After a bumper 2023, we rank the AFL’s 10 best midfielders for the 2024 season.
Midfielders are the link that connects the entire team, from the backline through to the forwards. But the best of the league’s bunch do much more than that.
They dazzle with the footy in hand, they’re always hungry for the ball, and when an opportunity emerges they pounce, letting no one beat them to it.
Typically the best AFL midfielders in the competition are able to not only create opportunities for themselves, but also for their teammates; crafty, skilful with ball in hand and quite handy defensively making a ton of tackles.
Debate surrounding who the best AFL midfielders are is always an interesting one. Some fans prioritise certain aspects of their game higher than others, meaning players that execute that to a high level are seen as the greatest in their eyes.
With many of the greats of the game having roved the midfield in their time, it’s a position that gets plenty of attention for all angles of the AFL community.
Whatever top 10 we settle on, we’re aware debate will rage on in group chats. But please acknowledge we’re determined to build a more balanced and logical list than what you’ll find on other click-hungry publications.
The 10 best AFL midfielders heading into the 2024 season
So here’s our top 10 midfielders currently in the AFL, as we enter the 2024 season.
Again note that we’ve considered 2023 form generously, along with what we know they’re capable of, based on previous output and the occasional expected decline.
It might be noticed that Nick Daicos is a huge omission from this list, but that’s only because his classification means he’ll be featured somewhere high up on our best defenders list.
1. Marcus Bontempelli
Coming in at number one on our best AFL midfielders list is a player many believe was robbed of his maiden Brownlow Medal in 2023 by Lachie Neale — but don’t worry Bont, this is the award you want.
Bontempelli was incredible for the Bulldogs in what was a disappointing season for the club, averaging a career high in disposals (27.7), tackles (7.5) and clearances (7.6).
With plenty to prove to the league in 2024, we can expect Marcus Bontempelli to be right up there as one of the best players in the league, trying to drag the Dogs back to the finals after an absence in ’23.
2. Christian Petracca
Melbourne’s superstar midfielder Christian Petracca comes in as runner-up on our best AFL midfielders list, coming off the back of his best season impacting the scoreboard; 28 goals to go along with 210 score involvements from 25 matches.
Entering his 10th year in the league, Petracca has become not only one of the best on-ball midfielders in the competition, but his impact forward makes him arguably the best dual-threat talent in the comp.
Creating a lethal one-two-punch with Clayton Oliver in the midfield, the duo are the only pair of teammates averaging over six clearances a game. Wild stuff!
3. Lachie Neale
It may be criminal, but the reigning Brownlow medalist comes in ranked third in his position in our books.
There’s no denying his brilliance though, finishing 2023 devastatingly close to a maiden premiership, claiming Brownlow number two despite being left out of the All-Australian team.
But no one is quite as destructive on-ball than Lachie Neale who averaged 26.7 disposals a game across a deep finals runs, he ranked first in disposals efficiency across his position (75.1%), and first in clearances (7.9).
Although this is all impressive, what Neale lacks to put him over Bontempelli and Petracca in the ranking for the best AFL midfielders is his inability to hit the scoreboard — scoring three goals all season and having a respectable score involvement tally of 151.
4. Andrew Brayshaw
2024 is Andrew Brayshaw’s year — mark our words!
Some may not view him in the top five best AFL midfielders in the competition, but he had 29.2 disposals a game finish seventh in the league at a disposal efficiency of 74.4% — only 0.7 behind Lachie Neale.
Turning 25 in 2024, Brayshaw is still yet to reach the peak age of dominance for a midfield, yet he’s still as damaging as Brownlow and premiership winners and featured in our top 24 best AFL players list for 2024.
Having always been a great possession-getter with a brilliant defensive presence, Brayshaw looks poised to only keep getting better, which seems almost impossible considering he’s averaged over 29 disposals for consecutive years, while also averaging over six tackles a game.
5. Zak Butters
If Zak Butters’ 2023 season is anything to go by, then Port Adelaide are in great hands with the 23-year-old having a career best season. He finished equal-fourth in Brownlow voting, amassing the sixth-most disposals in the league, proving his elite abilities as not only an exciting young midfielder that looks destined for greatness in the competition, but as one of the best AFL midfielders.
Although he didn’t claim the most prestigious award in the AFL, he was still recognised with one of the highest honours, crowned the AFL Coaches Association’s Champion Player and given his first All-Australian selection.
6. Clayton Oliver
Melbourne star midfielder Clayton Oliver has had a rocky off-season that Demons fans will be hoping motivates him to get back to his premiership winning best.
It’s expected he’ll work his way back to peak physical condition this season, likely resulting in a return to the top five best players in the competition, strong Brownlow consideration and an addition to his three All-Australian selections.
In a down season, Oliver still made it inside the top 10 for disposals for the fifth consecutive year and dominated in clearances (6.9).
7. Errol Gulden
Everyone loves an underdog story, and Gulden’s incredible rise in 2023 from a promising young player to the star of the Sydney Swans, caught everyone’s attention.
The 21-year-old’s lethal left foot was on display throughout the season, gathering a tonne of possessions, hitting the scoreboard and making a strong defensive impact too. It was about as clear of a breakout season as you’ll ever see.
All signs point to Gulden taking his game to another level in 2024 and being amongst the top young midfielders in the AFL, and amongst the best AFL midfielders full-stop.
8. Tom Green
Tom Green is a name that will be held in high regard for the next decade to come, with the 22-year-old averaging a career and league-high 32 disposals in 2023.
Entering his fifth year in the AFL, Greene has already led the league in disposals and played in a deep finals run, two things that will give him the world of confidence for 2024.
The Giants’ season will be relying on Green (and Greene) replicating 2023 production.
9. Jordan Dawson
You know someone’s a special talent when they improve year-in-year-out, and Jordan Dawson has done exactly that since emerging at the Swans.
He’s firmly made a name for himself since crossing over to the Crows two off-seasons ago, becoming one of the league’s sharpest shooters. Dawson’s kicking efficiency is elite and he accumulated 27 touches per game in 2023.
The 26-year-old relished becoming one of the younger captains in the AFL entering the 2023 season.
10. Sam Walsh
Sam Walsh at his fit and healthiest is definitely a higher ranked player on this best AFL midfielders list, but injuries have seriously hampered him.
Walsh’s regular season went largely under the radar due to him missing extended lengths of time, but the Carlton star made himself known on the September stage, being awarded best Finals player for the club — the Gary Ayres medal.
From his three finals appearances, Sam Walsh averaged 32 disposals. And with his two goals in the Semi against Melbourne proved decisive in the Blues’ narrow victory.
With a full pre-season under his belt heading into 2024, Walsh will be ready to explode, as Carlton look to push for a premiership.