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AFL Players' Top 50: The battle to be footy's No.1

Danger's journey to No.1 Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield takes out the top spot in the Players' Top 50 countdown

FOR ALL the rich storylines the 2016 season threw up, there was one battle that never eventuated, and we were all poorer for it. 

It was the battle the late Phil Walsh relished in 2015 when he proudly let his Adelaide superstar Patrick Dangerfield run head to head with Fremantle gun Nat Fyfe at Adelaide Oval.  

Fyfe was on top of the AFL world in that round nine clash, winning a season-high 40 possessions and kicking a goal. Dangerfield finished with 38 touches – also a season-high – and one goal. 

The rematch between the two was the most anticipated individual battle of 2016, but when Fyfe reinjured his previously broken left leg in round five, any chance of the pair reacquainting was over.  

Now fit and firing, Fyfe is happy to admit he was jealous watching Dangerfield dominate his first season with Geelong.

The Moggs Creek product swept all before him on the way to winning the 2016 Brownlow Medal, and has now been crowned the No.1 player in the AFL Players' Top 50, voted by the players themselves.

• Check out the complete 2017 AFL Players' Top 50

"I have to admit I do like the spice of playing with Patrick," Fyfe said at Fremantle’s season launch last week.

"I watched on with a bit of jealousy last year the way he went about his footy. I’m pretty intent to renew acquaintances."

How Dangerfield and Fyfe's Brownlow-winning seasons compare


Nat Fyfe 2015

Patrick Dangerfield 2016

20 24
28.8 31.7
8.7 6.6
Contested possessions
17.8 16.2
24 17
Inside 50s
4.4 8.1
4.2 5.1
Brownlow votes
31 35

The Dockers and Cats – and hopefully the 2015 and 2016 Brownlow medallists – square off in round one at Domain Stadium and again in round 14 at Simonds Stadium.

They are match-ups that could be crucial in a battle for the crown as the game's best player.

It's a title Dangerfield took from Fyfe last year. Can the Dockers superstar take it back?

- Nathan Schmook

3. Lance Franklin

Sydney Swans

Last year's ranking: 7
Official AFL Player Rating: 17
Debut: 2005
Games: 247
AFL Fantasy value: $569,000 

Two Dockers almost stop Franklin, the players' No.3. All pictures: AFL Photos

Franklin produced his best season as a Swan in 2016, playing further up the ground but still having a massive impact on the scoreboard, booting 81 goals in 26 games. It was his best return since 2011, but the added extras in Franklin's game now are what make him the competition's best forward. By pushing up the ground, Franklin averaged a career-high 4.46 inside 50s and 11.3 uncontested possessions. John Longmire can pull the trigger and send Franklin into the midfield whenever he likes, knowing he could change the game.

2. Nat Fyfe


Last year's ranking: 1
Official AFL Player Rating: 29
Debut: 2010
Games: 117
AFL Fantasy value: $595,000 

Fyfe in full flight - a sight much missed by fans in 2016. Pictures: AFL Photos

The players have not forgotten about the elevation in Fyfe's game in 2015, keeping him in their top two despite a 2016 ruined by injury. The 25-year-old managed just four and a half games before reinjuring the left leg he broke during the 2015 finals series, but he is back and seems determined to regain his No.1 mantle. Fyfe has also been handed the Fremantle captaincy as the club rebuilds. Revered for his training standards and ambition, it would hardly surprise to him reach a new level in 2017.  

1. Patrick Dangerfield


Last year's ranking: 3
Official AFL Player Rating: 1
Debut: 2008
Games: 178
AFL Fantasy value: $712,000 

Dangerfield trails Tigers in his wake on his way to No.1 spot in the AFL Players' Top 50. Pictures: AFL Photos

Dangerfield broke records on his way to the 2016 Brownlow Medal, polling a record 35 votes and matching the record nine three-vote games held by Fyfe and Greg Williams. The win gave him a clean sweep of individual awards, with the game's coaches and umpires all viewing him as the season's best - a verdict now matched by the AFL players themeselves. He averaged 31.7 disposals, 6.6 clearances, 16.2 contested possessions and 8.1 inside 50s. He did it all with a smile on his face and gave future free agents a blueprint on how to move clubs with class.

Who else made the cut in the AFL Players' Top 50?

50-41: Tough-as-nail Demon's time arrives

40-36: Magpie Treloar soars in the spotlight

35-31: What rising Blue Patrick Cripps still needs to improve

• 30-26: Baby Bomber Zach Merrett's next challenge

25-21: Who is the Giants' most valuable player?

20-16: The day Max Gawn became invincible

15-13: Tom Lynch versus the greats

12-10: How Sloane stepped up after Dangerfield

9-7: Why the Swans made Kennedy sole captain

6-4: Marcus Bontempelli's five finest finals moments

Want more?

• Check out the complete 2017 AFL Players' Top 50

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Who topped the count in 2016?