The 2014 season is proving to be a tough time for many members of our expansive AFL Tracker squad.
There have been the good stories.
Matt Crouch (Adelaide), Michael Close (Brisbane Lions), Martin Gleeson (Essendon) and Jake Lloyd (Sydney Swans) have made their debuts.
Richmond defender David Astbury finally shrugged of persistent injuries to string together eight matches.
Unfortunately no sooner were the Tiger faithful able to sing his praises as he was again to deliver what he had previously promised, when Astbury again succumbed to a knee injury and his season appeared over.
Medium to long-term injuries have been the story for too many, including Nathan Brown (Collingwood) shoulder; Brad Sewell (Hawthorn) hamstring; Brad Crouch (Adelaide) broken leg; Ricky Henderson (Adelaide), broken leg; Tanner Smith (Fremantle) hamstring; Josh Cowan (Geelong) Achilles tendon; Adam Goodes (Sydney Swans) knee; and Jordan Roughead (Western Bulldogs) shoulder.
Some are already back, while there are the likes of Astbury and Brown, who are looking at lengthy periods on the sidelines.
So who have been the best performers? Here is my top 5.
There have been three standouts: Hawthorn’s ISAAC SMITH, Melbourne’s JAMES FRAWLEY and Collingwood’s CLINTON YOUNG.
Smith continues to be a major contributor for a premiership contender, this time in a year when the Hawks are yet to be at full strength, thanks to a series of setbacks to key players.
Smith’s numbers are above his his career averages: disposals 23.6 (career 19.5), marks 5.7 (5.1) and Dream Team fantasy team points 98 (84.3).
Frawley has been a revelation in attack in an unexpected move by coach Paul Roos.
Few, if any, imagined the All-Australian defender being anything else but an anchor in the backline, but he has become an influential forward in Melbourne’s steady improvement.
After being hampered by hamstring trouble in his first season with the Magpies, Young has returned to something like his premiership best.
Young has missed just the one game and is bettering his career disposal average.
Collingwood defender NICK MAXWELL slots in at number four.
With the weight of captaincy off his shoulders, Maxwell has found a new lease of life after he seemed to be waning last season.
He has averaged 13.6 disposals across his career, but this year has bettered this figure six times.
So who is number five?
I have gone with JAKE LLOYD at the Sydney Swans.
He made his debut in round five and retained his place for seven straight games in a team which has risen to premiership favouritism in the same period.