Looking at the full-year statistics, the huge impact of Indigenous players on the ladder is obvious.
For starters, Aboriginal players accounted for over 10 per cent of senior players’ lists, which is incredible for a community that represents only 2–3 per cent of the Australian population. Put it another way: Indigenous players are four times more likely to make the AFL seniors’ list, compared to non-Indigenous players.
Look a little closer at the statistics and you’ll see three of the top 10 goal-kickers are Indigenous; in fact, seven of the top 25 goal-kickers are Indigenous, roughly 28 per cent.
If you asked a group of AFL supporters to name the three Indigenous players who had the biggest impact of the year, chances are those names would include Lance Franklin,
Adam Goodes and Andrew Walker. These three fellas have definitely had a big one.
Buddy Franklin’s Coleman Medal winning performance was the story of the year for every Hawthorn fan, and almost drove the Hawks into the Grand Final. He’s been their leading goal-kicker for five years in a row, booting 451 goals in seven years. Next year he’s expected to overtake the 521 career goals of Michael O’Loughlin.
Adam Goodes was a late bloomer, turning up the heat in the second half of the year as the Swans’ leading goal-kicker, while becoming the fastest player in AFL history to play 300 games. He also claimed the Sydney Swans’ Best and Fairest award.
Andrew “Tex” Walker, the 2011 Deadly Award winner for Outstanding Achievement in AFL, turned his form around after an average 2010 in the midfield – he moved into the forward line to become Carlton’s leading goal-kicker. Walker took some absolute screamers in 2011, but his soaring mark against Essendon in Round 18 is considered one of the greatest of all time. Check it out on YouTube, it’s too deadly. Oh, and Carlton’s three leading goal-kickers were all Indigenous: Walker, Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett.
Those goal-kickers tend to get all the attention, but we can’t forget the midfielders, wings and backs that lift their teams forward.
Excitement-machine Leon Davis reinvented himself as a halfback and earned his second All-Australian guernsey, frustrating opposition forwards with his speed and agility in defence.
In the pre-season, The Warlpiri Wizard, Liam
Jurrah, was described as a player to watch and he didn’t disappoint, becoming the most exciting, high-flying recruit on the Demons’ list.
Andrew Krakouer’s season just got better and better, with the young Magpie adding Mark of the Year to his 2010 Sandover Medal and leaving behind a troubled 2009.
Cyril Rioli spent the first half of the season recovering from injuries but still managed to dance around opposition half backs and score 29 goals.
So what can we expect in 2012?
With the launch of the Marngrook Footy Show on ABC2, Indigenous AFL players are getting some serious attention from the media and having their achievement measured by former players like Geelong great Ronnie Burns.
The Gold Coast Suns entered 2011 with 10 Indigenous players on their roster (even more than Fremantle!) and new recruits like Brandon Matera and Harley Bennell are proving dangerous. With so many Indigenous players on their list, the Suns are sure to develop an exciting style of play.
Finally, all eyes will be on Kevin Sheedy’s GWS roster for 2012, particularly as the draft gets underway in November, to see which young diamonds he picks from the pack.
It’s going to be a big year… bring it on!