MATT Rowell's brilliant start to 2020 has earned the Gold Coast midfielder an 'elite' grading from Champion Data in the number crunchers' annual player rankings.
The No.1 pick in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft made a brilliant start to his AFL career and was best on ground in three of his first four matches, polling nine Brownlow Medal votes and three perfect 10s from the coaches.
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A serious shoulder injury ended his campaign in round five, but he showed enough to earn the top grading from Champion Data, who base their rankings on the player's position and how they rank against other players in the same role.
Rowell averaged 21.3 disposals and 4.8 clearances before his injury struck and kicked two goals in each of his three standout games, between rounds two and four.
He was joined by defender Sam Collins in the 'elite' category at Gold Coast.
Brisbane, Hawthorn, West Coast, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs all had an AFL-high five players with the top grading.
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Magpies ruckman Brodie Grundy and All-Australian Darcy Moore lost their status and were replaced by surprise selection Mason Cox as well as defenders Jack Crisp and Brayden Maynard, star forward Jordan De Goey and premiership midfielder Steele Sidebottom.
Other stars to lose top billing were Carlton captain Patrick Cripps, triple-premiership Tiger Dion Prestia, Sydney champion Lance Franklin and West Coast pair Elliot Yeo and Shannon Hurn.
Port Adelaide midfielder Travis Boak, who finished runner-up in the Brownlow Medal, also missed out on the top ranking, as did Western Bulldogs All-Australian Jack Macrae.
Greater Western Sydney had an equal AFL-high six 'elite' players in 2020, but have just one ahead of the new season, according to Champion Data.
Traded pair Jeremy Cameron (Geelong) and Zac Williams (Carlton) both fell down the rankings, as did captain Stephen Coniglio, versatile star Lachie Whitfield, forward Jeremy Finlayson and former skipper Callan Ward.
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Among those earning an elite grading after missing out in 2020 were West Coast's Oscar Allen, Giant Harry Perryman, Port Adelaide's Steven Motlop and Bulldog Bailey Williams.
Adelaide was not represented, while Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe was deemed the Dockers' only 'elite' player for the second straight season.
CHAMPION DATA'S 2021 'ELITE' PLAYERS
Daniel Rich, Harris Andrews, Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons, Hugh McCluggage
Adam Saad, Zac Fisher, Sam Walsh
Jack Crisp, Jordan De Goey, Mason Cox, Steele Sidebottom, Brayden Maynard
Mark Blicavs, Tom Hawkins, Patrick Dangerfield, Sam Menegola
Sam Collins, Matt Rowell
Luke Breust, Chad Wingard, James Sicily, Ben McEvoy, Jack Gunston
Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver, Max Gawn
Robbie Gray, Steven Motlop, Zak Butters, Charlie Dixon
Nick Vlastuin, Shane Edwards, Dustin Martin
Dan Butler, Jack Steele
Jake Lloyd, Isaac Heeney, Dane Rampe
Liam Ryan, Jeremy McGovern, Jack Darling, Oscar Allen, Nic Naitanui
Caleb Daniel, Bailey Williams, Marcus Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley, Lachie Hunter