Willem Drew and Beau McCreery. Picture: AFL Photos

THEY are the game's quiet achievers who don't get the recognition they deserve.

The reliable defenders, the hard-running half-forwards and the tough midfielders who go under-the-radar as the game's big stars get the votes, the accolades and the attention.


But what exactly does 'underrated' look like? In determining who fits the bill at each club, we set some criteria to properly capture players who don't get enough recognition, either from inside their clubs, from recruiters or from the umpires on Brownlow night. To qualify, players must have:

•    Never been an All-Australian
•    Not been a top-10 draft pick
•    Never been a club best-and-fairest winner
•    Never got more than five Brownlow votes in a season
•    Played at least 50 games

Check out your club's most underrated player below

Mitch Hinge

Draft: Pick No.20, 2016 Rookie Draft
Games: 50
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Equal fourth (2023)

Hinge arrived at the Crows as a delisted free agent after playing just three games for Brisbane and has become an important and steady presence in Adelaide's defence. A penetrating left-foot kick, Hinge's ball use coming out of the back half is a vital part of the Crows' ball movement. After a strong finish to last year, Hinge is averaging a career-high 22 disposals, 4.6 marks and 3.1 tackles to begin 2024. His teammate Wayne Milera also deserves a mention, although injuries have hindered the 26-year-old. - Dejan Kalinic

Mitch Hinge kicks the ball during Adelaide's clash against Fremantle in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Brandon Starcevich

Draft: Pick No.18, 2017 Draft
Games: 104
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Third (2022)

The numbers in the statistics columns might not be huge but in the recent games played list, Starcevich is a leader at the Lions. The reliable defender has missed just two games since the beginning of 2020, second only to Charlie Cameron, and while he doesn't have Charlie's pizzazz - or his own song - Starcevich would be just as high on Chris Fagan's hit parade. Injuries have kept the spotlight off veterans Lincoln McCarthy and Ryan Lester at different stages of their careers, but both are also crucial cogs in Brisbane's side. – Howard Kimber

Brandon Starcevich in action during the round one match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, March 17, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Matt Cottrell

Draft: 2019 pre-season supplemental period
Games: 61
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Never top 10

The hard-running half-forward with the epic goal celebrations has swiftly become a cult hero at Carlton, but doesn't yet have broad recognition outside the club. Cottrell, who recently re-signed for three more years, has kicked 32 goals from his 61 appearances but it's his gut-busting tenacity and defensive abilities that are highly valued inside the club. Another underrated player is Lachie Fogarty, who had an injury-plagued start to life at the Blues after crossing from Geelong but has established himself as a high-pressure forward despite not getting many accolades outside the club. - Brandon Cohen

Matthew Cottrell celebrates during the round four match between Fremantle and Carlton at Adelaide Oval, April 6, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Beau McCreery

Draft: Pick No.44, 2020 Draft
Games: 67
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Never Top 10

We could have gone in several directions for the Pies - Brody Mihocek's consistency, Jeremy Howe's leadership in the backline and Will Hoskin-Elliott's poise and team-first attitude are all worth acknowledging - but we've opted for their speedy forward. Taken with pick No.44 in 2020, McCreery's importance to the Magpies' side can't be understated. Above all else it's his relentless pressure that has become a hallmark throughout his 67 games, with his average of 4.7 tackles a game this season a career high. Whether up forward or running through the middle, McCreery has quickly become the ultimate team man at the Pies. - Alison O'Connor

Beau McCreery kicks a goal during Collingwood's clash with Greater Western Sydney in round 15, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Sam Durham

Draft: Pick No.9, 2021 Mid-Season Draft
Games: 55
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Ninth (2023)

The 22-year-old's status is quickly growing, particularly after playing a crucial role on Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli in a crucial win earlier this season. Drafted mid-season in 2021, Durham initially grabbed his spot with the Bombers on a wing, showing off his hard running both ways. But 2024 has seen him handed a greater responsibility through the midfield, and his importance around stoppages has already been on show. Also growing at the Bombers is Jye Caldwell, while Kyle Langford may still be underrated despite kicking 51 goals in 2023. - Dejan Kalinic

Sam Durham celebrates with fans after the R1 match between Essendon and Hawthorn at the MCG on March 16, 2024, Picture: AFL Photos

Alex Pearce

Draft: Pick No.37, 2013 Draft
Games: 114
Career Brownlow votes: 4
Highest B&F finish: Fourth (2022)

The Fremantle skipper is about as reliable as they come down back and is putting together arguably his best season yet. Pearce has been key to the Dockers' solid start to 2024, not only locking down the opposition's best forward each week but owning almost every contest he's involved in. He's been in the most contested one-on-ones this year (32) in the League, losing just nine of those. Other quiet-achieving Dockers include forward Sam Switkowski, who averages 6.6 tackles this season ranking him as elite, hard-running defender Jordan Clark and 2020 rookie selection Bailey Banfield. - Alison O'Connor

Alex Pearce dives to smother the ball during the match between Port Adelaide and Fremantle at Adelaide Oval in R5, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Zach Guthrie

Draft: Pick No.33, 2016 Rookie Draft
Games: 84
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Fourth (2023)

A late rookie draft selection who played just 20 games in his first four years, Guthrie's AFL career was never going to be as a headline act. However, he's now established in the side and on a streak of 48 consecutive games, including the 2022 premiership, and is in career best form. Guthrie was recognised internally with a fourth-place finish in last year's best and fairest, but with names like Dangerfield, Hawkins, Cameron and Stewart playing beside him, he still goes under the radar outside Kardinia Park. The only two other Cats to play every game last year, Gryan Miers and Tom Atkins, have also received less attention than their reliable and ever-improving contributions deserve. – Howard Kimber

Zach Guthrie celebrates a goal during the R23 match between St Kilda and Geelong at Marvel Stadium on August 19, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Wil Powell

Draft: Pick No.19, 2017 Draft
Games: 94
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Second (2021)

There are so many big-name draftees at Gold Coast it can be hard for others to get noticed, but Powell is doing his best. After playing every game in 2021 and finishing runner up in the club best and fairest, injuries have cut into his last two campaigns. However, when he's out there the Suns are a better unit, proven by the fact the five games he missed last year were all losses. No doubt Damien Hardwick will have big plans for Powell in Gold Coast's quest for finals and expect his personal sun to rise alongside the club's. Nick Holman is another lost in the star-studded line-up, but there's no doubt his name is one of the first written on the team list each week. – Howard Kimber

Wil Powell in action during the Opening Round match between Gold Coast and Richmond at People First Stadium, March 9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Connor Idun 

Draft: Pick No.61, 2018 Draft
Games: 75
Career Brownlow votes: 1
Highest B&F finish: Sixth (2023)

Now a regular in a strong Giants defence, Idun gets few plaudits, given he is surrounded by the likes of Sam Taylor and Lachie Whitfield in the back half. But the powerful and athletic defender has established himself as one of the Giants' most important players, capable of playing on both tall and small forwards. One of Idun's defensive partners, Jack Buckley, also deserves a mention among the Giants' most underrated players and could have easily been our pick here. - Dejan Kalinic

Connor Idun in action during Greater Western Sydney's clash against West Coast in round two, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Blake Hardwick

Draft: Pick No.44, 2015 Draft
Games: 154
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Second (2021 & 2018)

Hardwick is the ultimate team man and one of Hawthorn's most reliable players. Despite a relatively low profile outside the club, the 26-year-old is one of the first names picked each week by Sam Mitchell and has clocked up more than 150 games, most of which have been spent shutting down the opposition's best small forward with a minimum of fuss. Could this finally be the year he breaks his Brownlow drought following a four-goal haul against Collingwood in Gather Round? Dylan Moore is another who seems to fly under the radar but is a crucial part of the Hawks' set-up. - Brandon Cohen

Blake Hardwick celebrates a goal against Collingwood in round four, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Alex Neal-Bullen

Draft: Pick No.40, 2014 Draft
Games: 160
Career Brownlow votes: 3
Highest B&F finish: Sixth (2023)

In a team full of superstars, the ultra-reliable Neal-Bullen continues to be a quiet achiever for the Demons with his relentless forward pressure a focal point of his game. The South Australian recorded 24 tackles inside 50 last year, third only to the League-leading Kysaiah Pickett and fellow small forward Kade Chandler. Dead-eye forward Bayley Fritsch is another Demon to exceed all expectations after being plucked from Melbourne's VFL affiliate Casey in 2017, leading his side's goalkicking for the past four seasons, despite playing just 17 of a possible 25 games in 2023. - Alison O'Connor

Jack Viney, Alex Neal-Bullen and Kade Chandler celebrate a goal in the match between Melbourne and Brisbane at the MCG on April 11, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Bailey Scott

Draft: Pick No.49, 2018 draft
Games: 85
Career Brownlow votes: 5
Highest B&F finish: Third (2023 & 2022)

While most of the focus at North is on their high draft picks, Bailey Scott has quietly become a highly reliable player for the Roos, missing just two of the club's past 63 games. The son of Roos premiership player Robert Scott, the utility has played in a variety of roles in recent years, including half-back, half-forward and on the wing. The 23-year-old has finished third in the past two Syd Barker Medals but continues to go under the radar outside the four walls at Arden St. - Martin Smith

Bailey Scott handballs during North Melbourne's clash against Collingwood in round 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Willem Drew

Draft: Pick No.33, 2016 Draft
Games: 85
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Fourth (2023)

It's no disgrace to be somewhat forgotten in a midfield that includes Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Jason Horne-Francis, but Willem Drew's influence at the Power should not be underestimated. Despite the star-studded teammates around him, the 25-year-old leads the Power for tackles in 2024 and is in the top handful for contested possessions as well, and is a key part of the Power's premiership plans for this season. Surely a first ever Brownlow vote can't be too far away. - Martin Smith

Willem Drew under pressure from Kade Chandler during the match between Port Adelaide and Melbourne at Adelaide Oval in round three, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Nathan Broad

Draft: Pick No.67, 2015 Draft
Games: 132
Career Brownlow votes: 2
Highest B&F finish: Equal ninth (2023)

It's hard to be underrated with three premiership medallions in the trophy cabinet, but before leaving the club last year coach Damien Hardwick said of Broad, "It's funny … whilst in our four walls he's really highly regarded, he probably doesn't get the respect outside that." And Broad doesn't ask anyone to notice him, going about his job each week with a minimum of fuss and maximum effect, and at 31 is as reliable as ever. Fellow three-flag defender Nick Vlastuin (who was a top 10 pick) has managed to keep his head below the ramparts for most of his 217-game career, and is only now receiving regular plaudits for his intercept marking. – Howard Kimber

Tiger Nathan Broad with the premiership cup after Richmond's Grand Final victory. Picture: AFL Photos

Josh Battle

Draft: Pick No.39, 2016 Draft
Games: 107
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: 10th (2023 & 2022)

After being thrown around early in his career, Battle has settled in defence and made his mark with the Saints. His ability to play different roles in defence, including as the interceptor, makes him an important part of the St Kilda line-up and he is a key ally down back for the equally reliable Callum Wilkie. Jimmy Webster, who returns this week from a long suspension, is also an underrated player in Ross Lyon's team. - Dejan Kalinic

Josh Battle in action during St Kilda's clash against Collingwood in round two, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

James Rowbottom

Draft: Pick No.25, 2018 Draft
Games: 100
Career Brownlow votes: 0
Highest B&F finish: Third (2023 & 2022)

Having never polled a Brownlow vote in his 100-game career, Rowbottom is the definition of underrated, a tag he himself says is a 'badge of honour’' While the external accolades don't often come for the tough midfielder, those at Sydney are in no doubt as to his value; teammate Chad Warner recently said if he was picking a midfield from scratch, Rowbottom would be the first name on his list. Small forward Will Hayward and reliable defenders Ollie Florent and Harry Cunningham also fit the bill at the Swans, with all three regular first-team selections despite getting little outside acclaim. - Martin Smith

James Rowbottom celebrates a goal during round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Jamie Cripps

Draft: Pick No.24, 2010 Draft
Games: 235
Career Brownlow votes: 12
Highest B&F finish: Fourth (2018)

How can a 31-year-old who is in his 14th AFL season and has played 235 games be underrated? Somehow, he is, certainly by those outside of WA. The tireless half-forward has set the standard for his teammates on and off the field over a number of years, and has booted 294 goals as a more-than-handy foil to the big guys in attack. A premiership player in 2018, Cripps is now also working as a mentor to the younger forwards in the group. He kicked a match-winning five goals in West Coast's upset win over the Western Bulldogs late last season, earning him three of his 12 career Brownlow votes. - Brandon Cohen

Jamie Cripps celebrates after scoring a goal during the R5 match between West Coast and Richmond at Optus Stadium on April 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Cody Weightman

Draft: Pick No.15, 2019 Draft
Games: 66
Career Brownlow votes: 3
Highest B&F finish: Never top 10

With so much focus on the big Dogs in the forward line, Weightman has slipped under the radar somewhat at the Whitten Oval. But his true impact might now be fully felt, with the 23-year-old set for an extended period on the sidelines due to an elbow injury. The former top-20 pick is a crucial part of the Bulldogs' forward mix, with his innate goal sense and forward pressure the perfect complement to the likes of Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan in attack. Weightman has played 64 games for a return of 110 goals, including four or more in a game on eight occasions. - Alison O'Connor

Cody Weightman takes a mark during the Western Bulldogs' clash against Gold Coast in round two, 2024. Picture: Getty Images