The footy community has been greeted with an enthralling 2022 season.
More than halfway through, up to 12 clubs can still play finals. Fans are also treated to a fixture anomaly of all eight clubs playing each other in Round 15, a feature which will only add to the hype.
The season has been filled with storylines of players taking the next steps in their development.
With plenty of risers in 2022 we’ve run an eye over every club’s list to pick out who we deem to be the biggest improver this year.
Check out your club’s biggest improver below:
Jackson Hately has been a welcome addition to an Adelaide line-up that’s been without skipper Rory Sloane.
Having to bide his time in the SANFL before earning a call-up to the seniors in Round 6, the former Giant has made a seamless transition.
Averaging over 20 disposals at 73% efficiency, 295 metres gained and five tackles a game – Hately has provided much-needed grunt and assistance for veteran Rory Laird.
All of those numbers are significantly better than his career average, and in a poor season for the Crows - Hately has been one of their few shining lights.
Hately was made to earn his spot in this Adelaide midfield after joining from GWS, but has come into his own in 2022.
Brisbane’s Keidean Coleman has emerged as a quality player in 2022.
While he always had the talent, he’s truly flourishing off half-back where he can showcase his speed, footy IQ and elite skills.
Compared to last year, the 22-year-old has seen his disposals per game balloon from 9.0 to 16.9, while he’s also seen increases in marks (2.4 to 5.8), inside 50s (1.4 to 2.2) and rebound 50s (0.6 to 2.5) since securing his place in the side in 2022.
That form has particularly increased in the last month, with Coleman averaging 19 disposals and more than five marks a game since Round 10.
At such an early stage in his career, expect his performances to continue an upwards trajectory from here.
Carlton has improved greatly as a team this year, but no individual players have really made an enormous leap.
Corey Durdin has improved and taken a spot in the best 22, Lewis Young and Tom De Koning have taken advantage of injuries to assume bigger roles and a case could also be made for Zac Fisher.
Lochie O’Brien, however, was delisted in November and on the scrap heap before the Blues re-listed him in the rookie draft.
The 22-year-old has played 11 games for the Blues this season and found a consistent spot for himself on the wing.
He has averaged 19 disposals, five marks, three inside 50s and 367 metres gained per game.
Collingwood big man Darcy Cameron is finding his feet at AFL level after being moved primarily into the ruck since Brodie Grundy went down with a knee injury.
Since the Anzac Day clash with Essendon, Cameron has flourished in his new role, finding more ball around the ground while making a big impact as the Pies have gone 5-2 with the 26-year-old in the role.
In those seven games, Cameron has averaged 16.3 disposals, 21 hit-outs and 5.6 marks a game, impressive numbers for any ruckman.
Combine it with his ability to play forward, and the Magpies have found an ideal second ruck to play behind Grundy or a more than capable first ruck if their million-dollar man is unavailable.
Mason Redman has long gone under the radar as Essendon's roaming and rebounding half-back, but he’s come into his own this year in a side which has struggled for much of 2022.
In his 12 games so far this year, Redman has averaged 21 disposals, six marks and four rebound 50s, becoming an integral part of Essendon’s back six.
The Bombers have relied on the 24-year-old's ability to turn defence into attack quickly, with his ability to break the lines a key feature throughout this year.
Redman is coming off his best game of 2022 and his most prolific as a Bomber, collecting 31 touches and taking 11 marks in the team’s shock win over St Kilda last Friday night.
In a season that’s been disappointing for the Bombers, Redman’s growth to become one of the club’s most important defenders has been a highlight.
When Gold Coast traded Will Brodie and pick 19 for a future second round pick, they were probably expecting to cop more criticism for the latter than the former, but Brodie has broken out big time at Fremantle.
He has gone from unable to break into the Suns’ midfield to a dominant clearance on-baller at the Dockers and a key part of their rise up the ladder.
Particularly in Nathan Fyfe’s absence, Brodie has been a key cog on the inside, mainly next to Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong.
Blake Acres has also been one of Fremantle’s sharp improvers this year on the wing and will likely be in the All-Australian conversation.
Sam De Koning
You’d be hard-pressed to find a player who has improved at the top level as quickly as Sam De Koning.
The 21-year-old played one game in his debut season last year but has become a regular feature in 2022 to make 12 appearances.
Not only that, but he’s also held down a key position in the backline and is currently Chris Scott’s go-to man to lock down tall forwards.
He’s averaging just shy of three intercept marks a game, and so early in his career, De Koning’s name is already one of the first on the whiteboard at the Cats.
The athletic big man is firmly in the Rising Star mix.
Early in the season, there were plenty of doubts around Izak Rankine’s viability in the AFL.
However, the former Pick 3 has turned his career around with a stunning six-game stretch that has gone a long way to proving his enormous potential.
He’s already had more shots at goal and score assists in 2022 than his previous two years, while his classy ball use and unselfish nature have stood out.
After a worrying 18 months, Rankine has showcased the form that would have him among the best small forwards of the competition if he can keep it up, a far cry from the player who was dropped by the Suns last year.
Isaac Cumming took a little while to get going for GWS, but is now a certain starter at the elite level.
He played 24 games last season and finished equal sixth in the Giants’ best and fairest, but has taken further giant strides in 2022.
Cumming is now the club’s prime mover rebounding out of defence, leading the way for kicks, rebound 50s and metres gained while ranking second for intercept possessions behind only Sam Taylor.
The former no.20 pick has taken on more responsibility this year and has been arguably GWS’ most consistent performer across the first half of the campaign.
First-round draft pick Tanner Bruhn has also enjoyed a more consistent patch this year following his debut 2021 season.
Bruhn has near doubled his average disposals output and his sharply improved his clearance game, becoming more robust around stoppages.
For a 4-9 team, there is no shortage of players at Hawthorn who have significantly improved.
The numbers suggest that it is Jai Newcombe, who averaged nine touches per game through the second half of last season after joining the club through the mid-season draft, but is this year averaging 21.5 per game.
He leads the Hawks for tackles and is ranked third for both contested possessions and clearances, showcasing his aggression and desire around the ball. He also leads the club for inside 50s, is second for goal assists and third for score involvements, highlighting his ability to contribute in attack.
Several others have taken their games to a new level include Conor Nash and Harry Morrison, both well entrenched in Hawthorn’s best 22, while Ned Reeves importance to the side is underlined every time he doesn’t play and the Hawks struggle in the ruck.
An important part of Melbourne’s premiership outfit, defender Harrison Petty has continued to excel as a key pillar of his side’s defence.
With the Demons dealing with several absences in their back six – mostly notably Steven May – Petty has been forced to cover despite dealing with his own injury issues.
While primarily a key defender, Petty has shown he can win his own ball as well, averaging 10 touches and almost four marks while ranked fourth at the club for average intercept possessions (5.62).
He remains a crucial part of Simon Goodwin’s side and is a lock every week he’s available, despite some of his injury woes in 2022.
It’s been a tough year for the Roos, but the no.4 pick from the 2017 National Draft is showing why he was rated so highly.
Though his numbers are virtually identical to 2021 at a glance, his last five weeks on-ball have been excellent, culminating in a 33-disposal effort against GWS.
Davies-Uniacke has only dropped below 20 disposals in two (non-injured) games this season and has stood up in a comparatively younger Kangaroos midfield unit.
It will be interesting to track his growth across the remainder of the season, but Roos fans would be excited knowing the 23-year-old is starting to hit his stride.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has been a staunch supporter of Todd Marshall and the Power tall is starting to repay the faith.
Marshall has shown promise throughout his six seasons at Alberton and is now beginning to deliver on that talent.
A strong mark overhead and an accurate kick for goal, the 23-year-old is putting together a career-best season.
Marshall has kicked a team-high 27 goals – including two five-goal hauls and a four-goal outing in the Power’s win over Sydney on Saturday.
He’s also averaging 5.4 marks per game and is fifth in the AFL for total marks inside 50.
He might already be a three-time Richmond premiership player, but 2022 has been the most impressive season of Daniel Rioli’s career so far.
After kicking 25 goals in his second season which coincided with the 2017 flag, his form ebbed and flowed in the ensuing campaigns, resulting in multiple demotions to the reserves last year.
His downturn in fortunes led to a shift to the half-back flank and it is there that Rioli has delivered his best footy.
This year he has gone to a new level as arguably the club’s number one small defender who mixes rebounding expertise with lockdown qualities.
His best finish in a best and fairest to date is equal 10th and he would more than likely be in Richmond’s top five right now, which would be improvement in anyone’s language.
Nathan Broad has also improved in 2022, at times holding the fort in the absence of Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin, while becoming the club’s most prolific rebound defender.
Jack Sinclair has gone to another level after a breakout 2021 campaign.
The in-form Saint’s career-best year has seen him rocket into All-Australian calculations.
Sinclair leads St Kilda for disposals, effective disposals, metres gained, uncontested possessions and defensive rebounds so far in 2022.
The 27-year-old, who finished runner-up in the club’s best and fairest last year, has also received more coaches’ votes than any other Saints player.
He’s currently in a purple patch of form having notched over 30 touches in five straight games.
Chad Warner has elevated himself into becoming one of Sydney’s best players.
Warner’s numbers this year have been first-class.
The 21-year-old is ranked fourth at the Swans for disposals, second for average inside 50s, first for total goal assists, third for metres gained, second for uncontested possessions and he's also ranked third for average contested possessions.
All of those numbers are major improvements from last year.
The former no.39 draft pick has provided another layer in the Swans’ midfield, his balance of flash and grunt has been a welcome addition to an on-ball unit that has been known for its crash and bash style of play.
Midfield James Rowbottom has also enjoyed a more consistent season.
Rowbottom’s 2022 numbers have all increased from his previous career average, solidifying his spot in Sydney’s midfield.
Connor West has been one of the very few players at West Coast that has shown improvement in 2022.
He showed potential in his five games last year after being picked up in the mid-season draft, but he’s now displaying signs that he could be a valuable player long into the future.
After averaging 12.6 disposals in 2021, more midfield minutes have seen him lift that total to 15.8 in 2022, and he’s had solid lifts in his tackle (4.3) and clearance (2.5) numbers.
West still has a long way to go, but he’s showing a lot more than most of his teammates have this season.
The ruck stocks at the Western Bulldogs were constantly being questioned last year, but there is no doubting Tim English is the man in the ruck to take them forward now.
The 24-year-old is averaging 22 disposals a game, three more than any other ruckman, and his 6.3 marks and 6.4 clearances a game puts him on top in those categories as well.
By comparison, he was only averaging 13 disposals, 4.6 marks and 1.9 clearances in 2021.
Unfortunately, his 2022 season has been halted by numerous injuries and concussions, but if he can play regularly in the back half of the year, he will definitely help the Doggies make a finals push.
Ed Richards has also improved immensely, but one could argue this was the trajectory his career has always been on having been taken at pick 16 in the 2017 draft.