THE MOMENT Nat Fyfe became the best player in the game happened somewhere between the opening match of 2015 and round five that year.
Some observers were in no doubt after watching him tear apart Port Adelaide at Domain Stadium in round one, with his mix of ground level power, contested marking and skill setting a new standard.
A bullocking midfielder, Fyfe (r) has drawn comparisons with Lions great Michael Voss. Picture: AFL Media
For others, the moment Gold Coast superstar Gary Ablett went down with a shoulder injury in round two was the moment Fyfe took the mantle from the Little Master.
The conversation gained momentum over the next few weeks and by round five it was eventually revealed that the Brownlow medallist had netted 13 of a possible 15 votes. It was no longer a debate.
Now on the eve of the 2016 season, Fyfe's peers have voted him the game's No.1 player in the AFL Players' Top 50, brought to you by Mars.
The champion Docker is also No.1 in the Official AFL Player ratings, and the game's stars were onto Fyfe early when they declared him the AFLPA MVP in 2014.
"It's extremely humbling and a little bit embarrassing to be honest," Fyfe said when accepting that award from Perth.
"Obviously Gary Ablett, I think everyone still acknowledges he is the best player in the game."
Twelve months on, when accepting the 2015 Brownlow Medal in charming fashion, Fyfe seemed much more comfortable as the game's best.
A cane supported Fyfe's fractured leg on the 2015 Brownlow red carpet. Picture: AFL Media
Comparisons to the game's champions started early for Fyfe.
His first AFL coach Mark Harvey saw the similarities between Fyfe and his former Essendon teammate James Hird and set up a private meeting between the pair.
Carlton great Anthony Koutoufides is another popular comparison, given both players' ability to dominate both at ground level and in the air, and in multiple positions.
Others see the bullocking midfielder more in the mould of Brisbane Lions champion Michael Voss.
Nat Fyfe's honour roll
|112 games||95 goals|
|Brownlow Medal 2015||All Australian 2014, 2015|
|106 career Brownlow votes||Club best and fairest 2013, 2014|
Now that he is the game's best player, the comparisons have stopped and Fyfe is being appreciated not for what he reminds people of but simply for what he is.
If Fyfe edged ahead of Ablett during the first five rounds last year, he cemented his spot on the top of the podium with his next 10 games.
A corked thigh in round 15 sidelined the superstar for four of the last six games but there was a final twist in Fyfe's season in September.
In the first quarter of Fremantle's preliminary final against Hawthorn, the midfielder fractured the fibula in his left leg but battled on.
By the final siren he had nine clearances and had won 16 of his 24 possessions in contests. The AFL's new No.1 was the game's newest champion.
The AFL Players' Top 50 is compiled with the support of the AFL Players' Association.