Player Watch #10: Ben Cunnington - 2019 Syd Barker Medallist

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Bleeding Blue and White
Sep 23, 2005
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Arsenal, Chicago Bulls
Why North Melbourne star Ben Cunnington deserves to be considered one of the AFL’s elite midfielders
Tim Michell, Herald Sun
June 7, 2019 1:55pm
Subscriber only

Ben Cunnington may be a $101 Brownlow Medal rank outsider, but North Melbourne’s unassuming midfielder has quietly leapt into the AFL’s elite bracket.
Only four onballers have averaged more ranking points than the Kangaroos’ contested bull (114) this year — Josh Kelly (125), Lachie Neale (125), Nat Fyfe (120) and Patrick Cripps (117).
Yet three of those four players lead the running in TAB’s Brownlow Medal betting - Carlton co-captain Cripps ($4 favourite) ahead of Fyfe, Geelong’s Tim Kelly and Neale ($5).

Cunnington has outranked more recognised stars such as Marcus Bontempelli, Zach Merrett, Scott Pendlebury and Clayton Oliver, announcing himself as one of the AFL’s premier centre-square players.
“The thing is, a lot of people just see him this year,” Roos champion and AFL games record-holder Brent Harvey said.

“Ben has been a good player now for about six years, I reckon. A really good player.

“He’s in the elite category now in some of the things he can do.
“His efficiency would be pretty good by hand, he’s very hard to tackle and he’s a tackling machine as well.
“He’s been elite for a little bit now and people are just starting to give him the accolades he deserves.”
Ben Cunnington ranks eighth in the AFL for disposals this year.
Cunnington’s 29 disposals per game average to Round 12 ranked ahead of Cripps (27), Stephen Coniglio (27.8), Tim Kelly (26.1) and Rory Sloane (25.5).
The 27-year-old is considered an elite clearance and contested-possession player by Champion Data and above average for disposals, kicking and scoreboard impact.
“He does the work that doesn’t get acknowledged outside the football club,” Harvey said. “Other people see the goalkickers, they don’t see the tough stuff that Ben is doing. If you watch the games closely, gee, he is going well.
“He might have got more accolades on an outside basis if he played for a bigger club but we are pretty happy with him at North Melbourne.”

Cunnington has featured in discussions about the players with trade currency on North Melbourne’s list, amid likely changes after the departure of coach Brad Scott after 10 years.
Hawthorn champion Dermott Brereton said it would take a godfather offer to prise “heart and soul” Shinboner Cunnington from Arden St.
“Even if they throw the world at you, they’d have to give you reincarnated Chris Judd to get him out of there,” Brereton said on SEN.
“He’s worth that much to the team in the way he not just plays, but who he is in that team.
“He’s a heart and soul player, that’s the fabric.”
Ben Cunnington gets past Bulldog Toby McLean.

So desperate has Cunnington been to avoid the spotlight, he slipped past journalists and through a construction site during an open media call before this year’s Good Friday game.

If he maintains his rich vein of form under interim coach Rhyce Shaw, the hard-nosed midfielder will only be able to dodge attention from journalists — and opposition — for so long.

“I reckon Ben is pretty happy doing what he’s doing with no accolades,” Harvey said.
“It’s about time he does get some.”

Statistics in 2019 (Source: Champion Data).

Cunnington: 29
Cripps: 27
Kicking efficiency
Cunnington: 60.9 per cent
Cripps: 55.1 per cent
Contested possessions
Cunnington: 57.1 per cent
Cripps: 62.9 per cent

Cunnington: 8
Cripps: 8.3
Score involvements
Cunnington: 5.9
Cripps 5.5
Brownlow Medal odds (with TAB)
Cunnington: $101
Cripps: $4 (favourite)

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Premium Platinum
Jul 24, 2015
AFL Club
North Melbourne
disagree. Cotchin had that outlet handball covered. Jy saw that tackle and went to Cunners open side, the correct position for him to go. Cunners needed to hold his feet. He did bloody well to break to tackle but executing a handball while breaking a tackle and falling over is hard, even for him.
Yeah. It was a bit much. Its still great attempt at a physically impossible move by Ben10 tho.

The Y Factor

Premium Platinum
Sep 28, 2005
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
North Melbourne
He won't be, and it will be criminal.

I love ROCO but on Footyology earlier this week he said Cunnington does everything very well but isn't elite at anything so he doesn't get the plaudits that other mids get.


This bloke has the best handball I've seen in my time. I saw Williams as a kid but I haven't seen a player that can create space for teammates like Cunnington does with a simple flick of the football.

ROCO posted an amendment to those comments about Cunners on this weeks footyology and an apology of sorts for getting it wrong.

In a world of putrid people will to tear people to shreds ROCO isn’t one and just got it wrong I think.

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Jul 14, 2014
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Tottenham, Melbourne City FC
He won't win the Brownlow

But he is a bloody good footballer and the best at what he does
If we had have won a few more games early on he'd be a small chance, but I agree. Just has to be AA this year though. There's no excuse.

Genuinely think he's already have double the votes of whoever is sitting second in the Syd at this stage.

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