THE MIDFIELDERS are the stars of the game.

Brownlow Medal winners, Norm Smith Medal winners, best and fairest winners. More often than not, they're the onballers who are finding the footy at the coal face.

>> HAVE YOUR SAY on the who is the best in the poll at the bottom

But who is your club's best midfielder since 2000? takes in all of the factors to determine your best ball-winner, focusing only on their work since the turn of the century.

Is it the contested beasts? The outside runners? The taggers? Or the guys who can do it all? Here's who our reporters have decided is your club's best modern midfielder.

BEST SINCE 2000 Who is your club's best defender?
BEST SINCE 2000 Who is your club's best forward?
BEST SINCE 2000 Who is your club's best ruckman?

Adelaide Crows

Mark Ricciuto (163 games from 2000-2007)

The Crows' first ever Brownlow medallist was a rampaging, tough-to-stop midfield bull with a booming long kick and powerful presence at the stoppages. He tied the Brownlow in 2003 with Nathan Buckley and Adam Goodes, in what was the first of two times he won the best and fairest post-2000. The former Crows skipper was a durable, tough and imposing midfielder who hit the scoreboard – he averaged nearly a goal a game in his 312 appearances for the Crows, and won five of his Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian guernseys 2000 onwards. He was the club's captain during its form spike in 2005-06, when they made consecutive preliminary finals. Simon Goodwin, Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane are other contenders. - Callum Twomey

03:43 Mins
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Fantastic Five: Mark Ricciuto's best moments

Mark Ricciuto boasts a strong football resume. The Adelaide legend played in the 1998 premiership, was a joint winner of the 2003 Brownlow medal, earned eight All Australian selections and captained the club for seven seasons during his 312-game...

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Brisbane Lions

Simon Black (291 games from 2000-2013) 

Given it was so close compared to Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis and Nigel Lappin, the deciding factor was that Black played at least five seasons longer than his triple premiership teammates. Like Voss, Black was a triple best and fairest and three-time All-Australian since the turn of the century. The smooth-moving Black, whose hands were as slick as any midfielder in his generation, won a Brownlow (2002) like Akermanis (2001) who was also a best and fairest winner and three-time All-Australian after 2000. Voss' Brownlow Medal came in 1996, however he was twice voted the MVP in 2002 and 2003. Lappin trumped all three with four All-Australians and was a club champion in 2004. - Mitch Cleary

03:27 Mins
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Fantastic Five: Simon Black's best moments

A smooth-moving midfielder with a reliable left boot, Brisbane champion Simon Black won three premierships, a Brownlow, a Norm Smith and the admiration of the football community

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Chris Judd (145 games from 2008-2015)

Judd arrived at Carlton following one of the most high-profile trades of the modern era, justifying the outlay with four dominant seasons between 2008 and 2011. Forced to change his game following a series of injuries, he became one of the most unstoppable contested forces in the AFL while with the Blues. He won his second Brownlow Medal in 2010, won the AFL Players' Association MVP award the very next year, while claiming three successive club best and fairests and being named in four straight All-Australian sides. Patrick Cripps might pip him one day, but Judd's work throughout this period takes him above the current Blues skipper, as well as Anthony Koutoufides and Marc Murphy. - Riley Beveridge

04:04 Mins
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Fantastic Five: Chris Judd's best moments

A superstar for West Coast and later Carlton, Judd dazzled in midfield with his breakneck speed and power to break tackles and finish on the scoreboard. A dual Brownlow medallist, premiership player and Norm Smith medal winner in a losing Grand ...

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Scott Pendlebury (302 games from 2006-2020)

He might have to apologise to his coach, but Pendlebury takes this one. The ultra-consistent onballer personifies class and skill. A reliable ball-winner and a superb user of the footy, Pendlebury has claimed five best and fairests in the last decade. That's in addition to a premiership, a Norm Smith Medal, six All-Australian guernseys and an AFL Coaches' Association Player of the Year award. All of that while shouldering the burden of captaincy for the last seven seasons. Nathan Buckley and Dane Swan might have the Brownlow Medals, but Pendlebury has just about everything else. He takes the mantle … just. - Riley Beveridge

00:33 Mins
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Pendlebury's class on show in game 300

Scott Pendlebury has shown off his class with this exceptional finish to continue his side's momentum

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James Hird (143 games from 2000-2007)

The Essendon champion split his time in the forward line and on the ball but he remains his club's best midfielder of this century. Hird's courage, smarts, brilliance and all-round versatility made him near on unstoppable in his peak. His 2000 campaign was outstanding, captaining the Bombers to their 2000 flag and winning the Norm Smith Medal for his performance. He claimed All-Australian honours in 2000, 2001 and 2003, and won his fifth and final best and fairest in his last year of 2007 despite only playing 17 games. Essendon hasn't been blessed with gun midfielders since that 2000 era, but Jobe Watson would be next in line. Jason Johnson, Brendon Goddard and Zach Merrett are other contenders within the period. - Callum Twomey

00:40 Mins
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James Hird, you are a genius

Incredible moments across 20 years at Docklands

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Nat Fyfe (174 games from 2010-present)

A dual Brownlow medallist, dual Leigh Matthews Trophy winner, three-time Doig medallist and three-time All-Australian (2019 captain) gives Fyfe the clear nod. The Dockers superstar has been Freo's captain since 2017 and will lead the club's new era under coach Justin Longmuir. He is arguably the AFL's best player and his incredible marking prowess and prolific contested ball-winning ability are trademarks of his game. Peter Bell would be the only Dockers midfielder that comes close. At the end of his career, Fyfe is set to give Matthew Pavlich a real shake as the club's greatest ever player. - Chris Correia

06:10 Mins
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Fyfe highlights: The best of the Brownlow medallist's season

Fremantle superstar Nat Fyfe wins his second Brownlow Medal with 33 votes

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Geelong Cats

Gary Ablett (236 games from 2002-2020) 

Joel Selwood (296) and Jimmy Bartel (305) have played more games and won an extra flag than Ablett, but The Little Master is simply in a league of his own. Ablett has won five AFL MVP awards, including three in consecutive years at Geelong (2007-2009). No other player in the history of the award has won more than two. Ablett was a dual best and fairest in premiership years of 2007 and 2009 and a four-time All-Australian at the Cats. While Selwood has claimed six All-Australian blazers, Ablett's peak as a gun onballer couldn't be questioned. - Mitch Cleary

00:57 Mins
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First Goal Ever: Smooth-moving Ablett and his golden locks, 2002

Geelong champion Gary Ablett kicks the first goal of his career against the Kangaroos in his third game

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Gold Coast Suns

Gary Ablett (110 games from 2011-2017)

Ablett is Gold Coast's greatest ever player, let alone its best midfielder ever. The champion and brilliant midfielder won the club's first three best and fairests, before claiming a fourth in his final season of 2017. The club's inaugural captain also won his second – and the Suns' first ever – Brownlow Medal in 2013 when he averaged 31 disposals and booted 28 goals that season. The Suns were often a one-man side when Ablett was in his pomp, with the Geelong two-time premiership star finishing his time at the Suns averaging a remarkable 31 disposals and more than a goal a game. - Callum Twomey

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Get excited: Ablett returns to Geelong

Gary Ablett returns to the Cats after his stint on the Gold Coast

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GWS Giants

Callan Ward (157 games from 2012-2020)

The Giants' luxury of riches in the midfield made this one a tough call. Toby Greene started his career as a full-time midfielder, Stephen Coniglio is a brilliant onballer and current skipper, Lachie Whitfield uses the ball better than anyone in the game and Josh Kelly is a best and fairest winner and All-Australian. But Ward edged them all out. His longevity is a key factor – he is the Giants' games record holder (157 appearances since crossing from the Bulldogs), he claimed its first best and fairest in 2012 and has finished in the top-three another five times. He also was a co-captain of the Giants between 2012-19. - Callum Twomey

01:50 Mins
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Skipper sets Spotless Stadium alight

A prolific game from Giants midfielder Callan Ward

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Sam Mitchell (307 games from 2002-2016)

It was Mitchell or fellow triple All-Australian and four-time premiership player Luke Hodge (305 games). Mitchell's five Peter Crimmins Medals and Brownlow Medal narrowly edged out Hodge's two best and fairests and two Norm Smith Medals (also factoring in Hodge's time in defence). He became known as 'The Extractor' and even 'Diesel 2.0' – after all-time great Greg Williams – and averaged at least five clearances in 13 of his 15 seasons for the Hawks. Mitchell was deadly by hand and a very sharp kick who racked up possessions for fun. Shane Crawford – who won his Brownlow Medal in 1999 – Jordan Lewis, Isaac Smith, Shaun Burgoyne and Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell also rate highly. - Marc McGowan

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Get excited: Sam Mitchell an Eagle

This decorated premiership star still has plenty left to give

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Nathan Jones (286 games from 2006-present)

Some Demons had greater highs – think Clayton Oliver, Adem Yze, Cameron Bruce, Brownlow medallist Shane Woewodin or Travis Johnstone – but none performed as consistently or purely as a midfielder for longer than Jones. He's a triple Keith 'Bluey' Truscott medallist, a former club captain and could pass David Neitz next year as Melbourne's most-capped player. Jones was the most dependable Dee through the club's dark era that they only emerged from in recent seasons. Oliver will inherit this mantle but has played only 83 games. The other contender was James McDonald, another tireless worker who played 251 times for Melbourne, won two best and fairests and was an All-Australian in 2006. - Marc McGowan

00:00 Mins
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Skipper deserves Chunk of credit in surge

Melbourne captain Nathan Jones' dominant third term sparks his side's fightback

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North Melbourne

Brent Harvey (368 games from 2000-2016)

There is a good list of contenders but the AFL's games record-holder Harvey was the only right answer. 'Boomer' won five Syd Barker Medals and was a four-time All-Australian in this period, as well as recording back-to-back top-10 Brownlow Medal finishes in 2007 (equal runner-up) and 2008 (eighth). Could run all day, was quick, boasted an excellent kick and averaged more than a goal a match. Fellow midfielders Brady Rawlings, Andrew Swallow, Ben Cunnington, Daniel Wells and Shaun Higgins also won multiple Syd Barker Medals since 2000. The careers of Anthony Stevens, Peter Bell, Shannon Grant and Adam Simpson overlapped into the 21st century as well. - Marc McGowan

05:43 Mins
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Fantastic Five: Brent Harvey's best moments

Diminutive in size but huge in impact, 'Boomer' holds the record for most VFL/AFL games with 432 across two decades at North Melbourne. His ever-present speed to burn made him a handful for the opposition

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Kane Cornes (300 games from 2001-2015)

Cornes might not be a match-winner like some of his 2004 premiership teammates, but he has an unmatched resume for any Port Adelaide player this century. A key figure in the side's maiden AFL premiership success, Cornes is the club's only 300-game AFL player, won four best and fairests in seven years and was named in two All-Australian sides. He had the versatility of being able to effective shut down the opposition's best player in his role as a tagger, while winning the ball himself. That was evidenced by 12 straight seasons averaging more than 20 disposals per game. That CV puts him ahead of Peter Burgoyne and Travis Boak at Port Adelaide. - Riley Beveridge

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Last hurrah: End in sight for Kane

Port veteran Kane Cornes calls it a day

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Dustin Martin (225 games from 2010-present)

You only have to look at the 2017 season to see why 'Dusty' is not only the Tigers' best midfielder this century but among the club's best ever players. In that record-breaking season, he won nearly every individual award on offer, including becoming the first player in history to win the Brownlow, the Norm Smith and premiership in the same year. He added another flag and Norm Smith to his resume in 2019, while he is also a three-time All Australian and two-time best and fairest. Trent Cotchin and Brett Deledio are next best, but neither possess the match-winning ability that makes Martin one of the best players in the competition. - Ben Sutton

09:54 Mins
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Ten years since Dustin Martin's debut: The best Dusty highlights

A star was born in round one, 2010 as Richmond's future superstar made his debut against Carlton

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St Kilda

Lenny Hayes (281 games from 2000-2014)

The heartbeat of the Saints' midfield for more than a decade. A four-time All-Australian and three-time best and fairest, Hayes also finished on the podium on five other occasions in a 12-year window. He did it on the big stage, too, with a brilliant performance that almost willed the Saints over the line in the 2010 drawn Grand Final and earned him the Norm Smith Medal. While Jack Steven won four best and fairests, he never did it when the Saints were competing and was never an All-Australian. - Mitch Cleary

02:58 Mins
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Fantastic Five: Lenny Hayes' best moments

Tremendous courage and unflinching hardness went hand-in-hand when describing Lenny Hayes, but the St Kilda star had some tricks in his bag too

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Sydney Swans

Josh Kennedy (234 games from 2010-present)
Adam Goodes is probably the Swans' greatest player of the 21st century, yet his incredible versatility meant he wasn't named as their best in any set position across this exercise. Kennedy started at Hawthorn, where his family is legendary, but became a Swans great. The 2012 premiership player is a triple Bob Skilton medallist, three-time All-Australian and has captained the club since 2017. Kennedy is the modern midfield prototype at 189cm and averaged seven-plus clearances in five separate seasons, and 15-plus contested possessions each year from 2011 to 2017. Other top-notch midfielders were Brett Kirk, Jarrad McVeigh, Dan Hannebery, Kieren Jack, Luke Parker and Paul Williams. - Marc McGowan

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Clearance king's top 2016 takeaways

Sydney Swans superstar Josh Kennedy comes in at no.7 in the Players' Top 50 countdown

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West Coast Eagles

Ben Cousins (155 games from 2000-2007)

It's splitting hairs between Cousins and Chris Judd. Both Brownlow medallists, both AFL MVPs for individual seasons and both premiership stars, it came down to individual accolades given both were so influential on the Eagles' midfield. While Judd won a Norm Smith Medal, two best and fairests and was a two-time All-Australian, Cousins claimed four All-Australians and was a four-time best and fairest – including in 2001 when Judd was still at school. Cousins played 21 more games in the window, too. - Mitch Cleary

Ben Cousins in action for West Coast. Picture: AFL Photos

Western Bulldogs

Matthew Boyd (292 games from 2003-2017)
While Scott West and Marcus Bontempelli are the two names that pop to the front of mind, three of West's Sutton Medals were from the 90's and Bontempelli has played 164 less games. Boyd won three of his own Sutton Medals and was a three-time All-Australian to boot. He captained the side for a few years, played in a whopping 16 finals games and even collected 27 disposals in the 2016 premiership. Boyd peaked in 2012 averaging a whopping 32.7 disposals per game. - Jourdan Canil

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Boyd's path to 250

Popular Bulldog Matthew Boyd reaches major milestone doing it his way

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