Australian Rules Football Greatest Players

As with most sports there is considerable debate as to who is the greatest Aussie Rules footballer of all-time. Here are some of the contenders:

To mark the 100th season of the Australian Football League (AFL) in 1996 a “Team of the Century” was selected.

AFL Team of the Century

B: Bernie Smith (Geelong), Stephen Silvagni (Carlton), John Nicholls (Carlton)
HB: Bruce Doull (Carlton), Ted Whitten (Footscray) Captain, Kevin Murray (Fitzroy)
C: Francis Bourke (Richmond), Ian Stewart (St Kilda, Richmond) ,Keith Greig (North Melbourne)
HF: Alex Jesaulenko (Carlton, St Kilda), Royce Hart (Richmond), Dick Reynolds (Essendon)
F: Leigh Matthews (Hawthorn), John Coleman (Essendon), Haydn Bunton, Sr. (Fitzroy)
Foll: Graham Farmer (Geelong), Ron Barassi (Melbourne, Carlton), Bob Skilton (South Melbourne)
Int: Gary Ablett, Sr. (Hawthorn, Geelong), Jack Dyer (Richmond) ,Greg Williams (Geelong, Sydney, Carlton)
Coach: Norm Smith (Melbourne, Fitzroy, South Melbourne)

Key to Positions

B: back pocket, fullback, back pocket
HB: half-back flank, centre half-back, half-back flank
C: wing, centre, wing
HF: half-forward flank, centre half-forward, half-forward flank
F: forward pocket, full-forward, forward pocket
Foll: ruckman, ruck rover, rover
Int: Interchange bench, Interchange bench, Interchange bench

Leigh Matthews was named the AFL “Best Player of the 20th Century”.

Also in 1996 the AFL Hall of Fame was inaugurated. The greatest figures in the Hall of Fame are accorded the status of “legend”.

The Hall of Fame was established in 1996 with 12 initial “Legends”. These were: Ron Barassi, Haydn Bunton Senior, Roy Cazaly, John Coleman, Jack Dyer, Polly Farmer, Leigh Matthews, John Nicholls, Bob Pratt, Dick Reynolds, Bob Skilton and Ted Whitten.
The following have been promoted to the status of “Legend” since 1996: Ian Stewart (1997), Gordon Coventry (1998), Peter Hudson (1999), Kevin Bartlett (2000), Barrie Robran (2001), Bill Hutchison (2003), Jock McHale (2005), Darrel Baldock (2006), Norm Smith (2007), Alex Jesaulenko (2008), Kevin Murray (2010), Barry Cable (2012) and Royce Hart (2013).

In 2008 the journalist Mike Sheahan was asked by the AFL to compile a list of the top 50 players of all-time, The top ten he chose were:

1. Wayne Carey
Born: May 27, 1971
1989-2001: Kangaroos 2003-04: Adelaide
Games: 272 Goals: 727

2. Leigh Matthews
Born: March 1, 1952
1969-85: Hawthorn
Games: 332 Goals: 915

3. Ted Whitten
Born: July 27, 1933 Died: August 17, 1995
1951-70: Footscray
Games: 321 Goals: 360

4. Gary Ablett
Born: October 1, 1961
1982: Hawthorn 1984-96: Geelong
Games: 248 Goals: 1030

5. Jason Dunstall
Born: August 14, 1964
1985-98: Hawthorn
Games: 269 Goals: 1254

6. Tony Lockett
Born: March 9, 1966
1983-1994: St Kilda 1995-99, 2002: Sydney
Games: 281 Goals: 1360

7. John Nicholls
Born: August 13, 1939
1957-74: Carlton
Games: 328 Goals: 307

8. Graham Farmer
Born: March 10, 1935
1962-67: Geelong
Games: 101 Goals: 65

9. Kevin Bartlett
Born: March 6, 1947
1965-83: Richmond
Games: 403 Goals: 778

10. Greg Williams
Born: September 30, 1963
1984-85: Geelong 1986-91: Sydney Swans 1992-97: Carlton
Games: 250 Goals: 217


The most famous individual award is the Brownlow Medal which has been awarded to the “fairest and best” player of the season wince 1924. Four players have won the award  three times.

Haydn Bunton, Sr. (Fitzroy) 1931, 1932, 1935
Dick Reynolds (Essendon) 1934, 1937, 1938
Bob Skilton (South Melbourne) 1959, 1963, 1968
Ian Stewart (St Kilda / Richmond) 1965, 1966, 1971


The Leigh Matthews Trophy has been awarded since 1982 to the Most Valuable Player in the AFL by the Players Association. The most wins have been by Gary Ablett Jnr with 5 between 2007 and 2013.

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