AFL big improvers need award of their own

Heading in the right direction ... Easton Wood
Heading in the right direction ... Easton Wood

MOST clubs, if not all, hand out a 'most improved' gong as part of their awards night at the end of the season.

Maybe it's time either the AFL Coaches or AFL Players associations did the same.

In addition to choosing the champion player, the coaches could pick the best young player, while the players themselves name the most courageous and best captain.

And those footballers who may have a few miles in the tank in the AFL system, but have suddenly clicked into gear should also be recognised on a broader platform than just within their own clubs.

Those eligible would be anyone who no longer qualifies for the Rising Star award, which means they've either played 11 senior games or more before the start of the season, or are 21 or older.

This year's candidates are:


OF THE five who walked out on Brisbane in 2013, Yeo will hurt the most. He's ungainly, but is gaining a huge following. Idolised fellow Aquinas College student Nat Fyfe growing up, and only Fyfe has taken more contested marks among midfielders than Yeo.


WAS the steak knives in the deal to get Dayne Beams to Brisbane. But, after playing 18 games in three years with the Lions, is now carving up the opposition on a regular basis, playing every game for Collingwood, where he is No.1 for tackles and No.3 for inside-50s and clearances.


ROOKIE-listed in 2011, he played 13 games last season, primarily as a forward, but is set to become an All-Australian defender as the league's No.1 for intercept marks and intercept possessions.


STRESS fractures in his back prevented him from following in his Kiwi dad's footsteps as a champion triple jumper. But he has come on in leaps and bounds in his eighth season, ranked No.2 for intercept marks and No.3 for intercept possessions.


ANOINTED 'The Man' at St Kilda, the No.9 pick in the 2006 National Draft is finally fulfilling his potential. Mackay's favourite AFL son is the league's No.3 for average disposals - and even got a gig on The Footy Show panel on Wednesday night.


THE Queenslander is making up for lost time after he was overlooked in two national drafts and then restricted to two games in his first two seasons due to injury. No.2 at Collingwood for both intercept marks and rebounds.


THE defender-turned-forward, who is sixth for goals and third for marks inside-50m, has gone back and forth in more ways than one. He was born and bred in Canberra; moved to Adelaide in 2010 to boost his draft chances; was taken as a zone selection by GWS in 2012; and is now a cult favourite at St Kilda.


TALK about overcoming hurdles. The one-time steeplechaser had only played two years of footy before being rookie-listed in 2012. At 198cm, he's gone on to become the game's biggest midfielder and sits No.1 for tackles and No.3 for clearances at Geelong.


Excluding Rising Star nominees (averages from 2014 > 2015)    


RORY LAIRD (ADEL) 21 Disp: 15.9 > 22.6. R50m: 1.3 > 3.0.

TOM MCDONALD (MELB) 23 Marks: 4.8 > 6.8. R50m: 3.1 > 5.7

JEREMY MCGOVERN (WC) 23 Disp: 12.3 > 14.9. R50m: 1.1 > 2.6.  


EASTON WOOD (WB) 25 Marks: 3.4 > 6.8. Eff%: 78.4 > 88.4.

ROBBIE TARRANT (NM) 26 Disp: 3.0 > 15.6. Marks: 1.0 > 4.1.

MARCO PAPARONE (BL) 21 Disp: 13.6 > 18.7. Marks: 3.9 > 6.3  


ADAM OXLEY (COLL) 22 Disp: 5.0 > 20.0. Marks: 1.5 > 4.4.

DAVID ARMITAGE (SK) 26 Disp: 22.0 > 30.8. Clear: 5.5 > 6.8.

ANDREW GAFF (WC) 23 Disp: 24.2 > 29.1. I50m: 3.0 > 4.3.  


TOM BELL (CARL) 23 Disp: 14.3 > 20.9. I50m: 3.3 > 4.9.

JAKE STRINGER (WB) 21 Goals: 1.4 > 2.5. I50m: 1.9 > 3.0.

ELLIOT YEO (WC) 21 Disp: 14.9 > 19.6. Marks: 4.1 > 6.4.  


JOSH HILL (WC) 26 Goals: 0.8 > 2.1. Disp: 11.4 > 12.9.

JOSH BRUCE (SK) 23 Goals: 0.4 > 2.6. Cont marks: 0.9 > 2.0

JAMIE CRIPPS (WC) 23 Goals: 1.3 > 1.7. Tackles: 3.8 > 6.3.  


MARK BLICAVS (GEEL) 24 Disp: 12.0 > 19.1. Clear: 0.9 > 4.1.

DYLAN SHIEL (GWS) 22 Disp: 23.1 > 27.5. I50m: 3.7 > 4.0.

LACHIE NEALE (FREM) 22 Disp: 23.5 > 26.7. Clear: 4.1 > 5.4.  

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