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Coaches have their say on the AFL's best - position by position

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 19: Nick Riewoldt of the Saints (L) competes for the ball against Alex Rance of the Tigers during the 2015 AFL round 16 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Richmond Tigers at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Australia on July 19, 2015. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media)
The coaches have named Alex Rance (r) as the AFL's best defender

RICHMOND defender Alex Rance has been recognised for his outstanding season with a stamp of approval from the AFL's senior coaches, who have overwhelmingly voted him the game's best defender.

After earning All Australian selection in 2014, Rance has elevated his game to a new level this season and been recognised by the coaches in an exclusive survey for and the AFL Record

With nine votes, he was one of only two players to earn multiple votes, ahead of Harry Taylor (two), with Jeremy McGovern and Easton Wood among the players to earn one vote each.

There were standout players in every category, with North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein (nine votes), Fremantle midfielder Nat Fyfe (nine) and West Coast forward Josh Kennedy (10) recognised as the best in their position. 

Fyfe overtook Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett (three votes), with Collingwood star Scott Pendlebury earning two votes.

In the ruck, West Coast's Nic Naitanui (two) and Docker Aaron Sandilands (three) earned multiple votes. 

Kennedy got the nod ahead of Hawthorn's Jarryd Roughead (four votes) and Sydney Swans star Lance Franklin (two).

When asked what types of players the coaches thought were the most valuable, they were split on inside midfielders and goalkicking forwards (both 31.25 per cent).

Key defenders and outside midfielders attracted only six per cent of the vote each. 

The skills that needed improving most were goalkicking (43.75 per cent) and field kicking (37.5 per cent), while no coaches were concerned about marking, applying pressure and spoiling. 

When asked if they were happy with players kicking on the outside of their preferred foot, rather than using their opposite foot, the majority of coaches said players should enter the system with skills on both feet.

The majority (56.25 per cent) believed the draft age should be higher, with only one coach believing it should be lower. The rest were happy with the status quo. 

Coaches were split on the scrutiny and demands facing new draftees, with 56.25 per cent believing players fresh to the game were under too much pressure.

They were almost unanimous on free agency, believing it was not evening up the competition (81.25 per cent) and yet to extend careers (87.5 per cent).

They still believed compensation was necessary when a club lost a free agent (81.25 per cent).

The biggest threat to player welfare, the coaches said, was gambling (43.75 per cent), with idle time (25 per cent), lack of direction (18.75 per cent) and recreational drugs (12.5 per cent) the other concerns.

The survey was conducted in conjunction with the AFL Coaches’ Association. Not all coaches answered every question. The full survey results will be published in the round 20 edition of the AFL Record, which is available at all grounds.