BFL top 20: the countdown

IT'S definitely not the easiest of jobs, but somebody has to do it.

Around 500 Ballarat Football League players, 11 teams, all whittled down into the top 20 individuals.

And from that top 20, somehow figuring out a formula in which to rank the players in order.

The result: a melting pot of the BFL elite, with at least one player from each BFL team.

Perhaps the best way to sum up this year's top 20 is to break it down into numbers.

11: Every club is represented this year, a total of 11 sides.

9: Almost half of the players selected this year make their debut in the top 20, with nine breaking in for the first time.

7: The combined total of Henderson Medals in this year's list, with four of them attributed to North Ballarat City's Jarrod Edwards.

5: The amount of North Ballarat City players who have been given the nod.

3: The BFL has never been flush with former AFL players, but this year three former elite players have made the cut, in Cam Richardson, Brad Murphy and Luke Brennan. For Richardson and Murphy, it is somewhat a risky call placing them in the top 20, particularly giving Richardson the honour of number three. But given the Bacchus Marsh coach's history of tearing up the BFL in the past, there is no reason to suggest he won't do the same this year.

1: There can only be one player named as the best and this year it is Darley's Jake Edwards. Definitely not the biggest name in the league, especially for those down the western end of the highway, but Edwards did not win last year's Henderson Medal for no reason. That does not automatically make him the best in the league, but Edwards can tear a game apart like few others.

There is no doubt this list will cause debate and conjecture.

But then again, no subjective lists can please everyone.

1. Jake Edwards (Darley)

Perhaps a slightly controversial choice as number one for 2014, despite winning the Henderson Medal last year. But it is Edwards' ability to single-handedly turn a game on its head that his seen him get the nod this year. Big enough to play a key position, skilled enough to run through the midfield, wherever Edwards is needed, he will play. And wherever he plays, he will dominate. Let's just hope the Hendo doesn't weigh him down.

2. Jason McNamara (North Ballarat City)

Could easily have been named the best player in the BFL; it certainly wouldn't have caused many people to spit out their cornflakes. Jason "Base" McNamara can probably lay claim to being to be the best midfielder in the competition. And a premiership medallion as captain last year doesn't hurt his chances. Having broken a lifelong premiership drought last year, only time will tell if McNamara's hunger still burns as strongly.

3. Cam Richardson (Bacchus Marsh)

The inevitable hesitation in naming an untried player as one of the best in the league. Still, how can one not include somebody on an AFL list as recently as last year in at least the top five? Of particular interest will be Richardson's ability to contribute as a footballer, while at the same time testing the waters in his first ever coaching role. There is certainly big responsibility on Richardson's shoulders this year, expect him to thrive.

4. Ayden George (North Ballarat City)

For how long have we seen North Ballarat City's dynamic duo among the best players in the league? The one-two punch of Ayden George and Jason McNamara has destroyed countless midfields, forming arguably the strongest (and indistinguishable) pairings in the league. Last year's best on ground performance in North's premiership was proof of George's importance and according to coach Rob Waters, is looking as fit as ever.

5. Derrick Micallef (North Ballarat City)

His talent knows no bounds, if only he could keep fit all year. Wind the clock back 12 months and Micallef burst onto the BFL season with a whopping 10-goal haul. A nasty back injury ruled him out of last year's premiership, which those at Eureka Stadium say has made him even keener this time around. A big 2014 appears on the cards.

6. Hayden Walters (East Point)

One of the younger players in the top 20 list this year, which is exactly what we like about him. Walters had a breakout year for East Point last year, particularly prominent in the first half of the year, where he set the BFL world alight. No doubt he is in the upper echelon of the league, but will we see him in the BFL or will he be playing for Footscray in the VFL?

7. Nathan Jackel (Darley)

The Jackel. Explosive speed, a killer boot and the flowing locks of hair to top it all off. One of the most impressive attacking players in the league, with the ability to break the lines and cause all sorts of headaches for opposition taggers. An improvement on the defensive side of his game could see Jackel among the BFL elite in the near future.

8. Ryan Waight (Redan)

The perennial Redan warrior who doesn't seem to be getting any weaker as the years go by. A three-time Victorian Country Football League representative, Waight spent more time down back last year for the maroon and gold, where he was just as effective in a sweeping role. Is looking as fit as ever in the pre-season and will again be a force to be reckoned with.

9. Brad Murphy (Melton)

It may be almost 10 years since the new Melton coach had a run in the AFL, but to even make to the elite stage means this man can seriously play. Still aged in his 20s (although only just, he turns 30 in October), Murphy is still a rather unknown quantity in the BFL world. His performance could very much depend on that of his side as well, which is also extremely fresh this year.

10. Jarrod Edwards (North Ballarat City)

For years a lock in the top five players in the league, but not any more. In fact, there was a certain hesitation to name the four-time Henderson Medallist in the top 20. The reason? We simply haven't seen Edwards play for almost 12 months and that was in the familiar maroon and gold of Redan. Now in North colours, it will be interesting to see how Edwards stacks up in 2014.

11. Andrew Duhau (Sunbury)

If ever there was a time for Andrew Duhau to stand up and be counted in Sunbury's midfield, it is now. No longer living in the shadows of the departed sons, the second-year Lion now becomes Sunbury's number one midfielder. Is he good enough to break the number one tag week in, week out? That is yet to be proved, but everything we've seen so far leans towards the affirmative.

12. Paul Kodorenko (East Point)

The giant ruckman with the giant heart. Those at Eastern Oval know the big Russian as the man to never give in, the one who will still be giving 100 per cent until the final siren sounds. It would not be out of line to suggest Kodorenko is the best ruckman in the Ballarat Football League and if he is to perform as admirably as last year, a top 20 placing is certainly justified.

13. Adam Sewell (Ballarat)

Back in Swans colours for the first time since 2011, Sewell has shown in the past he is worthy of a top 20 selection, very much so. The only possible question mark hanging over his head is whether he is still in the upper echelon in the CHFL. Our verdict? Absolutely. Somebody with his football nous simply doesn't fall away and Sewell should be a driving force again this year.

14. Marcus Darmody (North Ballarat City)

Yep, another Northie in the top 20. Not that it is unjustified. Coming from North Ballarat Roosters in the VFL, Darmody is a very familiar name around Ballarat footballing circles and it should not come as a surprise to see him named in the top 20. That being said, he will certainly be up against some stiff opposition to become a standout player for North.

15. Matthew Tuminello (Lake Wendouree)

If you were to measure how good someone is in terms of importance to their team, Tuminello could almost be ranked as number one. The towering ruckman kept his side in the contest countless times last year, providing first use to his smaller brigade as well as providing a target around the ground. With the absence of Pat Cariss, stakes his claim as best ruckman in the league.

16. Matthew Medcraft (Sunbury)

Will most likely be called upon to ply his trade in the midfield this season, an area not completely unfamiliar to Medcraft towards the end of last year. A vintage small forward with the uncanny ability of snaring freakish goals, Medcraft's engine could be put to the test this year, as he steps up to become on of the Lions' leaders. Only time will tell if he is equally effective.

17. Doug Thomas (Melton South)

Often touted as the Panthers' hardest worker, both on the training track and on the field, the nuggetty onballer finds himself in the top 20 for the second year in a row.

With a string of supposedly strong recruits coming across to Melton South this year, Thomas could very well find himself getting more help this year that will only make it easier for him to excel.

18. Michael Powell (Sebastopol)

Sebastopol's one true key forward kicked 44 goals last year - his side as a whole only kicked 126. In any other side the slim full forward would be considered among the most dangerous forwards in the league, making him more than worthy of a top 20 appearance. Will be praying for more opportunity and ball supply this time around.

19. Mitch Phelps (Redan)

To put it simply, Phelps knows where the goals are. He might look unassuming, but defenders beware, this goal sneak is one slippery character. A total of 46 goals last year wasn't just a fluke after all. Quickly becoming one of the best crumbing forwards in the league, if he gets a sniff you will most likely see the ball sailing through the big sticks.

20. Luke Brennan (Ballarat)

Last year's best and fairest winner for Ballarat, not to mention a spectacular clunk to claim runner-up for mark of the year. The former Hawthorn and Sydney player has the skills to play across the ground, but could find himself pushed forward as the Swans' midfield strengthens this year. His large frame is more than handy, helping him snare the last spot in our top 20.

Jake Edwards of Darley has been named as the Ballarat Football League's best player by Patrick Nolan.

Jake Edwards of Darley has been named as the Ballarat Football League's best player by Patrick Nolan.


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