Top 10 Best Australian Football League (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 become the best small forward in the game. Simply ruthless in his attack on the ball and 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."

2 Wayne Carey

He was known as "The King" for a reason. There has never been a centre half forward that has brought so much leadership, power, finesse, skill, and strength to a team. The basic skills needed to make a holistic AFL player were finely tuned in him, except for the '98 incident.

His set shot kicking was one of the most reliable of all time. He could turn a game off his own boot and was impossible to stop one-on-one. The only man at his size that has ever come close to his creativity and touch when the ball was on the ground is Buddy Franklin.

There will never be a more imposing contested mark in the game. There will never again be someone so dangerous one-on-one. The King had his dominion, and when it counted, he rose to the occasion and dragged his team over the line.

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

No player has ever consistently reached the heights of this fellow. An absolute freak, a magician, uncontrollable amongst the opposition. He was able to manufacture situations from nowhere. Fast, a great mark, unbelievably strong, good at ground level, and equally skilled on either side of the body. A further string to his bow centered on his ability to play equally well in a multitude of positions - as a wingman, centerman, 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.

4 Gary Ablett Sr.

The 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, especially when some players cannot even kick 50. He kicked a kick against Hawthorn that went around 80 metres. He had excellent hands and perfect judgment. His speed is astonishing. He could not be beaten. Ablett could have the whole back line on him and still kick goals. Scoring 9 goals against Richmond at half time from the wing is incredible. He had the best season of any footballer in 1993. He is the best footballer by a country mile.

5 Ted Whitten

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 the Top 10? You're 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? We all know Mr. Football is better than both of them combined! Get it right, "The Top Tens."

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.

Chris Judd is one of the best AFL players in history. He wins hard contested ball in every game he plays and has won two Brownlow Medals. He's one of the best at centre clearances in the AFL and can change a game with the flick of his finger. He is the reason why Carlton still wins games.

7 James Hird

James Hird was probably the classiest and silkiest player to ever play the game. He made things look easy, was able to perform in slow motion without breaking a sweat, and alongside Wayne Carey, was the clutch king of the AFL. Hird frequently stepped up in big moments to win matches off his own boot for Essendon. He was pure magic.

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, with just a nanosecond of space, he'd goal.

Hird played best under extreme pressure, which probably explains his sometimes ordinary set shots. His insane commitment, with no thought for self-preservation, explains all the broken bones. Hird and Michael Long were football poetry.

8 Tony Lockett

With injury and suspension, and playing in a so-so St Kilda team at the time, he could have kicked another 200 goals. I watched him dominate for St Kilda, Sydney, and 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!

Tony Lockett scored 7 goals or more in a game 22 times - an astounding achievement! He won more games off his own boot than any other player in history. Lockett destroyed every great full back of his era, including Silvani, Langford, Lynch, Martin, and others. He is arguably the greatest Full Forward the game has ever seen. If he had played at a better club than St. Kilda during his prime, he might have kicked over 20 goals in a match more than once.

9 Robert Harvey

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

Robert Harvey is easily one of the greatest players to ever play the game. His achievements speak for themselves:

- 2-time Brownlow Medal winner
- 8-time All Australian
- 4-time club best and fairest
- 2-time AFL MVP award (Leigh Matthews Trophy)
- Herald Sun Player of the Year award winner

Not many players have a track record like that.

10 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 teammate. He was a fantastic big game player and continued at an elite level even when Hawthorn went into a decline.

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

Oh, if only 10 goals were kicked by a forward every day in this day and age. A freak and also a star on Bounce. No dribble kick.

The Contenders
11 Kevin Bartlett

The ordinary man who did extraordinary things.

A receiver who never got dirty, quick to pounce on other players' hard work...

12 Buddy Franklin

Alongside Gary Ablett Snr, he's the biggest freak to ever play the game. People would watch Hawthorn/Sydney games just to see this guy in action. He did things nobody else ever could or will do... unless we go full Gattaca style and engineer humans to be superhuman.

Buddy Franklin! Brilliant! He is the greatest forward of all time, kicking the best goals from over 80 meters. He has scored 950 career goals and still has three years left on his contract. By the end of his career, I'm predicting he'll reach 1,100 goals! He's won 4 Coleman Medals - 2 for Hawthorn with 113 and 68 goals, and 2 for Sydney with 69 and 87 goals. He's also a two-time premiership player, winning in 2008 and 2013, and has scored 2 goals of the year! Franklin was the 6x leading goal scorer at Hawthorn and 5x at Sydney. Currently, he's the 7th highest goal scorer in history, but by my prediction, he will finish 4th, behind Jason Dunstall.

Officially, he's been rated the 12th best AFL player of all time by the AFL as of 2018. We love you, Bud! We hope the end of your career is amazing and wish you a great life with Jesinta and your soon-arriving baby in March! Buddy Franklin #GOAT. The greatest forward of all time!

13 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, who's done nothing as captain since taking over Buckley. He held the cup in 2010 because of his teammates' leadership, not his.

14 John Coleman

I'm not old enough to have seen him play, but he must have been one hell of a player based on how older people describe him. I had lunch with some workmates in about 1991, and we joined up with four older gentlemen who were having their monthly 'catch-up'. It was around the period where many in the press were speculating that Garry Ablett 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 was in the same class as Coleman. They said 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 stories are similar to what my parents, uncles, aunties, grandparents, etc., told about Coleman. Was he the best ever? I don't know, but the generation that saw him play say he was.

15 Matthew Lloyd

Matthew Lloyd is the greatest full-forward of the AFL era. He kicked over 900 goals and could have easily reached 1000 had Matthew Knights not impacted his career. Lloyd was a traditional key forward who led up to the footy all day long, had vice-like hands, and never missed a goal. A genuine weapon, he consistently performed on the big stage.

Matthew should still play. I play footy, and I look up to him a lot. He's 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!

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

16 Michael Voss

Absolute superstar captain. Three flags, five All Australian jumpers, five club best and fairests, two MVP awards, 1996 Brownlow Medalist. Those accolades say it all.

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.

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

17 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 getting tackled. Just magic.

Should be in the top 5 at least. Vision on the field second to none.

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

18 Matthew Richardson

Magnificent player. He had a fantastic ability to take high and stretched out marks, and he was an amazing goal kicker too. Deserved 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. He 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!

19 Peter Hudson

Peter Hudson was better than Lockett, better than Coleman, and simply the best full forward the game has ever seen. One wonders how many goals he would have kicked if his career hadn't been cut short. Has any other full forward ever controlled the ball like Hudson? He was a genuine football genius and, of course, like Leigh Matthews, he played for the brown and gold.

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

20 Alex Jesaulenko

As time passes, the younger generations may not have seen him play. Jezza could play anywhere on the ground and excel. He stood up in the grand finals, weaved through packs with ease, and kicked 100 goals in a season when sent forward. He made the mark of the century, was a captain/coach in a grand final year, and is Carlton's best. Truly, the best ever!

Simply the most elegant player there was.

For his size, he had an amazing leap and grip for the ball and could always be relied on to kick a goal when needed.

21 Kevin Sheedy
22 Bobby Skilton

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

To win three Brownlows in a team that was for the most part in the bottom half of the ladder, and considering 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.

23 Mark Ricciuto

One of the best players of all time, and without a doubt, the best Italian player of all time, Ricciuto can play as a midfielder and small forward. He's an equal holder for the most All Australians with Robert Harvey, with 8 equal best and fairest for the Crows with 3, equaled with Bujji and Goody, and a Brownlow. I reckon Andrew McLeod is still better than him, but Ricciuto is a champion. Now, he has handed his jumper to Patrick Dangerfield, who is a gun. Quick, a good long kick, talented, and has a spark. Remember Patrick Dangerfield's goal against Fremantle, assisted by Tippo.

24 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 midfield 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, deserves, along with Polly Farmer, incidentally, to be rated in the top 10.

25 Graham Farmer

Everyone I know that saw this bloke play rated him as the best they had seen. He gave Bobby Davis and Geelong glory. And coached WA to the 1977 State of Origin demolition of Victoria.

"The only individual man that changed the game".

A legend in two states. His handballing skills were second to none. As a ruckman of the highest calibre, his clashes with John Nicholls were legendary. He played over 400 games at the top level. Probably the greatest player from W.A.

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

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