By ZAC MILBANK
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.
Here are players 11 to 20, stay tuned to the SANFL website as more are revealed in the lead up to the season openers on Friday.
11) Jack Stephens (Sturt)
The 2016 Jack Oatey Medallist is the best defender in the competition, evidenced by his ability to blend attack with defence. Stephens is a master of timing his run from the back half when required, while also ensuring his direct opponent is kept quiet. Can play on rivals of all sizes, is courageous and skillful by hand and foot. Has the ability to take an eye-catching mark, evidenced by the beauty below, taken in last year’s First Semi-Final.
12) Danyle Pearce (Sturt)
Takes the mantle as SANFL’s most decorated player in terms of resume, featuring in 258 AFL games for Fremantle and Port Adelaide. The 32-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down, averaging 27 disposals per game as an inside midfielder for Peel Thunder in the WAFL last year. Expect him to be used by new Sturt coach Nathan Grima in the centre square, where he will also look to impart his knowledge gleaned from Dockers coach Ross Lyon.
13) Kaine Stevens (West)
A dual Neil Kerley Medallist, Stevens is at the peak of his powers after claiming the last two Bloods’ best-and-fairest awards. A member of last year’s West End State team, Stevens averaged the most kicks (20) in the competition last year while also carrying the ball across lines to catch the opposition off guard. Rarely puts in a bad day at the office.
14) Travis Schiller (Central)
The definition of a ball magnet is Travis Schiller. Averaged just under 30 disposals per game in 2018 as he continued his prowess in and under at the stoppage. Loves to flick a quick handball out to his Bulldog team-mates on the outside while also not being afraid to lay a tackle. Thrives in the wet and heavy conditions during the middle part of the season.
15) Luke Thompson (Eagles)
A fixture in defence for The Advertiser SANFL Team of the Year, Thompson has also been a regular in the West End State team, last year rising to vice-captain. Co-captain at Oval Avenue, the former Crow is a master at getting a hand in to spoil his opponent while also using his strength to positive affect in one-on-one contests. Rarely beaten.
16) Jared Allmond (North)
Enjoyed a dream debut season with the Roosters which culminated in a berth in the West End State team and a drought-breaking premiership. Boasts a raking left-foot kick as evidenced in the video clip below where he sunk a set-shot 70m from goal at Prospect last year. Loves to dash off the half-back line but can also be used further up the ground on the wing.
17) Luke Partington (Glenelg)
Arrives back in the SANFL after three seasons on West Coast’s list. Has a nice inside-outside blend to his game in that he can win the ball in traffic before spreading from the contest to dispose of the ball. The 22-year-old, who averaged 24 disposals per game in the WAFL last year, gives Glenelg some genuine class in the centre square for 2019.
18) James Boyd (Eagles)
No one touched the ball more in the SANFL than James Boyd in 2018, with the West End State midfielder racking up 574 disposals. The dynamic rover has an incredible aerobic base which he uses to his advantage in getting to more contests than most of his opponents. Doesn’t hold back when there is a bit of niggle from his larger opponents.
19) Fraser Evans (Sturt)
The 2017 Jack Oatey Medallist’s presence was certainly missed in last year’s finals series when he was sidelined by an untimely ankle injury. The West End State defender spoils well with strength but also knows when to drop off his man to create from defence. When this happens, he uses his booming left-foot kick to advantage in clearing the back 50m arc. Doesn’t mind sneaking forward for a long goal either.
20) Will Snelling (West)
Returns to the club where he played in the 2015 SANFL League premiership as a fresh-faced teenager. Coming off a strong season in which he won the best-and-fairest for the Magpies, Snelling is refusing to give up on his AFL dream. The 21-year-old can play varying roles in the midfield given he has performed shut down jobs previously while also racking up high disposal numbers. Laid the second-most tackles in the competition last year (144) to only be shaded by North’s Aidan Tropiano.
Sign up to see all the news from around the SANFL each week – directly in your inbox!