APFL top 50 of the decade

20: Andrew Hardiman – Two Wells

Every coach would love a player like Hardiman in their side. Mind you, the number of last minute withdrawals from games with back issues might cause a brief rethink of that position. Overall, a bloke who stands at 6’1 or 6’2 in the old scale who can play anywhere on the ground and often does. Regularly competes undersized in key positions but could tear games apart in minutes as well.

19: Aaron Dart – Two Wells

Dart is clearly a class player. The Roosters love either having him or Wise with the ball in hand leaving defence with their penetrating accuracy by foot. His role ranges from midfield and rotating to the half back line. Has a knack of being in the right position at the right time and also an underrated intercept marker in defence.

18: Steven Pollock – Virginia

Pollock arrived at Virginia with big wraps on him as a key forward and he certainly delivered on that reputation. He was extremely mobile for his height and an excellent tank to boot, which helped him roam from deep in attack to the half back line from his position at centre half forward. He was also a solid set shot for goal, forming a lethal forward combination with Brendon Niklaus in the 2015 premiership.

17: Angus Bruggemann – Mallala

If presence was a measurable statistic, this bloke had plenty of it. Lacked the fitness of the likes of Pollock and other centre half forwards in the competition but never lacked work rate and probably had most blokes beaten for strength. Kicking at goal hasn’t always been reliable but has served the club and league extremely well over an extended period, despite being hampered by severe knee injuries.

16: Brad Hardie – Mallala

Probably the least heralded of Mallala’s star midfielders of the era but used to cause an equal amount of headaches for opposition coaches on a wing. Always found space, worked up and down the ground tirelessly and used the ball with precision when he got it. A bad facial injury brought an abrupt end to his playing days but was one of the first selected most weeks throughout the decade.

15: Liam Whitwell – Mallala

Gritty in and under midfielder who was both courageous and an excellent leader. Won two Plains Producer Medals before departing Mallala to coach BSR in 2017. Found plenty of contested ball, used the runners around him well, got forward himself at times. Arguably one of the smartest players of the decade too, without being the flashiest.

14: Ben Russell – Virginia

You could draw a lot of parallels between Whitwell and Russell. Both were of a similar build, although we’re probably robbing Ben an inch or two in height. Russell was more damaging by foot though, able to carry the lines and kick with penetration while running all day. Rarely played a bad match and had a solid defensive role in his game if needed.

13: Hayden Walker – Balaklava

We spoke about presence earlier and this bloke also had a stack of it. His intimidating image probably overshadowed his actual ability, as he was able to play on-ball as a midfielder at times, such was his mobility despite pushing 6’6. Deft in the ruck, good with the ball with both hand and foot, and lifted those around him to another level. Aggressive and tough.

12: Jason Earl – Mallala

The highest ranked defender in this exercise is nothing to sneeze at. Gave the Eagles in Adelaide a decent crack but eventually returned to be a general in Mallala’s backline for most of the decade. Often set things up to become the loose defender and took both intercept marks or ended up on the rebound 50 more often than not. Used it wisely too, another brilliant mind on the field. Career ended by severe concussion.

11: Justin Cicolella – HWE

His high ranking despite limited contribution over the past 10 years speaks volumes of the impact he had last season. Cicolella came and went from the HWE scene a bit following his superb SANFL career with the Eagles but a full season in 2019 outlined his true value, virtually a playing coach for Josh Gould and co in their premiership. Fiercely competitive, uncompromising, good skills, a champion of the era.

10: Shaun Light – HWE

One of the few genuine ruckmen to have traversed the entire decade, capping it off with a best on ground performance in the 2019 grand final for his club. In the lean years for the Eagles, his absence was noted with both work and injury taking its toll on his continuity but being able to string games together in recent times saw Light return to his best form, clunking marks in defence and working tirelessly across the ground.

9: Caleb Howell – Virginia

Came across from the Port Adelaide junior system under Greg Phillips and shone with the Rams, playing a mix of forward and midfield. Could destroy games when forward, proving an excellent contested mark for a mid sized forward. Represented both APFL and the Central Zone on a number of occasions and went on to play a prominent role at Langhorne Creek in the tough Great Southern competition.

8: Lee Allmond – Two Wells

At times forgotten when talking of Two Wells in recent times but from the turn of the decade, Allmond was the Roosters’ X-factor. Usually playing as an undersized key forward or through the midfield at times, he had both excellent aerial and aerobic ability, while also an exceptionally long, accurate kick. Had the ability to do the freakish at times and attracted close opposition attention most weeks.

7: Nigel Osborn – Mallala

Osborn arrived at Mallala having impressed coach, Steve Lubcke, while playing for Central Zone in 2013. Slotted straight into the midfield, with his large, muscular frame and smooth skills carving opposition clubs to shreds. Won the Plains Producer Medal in 2016 before being plagued by back issues but re-emerged with West Adelaide to crack the league side late in the decade.

6: Lachlan Michael – Balaklava

Pound for pound one of the most powerful players in the competition. Deceptively quick and difficult to tackle, he tends to do his best work at the clearances but is also excellent overhead and more often than not he hits the target. Represented the Central Zone a fistful of times, won multiple best U21 awards at Landmark Cups and Country Championships. Highly decorated player.

5: Heath Pym – United

Collects club best and fairests and APFL guernseys for fun. Has been exceptionally consistent for the entire decade at a club that hasn’t tasted finals action since 2011. Starts in the midfield but can play forward or back, key position at times. Exceptionally skillful and usually closely watched. Won the Plains Producer Medal in 2013 but regularly leads his club’s vote count.

4: Brendon Niklaus – Virginia

Niklaus’ goal kicking record for the duration of the decade would be tough to rival anywhere in South Australia. Although he has slowed up in recent seasons, he still has a lethal finish in front of the sticks and strength and power virtually unmatched by defenders. Quick on the lead, great hands, if he gets 10 kicks, he’s likely to kick 10 goals. The most dominant forward of the decade by some margin.

3: Jordan Clements – Mallala

A special talent who arrived from Kimba via the Port Magpies junior system. Played three inches taller than he was. Huge engine, hard worker and powerful by foot. Had courage in spades, highlighted by his grand final appearance in 2016 sporting a broken cheekbone. First player to win back to back Producer Medals since Trevor O’Hara in the 80s.

2: Ned Seccafien – Two Wells

A home grown talent who has led the Roosters for the best part of 10 years. The heart and soul of the club and tireless warrior of the Two Wells midfield. Tough in the clinches, Ned is another who has stacks of APFL honours and Central Zone appearances, to go with a Producer Medal in 2015. Three-time premiership captain. His very presence lifts the team 10 per cent and leaves nothing in the tank. Uncompromising, courageous and a competitor.

1: Joel Montgomerie – Mallala

No surprises with the number one position, Montgomerie has been a model of consistency since arriving at Mallala in 2007 having grown up at Streaky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. Now has more than 200 games with the Magpies, including five premierships. Elite in the midfield, he is the hardest player to stop at his best. Shifted into defence in recent seasons but still extremely effective. APFL, Central Zone and State Country honours. Terrific servant of the club and association.

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