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Players' Top 50: Why McGovern could become a million-a-year defender

Jeremy McGovern: aerial aficionado West Coast's high-flyer comes in at No. 33 in the Players' Top 50 countdown

ANY DEFENDER will tell you it's a fine line between worrying about an opponent and knowing when to back your judgement.

Peeling off doesn't always come off – and looks bad when it comes undone – but Jeremy McGovern does it as well, if not better, than any other player in the competition.

The star West Coast defender has been recognised by his fellow players with a maiden berth at No.33 overall in the Players' Top 50, largely thanks to his uncanny ability to read what is unfolding down the field, break down opposition attacking moves and launch rebound plays from half-back.

Players 40-31 are revealed below, and you can click here to see the full Players' Top 50 as they are revealed

"I often get reminded to play on instinct. If I'm not, (coach Adam Simpson) notices pretty quickly," McGovern told AFL.com.au in September.

"Sometimes I get caught out, which is learning, but he really backs myself and a lot of the boys in."

The Eagles know rival clubs have their eye on prospective free agent McGovern. Picture: AFL Photos

McGovern has led the AFL for intercept marks per game over the past two years and cemented his status among the League's most valuable players, picking up his second All Australian blazer last year.

Jeremy McGovern's 2017
24 games 16.7 average disposals
All Australian No.2 key defender in the AFL Player Ratings

It is why West Coast will be desperate to lock-away the former rookie before he becomes a restricted free agent at season's end, with offers of around $1m or more per year expected to be dangled by rival clubs.

That might seem a lot of money for a backman, even one as good as McGovern, with whopping deals usually dealt out to superstar forwards and goalkicking midfielders.

But what is often overlooked is that McGovern is much more than simply a brilliant rebounder.

The 195cm Eagle is also arguably the best one-on-one defender in the competition.

Despite being pitted against some of the most dangerous forwards in the game, McGovern almost never loses a contest.

Last year, he was ranked No.1 in the AFL for defending one-on-one, losing just 7.5 per cent of his contests – significantly improving upon the 16.5 per cent he lost in 2016 (AFL No.3).

Brent Harvey helps McGovern into his All Australian jacket last September. Picture: AFL Photos

Still only 25 (he turns 26 next month) and with just 79 games under his belt, there is every reason to believe McGovern's best football is ahead of him.

Assuming the Albany product stays put, it's an exciting prospect for Eagles fans.

- Travis King

 
40. Dyson Heppell

Essendon
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: 26
Official AFL Player Rating: 231
Debut: 2011
Games: 129
AFL Fantasy value: $707,000

After a year out of the game following a suspension for his part in the 2012 supplements saga, the Bombers captain was typically industrious in 2017. Heppell averaged 26.4 disposals and 4.7 clearances per game, and was particularly influential in Essendon's finals run in the second half of the season.

39. Michael Walters

Fremantle
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 85
Debut: 2009
Games: 111
AFL Fantasy value: $560,000

Made the transition from lively forward to genuine midfield star in 2017, placing fifth in Fremantle's best and fairest despite missing the final five matches with a knee injury. Walters' speed added a new dimension to the Dockers' tough midfield group, with his 32-disposal, three clearance and six-goal effort against St Kilda in round 15 widely regarded as one of the best individual performances of the season.

38. Shaun Burgoyne

Hawthorn
Defender
Last year's ranking: 27
Official AFL Player Rating: 19
Debut: 2002
Games: 64
AFL Fantasy value: $573,000

The oldest player in the competition continues to perform at an elite level. The 35-year-old is blessed with a high footy IQ and his ability to play multiple positions makes Burgoyne an extremely important player for the Hawks. Has an uncanny ability to kick clutch goals in the dying minutes of games, as proven against the Swans in round 10 last season.

37. Bradley Hill

Fremantle
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 218
Debut: 2012
Games: 117
AFL Fantasy value: $660,000 

Hill won the Dockers' best and fairest in his first season at the club after being traded from Hawthorn. The speedster looked comfortable in familiar surroundings in Perth, averaging a career-high 23.6 disposals per game in 2017. His transition running is regarded as among the best in the AFL, while his aerobic/speed combination makes Hill a dangerous finisher through the midfield. Still only 24, Hill is a key part of Fremantle's rebuild.

36. Dan Hannebery

Sydney
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: 13
Official AFL Player Rating: 53
Debut: 2009
Games: 193
AFL Fantasy value: $665,000 

The tough midfielder was statistically down on what he had produced in the previous few seasons, but was still an important player for the Swans. Hannebery, who averaged 24.7 disposals per game in 2017, is part of one of the most formidable midfields in the AFL, alongside Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker. Hannebery is clean in traffic and puts his body in the line more often than he needs to.

35. Michael Hurley

Essendon
Defender
Last year's ranking: 45
Official AFL Player Rating: 79
Debut: 2009
Games: 140
AFL Fantasy value: $663,000

One of the AFL's best key defenders who finds a good balance between attack and defence. The All Australian centre half-back averaged a career-high 25.6 disposals and 6.9 rebounds per game in 2017, establishing himself as a presence in Essendon's backline. Hurley competes strongly in the air and has the ability to roost the football 50-60 metres to teammates upfield.

34. Marc Murphy

Carlton
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 132
Debut: 2006
Games: 236
AFL Fantasy value: $782,000 

Murphy, who is set to captain Carlton for a sixth-straight season, had an outstanding 2017 season which culminated in him winning his second best and fairest award. What is impressive about Murphy is that he never stops trying, no matter the situation in the game. He continually tries to create and keep the ball moving in his team's direction. His leadership will be important following Bryce Gibbs' departure to Adelaide. 

33. Jeremy McGovern

West Coast
Defender
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 29
Debut: 2014
Games: 79
AFL Fantasy value: $550,000

32. Clayton Oliver

Melbourne
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 71
Debut: 2016
Games: 35
AFL Fantasy value: $715,000

A breakout 2017 season for the young midfielder which saw him win his maiden best and fairest award. Improving his professionalism with attention to his training standards and diet proved to be major factors in his rise. In just his second season, Oliver stamped himself as one of the AFL's top inside midfielders, ranking No.1 in the AFL for handballs, No.7 for clearances and No.3 for contested possessions.

31. Jeremy Cameron

GWS
Forward
Last year's ranking: 30
Official AFL Player Rating: 87
Debut: 2012
Games: 112
AFL Fantasy value: $622,000 

The GWS spearhead is a proven goalkicker, booting 63 goals, 53 and 45 in his last three seasons at AFL level. With fellow forward Jon Patton starting to hit his straps, Cameron could really benefit. His agility for a player of his height (196cm) is impressive and he has an excellent vertical leap. If the Giants are to win the flag this year, they need Cameron to go to a new level.

Catch up

50-41: The man who must carry the Suns

Who's next?

• Check out the rest of the 2018 Players' Top 50 as they are revealed

• Players tip 2018's top five breakout stars

Who came top of the class in 2017's Players' Top 50?