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Players' Top 50: the unbreakable Rory Sloane

Rory Sloane: the footballer's footballer Adelaide's hard-nosed midfielder comes in at No. 9 in the Players' Top 50 countdown

RORY Sloane is a Rolls Royce disguised as a trusty ute.

Dependable, hard-working and near-on unbreakable. But also elite, game-breaking and inspirational.

The Adelaide vice-captain could attract offers of up to $1 million a season on the free agency market this year. You'd expect nothing less for one of the competition's best midfielders.

Despite the recent emergence of the Crouch brothers at West Lakes, Sloane remains Adelaide's most influential onballer and one of the most reliable performers in the AFL.

Sloane's ability to impose himself on games and lift his teammates is rated so highly by his peers that he climbed to ninth in this season's Players’ Top 50 poll, up from 11th last year.

Players 10-6 are revealed below, and you can click here to see the full Players' Top 50 as they are revealed

The 2016 All Australian's most eye-catching attribute is the wholehearted way he attacks each contest.

He is a raging bull at stoppages. Last season, he led the Crows in average clearances (6.3 a game, equal 12th in the AFL) and centre clearances (2.6, equal 10th).

Rory Sloane leaves Essendon's Dyson Heppell sprawling. Picture: AFL Photos

He works harder defensively than any other elite midfielder. In 2017, he averaged three pressure acts a game – the next best midfielder was Nat Fyfe with 2.7, while Joel Selwood and Trent Cotchin averaged 1.7, Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Martin and Sydney's Josh Kennedy one – and was ranked equal third in the competition for average tackles (7.8).

But Sloane is also a potent offensive force.

He can tear opposition zones apart with gut-busting runs up and down the ground, while he pumped the ball inside the Crows' forward 50 more than any other player last season (4.5 a game, equal 13th in the AFL).

Sloane is dangerous going forward, relentless pushing back. Picture: AFL Photos

The Victorian also enjoyed his most productive year in front of goal in 2017, kicking a sharp-shooting 20.7. Among the competition's full-time midfielders, Sloane's return was topped by only Dangerfield (45 goals), Martin (37) and Dayne Zorko (34), while he equalled the tally of renowned goalkicker Marcus Bontempelli and topped those of Cotchin, Fyfe (both 17), Kennedy (16), Gary Ablett (eight) and Joel Selwood (seven).   

Rory Sloane's 2017
24 games 24.2 avg disposals
All Australian nominee 20 Brownlow votes

Sloane is the biggest reason why Adelaide has moved on so seamlessly from Dangerfield's departure to Geelong at the end of 2015.

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The Crows will be desperate to ensure Sloane does not follow his good friend's lead and move home to Victoria.

There is no shortage of high-end interest among Melbourne clubs. Sloane's age – he turns 28 on Saturday - might deter some rebuilding teams, but most others have their hats in the ring to varying degrees.

Despite recent reports in Adelaide that Sloane was close to re-signing, it's understood he is in no rush to make a call on his future.

Sloane says contract call is not a simple process

It will be another anxious wait for the Crows, who will be hoping that this time their best midfielder opts to stay.

- Nick Bowen

 
10. Josh Kennedy

Sydney
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: 7
Official AFL Player Rating: 4
Debut: 2008
Games: 204
AFL Fantasy value: $690,000

Polled the fourth most votes in last year's Brownlow, which supported the belief the Swans captain had another ripping season despite surprisingly being overlooked for the All Australian team. Considered to be one of the game's best inside midfielders, Kennedy ranked inside the top five in the League for contested possessions, first possessions and clearances, despite missing three games with injury last season.

9. Rory Sloane

Adelaide
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: 11
Official AFL Player Rating: 5
Debut: 2009
Games: 165
AFL Fantasy value: $754,000

8. Joel Selwood

Geelong
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: 4
Official AFL Player Rating: 12
Debut: 2007
Games: 249
AFL Fantasy value: $670,000

Missing the last three games of last season after ankle surgery didn't stop the Cats captain from being named All Australian for the sixth time. Was typically in and under, ranking elite for contested possessions and centre clearances, and simply got the job done while working in tandem with his team's other midfield heavyweight, Patrick Dangerfield.

7. Gary Ablett

Geelong
Midfielder
Last year's ranking: 8
Official AFL Player Rating: 47
Debut: 2002
Games: 302
AFL Fantasy value: $837,000

Won his fourth Suns best and fairest last year in his final season at the club, despite missing eight games with shoulder and hamstring problems. Has returned to the Cattery for an emotional homecoming after seven seasons away, and will add class to the Geelong midfield and attacking structure if his body can stay sound, which carries an automatic question mark given he's played just 49 of a possible 88 games across the past four years.

6. Alex Rance

Richmond
Defender
Last year's ranking: 10
Official AFL Player Rating: 22
Debut: 2009
Games: 175
AFL Fantasy value: $458,000

The game's best key defender had another cracker of a season in 2017 where he played every game and added a premiership medal to his trophy cabinet. Earned his fourth consecutive All Australian guernsey, and was named captain of that all-star team. Easily ranked No.1 in the competition for intercept possessions but was also a force when it came to one-on-one contests. A proven match winner for the Tigers and a crucial cog in their defence.

Catch up on the 2018 Players' Top 50

50-41: The man who must carry the Suns

40-31: Why McGovern is a million-a-year defender

30-21: From carefree mid to Giant killer

20-16: Joe Daniher's secret weapon

15-11: Can the Bont regain his bite?

• Players tip 2018's top five breakout stars

Who's next?

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