Trying to single out the top players in any sport is difficult, but Australian Football League has had such a long history and such enormously talented players that it seems particularly tough.
It is one of the hardest games on the planet and has it all, freakishly good goals, particularly bone-jarring tackles, and all the high-flying marks players and bettors are looking for.
Dick Reynolds, 1915 – 2002
Reynolds played in the ruck over or half-forward position for 321 games and scored 442 goals during his career. He was seen as an unshakably fair player on the pitch and came to be viewed as the prototype of the ruck over, combining an incredible overhead marking ability with being hard as nails.
He won three Brownlow Medals, captain coached Essendon to two Premierships and is held by many to be the best player of all time.
Gary Ablett Senior, 1961 –
Ablett Sr was a wing or full-forward for Hawthorn and Geelong for 248 games and 1 030 goals. Nicknamed God by football fans, he was as uncompromising and tough as he was skilled. He was incredibly fit, as his goal count evidences, and was by far the best player in the Grand Final in 1989.
He booted nine goals in an albeit losing effort to the Hawks and was a big reason why this is hailed by some as one of the best Football games ever.
Leigh Matthews, 1952 –
As midfield or forward for Hawthorn, Matthews played 332 games and scored 915 goals during his career. He was so supremely skilled and talented a player that he struck fear into the hearts of the opposition!
Known for his brutality, Matthews would either win the ball or destroy the man who grabbed it. He’s one of the best small forwards or midfielders of all time and many feel he’s the top contender for the games greatest-ever player, Matthews spent 16 years with the Hawks.
He’s been named by the AFL as the 20th century’s greatest player and he remains connected to the game thanks to his post-coaching fixture on TV coverage of games.
Ted Whitten, 1933 – 1995
Centre half-forward or centre halfback for the Western Bulldogs, Footscray, Whitten played 321 games and scored 360 games in all. With a nickname like Mr Football, it’s easy to see why he’s lauded as one of the first truly great key position players.
While he was officially either a centre halfback or a centre halfback it didn’t really matter where he ended up. Whitten could play in any position and was beaten only very rarely.
He became one of the major proponents of the dropkick, an art which has sadly fallen out of grace in today’s games and also pioneered the flick pass, which is no longer lawful.