Round 1 of the Hostplus SANFL League season is now upon us, so there’s no better time to unveil the preseason TopSport SANFL Top 50.
After selecting his Top 50 players at the end of last season, SANFL Media Producer Zac Milbank has chosen his Top 50, inclusive of the bevy of star recruits set to take part in the 2022 Hostplus SANFL League campaign.
Form across the 2021 season was used as the chief factor in the ranking process, with selection in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year and West End State team weighing heavily together with placings in the Magarey Medal, Shearman Medal and Club best-and-fairest awards.
High rankings in statistics such as total disposals, marks, contested marks, goals, clearances and tackles were also taken into account, along with Champion Data ranking points.
So here they are, the top 10 of the TopSport SANFL Top 50 set to excite the fans in 2022.
Keegan Brooksby has unfinished business at Noarlunga. As a child, he proudly helped plant trees on the outer side of Flinders University Stadium when it was established as South’s new home ground for the 1995 season.
His father Phil and uncle Graham were unable to taste the ultimate success playing for the Panthers but Brooksby is determined to play a part in breaking the club’s premiership drought, which has stood since 1964.
The 31-year-old – who measures in at 197cm and 99kg – is a proven force in the ruck at SANFL level, having previously been captain of The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year.
His challenge this season will be juggling his work commitments while living in Melbourne to work with the Hawthorn Football Club. Brooksby will be commuting to Adelaide weekly while remaining engaged with Panthers’ team meetings via Zoom during the season.
The nine rival SANFL captains unanimously backed McBean to win his fourth consecutive Ken Farmer Medal in 2022, when quizzed at the Hostplus SANFL League season launch this week.
McBean’s consistency in front of goal is exceptional, highlighted by him winning his third Ken Farmer Medal in a row last year with a haul of 56 majors.
Glenelg’s versatile spearhead is arguably more adept at ground level than in the air despite standing 202cm, something which ensured he would be selected in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year and the West End State team.
Placing sixth in the Bay’s best-and-fairest in 2021, the Tigers’ joint vice captain won the club’s first Bob Quinn Medal as best afield against Port Adelaide on Anzac Eve.
It was certainly a case of better late than never when Adelaide swooped on former St Kilda and Collingwood midfielder Nathan Freeman in March.
Averaging 37 disposals for Frankston in the VFL last season, the strongly-built 26-year-old narrowly missed out on the last place on Gold Coast’s list, with the Suns opting for Magarey Medallist James Tsitas.
Freeman has endured a luckless run with injury but now the top-10 AFL Draft pick appears primed to make his mark in the Hostplus SANFL League in 2022.
But first, he will have to wait until he recovers from an untimely AC-joint injury suffered while playing in a trial match against Port Adelaide last weekend.
Woodville-West Torrens’ Mr Reliable inside the centre square, Riley Knight is lauded for his ability to play his role exceptionally well on a weekly basis.
A member of the Eagles’ leadership group this season, Knight last year rewarded his home club by playing a major role in the Eagles defending their crown despite missing three games with injury.
The 27-year-old still managed to place fourth in the Eagles’ best-and-fairest while being selected in the West End State team and The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year.
Topped things off nicely by racking up the most disposals – 27 – on SANFL Grand Final day.
Looming as Glenelg’s most likely next captain once current skipper Max Proud hangs up the boots, Partington is set to thrive in his role as joint vice-captain this year.
The 2019 Magarey Medallist was headed for No.1 on the TopSport SANFL Top 50 last year until he suffered an untimely hamstring strain in Round 17.
This played a role in him placing third in the Magarey Medal and runner-up in the Shearman Medal.
Despite the late-season setback, Partington still managed to share Glenelg’s best-and-fairest with Matthew Snook while also being selected in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year.
On paper, it was a crushing blow for the Eagles to lose premiership stars Jack Hayes (St Kilda) and James Tsitas (Gold Coast) on the eve of the Hostplus League season.
But the Eagles have continued their stunning run of recruiting coups by landing prolific Essendon midfielder Dylan Clarke as a replacement for Tsitas.
At the Hostplus SANFL League season launch, he was tipped by Adelaide’s Nathan Freeman to win the 2022 Magarey Medal.
A friendship with fellow former Bomber Kobe Mutch, who is now at Oval Avenue, played a role in landing Clarke but the 23-year-old is also desperate to rekindle his chances of playing AFL while enjoying success.
”Hopefully we are a really good fit for him and we can try and get him back playing good footy on an AFL list,” Eagles coach Jade Sheedy said.
”He’s a great kid, his first priority is to come over here and helps us climb the ladder again – he’s going to be really good for our culture.”
Glenelg’s fearless midfield warrior will start his 2022 campaign in the uncustomary position of the Reserves after enduring an injury-interrupted preseason, which ensured he couldn’t line up in any trial matches.
It is no surprise to see Snook battle through physical ailments, as his fighting spirit was on display during the 2021 finals series when he pushed through the pain of a serious neck injury to be his team’s best player on Grand Final day with 22 disposals, nine tackles and nine clearances.
Had the third most disposals for the 2021 season while sharing the Bays’ best-and-fairest with Luke Partington, being selected in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year and finishing runner-up in the Magarey Medal.
A member of North’s 2022 leadership group, Campbell Combe again looms as one of the competition’s best midfielders such is ability to find the loose ball, while also winning it back from the opposition.
Backed up his 2020 Magarey Medal with a third placing in 2021, together with his first Shearman Medal – illustrating the respect he commands from his rival coaches.
Winner of the 2021 Barrie Robran Medal as North’s best-and-fairest, Combe led the competition for average Champion Data ranking points while also being selected in the West End State team and The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year.
Clearly a star signing at West Adelaide, Hamish Hartlett is arguably the prized signature of the Hostplus SANFL League in 2022.
A veteran of 193 AFL games with Port Adelaide, the 31-year-old will also bring his football nous at the ideal time for the Bloods, who are rebuilding under second-year coach Brad Gotch.
Having made his name chiefly across half-back with the Power, expect the man known as ”Hammer” to spend plenty of time in the centre square whilst also acting as a playing midfield coach.
The significance of his decision to return to Hisense Stadium was certainly not lost on Gotch.
”It was huge, it was the biggest signing we could have done,” Gotch said.
”To have Hamish, who was in our youth program years ago, want to come back and help our footy club – that’s a big statement I reckon.”
Ranked No.2 in last year’s post season TopSport SANFL Top 50, Bryce Gibbs now assumes the mantle as the competition’s best player following Jack Hayes’ departure to St Kilda.
Expect the wily 33-year-old to continue his game-winning exploits at the stoppages again in 2022, as he looks to nurture through the Panthers’ bevy of younger players as a member of the leadership group.
South Adelaide’s recruiting raid to net Gibbs paid dividends when the former Crow shared the 2021 Magarey Medal with Tsitas while also winning the Knuckey Cup as club best-and-fairest.
Selected as ruck rover in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year, Gibbs also made his West End State team debut while placing fourth in the Shearman Medal.
The veteran’s influence with ball in hand was illustrated by him placing third in the competition for Champion Data ranking points.
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