AFTER three weeks off (four for a couple of clubs), we finally have some hope of playing footy again this weekend as we await the call from the Victorian government.

With teams having played five, six or seven of their planned 16 matches – and a full round of football hopefully on the radar - it’s time to look at who might be leading your club’s best-and-fairest award and possibly the best Liston Medal chance as well.

STRONG BREEDING GROUND VFL again big player in NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft

VFL Media reporter Brendan Rhodes used a formula based on the best players named by the clubs to come up with who are the ones to watch in the season reboot.

MATTHEW HAMMELMANN (ASPLEY) – 26 points
The spearhead’s goalkicking dominance that has yielded 31 goals in seven matches has been recognised by his club, with four mentions in the best. The Hornets did not name any best players in their big loss to Southport in Round 6.

Next four: Ryan Bastinac 25, Matthew Payne 22, Liam Dawson 11, Michael Hutchinson 11

Surprise: Bastinac is averaging 30.7 disposals but has only made the best players three times in the six games the Hornets have named good performers, including one best-on-ground.

JAI NEWCOMBE (BOX HILL HAWKS) – 42 points
Newcombe’s brilliant start to the season obviously didn’t go unnoticed, being named in the best in each of the Hawks’ six matches, leading to him being promoted by Hawthorn in the mid-season draft and having a blinder on AFL debut against Sydney on Friday.

Next four: Vincent Adduci 28, Emerson Jeka 25, Brayden Kilpatrick 17, Damian Mascitti 17

Surprise: Ned Reeves has been terrific for the Hawks and earned an AFL debut, but has only been in the best once at Box Hill, for one point.

01:41 Mins
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CONNOR BALLENDEN (BRISBANE LIONS) – 16 points
Started the season in strong fashion to be in the best for the first three matches, but the Lions contributors have been evenly spread, with no standouts so far this season. The Lions did not name any best players in their thrilling win over Aspley in Round 8.

Next four: Cam Ellis-Yolmen 13, Rhys Mathieson 13, Carter Michael 13, Will Tasker 13

Surprise: Mathieson should surely be the leader here after a 37-disposal game against Aspley, where the Lions have not yet named best players.

STEFAN RADOVANOVIC (CARLTON) – 18 points
The Williamstown recruit was outstanding in the heartbreaking Round 1 loss to Southport and backed it up with mentions in Rounds 3 and 4.

Next four: Ben Crocker 17, Will Setterfield 16, Josh Honey 13, Toby Wooller 11

Surprise: Crocker almost dragged the Blues over the line with a three-goal final quarter (four for the game) against Footscray in Round 4. He also wasn’t best-on-ground for his seven goals against Brisbane Lions in Round 2.

Stefan Radovanovic in action for Carlton's VFL side in round four, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

JIMMY MUNRO & TOM SPARROW (CASEY DEMONS) – 18 points
The undefeated Demons have backed system over individual stars and it is working, with Sparrow (three times) and Munro (twice) leading the way and six others within four points.

Next four: Jay Lockhart 17, Sam Weideman 17, Majak Daw 16, Toby Bedford 15, Jake Bowey 15

Surprise: Simply the fact there is no player inside the top 30 in the competition, despite being undefeated. That is a testament to how even the team is at the moment.

MARCUS LENTINI (COBURG) – 25 points
The prolific midfielder has been named in the best three times in five games, with one best on ground and is one who can be expected to continue picking up points as the season resumes.

Next four: Charlie Thompson 15, Sam Lowson 13, Peter McEvoy 12, Tom Silvestro 12

Surprise: Luke Bunker is averaging 27.4 disposals at the Lions, but is flying under the radar, having been named in the best just once – a best-on-ground effort against Port Melbourne in Round 5.

Marcus Lentini dives for the ball in round one, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

OLIVER HENRY (COLLINGWOOD) – 14 points
Not much to write home about at the Magpies, with draftee Henry leading the way after his best-on-ground display against Gold Coast in Round 3 and another four-point game.

Next four: Trent Bianco 13, Caleb Poulter 13, Lachlan Tardrew 13, Tom Wilson 12

Surprise: None, with all of Henry, Bianco, Poulter, Wilson, Jay Rantall (10), Brayden Sier (9) and Max Lynch (8) earning AFL call-ups – which obviously costs them the chance to score points at VFL level.

NICK BRYAN (ESSENDON) – 22 points
The young Bomber ruckman has been a revelation, with four mentions in his team’s five matches including a best-on-ground display against Frankston in Round 5.

Next four: Patrick Ambrose 17, Joe Atley 15, Sam Conforti 10, Tom Cutler 10

Surprise: As good as Bryan was, Ambrose wasn’t named best-on-ground for his match-winning six-goal haul against Frankston. That would only change the score to 21-18 though.

Nick Bryan worms up ahead of the Bombers' round seven, 2021 clash against Carlton. Picture: AFL Photos

RILEY GARCIA (FOOTSCRAY) – 18 points
Like the Demons, the unbeaten Bulldogs have been extremely even with no standouts. Garcia has been named three times and earned an AFL debut after the third one, against Frankston in Round 6.

Next four: Louis Butler 16, Will Hayes 13, Buku Khamis 12, five players on 10

Surprise: Mitch Wallis is stuck in the VFL despite being named a vice-captain this year. He is averaging 23.2 disposals, but has only made the best players twice for nine points.

NATHAN FREEMAN (FRANKSTON) – 23 points
Dominated the first four games, being named best on ground in the Dolphins’ Round 1 and 2 victories. He missed the best against Essendon and didn’t play the club’s 1000th game against Footscray and will be fresh when footy resumes.

Next four: Will Fordham 20, James Rendell 19, Connor Riley 15, Josh Newman 14

Surprise: Freeman was best-on-ground in the first two games, but only picked up two points (out of 10) against Aspley in Round 3, one point (five) against Williamstown in Round 5 and none against Essendon (eight) in Round 6. Can he do more with his average of 41 disposals?

Nathan Freeman in Frankston's VFL clash with Williamstown, round four, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

DARCY FORT (GEELONG) – 47 points
The Cats are loving what the ruckman is doing and he comfortably leads the competition after being named best-on-ground twice and second three times to give him 47 of a possible 50 points so far this season.

Next four: Charlie Constable 16, Oscar Brownless 10, Max Holmes 10, Josh Jenkins 10

Surprise: Constable only has 16 points from three mentions despite averaging 29 disposals, and Jenkins has only the 10 points for his seven goals against the Bullants, with nothing for his six against Coburg or four against North Melbourne.

WILL BRODIE (GOLD COAST) – 23 points
The ball magnet has been impressive all season since losing his spot in the AFL team before the VFL started. He has four mentions in six matches to keep his name in Stuart Dew’s mind.

Next four: Brayden Fiorini 12, Darcy MacPherson 12, Jez McLennan 12, Hewago Paul Oea 11

Surprise: Fiorini and MacPherson are averaging 32.3 and 27.7 disposals respectively but have only been named in the best twice each.

Will Brodie in action during the 2021 AAMI Community Series. Picture: Getty Images

NICK SHIPLEY (GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY) – 35 points
The Giants Academy graduate has been a leading performer at VFL level as he strives to win an AFL spot, having played one top-level game this year. He has been in the best five times in six matches.

Next four: Kieren Briggs 20, Tanner Bruhn 19, Jake Riccardi 14, James Peatling 13

Surprise: Riccardi has only played two matches – 41 disposals against Southport and eight goals against Aspley. He received just four points in the latter, with three players deemed better.

TRISTAN XERRI (NORTH MELBOURNE) – 18 points
The Kangaroos have had a battle in the VFL, but Xerri was a matchwinner when they upset Essendon in Round 6. He has been named three times in six matches and returned to the AFL last week.

Next four: Will Phillips 9, Tyler Roos 8, Josh Clayton 7, Harrison Gunther 7

Surprise: Hard to see higher scores given the nature of the Roos’ five defeats, so no surprises here.

01:24 Mins
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TOM WILSON (NORTHERN BULLANTS) – 26 points
The Bullants’ skipper has led his young team from the front, earning best-player mentions in the first four games before being injured early in Round 6. He will be a key factor as they seek their first win.

Next four: Paul Ahern 14, Liam Mackie 13, Matthew King 12, Tim Jones 7

Surprise: None. The numbers back up who the key players have been for the Bullants in a tough return to standalone competition. Their experienced men are showing the way for the up-and-comers.

ELI TEMPLETON (PORT MELBOURNE) – 28 points
Missed the best in Round 1 but was prominent in each of the next four matches as he closes in on his 100th VFL appearance. Likely to be a strong Liston contender if he continues his top form.

Next four: Corey Wagner 24, Harvey Hooper 15, Tom O’Sullivan 11, Campbell Walker 11

Surprise: Hooper has been terrific in his move to the midfield, averaging 24.4 disposals, with his score more a reflection of the Borough’s 1-4 record than anything else.

01:42 Mins
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CALLUM COLEMAN-JONES (RICHMOND) – 36 points
The big man was outstanding in the first five matches, including a best-on-ground five-goal effort against GWS in Round 5. Has broken into the AFL team and is a good chance to stay there even when Tom Lynch is ready to return.

Next four: Will Martyn 19, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith 14, Josh Caddy 11, Patrick Naish 11

Surprise: Samson Ryan has yet to score a point for the Tigers, despite four goals against Brisbane Lions, three against Sandringham and two (plus 14 hitouts) against GWS.

01:30 Mins
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LUKE DUNSTAN (SANDRINGHAM) – 25 points
Knocked up winning the ball at the Zebras, being named four times in the club’s five matches and finally getting back into the St Kilda team after being best-on-ground in the away win over Aspley in Round 6.

Next four: Mason Wood 17, Oscar Clavarino 12, Paul Hunter 11, Goy Lok 11

Surprise: Hunter’s 20 disposals and 42 hitouts against Aspley in Round 6 was only good enough for one point, and he missed out for 26 hitouts and two goals against Richmond in Round 1.

JACOB DAWSON (SOUTHPORT) – 43 points
Basically unstoppable so far this season, the former Sun is the key reason for the Sharks being on top of the ladder, with four best-on-ground efforts and six mentions in the club’s seven matches.

Next four: Brayden Crossley 29, Jesse Joyce 24, Lukas Webb 21, Mackenzie Willis 16

Surprise: That Dawson is not leading the competition. Four best-on-grounds in a sensational start to the season would have him favourite for the Liston at the moment. Fraser Thurlow’s 14 points could also be higher.

LEWIS TAYLOR (SYDNEY) – 31 points
Right on the fringe of the Swans’ AFL team, he has been the medi-sub on more than one occasion but only got on the field once. At VFL level, he has been best-on-ground twice among four mentions.

Next four: Will Gould 21, Ryan Clarke 17, Marc Sheather 17, Kaiden Brand 11

Surprise: Gould must be closing in on an AFL debut after four mentions in seven games, but Ryan Clarke has just 17 points (33.2 disposal average) and Sam Gray only two points (both singles) despite averaging 28.1 disposals in the midfield.

01:18 Mins
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MATT HANSON (WERRIBEE) – 22 points
A legend at Avalon Airport Oval, Hanson hasn’t gained any headlines this season but continues to be one of the best players in the competition. He has been named three times, including the first two games.

Next four: Kye Declase 19, Wylie Buzza 18, Shaun Mannagh 18, Hudson Garoni 16

Surprise: Declase becomes the leader at Casey once he lines up for the Demons, but reigning Liston medallist Tom Gribble only has nine points (for 38 touches in the thrashing of Richmond in Round 3), and nothing else despite an average of 29.8 disposals.

MITCH HIBBERD (WILLIAMSTOWN) – 26 points
Has had two stints at AFL level, with both being surprisingly ended despite solid performances. Their loss is the Seagulls’ gain, with two best-on-grounds among three mentions in his team’s five games.

Next four: Charlie Dean 19, Teia Miles 15, Jack Toner 14, Cam Polson 13

Surprise: First-year key defender Dean has been sensational with a best-on-ground (Round 1) and a nine-point game (Round 5) to his credit to be sitting above the likes of Miles, Adam Marcon, Liam Hunt and Luke Meadows.

THE TOP 20

47: Darcy Fort (Geelong)
43: Jacob Dawson (Southport)
42: Jai Newcombe (Box Hill Hawks)
36: Callum Coleman-Jones (Richmond)
35: Nick Shipley (GWS)
31: Lewis Taylor (Sydney)
29: Brayden Crossley (Southport)
28: Vincent Adduci (Box Hill Hawks)
28: Eli Templeton (Port Melbourne)
26: Matthew Hammelmann (Aspley)
26: Tom Wilson (Northern Bullants)
26: Mitch Hibberd (Williamstown)
25: Ryan Bastinac (Aspley)
25: Emerson Jeka (Box Hill Hawks)
25: Marcus Lentini (Coburg)
25: Luke Dunstan (Sandringham)
24: Corey Wagner (Port Melbourne)
24: Jesse Joyce (Southport)
23: Nathan Freeman (Frankston)
23: Will Brodie (Gold Coast)

Twitter: @BRhodesVFL

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