Sure, every team has their star. Their B&F challenger, their Brownlow medallist, the player (or players) who draw in their fans. However, there are also a lot of unheralded heroes in the AFL, and here’s a few.
10- Dale Morris (Western Bulldogs)
Morris has come through the rookie system and become a steady part of the Bulldogs defence, to the point of earning All-Australian honours in 2008. However, this steadiness means that he doesn’t gain much notice in the eyes of the AFL public, as mid-sized defenders generally get passed over. However, Morris’s importance as part of the Bulldogs defence should not be understated, especially with over 200 games under his belt.
9 – Tom Lonergan (Geelong)
Lonergan’s biggest point of note up until 2011 was his kidney injury, and the comparisons to Sam Newman as a young player losing a kidney. However, now having finally worked his way into Geelong’s backline, he became a key part of their premiership side as he allowed Matthew Scarlett to be released across half-back and create further damaging plays. One to watch in 2012.
8 – Antoni Grover (Fremantle)
Admittedly, your author will confess to not knowing who Grover was until the 2011 season. Yes, I missed a 200-game solid part of the Fremantle defence. I apologise, Dockers fans. But there has never been controversy or massive errors surrounding Grover, which is why he goes unnoticed as a solid contributor in the Fremantle back line. A lot of teams of the early 2000s would have loved a player like Grover, simply because he is hard-working and reliable in defence where so many others were not.
7 – Nathan Jones (Melbourne)
Like so many Melbourne players, Jones seems to be targeted by analysts as an underachiever, particularly after the 2011 season. However, Jones was everything Melbourne was not, with the ‘bruise-free’ tag certainly not applying as he continually competed for and retrieved the hard ball. If his disposal cleans up he will quickly become the most dangerous player in the Melbourne midfield.
6 – Darren Jolly (Collingwood)
It’s very difficult to consider a double-premiership-winning ruckman underrated, but then you look at the AFL landscape. Two ruckmen dominate AFL discussion in Sandilands and Cox, with other names such as Jamar and Goldstein often being thrown in there. However, despite recent injuries Jolly is still one of the best rucks around and must be factored in as a key piece in Collingwood’s 2012 chances.
5 – David Wojcinski (Geelong)
Wojcinski has spent the better part of a decade playing off a half-back flank for the Cats, and has been rewarded with three premiership medallions. Making (almost) 200 games and being a good contributor for that length of time would normally guarantee you a spot in the fond memories of your club’s supporters, but when you’ve been next to names like Ablett, Bartel, Chapman, Ling and Johnson you can be overlooked. Wojack remains a faithful servant of Geelong as he begins his 13th AFL season.
4 – Michael Rischitelli (Gold Coast)
The Suns have two reasons for watching: Gary Ablett and the legion of kids. However, the Suns’ sneaky pickup of the 2010 Brisbane B&F winner proved to be inspired, with Rischitelli being crucial in the Suns’ wins in 2011. Even better, he’s only 26 – and thus may very well be one of the veterans as GC charge towards a flag in later years.
3 – Michael Jamison (Carlton)
Much of Carlton gets overlooked because of the Judd factor. However, it must be noted that Jamison was the one rushed back as quickly as possible from his meniscus injury because he was such a crucial part of their backline. If Carlton make the top 4, it’ll be because Jamison is playing.
2 – Domenic Cassisi (Port Adelaide)
Cassisi continues to remain underrated beyond Port despite his tireless work ethic, his absolute commitment to leading the club and his never-say-die attitude. This was epitomised in 2011 with his decision to head to Darwin and play against Melbourne, despite his wife being heavily pregnant and the club having already excused him from duty. A loyal servant of the Power who deserves better coverage.
1 – Josh Kennedy (Sydney)
Having failed to make the grade at Hawthorn, Kennedy has shone since arriving in Sydney. He went from being a part-time starter at Hawthorn, to starting every game since his arrival in Sydney and has now become a crucial part of the Swans’ midfield. Incredibly as well, he’s only 23, but produces at such a rate that he is on track to be a gun for the long term.
Disagree? Post your thoughts on who else is underrated below!