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The AFL players' top 50: Two Cats tumble as the countdown begins

March 1, 2016 7:04 AM

The players pick their best: 50-41 We reveal numbers 50-41 in the 2016 Players' Top 50

Who's next? Check out the rest of the AFL Players' Top 50 as they are revealed

IN THE eyes of his peers, is Gary Ablett still the game's No.1?

For the third year, on the eve of the premiership season we've presented the AFL players with the challenge of ranking the best 50 players in the League.

Players from all 18 clubs took part in the survey, with 90 players receiving at least one vote.

There are 15 newcomers in this year's AFL Players Top 50, brought to you by Mars - four of them key forwards.

Of the 15 players who dropped out of the list, two were Essendon players serving a season-long suspension. They were Jobe Watson (ranked 12 last year) and Dyson Heppell (ranked 15).

We start with players 50-41, with the countdown continuing until Friday, March 18, when the AFL's No.1 player – according to his peers – is revealed.

50. Dylan Shiel
Greater Western Sydney
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 79
Debut: 2012
Games: 64
AFL Fantasy value: $512,000

The gun midfielder resisted plenty of offers to re-sign with the Giants during the 2015 season and was on track for All Australian honours until a knee injury against St Kilda in round 15 ended his season. Shiel averaged more than 26 touches a game with his blistering pace and classy foot skills a highlight. He had 25 possessions or more in 11 of the 14 games he played – including five games with at least 30 – and finished seventh in the best and fairest. A full season from the on-baller will likely see him shoot up the ratings next year.

49. Marcus Bontempelli
Western Bulldogs
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 11
Debut: 2014
Games: 37
AFL Fantasy value: $511,000

The classy midfielder continued his ascent to stardom with an impressive second AFL season. Often tagged, Bontempelli still averaged 21 disposals and five tackles, while kicking 17 goals. His stellar year was acknowledged with a club-best 13 Brownlow Medal votes and a third placing in the best and fairest. A post-season contract extension will see the playmaker remain at Whitten Oval until at least the end of 2019. One of the most exciting players in the game, the 20-year-old will likely be a fixture on this list for the next decade.

48. Bernie Vince
Melbourne
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 115
Debut: 2006
Games: 172
AFL Fantasy value: $512,000

Vince capped an outstanding season by winning Melbourne's best and fairest, his second top club honour after winning Adelaide's count in 2009. In his second year at the Demons, Vince adapted to a new role as a run-with player in fine style – his battle with former teammate Patrick Dangerfield against Adelaide in round three was particularly notable. However, Vince was not just focused on tagging as he continually found a way to balance attack and defence. He averaged 24.7 disposals a game, with career-highs in tackles (4.8), clearances (5.3) and contested possessions (10.2) pointing to the more rounded inside/outside game he has developed.

47. Jack Riewoldt
Richmond
Forward
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 46
Debut: 2007
Games: 180
AFL Fantasy value: $429,000

The club's leading goalkicker for the sixth successive season, Riewoldt continued to mature into a fine leader in 2015. Playing a tweaked role further up the ground, he took more marks (144), won more uncontested possessions (166) and had more inside 50s (75) than in any of his previous eight seasons. His ability to play that role but still kick 54 goals saw him rewarded with his first All Australian selection since 2010. Underwent minor shoulder surgery in the off-season but was still expected to enjoy a full pre-season. Riewoldt started 2016 with a bang in an excellent performance against Hawthorn in the NAB Challenge and will look to keep that form up throughout the year.

46. Josh Gibson
Hawthorn
Defender
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 103
Debut: 2006
Games: 190
AFL Fantasy value: $472,000

Gibson’s 2015 campaign underlined why he is so valuable to the Hawks and why his recruitment from North Melbourne at the end of 2009 was a stroke of genius. He led the Hawks in marks (207) and time on the ground (98.9 per cent) and was in the top five for disposals, uncontested possessions, contested marks and rebound 50s. He won his second best and fairest (the first was 2013, another premiership season), first All Australian selection and played in his third successive flag. Being able to use Gibson as the third man up and defensive quarterback sets the team up beautifully. Signed a 12-month contract extension, but Gibson seems set to go for even longer after that.

45. Jack Steven
St Kilda
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 72
Debut: 2009
Games: 112
AFL Fantasy value: $618,000

It was a return to form for the key midfielder last year after a foot injury hampered his 2014. A full pre-season set Steven up to play every game in 2015. He led the team for inside 50s, score assists and involvements, while his work on the inside was up from the season prior. His prolific season as the Saints’ most consistent midfielder saw him claim his second best and fairest. In a huge win for the club, he resisted the temptation of free agency and signed a five-year contract in March.

44. Tom Hawkins
Geelong
Forward
Last year's ranking: 23
Official AFL Player Rating: 51
Debut: 2007
Games: 166
AFL Fantasy value: 364,000

It was a tough year for the big Cat, but he still kicked 46 goals in 19 games and retained his status as one of the game's premier power forwards. Hawkins can take a strong mark, but he is at his best when on the move, providing an outlet for the Cats' midfield. He fell 21 spots from last year's list but with Patrick Dangerfield bursting out of the midfield to kick it to Hawkins shaping as one of the most exciting combinations in the competition, Hawkins is well placed to shoot up the list next time round. At 27 and having signed a deal taking him through to the end of 2020, he will be a key figure in determining Geelong's premiership chances in this era.

43. Brent Harvey
North Melbourne
Forward
Last year's ranking: 26
Official AFL Player Rating: 10
Debut: 1996
Games: 409
AFL Fantasy value: $451,000

Climbed to second on the AFL's all-time games list last year but showed few signs of slowing down. The players may have noticed a slight drop off though, with Harvey falling 17 spots compared to last season. The 37-year-old is still a vital player with his speed and love of taking the opposition on. He remains as durable as ever, playing every game in 2015. He finished fourth in the best and fairest and led the club in possessions (571) and running bounces (47, third in the AFL). He kicked 24 goals (equal sixth at North) and had 14 goal assists (fifth). Needs to play 18 games in 2016 to break Michael Tuck's games record (426).

42. Nathan Jones
Melbourne
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: 31
Official AFL Player Rating: 74
Debut: 2006
Games: 201
AFL Fantasy value: $475,000

The skipper may have missed out on his fourth successive best and fairest but he still played at a very high standard. However, he slipped slightly in the eyes of his peers, with his ranking falling by 11 spots. Coach Paul Roos noted Jones took his game to new heights in terms of his leadership qualities. He averaged a tick under 24 disposals a game despite a prolapsed disc in his neck. As a result, Jones did not join full training until after the Christmas break. A warrior in the engine room, Jones' loyalty to the cause is unwavering.

41. Harry Taylor
Geelong
Defender
Last year's ranking: 25
Official AFL Player Rating: 67
Debut: 2008
Games: 180
AFL Fantasy value: $412,000

Did not have the impact he would have hoped for in 2015, experiencing flat form patches for the first time in his career. That dip was reflected by his ranking falling 16 places. A brilliant judge of a mark, he seemed to get caught out more than once by fleet-footed opponents who tried to exploit him with pace. Finished eighth in the best and fairest and still averaged 7.6 marks a game (seventh in the AFL), but apart from his dominant performance in round 10 against Essendon when he took 10 marks and had 33 disposals, failed to have his usual controlling influence. 

Who's next? Check out the rest of the AFL Players' Top 50 as they are revealed

The AFL Players' Top 50 is compiled with the support of the AFL Players' Association.