We look at 25 of the top contenders to claim the 2019 J.J. Liston Trophy for the Hard Yakka / Totally Workwear VFL’s best and fairest player, ahead of Monday’s VFL Best & Fairest night.
* The VFL Best & Fairest night will be streamed live on vfl.com.au from 7pm on Monday. CLICK HERE to watch.
ANDREW MOORE (Box Hill Hawks)
The 2018 VFL premiership captain enjoyed another consistent season as a key part of Box Hill’s midfield, averaging 24 disposals, 13 contested possessions, six clearances and six tackles per game across 15 matches. Ranked first at the VFL Hawks for total contested possessions and tackles and second for disposals and clearances.
MARC PITTONET (Box Hill Hawks)
The Hawthorn AFL-listed ruck often held down the no.1 ruck role with Jon Ceglar and Ned Reeves in and out of Box Hill’s team. Averaged 17 disposals, 11 contested possessions, 38 hitouts and 6.5 clearances per game in his 14 outings, ranking first at the VFL Hawks for total clearances and fourth in the competition for hitouts.
JAMES MUNRO (Casey Demons)
Shone as a full-time midfielder after previously spending time as a tough one-on-one defender. Averaged 21 disposals, 11 contested possessions, 8.5 tackles and 4.5 clearances per game through 18 matches, leading Casey – easily – in each of those categories on total numbers. Also ranked second in the VFL for total tackles.
BRAYDON PREUSS (Casey Demons)
Only appeared in 10 VFL matches, but the Melbourne AFL-listed giant regularly dominated opponents in the ruck. Led the VFL with an average of 52 hitouts per game and backed that up with his work at ground level, also averaging 18 disposals, 13 contested possessions, 6.5 clearances and 5.5 inside-50s per game.
MARCUS LENTINI (Coburg)
The prolific midfielder jointly topped the VFL for total disposals for the second year running in 2019. Also led the competition for total contested possessions and ranked second for uncontested possessions and clearances, averaging 30 disposals, 15 contested possessions and eight clearances per game across his 18 outings.
ALEX WOODWARD (Collingwood)
Endured a tough conclusion to the season with a fifth ACL injury in Round 21, but the VFL Magpies co-captain anchored his team’s midfield across 2019. Ranked in the VFL’s top four players for total disposals, contested possessions and clearances, averaging 29 disposals, 15 contested possessions and eight clearances per game in 17 matches.
AARON HEPPELL (Essendon)
The VFL Bombers skipper has completed the transition from defence to the midfield, averaging 20 disposals, 11 contested possessions, six tackles and 4.5 clearances per game through 17 matches in 2019. Led Essendon in total numbers for all four of those categories, proving a mainstay in a regularly-changing on-ball division.
DAVID MYERS (Essendon)
Will retire as an AFL-listed player at the end of Essendon’s VFL campaign in very strong form at state level. Only made 11 VFL appearances for the Bombers after ‘dropping’ himself from the AFL line-up a couple of months into the season, but averaged 28 disposals, 6.5 clearances and six inside-50s per game as well as booting 13 goals.
ANTHONY SCOTT (Footscray)
The ex-Richmond VFL playmaker was one of only two Footscray players to appear in every home-and-away match, having returned to the competition following a season at local level. Led the Bulldogs for total inside-50s and goals (jointly), averaging 17 disposals, four tackles, four inside-50s and just over one goal per game in 18 outings.
RHYLEE WEST (Footscray)
The son of Western Bulldogs great Scott West had to bide his time in the VFL during his rookie AFL year, eventually breaking through at the elite level later in the season. Averaged 20 disposals, 11 contested possessions, six tackles and five clearances per game in 15 matches, leading Footscray for total disposals and also kicking 13 goals.
WILL FORDHAM (Frankston)
Provided experience and wisdom to a young Dolphins group from his time on North Melbourne’s AFL list for a second year, averaging 24 disposals, 11 contested possessions, 5.5 clearances and 5.5 tackles per game across all 18 matches. Led Frankston for total clearances and tackles while also scoring 11 goals from the midfield.
JAMES PARSONS (Geelong)
Perhaps the most impactful of a range of AFL-listed Cats who were striving to break into the senior team on the back of strong VFL form this season. In 13 matches, he averaged 24 disposals, five clearances and six inside-50s per game as well as kicking nine goals as a damaging midfielder/forward. Easily led Geelong for total inside-50s.
SAM FISHER (Northern Blues)
On-baller who stepped up after club captain Tom Wilson suffered an ACL injury early in the season. Topped the VFL for total clearances and ranked in the competition’s top five players for contested possessions and inside-50s, averaging 24 disposals, 13 contested possessions, eight clearances and 4.5 inside-50s per game in his 18 matches.
TOM CAMPBELL (North Melbourne)
One of the competition’s most impactful rucks around the ground in 2019. The AFL-lister ranked second in the VFL for total hitouts and contested possessions, averaging 23 disposals, 16 contested possessions, 33 hitouts, 5.5 marks and 6.5 clearances per game in 17 outings. Remarkably led the Kangaroos in total numbers for all those categories.
SHANNEN LANGE (Port Melbourne)
Consistent VFL on-baller who this year brought up his 100-game milestone during what was perhaps his finest season at the Borough. Averaged 25 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 5.5 tackles and five inside-50s per game through 17 matches as well as booting 16 goals. Led Port Melbourne for total tackles and inside-50s.
JORDAN LISLE (Port Melbourne)
Now a three-time ‘Frosty’ Miller Medal winner (also 2015 and 2017) after kicking 40 goals in 18 matches. The key forward’s fellow captain Tom O’Sullivan could also have been included here, but Lisle was crucial to many victories in averaging 12 disposals and five marks per game and bagging one haul of six majors, two of five and two of four.
ELI TEMPLETON (Port Melbourne)
The ex-St Kilda-listed runner took his game to another level this year, showing the versatility to play across all areas of the field. Again topped the VFL for total uncontested possessions, averaging 27 disposals, 17 uncontested possessions, five marks, five rebound-50s and 4.5 inside-50s per game in 18 outings as well as kicking 12 goals.
PATRICK NAISH (Richmond)
The AFL-lister often found himself in enough space to inflict plenty of damage on the opposition with his run and foot skills. Led the VFL Tigers for total disposals, uncontested possessions and inside-50s, averaging 25 disposals, 17 uncontested possessions, five marks and 4.5 inside-50s per game across 15 matches and also scored 10 goals.
JACOB TOWNSEND (Richmond)
The 2017 Liston Trophy winner enjoyed a similar season to two years ago while unable to break into Richmond’s AFL line-up. Led the VFL Tigers for total contested possessions, tackles and clearances, averaging 20 disposals, 11 contested possessions, 6.5 tackles and 4.5 clearances per game in 15 matches as well as booting a team-high 18 goals.
BREDE SECCULL (Sandringham)
First-year Zebras skipper who provided a steadying influence for many young VFL and AFL-listers at Sandringham across all 18 home-and-away matches. Averaged 23 disposals, 11 contested possessions, 6.5 tackles, 5.5 clearances and four inside-50s per game, easily leading the team in total numbers for all five of those categories.
MICHAEL BARLOW (Werribee)
Only played 11 home-and-away matches in between injuries, but the ex-AFL star and one-time draftee from Werribee had a big impact in his return to Avalon Airport Oval. Averaged a VFL-high 32 disposals per game (two games minimum) as well as 14 contested possessions, five marks, six clearances and 5.5 tackles per game.
TOM GRIBBLE (Werribee)
Topped the competition for total disposals (jointly) and inside-50s as well as ranking in the VFL’s top five players for contested possessions and clearances in a consistently prolific season. Averaged 30 disposals, 15 contested possessions, 6.5 clearances, five inside-50s and five tackles per game through all 18 home-and-away matches.
MITCH HIBBERD (Williamstown)
Slotted seamlessly into Williamstown’s midfield after departing North Melbourne’s AFL list at the end of last season, leading the Seagulls for total disposals, uncontested possessions and tackles (jointly). Averaged 24 disposals, 12 uncontested possessions, seven tackles and four inside-50s per game across his 17 outings.
NICK MEESE (Williamstown)
Consistent ruck who topped the VFL for total hitouts despite missing four matches due to injury niggles. Again proved the key cog in feeding Williamstown’s star midfielders at stoppages, averaging 13 disposals, 10 contested possessions, 45 hitouts, 6.5 tackles and 5.5 clearances per game in his 14 home-and-away appearances.
WILLIE WHEELER (Williamstown)
Another consistent member of a Seagulls on-ball division that thrives in contested situations. Ranked in the VFL’s top six players for total contested possessions, clearances, tackles and inside-50s, averaging 21 disposals, 13 contested possessions, seven clearances, seven tackles and 4.5 inside-50s per game in 18 matches.