Not that Matthew Nicks' decision midway through 2020 to move Rory Laird into a full-time midfield role needed vindication, but the two-time Therabody AFL All-Australian has rubber-stamped the move with a stunning season. Laird has a nose for the ball and is ranked top five in the competition for disposals, centre clearances and contested possessions. His consistency has been top-notch, not once being held below 25 disposals despite playing every game this season. – Michael Whiting
Other contenders: Paul Seedsman, Ben Keays, Tom Doedee
How they vote: Matthew Nicks and his three line coaches collectively grade each player’s performance on a 0-10 scale following each round.
This should be a really tight count, but for his combination of consistency and high-end production, it's hard to go past Jarryd Lyons. The hard-nosed Lions midfielder is averaging 29 disposals a game, including six clearances, along with six tackles. With last year's Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale absent for a third of the season, Lyons has taken his game up a notch and been the club's best midfielder. Any one of he, captain Dayne Zorko and winger Hugh McCluggage would fancy their chances of taking out the Merrett-Murray Medal. – Michael Whiting
Other contenders: Dayne Zorko, Hugh McCluggage, Daniel Rich
How they vote: Chris Fagan and the five assistant coaches allocate a maximum of four votes to a player, to a maximum of 24, after each match.
It will be Sam Walsh and then daylight in Carlton's best and fairest voting. The supremely talented 21-year-old has enjoyed an awesome year, averaging 29.9 disposals per game having moved into a full-time inside role in 2021. His consistency is evident in the fact he's yet to dip below 20 touches in a single game this season, while he's also improved his ability to hit the scoreboard and even kicked three goals earlier this year against St Kilda. Walsh has been a bright spot in another otherwise disappointing Blues campaign. – Riley Beveridge
Other contenders: Jacob Weitering, Liam Jones, Adam Saad
How they vote: Senior coach David Teague and three assistants give as many players as they choose between 0-4 votes per match. The most votes any player can poll in a particular game is 16.
One of only four Pies to play every match this season, Crisp has been hands down the club's most consistent performer. Averaging a career-high 27.4 disposals, the 27-year-old has pushed further up the ground this season after previously making his name down back. Jordan De Goey is another to watch having come home with an impressive second half of the season, but the forward has missed two games this season so may be a rung or two behind Crisp. Scott Pendlebury will be in the conversation for a top-five finish but will ultimately miss four games. – Mitch Cleary
Other contenders: Jordan De Goey, Brodie Grundy, Brayden Maynard
How they vote: The five members of the coaching panel each award up to 22 votes for each game (there is no minimum). The player then gets an average score for each game.
There will be very little that decides Essendon’s best and fairest between Merrett and Darcy Parish, with both deserving of the spot. Merrett might have edged ahead in the past six weeks and his couple of games in the midfield to start the season before Parish was deployed there might be the difference. Merrett has enjoyed another outstanding season and enters the final round of the home and away campaign as the fourth-leading disposal winner in the AFL (667 at an average of 32 a game). Merrett has claimed two Crichton Medals before and would join illustrious company at the club if he can salute for his third. - Callum Twomey
Other contenders: Darcy Parish, Jake Stringer, Jordan Ridley, Jayden Laverde
How they vote: After each game every player is rated from zero to five by the coaching panel, seeing players given a minimum of zero votes and maximum of 30 per game.
A thrilling three-horse race looms for the 2021 Doig Medal, with Mundy a narrow favourite over breakout ruckman Sean Darcy and young midfielder Andrew Brayshaw. Mundy has played 21 games this season and averaged 25.2 disposals (ranked No.2 behind Brayshaw), leading the Dockers for total clearances (5.5) and score involvements (6.6). His first two months of the season were outstanding, producing several match-winning performances and leading the AFL Coaches' Association Award after round seven. Brayshaw, whose two missed games could prove costly, has averaged a team-high 28.4 disposals, also leading the Dockers for tackles (4.6). Darcy has been in the mix for Therabody AFL All-Australian selection and will poll well. - Nathan Schmook
Other contenders: Sean Darcy, Andrew Brayshaw, Luke Ryan
How they vote: Senior coach Justin Longmuir and four other members of the Fremantle coaching staff each allocate up to five votes per player for a maximum of 25 votes per game.
You would've pencilled in Tom Stewart as the Cats' best and fairest before he suffered a foot injury that is likely to sideline him for the remainder of the season. Stewart has played 20 games this season so given the Cats' system, it won't cost him too much, but Guthrie will be hard to ignore given his consistency. Last year's winner has averaged 30 disposals from his 19 games and has been Geelong's most prolific midfielder in a side that has lost Mitch Duncan and Patrick Dangerfield to long chunks with injury. Guthrie won't be ahead at this stage of the count but has at least three more games to edge past Stewart. – Mitch Cleary
Other contenders: Tom Stewart, Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins
How they vote: Coaches rate each player's performance out of 15 with the combined votes averaged to give a final score for that game. Last year the Cats calculated the best 20 of each players' possible 21 scoring games due to the reduced COVID-19 season. In 2019, it was 23 of the best 25 games to allow for injuries or a player being rested.
This has been a one-horse race for the second half of the season with Touk Miller vaulting his play to become arguably the best two-way midfielder in the competition. Not only has Miller gathered 30-plus disposals in a remarkable 15 straight contests, but he's also completed the second-most tackles (140) in the competition. His thirst for running back to help defenders and then springboarding Gold Coast's attack to link up in chains of possessions has been remarkable. – Michael Whiting
Other contenders: Wil Powell, Sam Collins, David Swallow
How they vote: Gold Coast's five-man match committee awards a maximum of 10 votes to a player after each match, for a maximum of 50 votes for any match.
A recently confirmed 'Giant for life', Kelly has again delivered some of his best football while considering a new deal, just as he did when he won his only Kevin Sheedy Medal in 2017. The 26-year-old was often sent to a wing or half-forward early in the season but has had more of an impact on matches since moving to his preferred onball role. He is averaging 26 disposals a game, has kicked 15 goals including a last-minute winner against Sydney and has stepped in as captain four times this season. Clearance king Jacob Hopper will go close but Kelly’s all-round influence should be enough to earn him a second club champion award. - Martin Pegan
Other contenders: Jacob Hopper, Tim Taranto, Toby Greene, Callan Ward
How they vote: Leon Cameron and three assistant coaches award up to four votes to each player every round, meaning each player is able to receive a maximum of 16 votes per match.
Mitchell has had an outstanding season, two years on from the badly broken leg which wiped out his 2019. The 2018 Brownlow medallist has played all 21 games for the Hawks this year, being a strong on-field leader in a difficult first half of the season for the club. Mitchell has averaged a whopping 34 disposals this year, chipping in with eight goals in the process. While Jaegar O'Meara has also had a fairly strong season, he has played four fewer games. It would be Mitchell's third best and fairest win, having taken out the Peter Crimmins Medal in 2017 and 2018. – Sarah Black
Other contenders: Jaegar O'Meara, Blake Hardwick, Jack Scrimshaw, Luke Breust
How they vote: The club's match committee votes after each match, with the maximum number of votes available being 16.
In a packed field, Clayton Oliver might just come out on top for his third Melbourne best and fairest. Oliver's inside work has been superb all season, as he leads the AFL for contested possessions and ranks second for clearances. That complements a career-high average of 31.4 disposals per game. What's most pleasing for Oliver, though, is that he's also been more damaging with ball in hand. He kicked a bag of three goals against Adelaide earlier in the year, while he ranks top-10 in the League for average score involvements. That impact forward of centre might just take him beyond some of the Demons' other elite playmakers. – Riley Beveridge
Other contenders: Christian Petracca, Jake Lever, Steven May
How they vote: A total of 40 votes are on offer for each player per match and are awarded by senior coach Simon Goodwin and three assistants.
Expect the consistency and toughness of Jy Simpkin to be rewarded in a maiden North Melbourne best and fairest. The 23-year-old has been an ever-present in a young onball group this year, averaging career-highs in disposals (26.9 per game), clearances (5.2) and tackles (3.7). A reliable figure even as the club lost its opening eight matches, Simpkin has exploded as the rebuilding side found form in the second half of the year. He's won more than 30 disposals in each of the side's four victories, helping to drag them over the line. That should be enough to see him recognised as the club's best player in 2021. – Riley Beveridge
Other contenders: Jack Ziebell, Tarryn Thomas, Ben Cunnington
How they vote: Coaches award players up to 20 votes in a game.
The star midfielder has taken a significant step in 2021 and joined the game's elite inside midfielders, ranking No.3 in the AFL for disposals (32.0) and No.4 for contested possessions (14.5). Focusing on his strengths and how he can best serve the Power midfield has allowed him to flourish in a career-best season and he is the standout contender for the John Cahill Medal, with recognition in the Therabody AFL All-Australian team also likely. Travis Boak, who has averaged 27.6 disposals and benefited from Wines' improvement, is the main challenger, while Karl Amon (23.8 and 4.6 inside 50s) has been among the AFL's best wingmen, playing every game in a career-best season. Charlie Dixon has led the forward line and booted 46 goals from 21 games. - Nathan Schmook
Other contenders: Travis Boak, Karl Amon, Charlie Dixon
How they vote: After every game, coach Ken Hinkley, senior assistant Michael Voss, each player's line coach, and football manager Chris Davies each rate every player between 0-5, with a maximum of 20 and minimum of zero votes awarded per player.
It's set to be another thrilling count for the Jack Dyer Medal after another year of injuries to top players ruled out some of the usual suspects. Just four players have played every game, one of which being veteran forward Riewoldt. The 32-year-old has only been goalless once on his way to 48 majors, as well as averaging 11 disposals and five marks a game, and won a few games off his own boot. Shai Bolton tailed off in the second half of the year, while the Tigers' "Mr Fix It" in Liam Baker could be in for his best result ever and Jayden Short is a chance to go back-to-back. – Sarah Black
Other contenders: Liam Baker, Jayden Short, Jack Graham, Shai Bolton
How they vote: Every player is awarded between zero and five votes after each match.
Might be the easiest club to pick the winner from in the competition. The newly instated co-captain has backed up his breakout 2020 season with another blistering campaign in the midfield. Steele leads the Saints in average disposals, contested possessions, tackles, inside 50s and clearances while also pushing forward to kick 13 goals. His individual performances to will his side to victory against West Coast (round four) and Brisbane (round 17) shouldn't be forgotten. – Mitch Cleary
Other contenders: Max King, Tim Membrey, Jack Sinclair, Brad Crouch
How they vote: The coaches vote independently of each other after every match, giving between zero and four votes to every player.
The typically durable Parker has played every match this season and is averaging 28 touches with team-highs for contested disposals (13) and clearances (six). The Swans' co-captain is reliable too, not dropping below 21 touches in a match while also hitting the scoreboard regularly with 15 goals. Since winning his second Bob Skilton Medal in 2017 Parker has finished on the podium each season but is now a strong chance to claim another award especially with one of his main rivals, Callum Mills, missing four recent matches. The Swans will hope Parker, who is an unrestricted free agent this year, signs a new deal long before the count takes place. - Martin Pegan
Other contenders: Jake Lloyd, Tom Hickey, Callum Mills, Tom Papley
How they vote: John Longmire and four assistant coaches award up to 10 votes to each player every round, meaning each player is able to receive a maximum of 50 votes per match.
The reigning John Worsfold medallist looks certain to go back-to-back after an outstanding season that has seen the star ruckman climb to the top of the Official AFL Player Ratings. Playing every game and performing consistently, Naitanui has averaged 7.0 clearances and 11.9 contested possessions – both career-highs – to go with his 30.2 hitouts a game. He has carried a significant workload in a midfield that has been hit all season with injury and is a contender for the No.1 ruck spot in the Therabody AFL All-Australian team. The extent of injuries to West Coast's top end will rule plenty out at the pointy end, but Jack Redden has been consistent and Josh Kennedy has led the goalkicking with 41 from 18 games. Midfielders Andrew Gaff and Dom Sheed have not been at their best consistently but have played enough to poll well under the voting system. - Nathan Schmook
Other contenders: Jack Redden, Andrew Gaff, Dom Sheed
How they vote: Five members of the match committee award each player up to three votes. Each player can get a maximum of 15 per game.
It is impossible to go past Bontempelli for the Bulldogs' best and fairest, with the superstar skipper also the raging favourite to win the Brownlow Medal. In what has been an extraordinary campaign, Bontempelli has averaged 28 disposals and booted 25 goals to piece together a dominant season as the game's best player. Whenever the Bulldogs need a lift, they turn to Bontempelli, whose moments of brilliance make him a certain Therabody AFL All-Australian and one of the highest-impact players in the competition. It would be his fourth best and fairest of a glittering career. - Callum Twomey
Other contenders: Jack Macrae, Caleb Daniel, Tom Liberatore, Alex Keath
How they vote: The Bulldogs' best and fairest is voted on by their match committee, with five members awarding a score from zero to five for each player after every game.