Top 50

2021 SANFL Preseason Top 50: 1-5

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Find out where star South Adelaide recruit Bryce Gibbs ranks in the 2021 SANFL Preseason Top 50.

This is what you have been waiting for….

After selecting his Top 50 players at the conclusion of 2020, SANFL Media Producer Zac Milbank has now chosen his Top 50 as we prepare for the start of the 2021 Statewide Super League campaign with a Norwood v Port blockbuster on Easter Thursday night.

Form across the 2020 season was used as the chief factor in the ranking process, with selection in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year, placings in the Magarey Medal, Shearman Medal and Club best-and-fairest awards weighing heavily as it did in the Postseason.

But to spice things up, a bevy of star recruits signed over summer have been sprinkled in for good measure.

Here they are, the Statewide Super League’s top five players heading into the 2021 season.

5 - James Battersby (Sturt)

There was a common theme among rival captains when asked who would win the 2021 Magarey Medal. No less than half of them tipped Sturt captain James Battersby to be crowned SANFL’s fairest and most brilliant player this season. And for good reason.  Vice-captain of The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year, Battersby enjoyed a stunning personal campaign for the Double Blues in 2020. Winning the P. T Morton Medal as Sturt’s best-and-fairest in his first year as club captain, the 25-year-old averaged more than 25 disposals and five tackles. Boasting an average of 8.5 clearances per game, Battersby led the competition in that category whilst finishing runner-up in the Shearman Medal and third in the 2020 Magarey Medal.

Sturt’s James Battersby with the 2020 P. T Morton Medal

4 - Bryce Gibbs (South Adelaide)

Difficult not to include someone of Gibbs’ experience and impressive resume inside the top five players of the competition. The Panthers produced a recruiting coup when they lured the wily campaigner up the Southern Expressway, instead of the son of Glenelg premiership defender Ross returning to his original SANFL club. Boasts enormous experience having logged 268 AFL games with Carlton and Adelaide. Could play multiple roles for South, including distributing the ball across half-back, or winning clearances from the centre square. The 31-year-old is keen to enjoy his football again in a similar vein to new teammate Matthew Broadbent, who was a key influence for South in 2020 after arriving from the Power. Playing with a point to prove in 2021 which spells danger for opposition clubs.

3 - Paul Puopolo (Norwood)

Excitement will be high at The Parade on Thursday night when Paul Puopolo dons the red and blue for the first time since the 2010 SANFL Grand Final. Set to wear the No.21 guernsey which he wore in 68 League games from 2007, the triple Hawthorn premiership star brings immense experience back to his home club. Despite playing at Norwood as a dashing back pocket, the 33-year-old made his mark as a relentless crumbing forward with the Hawks, booting 185 goals in 196 AFL games. Expect him to be thrown into the centre square by Redlegs coach Jade Rawlings, who is keen to see what Puopolo can do through the middle of the ground. Pigeon-holed in attack throughout his career with the Hawks, the strongly-built veteran threatens to add another weapon to his already impressive arsenal.

2 - Matthew Snook (Glenelg)

It is a common sight to see Snook emerge from the bottom of the pack with ball in hand, farming it out to his teammates, or if he’s not racking up another clearance, he’s applying a crunching tackle. Glenelg’s midfield warrior worked tirelessly through the centre square last year while claiming a richly-deserved Shearman Medal as voted by SANFL’s senior coaches. Named in the centre for The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year, Snook was edged out for the Magarey Medal by just two votes but posted outstanding averages of 27 disposals, eight clearances and eight tackles per game. Winning the John H. Ellers best-and-fairest last year, the Bays’ ball-winner is again expected to be among the competition’s most valuable players in 2021.

1 - Campbell Combe (North Adelaide)

North Adelaide’s Campbell Combe came from the clouds to be crowned SANFL’s No.1 ranked player at the end of 2020.  In his second season since returning from his home town of Crystal Brook, the 25-year-old won the Magarey Medal as SANFL’s fairest-and-most brilliant player. Averaging 23 disposals and seven clearances per game, Combe’s willingness to apply defensive pressure was equally impressive. As a result, he averaged a staggering 10 tackles while applying 140 for the minor round, 27 more than his nearest rival. Winner of the Barrie Robran Medal as North’s best-and-fairest, Combe was fittingly selected as starting rover in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year. Retains his place at the top of the tree after hinting that he’s been working more on the offensive side to his game during summer. After managing just one goal in 2020, the dashing left-footer is planning to hit the scoreboard regularly while also improving his spread from stoppage.