Dream Team: Who’s AFL’s best key defender?
THE say the building of a premiership side begins down back, with the cornerstone being a key defender.
Typically the AFL's best over the past decade has been Alex Rance, but with the Richmond great gone to a new life, just who is the premier back? Today you get the chance to nominate your leading key defender for the 2020 season.
Over the next 18 days in the countdown to the AFL season opener between Carlton and Richmond on March 19 at the MCG, we will nominate 18 players by position as the best of the best in the competition, with our best team to be matched up against yours on March 18.
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1. KEY DEFENDER
Harris Andrews (Brisbane Lions)
Andrews is Brisbane's poster boy for the benefits of Academy selections. At 201cm and with a unique ability to know when to spoil or mark, Andrews also has the closing speed to get to contests. What he is adding is intercept marking and attack out of defence, and we are talking about a kid still, at just 23. It's hard to imagine a better-equipped AFL defender to match up with a wide variety of opposition forwards.
SuperCoach price: $449,300 DEF. 2019 Average: 81
Champion Data says: Andrews was the only key defender to rate elite for both Champion Data ranking points and spoils last season.
Dane Rampe (Sydney)
It's to his eternal credit that Rampe is even in this argument given he stands just 188cm, and may well be employed to negate smaller opposition forwards in 2020, which makes him clearly the most versatile of this group. Plus his CV is rapidly growing after All-Australian selection in 2016 and a runaway win in Sydney's 2019 best-and-fairest. And as a Sydney co-captain he brings leadership to the equation.
SuperCoach price: $527,800 DEF. 2019 Average: 97
Champion Data says: Rampe won 42 per cent of his defensive one-on-one contests last season - ranked third of the top 50 players to have defended a contest.
Mark Blicavs (Geelong)
Despite the team's strange flirtation with Blicavs as both a wingman and ruckman last September, he remains a two-time club best-and-fairest as a 198cm backman who boasts the best endurance motor in the game. Like Rampe, Blicavs is also capable of playing on opposition smalls given his closing speed and ability to read the angles. Not bad for a bloke who only played one year of footy until he was 22.
SuperCoach price: $449,200 DEF. 2019 Average: 81
Champion Data says: Blicavs averaged 29.1 pressure points and 3.6 tackles last season - ranked No.1 of all key defenders for each measure.
Phil Davis (GWS)
The surprise is 29-year-old Davis has never made All-Australian, despite a body of work that arguably places him numero uno over the past decade for key defenders. As his game has evolved, Davis has become an intercept marking guru alongside teammate Nick Haynes. His on-field judgment is in keeping with his scholarly off-field appearance.
SuperCoach price: $431,600 DEF. 2019 Average: 76
Champion Data says: Davis was one of two key defenders to rate elite for marks, intercept marks and intercept possessions last season.
Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne)
Turns 31 in April yet remains the cornerstone of North's defence. Tarrant knows when to go or spoil, and when he goes there isn't a better defensive mark in the business. Like Davis, he's unlucky to have never been All-Australian (was a nominee in 2016). He has added offence to his game over the journey but still plays one-on-one against the opposition's key forward.
SuperCoach price: $447,800 DEF. 2019 Average: 82
Champion Data says: Tarrant rated above average for disposals, intercept possessions and spoils last season.
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