LEIGH Matthews isn't prone to hyperbole.
So there's few higher compliments Sam Mitchell could be paid than being labelled "great" by arguably the best player in VFL/AFL history.
"He's one of the very best that's ever played for Hawthorn. Great is a word that should be used sparingly (but) I think he's a great player," Matthews told AFL.com.au.
Typically, footballers in their 30s begin noticeably dropping off, but Mitchell isn't just bucking the trend – he's going the other way.
That's reflected in the AFL Players' Top 50, brought to you by Mars, where the 33-year-old has soared up the rankings to No.6 overall – climbing 12 places from last year.
Mitchell put together one of his finest campaigns in 2015, finishing third in the Brownlow Medal and racking up a career-high number of disposals.
But he's more architect than mere accumulator.
The ex-captain sees the game unfolding a step or two ahead of everyone else and boasts an innate sense of where teammates and opponents are situated around him in traffic.
Sam Mitchell evades Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe in season 2015. Picture: AFL Media
While Mitchell makes his teammates look better, he's long been underrated as an attacking threat.
Although he only kicked six goals last season, the wily veteran had the most score involvements of any non-forward in the competition, according to Champion Data.
Sam Mitchell's honour roll
|285 games||Four premierships (2008, 2013, 2014, 2015)|
|All Australian 2011, 2013, 2015||Club best and fairest 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012|
|Equal 2nd Brownlow Medal 2012, 3rd 2015||204 career Brownlow votes|
|NAB AFL Rising Star 2003||Liston Trophy 2002|
Blessed with masterful disposal on both sides of his body, he was also an elite distributor of the ball inside 50.
"I think the thing that separates him is he's one of those very rare, rare players who goes left or right (to kick or handball) equally without even thinking," Matthews said.
"There's some confusion, is he a left foot kick or a right foot kick? He kicks just as well with both feet.
"While he's never going to be an Olympic sprinter, he's got enormous sideways movement because he just automatically is prepared to go left or right.
"We always look at 'Mitch' and you can't help but think of Greg Williams of the previous generation who could go left or right without even thinking. (They're) not really quick in a straight line, but just have fantastic reflexes and a real quickness of mind."
Four-time flag-winner Mitchell is among the all-time greats, says Leigh Matthews. Picture: AFL Media
Since being overlooked in the 2000 draft, Mitchell has compiled an astonishing football CV, and furnished his reputation by steering the Hawks through choppy waters in last year's finals series.
He's now a four-time premiership player, has won four club champion awards, earned three All Australian gongs and placed top-three in the Brownlow Medal three times (and could yet be handed Jobe Watson's 2012 medal).
There's nothing to suggest he's finished yet.
The AFL Players' Top 50 is compiled with the support of the AFL Players' Association.