JUDGING the AFL's best player is a vastly different exercise to uncovering its most valuable.

There are many different measures, thanks to Champion Data, to rate footballers' worth but wins and losses are arguably the greatest gauge of all, even in a team sport.

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And on that measure, there is no more valuable midfielder to their team than North Melbourne's contested ball king Ben Cunnington.

Cunnington's missed seven matches since the start of the 2015 season, including three in the past month – and the Kangaroos lost them all.

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Four of those opponents had a winning record, while another was a season opener against a West Coast side that finished the 2017 season with a 12-10 record.

North's win rate with the 29-year-old in this same period is narrowly above 50 per cent, so it is competitive when he's in the line-up.

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The Roos also suffered defeat in Cunnington's one appearance in recent weeks, when his ailing back was still bothering him and saw him exit the match for good in the third quarter.

They started the season 2-0, with him fit and firing.

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Cunnington will be out again on Saturday night, when North Melbourne faces reigning premier Richmond at Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium.

No other AFL onballer's absence has such a detrimental effect on his side's fortunes in the past five years but he isn't the sole top-line midfielder whose club struggles without him.

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The Western Bulldogs won just once in five games since 2015 without their new skipper Marcus Bontempelli (win rate drops by 36 per cent).

Adelaide captain Rory Sloane (minus-12 per cent), Essendon's Zach Merrett (minus-14 per cent), Giant Josh Kelly (minus-12 per cent), Melbourne's Clayton Oliver (minus-15 per cent) and Tiger Dustin Martin (minus-16 per cent) are also missed greatly.

Sloane will be sidelined for up to the next six weeks with a new hand injury as his Crows hunt their first win this season.

On the flipside, Sydney's win rate somehow spikes by 13 per cent when gun onballer Josh Kennedy isn't playing, so maybe there is hope while he recovers from a knee setback.

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However, this period overlaps with the end of the Swans' strong era, when they had greater depth and more experience than they do now. 

Every team's best midfielder was picked, with exceptions where they haven't missed a game (or only a few) in the past five years, such as Brisbane's Lachie Neale and Port Adelaide's Travis Boak.








Rory Sloane

62-1-42 (59%)

8-0-9 (47%)



Dayne Zorko

35-0-78 (31%)

2-0-3 (40%)



Patrick Cripps

26-0-78 (25%)

3-0-9 (25%)



Scott Pendlebury

61-1-53 (53%)

3-1-3 (43%)



Zach Merrett

47-0-63 (43%)

2-0-5 (29%)



Nat Fyfe

37-0-49 (43%)

12-0-20 (38%)



Patrick Dangerfield

66-1-33 (66%)

2-0-1 (67%)


Gold Coast

David Swallow

15-0-56 (21%)

11-1-33 (24%)



Josh Kelly

65-2-38 (62%)

11-1-10 (50%)



Tom Mitchell

28-1-23 (54%)

11-0-11 (50%)



Clayton Oliver

42-0-45 (48%)

3-0-6 (33%)


North Melbourne

Ben Cunnington

57-0-56 (50%)

0-0-7 (0%)


Port Adelaide

Ollie Wines

51-0-45 (53%)

13-0-8 (62%)



Dustin Martin

80-1-40 (66%)

2-0-2 (50%)


St Kilda

Seb Ross

40-2-61 (39%)

5-0-8 (38%)



Josh P. Kennedy

69-0-49 (58%)

5-0-2 (71%)


West Coast

Luke Shuey

80-1-39 (67%)

5-0-2 (71%)


Western Bulldogs

Marcus Bontempelli

66-0-51 (56%)

1-0-4 (20%)


* Does not include round seven this year