SOME of the AFL's most distinguished midfielders are on the slide, Champion Data figures suggest.
Headlining the group of seasoned stars are inspirational leaders in Sydney's Josh Kennedy, Geelong's Joel Selwood and Richmond's Trent Cotchin, each of whom the League's official number cruncher no longer rates among the competition's upper echelon.
Kennedy, 30, finished third in the Brownlow Medal in 2017 before enduring the leanest of his nine seasons with the Swans, slipping from No.4 to No.47 in the Official AFL Player Ratings.
WHO'S THE BEST AFL's own player ratings
Selwood, also 30, appeared firmly entrenched at No.8 early this year but has since dropped to No.53.
Cotchin, 28, has fallen from No.12 to No.46.
Kennedy's ex-teammate Dan Hannebery, who'll be 28 in February, hopes his switch to St Kilda will prove refreshing, given he has plummeted from a top-20 position in mid-2017 to No.190 (albeit after missing nine games with injury this year).
A change of clubs could see Dan Hannebery head back up Champion Data's ratings. Picture: AFL Photos
Lion-turned-Power onballer Tom Rockliff, set to turn 29 in February, suffered a similar fall from grace, nosediving from No.41 at the end of his final season in Brisbane to No.152 after his first season at Alberton.
Other notables to tumble out of the top 20 included Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury, Western Bulldogs gun Marcus Bontempelli, Port Adelaide champ Robbie Gray, St Kilda runner Jack Steven, Giant-turned-Bomber Dylan Shiel and Hawthorn veteran Shaun Burgoyne.
Pendlebury, a previous No.1, dropped outside the top 10 for the first time since the Official AFL Player Ratings were introduced in 2013. The ultra-consistent Magpie, who'll turn 31 in January, is now at No.21, and has been overtaken by teammates Brodie Grundy (No.4) and Adam Treloar (No.18) as the Pies' highest-ranked players, but he is still clear of dual reigning club champion Steele Sidebottom (No.28).
Meanwhile, Bontempelli has fallen from a round seven ranking of No.7 to No.20, Gray (classified as a midfielder/forward) has dipped from No.8 at the start of the season to No.29, and Steven went from No.9 last year to No.40 despite winning his fourth best and fairest in six seasons for the Saints, while Shiel was at No.17 during the 2017 finals series but has since dropped to No.48.
MUST-WATCH GAMES The 22 you won't want to miss
Burgoyne, the AFL's oldest player at 36, sat at No.19 until he suffered the first of two hamstring injuries in the Easter Monday win over Geelong, triggering a progressive fall to No.45.
Like Burgoyne, Melbourne co-captain Nathan Jones also produced a below-par September that contributed to a plunge from a round five ranking of No.33 to No.68.
Former Carlton star Bryce Gibbs fell a similar distance in his first season with Adelaide – from No.34 after four rounds to No.69.
There were also some impressive leaps up the ratings list by midfielders.
While Richmond superstar Dustin Martin (No.1) and Geelong counterpart Patrick Dangerfield (No.2) remain neck-and-neck at the top, fellow Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe has made considerable ground. After missing the bulk of the 2016 season, the Fremantle skipper fell to No.120 late in 2017 but has climbed back to No.3.
Trent Cotchin may have taken a tumble but 'Dusty' is still No.1. Picture: AFL Photos
Melbourne prodigy Clayton Oliver has made an extraordinary rise from No.464 at the end of his debut season of 2016, and No.75 at the end of 2017, to No.5. The 21-year-old is the Demons' highest-ranked player ahead of All Australian ruckman Max Gawn (No.7).
Greater Western Sydney co-captain Callan Ward is back in the top 10 after lifting himself from a round seven ranking of No.36 to No.9.
North Melbourne's improved performance this year was partly attributable to the efforts of experienced pair Ben Cunnington and Shaun Higgins, both of whom have roared up the ratings. Midway through 2017 Cunnington was at No.78 but has since jumped to No.11, while Higgins had a round six ranking of No.141 before leaping to No.27.
WHO MAKES FINALS? Do the 2019 Ladder Predictor
Richmond midfielder/forward Shane Edwards' status continues to grow, recovering from being the 104th-ranked player in round 15, 2017, to claw his way to No.17. He is the second-ranked Tiger.
West Coast midfielder Elliot Yeo was at No.80 at the end of 2017 before climbing to No.33, while premiership teammate Luke Shuey sprung from No.32 to No.22 on the strength of his Norm Smith Medal effort in the Grand Final win over Collingwood.
A core of improving Dogs midfielders are providing solid support for Bontempelli, with Jack Macrae rising from No.97 at the end of 2017 to No.30, while Toby McLean has raced from No.161 to No.67 and Lachie Hunter has gone from No.131 to No.77.
Another year like 2018 will see Jack Macrae continue to rise. Picture: AFL Photos
Others have come from the clouds, including Tiger Kane Lambert to No.49 after being No.298 at the start of 2017 and No.151 after three rounds this year; ex-basketballer Hugh Greenwood to No.59 (third at Adelaide) since making his debut in round nine last year; and Collingwood's endurance king Tom Phillips' season climb from No.318 to No.87.
To determine the Official AFL Player Ratings, Champion Data employs a complex algorithm that ranks players based on their previous 40 games, with extra weighting given to their most recent 30 games.