30/05/2024

Picture: lions.com.au

Many players flew under the radar while others took the limelight in the 2010s, so The Inner Sanctum has taken a look at who was your club's most underrated player in that decade.

Many players flew under the radar while others took the limelight in the 2010s, so The Inner Sanctum has taken a look at who was your club’s most underrated player in that decade.

Adelaide – Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson. Picture: afc.com.au

There would be fewer consistent performers throughout the 2010s for the Crows than Scott Thompson.

Transitioning away from the forward line and playing predominantly in the middle in 2011, Thompson averaged 30 disposals a game, which included a career high 51 disposals against Gold Coast in round 22.

In 2012 he would have another stellar season, making the All-Australian team, averaging similar disposals numbers as the previous season.

He’d play for another five seasons in which he was still consistently performing despite being in his 30s and on the back end of his career. 

In his second final season, Thompson averaged 24 disposals, in addition to leading the club for clearances. A testament to just how consistent he was in his latter years. 

Thompson would retire at the end of 2017, playing 308 games over his 13-year stint at the club.

Despite his form, the veteran continually went under the radar while fellow midfielders Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane were in the limelight.

Giacomo Bruno

Brisbane – Daniel Merrett

Daniel Merrett. Picture: lions.com.au

Daniel Merrett was an ever-present figure in the Lions backline in the 2010s.

While the Lions struggled for much of the decade, Merrett was solid in an often under pressure backline, taking the opposition’s best forward.

He’d have good battles in his side’s losing efforts, often holding his own against the likes of Lance Franklin, Tom Hawkins and the Riedwoldts.

He would also prove handy as a swingman as well, scoring 52 goals across three seasons (2012-2014) in addition to his defensive duties. 

His most notable cameos up forward came in 2012, kicking 26 goals for the season, he’d boot seven goals against GWS and four against the Western Bulldogs.

Finishing his career at the end of 2016, Merrett played 200 games across 12 seasons, and kicked 70 goals despite playing largely as a key defender.

He’d also finished his career without a single accolade to his name, but left the game as one the club’s greatest cult figures. 

Giacomo Bruno

Carlton – Ed Curnow

Ed Curnow. Picture: carltonfc.com.au

Originally rookie listed with the Adelaide Crows in 2008, Ed Curnow was recruited by Carlton after two seasons in the VFL.

Playing with the Box Hill Hawks in the VFL, Curnow won the Hawks’ best and fairest and finished third in the JJ Liston Trophy in the 2010 season – despite missing the final eight games of the season with a broken leg. 

He was recruited to Carlton before the 2011 season and made his debut in round one, playing twelve games in his debut season at AFL level. 

Throughout his 11-year career at the Blues, which will see him play game 199 in round 18, Curnow has established himself as both a tough, accumulating inside midfielder and a run-with tagger who has matched up on some of the league’s best midfielders. 

Such has been Curnow’s no-fuss approach and reliability for the Blues that he has recorded consecutive top-three finishes in each of Carlton’s last three John Nicholls medal counts, an achievement just as impressive as Curnow has been dependable. 

He’s been a consistent and ever-reliable member of the Blues’ best 22 in some dark recent times, and as he likely notches up game 200 in round 19, should receive the plaudits and praise for his service to Carlton – service given without a fuss – over his years at the Blues.

Will Cuckson

Collingwood – Tyson Goldsack

Tyson Goldsack. Picture: collingwoodfc.com.au

Port Adelaide and Collingwood fans rarely see eye to eye these days but one thing they can agree on is the value of veteran utility, Tyson Goldsack. 

Currently plying his trade with Port in the SANFL, Goldsack spent twelve years with Collingwood and is one of a few players to have survived the infamous Malthouse-Buckley handover.

Goldsack was part of the Collingwood side that won the premiership at the beginning of the decade after debuting in 2007. 

You’d need more than two hands to count the roles he played for the Pies over the years, his size and mobility enabling him to fit into almost any position on the ground. 

Were it not for injuries, Goldsack would have certainly cracked the 200 game barrier but unfortunately he suffered a number of injury-hampered campaigns. 

In 2019, he called time on his AFL career after 168 games in black and white.

As a defender, he shut down some of the most effective forwards of his era and in his only full season as an out and out forward, he kicked 24 goals. 

Players as versatile as ‘Moneybags’ are few and far between and Pies fans would no doubt kill for a player of his capability in 2021. 

While Goldsack may not have the individual accolades of some of his talented former teammates, there is no doubt he played a pivotal role in the success of the side throughout the 2010s. 

Ben Lennon

Essendon – Mark Baguley 

Mark Baguley. Picture: essendonfc.com.au

Plumber-turned-player, Mark Baguley’s entry into the AFL was a little different to the traditional paths. 

At age 25, he joined the Bombers as a mature-age rookie through the 2012 rookie draft and was elevated to the senior list in July that year. 

He could always be relied upon in defence, which meant he kicked just three goals between 2012 and 2017, but he finished his career predominantly up forward and booted 32 majors in his last two years. 

A real workhorse, his second efforts were second-to-none and he had a knack for sneaking up on an unsuspecting opponent and bringing them down, which could turn the course of a game. 

He was the 1100th man to take the field for Essendon and he racked up 134 games before hanging up the boots at the end of 2019, aged 32. 

Dani Brown

Fremantle – David Mundy 

David Mundy. Picture: fremantlefc.com.au

While over the past two years David Mundy has begun to be recognised for his brilliance, during the 2010’s he was one of the most underrated players in the entire competition.

From 2010 to 2019 Mundy never averaged below 21 disposals for a season and was a huge part of Fremantle’s midfield during their top of the table years from 2013 to 2015.

Internally the club recognised his impact being named the Doig Medallist in 2010 and during the decade finished in top five in the club best and fairest seven other times. 

2015 was Mundy’s best season where he averaged a career high 26.9 disposals to go along with 5.2 tackles a game. For this he was rewarded with his only career All Australian jacket. 

Mundy proved himself to not just be an accumulator of the ball but also a match winner in round 17 in 2015 when he kicked the winning goal against the Tigers.

Two years later he did a similar feat kicking a goal after the siren to topple Richmond again.

Perhaps his biggest honour was being given the Fremantle captaincy for the 2016 season while the club went through a transition period. 

Mundy performances on and off the field were highlighted during this period where he was the consummate professional and led by example for many of the younger players coming through of what it takes to be a professional footballer.

In 2019 Mundy became only the second Freo player behind Matthew Pavlich to reach 300 games played.

Through Mundy’s career he has been overshadowed by teammates such as Matthew Pavlich, Nat Fyfe, Aaron Sandilands, Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters and therefore it has not been until recently that pundits have truly started to appreciate and recognise his value.

Ben Filosi

Geelong – Mitch Duncan

Mitch Duncan. Picture: geelongcats.com.au

Duncan has not been underrated by the Cattery. He has played 233 games since 2010 and enjoyed career best form last season.

Still, Mitch Duncan has spent the majority of the decade in the shadow of more illustrious teammates. 

The first half of his career was spent across half forward along side Cats legends like Paul Chapman and Steve Johnson. When the time eventually came for him to step into the midfield he was third billed behind Dangerfield and Selwood.

Duncan has been a consistent and valuable contributor over the 2010’s Over the course of his career he has rated “Elite” or “Above Average” in disposals, marks tackles and in AFL fantasy points. 

The 2011 premiership player possesses a surgically precise kick, an ability to find the goals and the versatility to play midfield, forward or half back on occasion.  

Wider recognition has previously eluded him over the journey, he has no All Australian selections and did not make the 40 player squad in 2020.

Elite but underrated for most of his career, Duncan is starting to receive the recognition that his talent deserves. 

Kieran Yap

Gold Coast – Rory Thompson

Rory Thompson. Picture: goldcoastfc.com.au

Rory Thompson was selected as a Zone Selection from the Gold Coast region in the Suns inaugural draft. By his third year in the AFL, the 200cm defender had become one of his team’s most important players.

In 2013 Thompson enjoyed a breakout year playing all but one game. Due to ongoing injuries to Matthew Warnock and Nathan Bock, the responsibility of the opposition’s most dangerous key forward fell onto the 22 year old for much of the season to enable teammate Steven May to intercept and rebound.

Thompson caught the eyes of the league after keeping Buddy Franklin scoreless when the Suns faced the Hawks that year.

He finished his stellar 2013 by taking Most Improved and Most Professional honours at the Suns’ Club Champion Awards, as well as being named in the AFL’s 22under22 team.

After establishing himself as a premier key defender, Thompson spent time in the ruck and the forward line in following years when the Suns tall stocks were depleted.

Long time partner in defence Steven May described Thompson as a “big safety net” for his side, for his ability to take on the league’s best goalkickers but also whatever else the team required of him.

Still on the Suns’ list, the veteran has endured an injury cruelled career, only managing more that 15 games in a season three times in his decade long tenure. And playing over 20 games in a season just once, in his decorated 2013 campaign.

He has also not played an AFL game since 2018, rupturing both his ACLs since February 2019. But in the eight seasons he has managed to play, Thompson has ranked top 10 in average One Percenters in five of them.

Luca Catalano

Greater Western Sydney – Adam Kennedy 

Adam Kennedy. Picture: gwsgiants.com.au

After being overlooked in the 2010 draft, Kennedy was picked up in 2011 as a pre selection pick. 

He made his debut in 2012 in the Giants round one clash against cross town rivals in Sydney. Although the Giants went on to lose, Kennedy had a great debut game, finishing the game with 28 disposals and 11 marks. 

Since his debut Kennedy has been a key player in the Giants defensive make up which showed when he sustained a season ending knee injury in Round seven, 2017

Kennedy picked up where he left off in Round 17, 2018 with 11 disposals and three marks in the Giants win against Richmond. 

Although Kennedy’s most consistent season came in 2019 where he played 23 games including all of the 2019 finals series which saw the Giants make their first Grand Final in the clubs history. 

Elly McNerney 

Hawthorn – David Hale

David Hale (right) with Isaac Smith. Picture: hawthornfc.com.au

Hale was a strong addition when coming to the Hawks from North Melbourne at the conclusion of the 2010 season.

Hale was known to most Hawthorn fans as being ever so reliable and having the ability to play anywhere across the ground.

He went on to play 108 games for the Hawks, predominantly playing as a rotating ruck/forward in tandem with Max Bailey and eventually Ben McEvoy. 

The 201cm big man was a key part of a star studded forward line that included Jarryd Roughead, Lance Franklin, Cyril Rioli, Jack Gunston and Luke Breust.

Hale was a big contributor who kicked 98 goals across his five seasons for the club which included an impressive 86-22 win/loss record, four grand finals and a member of the famous three-peat side before retiring after the 2015 grand final.

James Strebinos

MORE FOOTY NEWS

The A-Z of Round 18: Milestones, tributes, and more mayhem

AFL Team of the Week: Round 18

Helping hand: How Dane Rampe is providing support while away

Melbourne – Neville Jetta

Neville Jetta. Picture: melbournefc.com.au

The 51st selection in the 2008 draft, Neville Jetta quickly developed a reputation as being one of the best back pockets in the game. 

His one-on-one ability against some of the competition’s best forwards earned him many plaudits.

During Melbourne’s surprise run to the elimination final in 2018, Neville was the go-to lockdown small defender for the Dees. 

The amount of small forwards who could say they got the better of Jetta would be slim to say the least. From 2016-2018, Jetta was considered one of the best small defenders in the game.

Not only was he great in most defensive situations, but his clever and crisp ball use often saw him used as an option going forward. 

While not the biggest defender, Jetta’s positioning and willingness to fight for every possession would often see him dominate his much fancied opponents.

One of the most underrated players to pull on the famous red and blue.

Adam Schultz

North Melbourne – Robbie Tarrant

Robbie Tarrant. Picture: nmfc.com.au

Robbie Tarrant played 148 games for North in the 2010s. In that time, the defender transformed from the string-bean younger brother of star forward Chris, to a resolute, hulking full back that would never shirk a contest.

Never one to make a fuss, or search for plaudits, Tarrant has been criminally underrated for close to a decade. 

He received the most dangerous opposition forward, lining up on the likes of Buddy Franklin, Jack Riewoldt and Tom Hawkins for years.

He broke even in contests more often than not, and was always towards the top of AFL leaderboards for one-percenters come the end of the season with an incredible knack of getting to the ball with his fist in the nick of time.. 

In 2016, he was named North’s Best and Fairest in a finals-making side. Despite his spectacular years for the Shinboners, he was never named to an All-Australian side. 

North Melbourne knows how good he has been, but the general public never quite realised what a brilliant servant Robbie Tarrant has been for that football club.

Jasper Chellappah

Port Adelaide – Jay Schulz

Jay Schulz. Picture: portadelaidefc.com.au

With Warren Tredrea coming towards the end of his career, Port Adelaide needed a replacement key forward.

Schulz was on the outer at Richmond with an off-field indiscretion and the inability to remain consistently in the side.

A bargain move came with young midfielder Mitch Farmer and Pick 71 moving to Punt Road in exchange for Schulz.

In his seven seasons at Alberton, he would become the club’s premier forward, highlighted by a 66-goal season in 2014.

He would tie Tredrea’s record for most goals in an AFL game by a Port Adelaide player with eight against the Western Bulldogs in that same year.

Jack Hudson

Richmond – Nathan Broad

Nathan Broad. Picture: richmondfc.com.au

Taken in the fifth round (pick 67) of the 2015 draft, it took a while for Nathan Broad’s AFL career to truly get started, making his debut as a result of late withdrawal in Round 14. 

He’d only play two games in his first season at the club, and wouldn’t play his third game until Round 17 the following year. 

Determined to mark his place in the side, Broad was important to maintaining the Tigers’ form heading into finals, and was equally important to the eventual premiership win. 

Broad would add another two premiership medals to his collection in the following years however it was his work across half back that made him an unheralded, and underrated player during the early years.

Having not placed above 16th (2019) in the Jack Dyer Medal count, the defender had great names around him in the late 2010s, leading Broad to become a player in his own right and go unnoticed by many.

While not always a big accumulator of disposals, his ability to impact contests with a large amount of intercepts, one percenters and spoils contributed highly to the Tigers defensive efforts. 

A smart player with plenty of athleticism who covers the ground well, especially in rebounding with his breakaway speed, Broad has proven time and time again his importance to a Richmond side that sees him performing to an even greater level today.

Jason Irvine

St Kilda – Sean Dempster 

Sean Dempster. Picture: saints.com.au

Traded alongside Swans premiership teammate Adam Schneider in 2007, Dempster would prove to be more than a set of steak knives in the trade.

Though hampered with injury in his first season at his new club, he’d eventually slot himself into the Saints best 22 in his second season, solidifying his spot at half back for the rest of his career.

The defender would be selected part of the All-Australian team in 2012, and finish in top five of the Saints best and fairest on four occasions, finishing third in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Renowned for his toughness, his courage eventually would force the end of his career in 2017 due to concussions he’d suffered.

Though he reached the pinnacle with his first club, his 158 game tenure with the Saints is where he’d prove his worth as an important defensive player.

Giacomo Bruno

Sydney – Heath Grundy

Heath Grundy. Picture: sydneyswans.com.au

One of the most underrated defenders of the 2010s, Grundy was arguably the most important member of Sydney’s backline for most of the decade. 

Playing 256 games from 2006-2019, Grundy lined up against some of the toughest opponents of the modern era, playing on key forwards such as Tom Hawkins and Jack Riewoldt. 

Grundy’s skills went beyond just marks and disposals, with him averaging 4.4 one-percenters over his career.  

Although he never received an All Australian nod, he played a key role in Sydney’s peak period, playing in the 2012 premiership side, as well as the losing grand finals of 2014 and 2016. 

Thomas Grattan 

West Coast – Eric Mackenzie

Eric Mackenzie. Picture: westcoasteagles.com.au

Between 2007-2018, Eric Mackenzie was one of West Coast’s most dependable defenders, who often was overlooked due to its star studded backline.

With 149 games behind him, he was awarded West Coast Eagles life membership in 2020 despite falling one game short, which is a testament to his impact on the side.

In his early days began to establish himself as a regular between 2008 to 2011, but became a key component of the backline in 2012.

He usually played the lockdown defender role – blanketing some of the competition’s finest forwards with few accolades to show.

Within the club, he was runner up in 2013, and the overall winner in the John Worsfold Medal the following year. He also earned selection in the extended All Australian squad, but never received a jacket which many considered controversial, especially in 2014.

After, he failed to regain previous form and spent time in the WAFL, where, especially in 2017, he was recapturing his best form and made his way back into the side. 

Before a toe injury ended his career, he took the field one last time in the 2017 elimination final against Port Adelaide.

Many recall Luke Shuey’s heroics, but few remember Eric Mackenzie’s courageous match winning save which tied the scores and took the game to overtime in the first place.

Mackenzie would retire at the end of 2018.

Rebecca Ruthven

Western Bulldogs – Liam Picken 

Liam Picken. Picture: westernbulldogs.com.au

Liam Picken was selected with Pick 30 in the 2009 rookie draft, when he made his debut in 2009 he was used as a tagger by then coach Brendan McCartney but in later years found his groove playing  in the midfield. 

Picken played an integral part of the Bulldogs finals campaign in 2016 which led to the ultimate success when the Bulldogs won their first premiership in 62 years. 

For his efforts in that history-making finals series, Picken was awarded best finals player by the Western Bulldogs. His games across that 2016 finals series included a three goal performance in the Grand Final against Sydney which included the sealer.

Picken was also named the Bulldogs leading goal kicker in 2017 with 24 goals, which included a six-goal haul at Cazalys Stadium in Cairns against the Gold Coast Suns.

Picken played 198 games for the Bulldogs between 2009-2019 before retiring due to concussion in April 2019. 

Elly McNerney

Subscribe to our newsletter!

About Author

Leave a Reply