Greatest AFL Players of All Time

The greatest players in the history of the Australian Football League.

The Top Ten

1 Leigh Matthews

The best "rover" in the game, later to then become the best small forward in the game. Simply ruthless on his attack on the ball, opposing players ( sometimes to his detriment) and pesky point posts at "Windy Hill". His nickname to VFL fans was "Lethal", but to the Hawks faithful he was always known as "Barney" as in Barney Rubble. Brute strength is what broke the point post that day and he only received a little lump on his elbow from it. I'm glad I was there to see this happen and for it to reinforce the "Legend that is "Leigh Matthews.

Won Hawthorn's best and fairest at the age of 19, in the year Peter Hudson Kicked 150 goals and Hawthorn won the '71premiership. Think about that.

What do you get if you morph Gary Ablett Snr and Gary Ablett Jnr into one player? You get the greatest player of all time, Leigh Matthews!
He's got Ablett Jnr's midfield stats and Ablett Snr's goal kicking stats in one career. There is no comparison for this footballer, he stands alone. In the best game ever by a vfl/afl footballer in 1973, Matthews had 41 disposals and kicked 11 goals lol. He had 20+ disposals and kicked 4+ goals in a game at least 66 times in his career, no other player comes close. Ablett Jnr has done it eleven. times lol. Matthews stats are from another planet compared to anyone else.

Easily the greatest player of all time. He played over 3 decades and dominated as a ruck rover and small forward. What other player of his size and ilk has won a Coleman medal? Intimidated opponents and was ruthless. The greatest and scariest player of all time.

2 Wayne Carey

CAREY KICKS AND CAREY GOALS! He is the Michael Jordan of AFL. Why?
Because if you watch Michael Jordan games, you can see he is smiling as he manhandles opponents and does WHATEVER HE WANTS, WHENEVER HE WANTS. Because he just BLOWS BY anybody. Like Jordan, Carey had times he lapsed... but then he ALWAYS (not just 99%) but ALWAYS stood up at the exact right time. that's why we all know MJ as the greatest basketball player of all time. Carey is exactly that in this game. Ablett (both) are simply not like that. Skilled, Great, but take over when they wanted to? Not strong enough. Absolutely no one better than Carey. You had to live in his era to see it.

A fair comparison can only be done by assessing a players influence. It's them most difficult thing to compare players in different positions little lone combined with different generations. Afl strategy has changed over the last 20 years to such an extent it's virtually a different game.

Center half forward at the time was perhaps the most pivotal position. Cary's ability to turn a game, dominate an opponent and inspire a team put him second only to Gary Ablett Jnr from an influential standpoint.

From a technique perspective- marking ability, strength/intellect in contested possessions, positional awareness and presence on the field plus a supreme confidence in his own ability is what made Cary so formidable.

No doubt Whitton, Barassi & Matthews are all strong contenders for most influential player from previous generations.

Certainly the best player ever at his best. Had all the x-factor of a buddy franklin, but was so much more. He was the best on-field leader I've seen, best contested mark, great at ground level as well, one of the most reliable shots on goal from any range. He was probably the strongest bloke in the league and was quick for his size... There genuinely wasn't an aspect of the game that he wasn't great at. And he was a winner. I don't think there's ever been a player with the same ability to win games for his team.

There has been no better player than Wayne Carey. His strength, athleticism and skills were obvious but equally important was his huge work ethic. He rarely, if ever, played a bad game and was the consumate match winner. Despite immense attention throughout his whole career, he never succumbed to injury or poor form and routinely played at a level that most players could only dream of. Unlike some of his feted peers, he was instrumental in his team winning premierships. Not more than you can ask, really. Mark M.

3 Gary Ablett Gary Ablett Jr. is a professional Australian rules footballer playing for the Geelong Football Club in the Australian Football League. The eldest son of Australian Football Hall of Fame member and former Geelong player Gary Ablett Sr., Ablett was drafted to Geelong under the father-son rule in the 2001 ...read more.

Has dropped out of the conversation as GOAT as his output slows. You only need to look at the late noughties and early 2010s to remember what a king he was in his prime.

No player has ever consistently reached the heights of this fellow. An absolute freak, a magician, uncontrollable amongst the opposition. Was able to manufacture situations from nowhere. Fast, a great mark, unbelievably strong, good at ground level and equally as skilled on either
side of the body. A further string to his bow centred on his ability to play equally well in a multitude of positions... as a wingman, centreman, half-forward or full forward... his versatility was awesome. In short no player was feared so much by players (and coaches) of opposition sides. People would go to the football just to watch this bloke play. His strength, skill, fierce attack on the ball put the fear of God into opposition players. And incidentally, not far behind him on the scale of best ever players was his son Gazza Junior

Superstar.How you can compare any player to him.Chris judd was an idividual,Gary played for his team and cluld play anywhere on anyone.

Ablett, 2 premierships, brownlow, best and fairest, MVP what else do you want? The fact that he has played in 2 premierships is a contributing faactor for he being the greatest player. I'm a Geelong supporter and even though he's moved to gold coast, he is still the benchmark player of the A.F. L!

4 Gary Ablett Sr.

Greatest player I have seen he has brilliant consistency. He is the best kick ever. To kick 65 metres on your right foot and 60 on your left is amazing, when some players can not even kick 50. He kick a kick against hawthorn that went around 80 metres. He had excellent hands and perfect judgement. His speed is astonishing he could not bet beat. Ablett could have the whole back line on him and still kick goals. 9 goals against richmond at half time from the wing is incredible. He had the best season of any footballer in 1993. He his the best footballer by a country mile.

This dude is great. Even if you don't barrack for the Cats he is still a legend, freak or whatever you wanna call him. He is definitely in my top players.

This is my top 5...

1. Garry Ablett junior is just like his father, or maybe even better. Definitely first because he reads the play so well, he's talented and is always reliable to get at least 25 disposals a game.

2. Gary Ablett Senior is just a freak (Full stop).

3. Jonathan Brown is in there. He is brave as you can tell with all his reconstructions, great vic bloke who never gives up and will never stop playing. Said he will not leave the Lions even though Collingwood gave him a couple hundred thousand more he still said NO. Can still play fotty in 2014 and can still kick thw winning goal or the mark of the year.

4. Daniel Rich is in my top five. Where the Hell is he on this page, he can kick 80 metres and has the speed. Definitely going to be a freak in the years to come.

5. Pearce ...more

GOAT go watch his highlights package, ball comes in, he attacks it, wins it more often than any player to have played the game. His aerial, his ground work, his goal sense his execution. No one has ever turned it on like Gary Ablett Snr, his 1989 Finals series of 27 goals inc 9 in a losing girlfriend against demonstrably the greatest team the 89 Hawks that's ever been. (17 All Aus players in that side, Derm Brereton points out youd never get them/afford them in modern day Salary Cap. Itll never ever happen again...and GARY GOD YAABLETT took em on and nearly beat them himself coming back within 5pts. He got Norm Smith in losing side against the GOAT team of all time

Gary Ablett senior is easily the best player I have ever seen play the game. He is closely followed by Gary Ablett Junior. Leigh Matthews is number three. Lance Franklin does not rate in the top 10 nor does Wayne Carey. Tony Lockett better than both of them.

5 Ted Whitten

You don't get called Mr Football for nothing. A larrikin both on and off the field. A star at either CHB, CHF or in the ruck. Had every skill.

I don't see how Ted is not #1, He is easily the greatest footballer of all time, I reckon Gary Ablett Jr is definitely #3, Chris Judd and Nick Maxwell in Top 10? Your joking! I reasonably understand Chris Judd, but Nick Maxwell?! He would not be in the Top 50 and he never will, even if he tried! And Luke Dalhaus at #59?! I'm a Bulldogs Fan and I'm disgusted! Little fanboys need to stop posting random entries!

Are you serious #7 that's not right, #1 is easily where he belongs, as if Chris Judd is above Mr. Football and if that's so why isn't Josh Kennedy in at least the top 15 and we all know Mr. Football is better than both of them combined!
Get it right "the top tens"

There is a whole game named after him and an oval and I believe a medal two (not in the AFL but for the club) should be on top.

6 Chris Judd

His best was electrifying. Such an accomplished player in so many aspects of the game. His approach and attitude to football enabled him to get the best out of himself. What did he say in his biography - I recognised Chris Judd the footballer was just a character created by the fans / public. He has maintained a great perspective on the game that is Aussie Rules.

Judd's contested football, ability to get the ball away to a teammate when he has 3 players hanging off him and his ability to turn a game is second to none. Now he's starting to kick goals. Magnificent

CHRIS JUDD is by far the best player the AFL has ever seen duel brownlow medalist and a real ball getter. He has been the best player in his era and the most outstanding player VFL/AFL has ever seen he's an out right legend.

Transformed his game fr being the best outside midfielder to become the best contested midfielder in the game. One of the most talented players to play afl footy, what a legend!

7 Robert Harvey

You have to love the composure, honesty and gut running of this team first player. One of the most highly respected universally loved players ever.

Dual/Back-to-Back Brownlow Medalist in 1997 and 1998, used to always beat his opponent physically and mentally. Equally polled the most votes in a season in 1998 until Dane Swan's victory with 34 in 2011. Could run all day and gather around over 30 possessions a match. Used to leave midfielders such as Buckley, Voss, Riccuito, West and Crawford metres behind him.

Easily one of the greatest players to ever play his achievements say it all.
2 time Brownlow Medal winner
8 all Australian
4 club best and fairest
2 time AFL MVP award ( Leigh Matthews Trophy)
Herald sun player of the year award winner.
Not many players who have had a track record like that.

His level of sportsman ship and ability to run any other player on this list off their legs should really have him at no. 1

8 Jason Dunstall

For someone who just got behind opponents and pushed ( sarcasm intended) he was an extraordinary mark on the lead. Great hands, accurate kick and only Pratt and Hudson kicked more goals in a season and they never dished one off to a team mate. He was a fantastic big game player and continued at an elite level even when Hawthorn went in to a decline.

A Hawks legend a real sharpshooter who often kept the team in games when they no right to be winning

Oh if only 10 goals was kicked by a forward every day in this day and age. A freak and also a star on Bounce. #nodribblekick

Not bad for a (fat boy) from Queensland.
Best leading mark of all time, not a bad kick either.

9 Tony Lockett

With injury amd suspension and playing in a at the time so so stkilda team. He could have kicked another 200goals.. I watched him dominate for stkilda and sydney amd the big V. By far the most talented goal kicker in the history of the game... I'm surprised not to see john coleman on this list. But plugger you are the man. My football idol. There's only one tony lockett. Big plugger!

Unbelievable he's so low. unique in football. played for the worst club, kicked more goals than anyone in history. only ff to win a brownlow. never seen anything like him before or since. if he's played for a bigger club there would be no question in anyone's mind. he is head and shoulders the greatest player we've seen.

7 goals or more in a game - 22 times. 22 times! Won more games of his own boot that any other player in history. Destroyed every great full back in his era (Silvani, Langford, Lynch, Martin etc). The greatest Full Forward the game has ever seen. If he'd played at a better club than St. Kilda in his heyday, would have kicked over 20 goals a match more than once.

He had the record of the most kicked goals in his career and also has his name in the hall of fame. He also has managed to get his name on one of the sides in the ethihad stadium.

10 James Hird

Instinctive, fast, next level. When the ball came near him it was hard to stay in your seat.
If Hird was within 50 and got a smell of the ball, he'd goal.
In a pack, facing away from the sticks, a nanosecond of space, he'd goal.
Hird played best under extreme pressure, which probably explains his sometimes ordinary set shots, and his insane commitment with no thought for self-preservation explains all the broken bones:(
Hird + Michael Long was football poetry.

Best for sure loved watching him play and would always do the team thing. Turn the tide of a game with a magic touch and would draw the ball to him where ever he played.

Best player, always seems in control and dominates his opponents. Also part of two great premiership wins and is going to be a great coach in the future.

One of the best greats and always will be forever and it's a shame he retired because he was nearly double as good as all the other greats himself.

The Contenders

11 Kevin Bartlett

The ordinary man who did extraordinary things.

Receiver nevergot dirty quick to pounce on other player's hard work...

Champion wins b&f in premiership season

He is awesomly awesome because he played for our team

12 Nathan Buckley

Collingwood's greatest and a one man team who every play went through. The most prolific exponent of the long kick in AFL history leading the AFL through much of the 90s and early 00s in long kicks.

Hands down to Nathan Buckley who has been a Collingwood all time great. Hard nut at the footy, and was so close to winning a premiership for the pies. Definitely should be in the top 5!

I hate collingwood but this guy could play. He should be 5th not nick maxwell whos done nothing as captain since taking over buckley. He held the cup in 2010 because of his team mates leadership not his

Hands down better then hird. Buckley had a left foot as well as everything else jimmy had. Best player to not win a flag.

13 Buddy Franklin

Buddy franklin!
Brilliant!
His is the greatest forward of all time kicks the best goals from 80+meters and has kicked 950 career goals and has 3 years left on his contract by the end of his career I’m saying 1100! 4 Coleman’s 2 for hawthorn 113 and 68 and 2 for Sydney 69 and 87! 2 premierships 2008 and 2013
2 goals of the year! Hawthorn 6x leading goalscorer and 5x leading Goalscorer at Sydney. 7th most goals currently in history by the end of his career by my prediction he will be 4th behind Jason dunstall!
Official rated 12th best AFL player of all time by the afl as of 2018!
We love you bud hope the end of your career is amazing and have a great life with jesinta and your soon coming baby in March! Buddy Franklin #GOAT
Greatest forward of all time!

Buddy not quite there yet but will be one of the greats. This poll has no accuracy as a lot of players have not completed their careers. If the poll was based statistically the greatest would be Lethal Leigh Matthews!

The very best player in the game bar none. To kick 65 -70 goals a year and play Winger, Half forward, Full Forward is a testament to the complete player that he is. I reckon he will have 900 or 1000 goals by 2021.

Buddy is the freakiest forward the afl has ever seen with his insane range and skill, talent and especially passion for the game. He's the full package with his work up the ground!

14 John Coleman

I'm not old enough to have seen him play but must have been one hell of a player based on older people describe.
Had lunch with some workmates in about 1991 and we joined up with 4 older gents who were having there monthly 'catch-up'. ( It was around the period where many in the press were speculating that Garry Ablett And was the best player of all time.
None of these guys barracked for Essendon but to a man, each of them scoffed at the suggestion that Ablett and was in the same class as Coleman. They say he marked from anywhere, was too quick for any opponent, a great kick and a constant match winner over his 99 games. 'We will never see his like again'.
These are similar to the stories my parents, uncles, aunties, grand parents etc told about Coleman. Was he the best ever? I don't know but the generation that saw him say he was.

So good the crowd, including opposition supporters, used to move up and down the ground at each quarter change just to watch him play. Probably the best ever, dominant on the ground, untouchable in the air, just played too long ago to be clearly remembered of just how good he was. Sadly a short career. Those who know, know why the league's leading goal kicker now receives the Coleman medal.

You're all too young to understand but kicking around 538 goals in under 100 games is ridiculous. Best player of all time probably, much ahead of the likes of Chris Judd and Kevin Bartlett even.

Like the oldtimers say "blind people would go to the footy just to hear Coleman kick the ball".

15 Matthew Richardson

Magnificent player. A fantastic ability to take high and stretched out marks and an amazing goal kicker too. Deserve red a lot better than 23.

Richo is a real icon to look up to because of his amazing ability to grab the ball and kick many goals. Deserves to be right up there as one of the best that ever played.

Should be higher on the list, played with an average team for most of his career and still kicked 800 goals!

Will always be voted one of the best forwards by the Richmond faithful.

16 Michael Voss

Absolute champion player! Skillful, strong, fantastic finisher. Lead his team by example. Unbelievable work ethic on the ground.

Did all the hard unnoticed work in a scrap as well as performed the miraculous. An absolute game changer, he led his team by example, put his body on the line and did whatever had to be done to inspire his team.

Totally needs to be in top ten. Literally carried inspired drove the lions into and win 3 grand finals by his play and leadership

A real tough nut, but always had great awareness of his teammates around him

17 Peter Hudson

The best forward I ever saw. Great anticipation and a wonderful reader of play. Strong and used his body strength to out maneuver his opponent. Could mark very well above his head and one on one was rarely beaten. A very accurate flat punt for goal.

Quite simply, the greatest full forward to ever play the game, his goal average is higher than anyone else's. If he hadn't missed five years of VFL footy, he probably would've broken all the goalkicking records... Most goals in a game, year and career.

Better than Lockett, better than Coleman, simply the best full forward the game as ever seen. How many goals would he have kicked if his career was not cut short? What other full forward has ever had the ball on a string like Hudson.? He was a guenuine football genius and of course, like Leigh Mathews he played for the brown and gold.

Met this man in December last year, a fantastic bloke. Would've loved to have been there to watch him at the peak of his powers.

18 Greg Williams

He was awesome to watch live. He'd be in a pack looking one way and handball the other way to a player 20 yards away. In a pack it was like he slowed down time, ducking and weaving standing still, and still not gettin tackled. Just magic.

Reliable and pin point accuracy handballs and kicks

Should be in top 5 @least. Vision on field 2nd to none.

Best player I've seen in the last 40 years!

19 Alex Jesaulenko

Time goes on and the younger generations didn't see him. Jezza could play anywhere on the ground and excel. Stood up in the grand finals. Weaved through packs with ease. Kicked 100 goals in a season when sent forward. Mark of the century. Captain/coach in grand final year. Carlton's best. And best ever!

Jezza you Beauty enough said Jezza is one of the greatest players of all time if not the best he was able to take brilliant marks kick great goals the only blue to kick a century of goals in a season and took the mark of the century in the 1970 grand final kicked 7 in 1972 and was the last captain coach to captain coach a premiership in 1979.

Simply the most elegant player there was...

Should be in top 10 players ever

20 Matthew Lloyd

Matthew should still play. I play footy and I look up to him a lot. His my hero. That's why I love the bombers. In the EJ game (2013) he was a superstar I've got something to say Matthew you ROCK

I'm a keen bomber and think Lloydy was a fantastic footballer but no way is the 18th best of all time. He would laugh at this rating.

Lloyd was one of the greats. Fantastic player should be ranked a lot higher!

Definitely, Key essendon forward and brilliant Essendon Forwards coach!

21 Bobby Skilton

To win three brow lows in a team that was for the most part in the bottom half of the ladder and umpires votes mostly go to the winning sides I regard Bob Skilton as the greatest footballer in the sixty years I have followed league football G.J. G

Left or right foot and over his head. Bashed and bruised he won the ball against winning rucks. Had to fight for every kick and still won three Brownlows. Never reported nor suspended and always humble. Belongs on everyone's mantle piece among the very best.

Both sides of the body. Heavily tagged (bashed) every week and still starred

Brave, courageous, always fair and highly skilled. 3 Brownlow's attest to his ability.

22 Mark Riccuito

One of the best players of all time and without a doubt the best Italian player of all time can play as a midfielder and small forward. Equal holder for the most All AustraliaN with Robert havey with 8 equal best and fairest for thr crows with 3 equaled with bujji and goody and a brownlow I reckon Andrew mcleod is still better then him but he is a champion. Now he has handed his jumper to... Patrick Dangerfield who is a gun quick, good long kick, talented and has spark very good plyer patrick dangerfield remember his goal against freemantle assisted by tippo

The best I have watched. Hard as nails, great leader and can be a brutal full forward

You are my second favourite of all times you are so the best

Best player for hard ball gets off all time

23 John Nicholls

Are you kidding? Number 30? Big Nick was 'the general' who directed play and had a huge influence on so many games. He was the engine room of the mid-field of his day via his wonderful tap ruck work. John Nicholls had one of the best football brains of all time and, with his size, ability and ground leadership, he deserves, (along with Polly Farmer, incidentally), to be rated in the top 10.

24 Kevin Sheedy

The best bloke ever and 778 goals are yo kidding me

Better coach then player, legend

Alright Player, Fantastic Coach

25 Graham Farmer

Not just a brilliant player, but changed the way the game is played. Overcome the most incredible adversity in life, to make his mark. Virtually the father of handball.

Everyone I know that saw this bloke play rated him as the best they had seen. Gave Bobby davis and Geelong glory. And coached WA to 1977 state of origin demolition of Victoria.

"The only individual man that changed the game".

A Legend in two States. His hand balling skills were second to none. As a ruckman of the highest calibre his clashes with Jogn Nicholls were legendary. He played beat 400 games at the top level. Probably the greatest player from W.A.

How Matthews is rated ahead of this bloke is staggering. Matthews was quite simply just a thug.

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