As the start of the 2019 Statewide Super League edges closer, SANFL’s Zac Milbank has selected his Top 50 players.
Weighing heavily on the players’ form and consistency in 2018, other factors were also taken into account in the ranking process such as club best-and-fairest finishes and selection in last year’s West End State team.
Players such as Sturt’s Ben Hansen (back) and Glenelg’s Cory Gregson (foot) weren’t considered due to them not playing much football in the past 12 months and coming off restricted pre-seasons.
Here is the list in its entirety, focusing on the highly anticipated Top 10 headed by Norwood’s Mitch Grigg who comes in at No.1.
1) Mitch Grigg (Norwood)
How can you go past Mitch Grigg as the best player in the Statewide Super League? The Norwood midfielder has won the past two Magarey Medals and last year, as seen in the video clip below, he produced one of the great Grand Final performances to become the first player in a losing team to win the Jack Oatey Medal. Powerfully built, the 26-year-old boasts a booming left-foot kick which can gain valuable distance for his side. But he also has great precision with his foot skills, in being able to pin-point team-mates from long distances. Fearless and not afraid to throw out the odd ”Don’t Argue”, Grigg is a player any SANFL coach would love in their line-up.
2) Matthew Panos (Norwood)
There aren’t many players who stand 191cm who can play like a genuine midfielder. But Panos is exactly that. Previously a lead-up, medium-sized forward, Panos transformed himself into a big-bodied on-baller under the guidance of Redlegs premiership coach Ben Warren in 2014, the same year he won the Jack Oatey Medal. Previously listed with the Western Bulldogs, Panos can still be thrown into attack or even provide drive off half-back, which makes the 28-year-old even more valuable. A lovely kick, Panos also has clean hands in the air, an advantage he can use against the majority of his shorter opponents in the centre square.
3) Zane Kirkwood (Sturt)
On the verge of becoming a fitting inductee into SANFL’s 200-club, Kirkwood has achieved a lot in his glittering career. The dual premiership captain has won three Fos Williams Medals representing the West End State team while also winning Magarey Medals in 2014 and 2016. Aside from his outstanding resume, Kirkwood leads from the front in imposing fashion. The 28-year-old throws himself into the bottom of the stoppages without fear to win the hard ball for the Double Blues on a regular basis. Not afraid to kick a ”Captains Goal” whenever his team needs it as evidenced by the sealing major in the 2016 Grand Final win.
4) Joel Cross (South Adelaide)
Another dual Magarey Medallist in the top five players of the competition, Cross endured a challenging year in 2018 both on and off the field. This included the passing of his father which also sidelined him from selection in the West End State team. But the 31-year-old – who was named at half-forward in The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year – is driven to break the Panthers’ premiership drought. Despite his small stature – 182cm and 81kg – Cross shows no fear at ground level or in the air while also rising to share the co-captaincy for the past two years. Watch out for him to have a big year in 2019.
5) Nick Liddle (South Adelaide)
Enjoyed arguably his best year in the SANFL last year, which yielded the R.O Shearman Medal as voted by the opposition coaches and the Knuckey Cup as the Panthers’ best-and-fairest. The 31-year-old has now won a staggering five Knuckey Cups to illustrate his outstanding consistency throughout his 175 games in the Navy Blue. A feisty competitor, Liddle is equally proficient on both feet while also not being afraid to carry the ball across lines with a bounce, an advantage on the massive Flinders University Stadium. Few would argue that he deserves to have his loyalty rewarded with a premiership, much like the man at No.4, Joel Cross.
6) Cameron Sutcliffe (Port Adelaide)
The new Port Adelaide captain returns to SANFL for the first time since playing eight League matches for the Eagles in their 2011 premiership year. Arrives at Alberton with seven years and 104 games of AFL experience with Fremantle under his belt to lead a young line-up under Matt Lokan. The 26-year-old forged a reputation as a medium-sized defender for the Dockers but expect him to primarily play out of the centre square, where he will use his sizeable 187cm and 87kg frame to strong affect.
7) Matthew Wright (Adelaide)
The North Adelaide junior has also made a homecoming to the SANFL but will lead Adelaide’s State League team as captain rather than return to Prospect. Also an assistant coach at West Lakes, Wright has hinted at spending more time in attacking 50m than on the ball. But regardless of where the 29-year-old lines up, he will use his 159 games of AFL experience to his advantage with his natural ball-winning ability and nous around the goals. A strong presence to captain the side, which has been lacking since the retirement of inaugural skipper Ian Callinan.
8) James Battersby (Sturt)
The 23-year-old is looming as a candidate to be the Double Blues’ next long-term leader such is the way he brings his best in the midfield on a weekly basis. A neat kick on either foot, the former Crows rookie is a natural at positioning himself where the ball is going to be, ensuring he earns plenty of possessions without having to exert himself. Hard and courageous, he snared a stunning mark running back with the flight of the ball against Adelaide at Thebarton Oval earlier in his career, Battersby isn’t far from being on the same standing as his captain Zane Kirkwood.
9) Tom Keough (West Adelaide)
West Adelaide’s captain has reinvented himself as a big-bodied midfielder since returning from his one season with the Gold Coast Suns in 2016. A winner of the Fos Williams Medal as a key defender, the 2015 premiership player ensures his 194cm and 91kg frame has an influence at the stoppages. Quiet by nature, Keough has come out of his shell to lead the Bloods with distinction and he will now be helped by the presence of former skipper Chris Schmidt, who has returned for 2019. Can play equally well in all three sectors of the ground which makes him one of the most valuable in the Statewide Super League.
10) Josh Scott (Glenelg)
The high-flying forward is Glenelg’s heartbeat such is the influence he has on the fortunes of his team. A strong contested mark, Scott is arguably the the best key forward in the competition with his ability to also follow up his work at ground level like an extra midfielder. Doesn’t mind a scrap when standing up for his team-mates, the flame-haired spearhead was SANFL’s best forward in last year’s West End State team. Should benefit significantly from the return of Liam McBean and emergence of Luke Reynolds and Lachlan Hosie inside attacking 50m for the Bays in 2019.
11) Jack Stephens (Sturt)
12) Danyle Pearce (Sturt)
13) Kaine Stevens (West Adelaide)
14) Travis Schiller (Central District)
15) Luke Thompson (Eagles)
16) Jarred Allmond (North Adelaide)
17) Luke Partington (Glenelg)
18) James Boyd (Eagles)
19) Fraser Evans (Sturt)
20) Will Snelling (West Adelaide)
21) Jimmy Toumpas (Eagles)
22) Matthew Nunn (Norwood)
23) Abe Davis (South Adelaide)
24) Justin Hoskin (Central District)
25) Lewis Johnston (Norwood)
26) Mark Evans (Sturt)
27) Max Thring (North Adelaide)
28) Aidan Riley (Sturt)
29) Jack Hayes (Eagles)
30) Matt Snook (Glenelg)
31) Matthew Rose (South Adelaide)
32) Jesse Lonergan (Eagles)
33) Aidan Tropiano (North Adelaide)
34) Jared Petrenko (Eagles)
35) Cameron Shenton (Norwood)
36) Chris Curran (Glenelg)
37) Jonathan Beech (West Adelaide)
38) Sam Colquhoun (Sturt)
39) Chris Schmidt (West Adelaide)
40) Brad McKenzie (Norwood)
41) Max Proud (Glenelg)
42) Sam Baulderstone (Norwood)
43) Chris Hall (Eagles)
44) Alex Barns (North Adelaide)
45) Nick Hayes (Eagles)
46) Alex Spina (North Adelaide)
47) Trent Goodrem (Central District)
48) Joseph Sinor (Eagles)
49) Tom Harms (Sturt)
50) Lewis Hender (North Adelaide)
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