in great shape after no off-season surgery. He comes out of contract at the end of the season but has not made any decisions on his future. – Alex Malcolm


Jimmy Bartel: The star utility was restricted to just 11 games last year after injuring the medial ligament in his left knee. Bartel, 32, has been training strongly this pre-season and appears to have trimmed down in preparation for 2016. With versatility his strong suit, Bartel will again be used wherever needed.
Corey Enright: The veteran Cat needs to play 17 games in 2016 to overtake Ian Nankervis and become Geelong's games record holder. At 33, Enright is still one of the game's best rebounding small defenders. This year will almost certainly be the three-time premiership star's final season.
Tom Lonergan: The miserly defender is in the final season of his contract but he remains an important part of Geelong's back six. The 31-year-old's role is crucial in allowing Harry Taylor and now Lachie Henderson to be more daring in the back half.
Andrew Mackie: The 31-year-old signed a two-year deal in September and is in full training. He is eager to make more of an impact after being bothered by a quad complaint for much of 2015. Could be released further up the ground this season. - Ben Guthrie

Gold Coast

Gary Ablett: Almost a certainty to retain the Suns' captaincy for a sixth straight season, Ablett will also be out to reclaim his title as the game's best player. Fit and firing after a knee injury cut his 2015 season short, the 31-year-old has lost none of his speed, evasion or strength.
Nick Malceski: Had a disappointing first season at Gold Coast that was hampered by a persistent knee problem. Malceski, 31, improved late in the year and is now niggle-free. Will be expected to orchestrate the Suns' attack from their back half.
Michael Rischitelli: Recently turning 30, Rischitelli is fresh off a second straight strong year. With its midfield prime movers returning from injury, he may have to settle for a lesser role, but one of the club's most respected figures still has a place in Gold Coast's best team. - Michael Whiting 


Steve Johnson: The 32-year-old brought 253 games, three flags and a wealth of knowledge to the Giants and the players have raved about his leadership qualities since arriving at the club. Kicked 30 goals from 20 games in 2015 and will be brilliant for the young forwards.
Joel Patfull: The former Lion, 31, had a massive impact in his first season despite a serious injury in round 11, and will again be important as a key defender this year. Has recovered from an off-season bike accident and is back in full training.
Heath Shaw: The reigning club champion raised his game to a new level in 2015 playing as a running defender, but also played shut-down roles, including a stellar effort on Eddie Betts. The 30-year-old demands high standards from his teammates and his leadership will be crucial if GWS is to play finals. – Adam Curley 


Shaun Burgoyne: The 33-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down. Remarkably, Burgoyne did not miss a match in 2015, averaging 19 disposals per game. On Grand Final day he notched up his 31st finals appearance, the equal second most finals played in AFL/VFL history. This season could very well be his last, as the Hawks try to manage the retirements of their elder statesmen. Is set to play his 300th game in round five against Adelaide.
Josh Gibson: If his 2015 season is anything to go by, Gibson could play on for another couple of years at least. A key pillar of Hawthorn's defence, he won the club's best and fairest last season, averaging eight marks and 22 disposals a game. He played 25 of the Hawks' 26 match in 2015 and was ranked No.1 in the League for total time spent on ground per game. The 31-year-old is set to play his 200th AFL game in round 10 against the Lions, and is contracted until the end of this season.
Luke Hodge: Despite speculation in the off-season that it was time for Hodge to relinquish the captaincy, the three-time premiership skipper was once again given the nod by coach Alastair Clarkson and the playing group. The 31-year-old, on the advice of former assistant Adam Simpson, has dropped one kilogram in weight every year for the past three seasons to help prolong his career. And it's worked. Hodge finished fourth in the best and fairest and remained relatively injury free throughout 2015. In fact, the five games he missed through suspension probably helped to keep his body fresh. Hodge is entering his 15th season after signing a one-year contract extension in April last year. 
Sam Mitchell: Mitchell spent most of the 2015 season playing at half-back and the positional change seemed to reinvigorate the 33-year-old. The former captain averaged 31 disposals per game, his best figures since his career began in 2002. He finished third in the Peter Crimmins Medal and was also ranked No.1 in the League for total effective disposals. Mitchell is set to notch up his 300th game in round 16 after the Hawks' bye, and while he is in the final year of his contract, he could very well play on beyond 2016. - Nat Edwards


Bernie Vince: Has made a great impression in his two seasons at Melbourne. The 30-year-old won the club best and fairest in 2015 and was the difference on occasions. His tagging job on Patrick Dangerfield in round three last season showed outsiders his commitment to the cause. Averaging 24 disposals a game last season, he had a good mix between contested and uncontested possessions and was a handy clearance player. Despite battling hamstring tendinitis (which was a problem last pre-season, too) and a broken finger in the pre-season he is close to full training and should perform well again. - Peter Ryan 

North Melbourne

Michael Firrito: Despite being a mainstay of the Roos' defence, Firrito had a nervous wait last year before putting pen to paper on a one-year deal to play this season. The durable 32-year-old will no doubt have to prove himself again in 2016, but he remains underrated outside the club for his versatility on smalls and talls.
Brent Harvey: The little champ had to justify being handed a new contract last season and Harvey passed the test in flying colours, positioning himself to break Michael Tuck's longstanding VFL/AFL record of 426 games by round 19. In key moments and big matches, there's arguably still no more influential Roo than 'Boomer', who turns 38 in May.   
Drew Petrie: Wasn't happy with his slow start to last year but fought back admirably to kick 42 majors and earned a one-year contract extension. Petrie's future will probably be decided on a year-by-year basis now, but the 33-year-old enters the season as North's No.1 tall attacker and crucial to the Roos' flag hopes.
Nick Dal Santo: A meticulous preparer and class act on the field, Dal Santo, 32 next month, will again hold a key to North's fortunes this season. The silky left-footer's poise and experience has been invaluable for the Roos and, provided he avoids injury, extending his contract beyond 2016 should be on the cards.
Jarrad Waite: Was a key player in finals, justifying the Roos' free agency pursuit, and his future will be a major talking point with his contract expiring this year. Looks to have overcome injury issues that plagued him at Carlton and, after 42 goals, combined with an improved defensive presence in 2015, the soon-to-be 33-year-old seems rejuvenated.
Daniel Wells: Cut down by foot and Achilles injuries over the past two seasons, Wells, 31 in February, enters 2016 in the last year of his contract and with queries about his longevity hanging over his head. The silky-smooth midfielder is still one of the Roos' best ball users when he gets on the park. Coach Brad Scott recently told he was optimistic about Wells' playing future. - Travis King

Port Adelaide

Jay Schulz: He appeared destined for Fremantle late last year only to sign a new one-year deal with the Power. A back injury restricted Schulz in 2015 but the 30-year-old will still play an important part in Port's forward line this year, particularly given the season-long suspension of former Bomber Patrick Ryder. - Harry Thring


Ivan Maric: Still the Tigers' No.1 big man at 30, Maric is coming off a 22-game season, the highest tally of his career. It is expected Maric, who has trained this summer to be more combative in his role, will ruck on his own less in 2016, with Shaun Hampson a possible sidekick.  
Troy Chaplin: Having missed just two of a possible 69 games in the past three seasons, Chaplin has given great service since joining the club on a four-year deal. The 30-year-old has stepped out of the leadership group in 2016, however, and fellow defender Alex Rance is now the backline chief. There are no signs Chaplin won't deliver another consistent season in 2016. - Nathan Schmook

St Kilda

Sean Dempster: Should still be considered among the best third-tall defenders in the AFL given his ability to intercept mark (No.3 in the AFL in 2015). The 32-year-old is a leader at St Kilda in his preparation and has also played a part in formulating the players' fitness program for this season.  
Sam Fisher: The oldest player on St Kilda's list, Fisher will turn 34 in July. He had also been among the most injury-cursed in recent seasons before bouncing back to play 18 games in 2015. Fit and important this season after Jake Carlisle's season-long ban. 
Leigh Montagna: Still durable at 32, Montagna has maintained a high standard since entering his 30s. He averaged 29 possessions in 2015 (19 uncontested) and is vital as a mentor to a young core of emerging onballers. Is enjoying another strong pre-season.
Nick Riewoldt: All-but guaranteed the captaincy again in 2016, Riewoldt appears reinvigorated leading a spirited young team. In the last year of his contract, he is trim and set for more time on a wing in 2016. Set to play his 300th game in round two. - Nathan Schmook

Sydney Swans

Ben McGlynn: Soft-tissue injuries limited the 30-year-old to just nine games last season and just three after round eight. Extremely valuable to the side and played both of the Swans' finals, but still hasn't joined the main group this pre-season so is starting 2016 a long way back.
Jarrad McVeigh: Post-season knee surgery has limited the co-captain to gym work but McVeigh, 30, finally starting running this week and will ramp up his training in the next month. Just about the Swans' most professional trainer so the club expects him to be very close to playing round one.
Ted Richards: The 33-year-old defender's likely final pre-season has been solid and he's still the club's most reliable key back. The recruitment of former Bulldog Michael Talia and emergence of younger brother Xavier will keep Richards on his toes but he played 22 games last year and will be a vital player again. – Adam Curley  

West Coast

Sam Butler: The last remaining Eagle from the 2006 premiership side recently turned 30 and continues to play on one-year contracts. He played 17 matches last year, the most he has managed in a season across his 12-year career to-date. He works to his own program during the summer, his body is in good shape and his experience remains an important asset to the Eagles' defence.   
Matt Priddis: Turns 31 on the eve of round one and despite being the oldest player on the Eagles' list, he is still one of their very best and one of the elite midfielders of the competition. Finished second in the Brownlow Medal last year after winning in 2014 and was named All Australian. Narrowly finished second in the Eagles' best and fairest despite missing a game. Looks set to play his 200th game in round three against Fremantle and is showing no signs of slowing down. – Alex Malcolm

Western Bulldogs

Jed Adcock: Picked up as a rookie to add some experience and leadership to a young list, the former Lions skipper's arrival is even more important now that Stewart Crameri is suspended for the season. The 30-year-old's versatility will come in handy.
Matthew Boyd: The 33-year-old was a revelation across half-back last season, giving his younger teammates plenty of direction while averaging 27 disposals a game. Will once again be a key component if his battle-weary body stands up.
Will Minson: With Luke Beveridge demanding versatility in his players, the 30-year-old was dropped twice last season for a more mobile ruckman. Out of contract as season's end, the Bulldogs' fan favourite is 11 games short of a much-deserved 200-game milestone.
Dale Morris: Punching above his weight for much of his highly respected career, the 33-year-old is better suited to playing on smaller opponents these days. Still a formidable competitor and a great role model for the club's emerging key defenders.
Robert Murphy: The evergreen playmaker is showing no signs of slowing down after arguably playing his best football in 2015 and earning All Australian honours with his work across half-back. The 33-year-old reveled in the captaincy with infectious love of the club and game quickly spread throughout his young side. – Ryan Davidson  

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs