Who are the players you just love watching? You know, not necessarily favourites from the team you support, but the players from across the league who stop you in your tracks and make you tune in anytime, anywhere?
Welcome to ESPN's fifth annual Top 20 Must-Watch Players list.
This isn't just a countdown of the competition's biggest names, but a ranking of the players we simply can't wait to watch in action in 2023. It's a mix of the game's superstars, big names who have switched clubs, young guns who look ready to explode, those returning from injury, top draftees, or basically anyone we will be watching with interest in 2023.
This is the players ranked 10-1. The players ranked 20-11 was revealed last week. Check it out here.
Click here to look at the 2022 edition.
Click here to look at the 2021 edition.
Click here to look at the 2020 edition.
Click here to look at the 2019 edition.
10. Jack Ginnivan (Collingwood)
A star is blossoming. Jack Ginnivan lit the league on fire in 2022, bursting onto the scene with a 40-goal campaign and playing a big part in Collingwood's rapid rise up the ladder. The enigmatic forward was a multiple goal kicker on 12 occasions, his Anzac Day Medal-winning haul of five giving us a indication of what his ceiling could be. Even prior to his recent AFL suspension, the 20-year-old was one of the most talked about players in the league, his ability to draw a free kick causing impassioned uproar and debate in the footy world. When anyone is kicking 40 a season as a general forward, it's a very good year. When it's a kid in practically his first full year, it's immense. One to watch not only in 2023, but for hopefully the next decade and beyond.
9. Josh Dunkley (Brisbane Lions)
There's a handful of players on this list who have changed clubs this off-season, but none are better than Dunkley. The 2016 premiership player was starved of midfield time at the Bulldogs, yet still managed to rank 'elite' in a host of categories last year, including disposals, contested possessions, ground ball gets, clearances, tackles, pressure acts and goals. It's certainly on the cards that Dunkley follows in the footsteps of new teammate Lachie Neale where a new club and greater opportunity led to a giant leap in production. Pencil him in to easily be the recruit of the season and tally 20 Brownlow Medal votes.
8. Brodie Grundy (Melbourne)
One of the premier ruckmen in the competition, it's fair to say the acquisition of Grundy to any side is a monumental one. To a side that already has arguably the best in Max Gawn? Still monumental, but absolutely more intriguing. Grundy's peak is scintillating, not only an honest tap ruckman but a player with the mobility of a midfielder around the ground, and who can swing forward and hurt his opponents with scoreboard impact. His long injury layoff hurt the Pies last season and if he can rediscover his dominant best after being traded to the Demons, his pairing with Gawn could become the most destructive one-two punch in the AFL.
7. Toby Greene (GWS Giants)
There aren't many players in the league who can play both as an undersized key forward (and dominate) and a crafty half-forward/midfielder (and dominate). But Toby Greene can. His versatility is a main strength but it isn't nearly as lethal as his ability to carve up the opposition with his incredible peripheral vision, strength in tight, and sheer ability to seize control of a match with his impressive overhead marking and innate goal sense. A club best and fairest winner, two-time All-Australian and now captain of the Giants, he is a club legend already. And he doesn't mind a bit of on-field argy-bargy, either, which only adds to the must-watch nature of his game!
6. Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)
Not many players are in the conversation for both 'best player' and 'most valuable player'. Cameron certainly is. He sums up what the modern day key forward should be; capable of playing the more traditional lead, mark and set-shot style of play as well as doing damage when the ball hits the deck. Cameron has booted over 100 goals in the last two seasons, is one of the league's great sharpshooters and just an all-around box office type player. He now has a premiership medallion to sit alongside his Coleman Medal and trio of All-Australian blazers.
5. Charlie Curnow (Carlton)
The reigning Coleman medallist comes in at No. 5 on this list after a huge breakthrough season for the Blues. Curnow kicked 64 majors from 22 games in 2022 after having battling injuries throughout most of 2020 and 2021. At his best, Curnow is a game-breaker - on eight separate occasions in 2022 he booted four or more majors. His versatility in the air and at ground level is hard to believe for someone with his frame, while he's dangerous from just about anywhere within 65 metres of goal. Box office.
4. Christian Petracca (Melbourne)
Is he the league's top player? ESPN's Jake Michaels believes so, ranking Petracca No. 1 in his list of the 50 best AFL players ahead of season 2023. The star Demon is an absolute brute and hurts teams both in the midfield and when he pushes forward. Petracca has the ability to brush aside tacklers, burst from stoppages and hit the scoreboard (48 goals over the last two seasons), making him arguably the most difficult match-up in the competition, as well as the ultimate match-winner. You simply can't take your eyes off him and will no doubt feature up the pointy end on Brownlow Medal night.
3. Will Ashcroft (Brisbane Lions)
What's the solution for a side that's been so good but just fallen short a few years in a row? Why, it's picking up the best young player in the country under the father-son rule, of course! The hype surrounding Ashcroft is enormous, and after one scratch match and one sanctioned practice match, it's easy to see why - he's already looking comfortable at AFL level. This guy could be one of the best players in the competition in a couple of years, but could he do the improbably and put his hand up for All-Australian selection in his debut season? Okay, let's not get carried away, but we'll be watching Lions games wistfully this season.
2. Jason Horne-Francis (Port Adelaide)
This season is set up to be a fascinating one for Horne-Francis and Port Adelaide. After a debut season with North Melbourne in which he was in the headlines more for non-gameday achievements than success on the field, the South Australian and 2021 No. 1 draft pick finds himself back 'home' with the Power but with a fair bit of expectation hanging over his head. Likely to initially be used as a link player between the midfield and the forward line, we'll be watching Horne-Francis' 2023 with great interest.
1. Shai Bolton (Richmond)
Richmond excitement machine Shai Bolton put together a career-best season last year, dodging and weaving past defenders on his way to what we think is a first of many All-Australian blazers. The electric match-winner -- who also has a mark of the year award to his name -- averaged just under 18 possessions and two goals per game in 2022, ranked 4th in the league for forward 50 groundball gets, 6th for score involvements, and had more shots on goal than any other general forward barring Giants star Toby Greene. His eye-catching performances wowed onlookers and his potential to dominate in the middle and be a nuisance up forward makes him a scary, but seriously exciting, prospect in 2023. Will he live up to the lofty expectations he's set for himself and go to yet another level?