Biggest AFL improvers

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John Who

Norm Smith Medallist
Apr 16, 2017
7,027
4,951
AFL Club
Adelaide
This topic is about AFL players who have risen from the ranks of “average/mediocre” to “elite or thereabouts” throughout their AFL career. For the sake of a genuine discussion, let’s say an “AFL career” is a period of 5 or more years.

Who, in your eyes, was plain average in their first few years, and then surprised you when in their latter years, they ain’t so sh*t after all!

I might need some time to ponder through, but a player that springs to mind was Cameron Ling. Thought he was initially quite average, something like a C+ to B- midfielder. Then when he ended as a 3-time premiership player, and premiership Captain in 2011, my views had changed. Good on him for getting the best out of his potential!
 

Piggy Smalls

Unofficial SFA Fantasy Pig
Nov 30, 2018
1,778
4,665
AFL Club
Fremantle
David Mundy. Started as a serviceable but unremarkable half back with good foot skills. Could possibly end this season as the Dockers all time games record after playing the majority of the last decade as an inside mid. A beautiful footballer to watch. Has nerves of steel (ask any Richmond supporter... twice) and seems to still be getting better with age.
Criminally underrated outside of WA for most of his career even though he’s a Victorian.
 

Catsnlakers

The World needs more Hank Moody’s.
Oct 2, 2016
4,774
6,304
AFL Club
Geelong
Other Teams
L.A Angels, Anaheim Ducks & M.Stars
Cameron Guthrie......Serviceable player for a long time for us, now he’s a genuine A grader who’s been an AA & won a club B&F.
 

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Dancing Dougy

Club Legend
Apr 13, 2008
1,742
1,163
Melbourne
AFL Club
Western Bulldogs
Liam Picken was a good average player that turned into a star. One of the few players I’ve seen who genuinely improved every year.
 

John Who

Norm Smith Medallist
Apr 16, 2017
7,027
4,951
AFL Club
Adelaide
Liam Picken was a good average player that turned into a star. One of the few players I’ve seen who genuinely improved every year.
Not sure about this choice, as I’ve never seen him being “below average”. Seems to be a handy player for what little I’ve seen of him.
 

RUNVS

Hall of Famer
Feb 28, 2007
39,521
42,394
Sydney
AFL Club
Sydney
Not sure it counts but I would go with Charlie Cameron. There was nothing early in his career at Adelaide to indicate that he would become anything more than a reasonably servicable small forward. He has become a lot more than that now.
 

Kappa

Brownlow Medallist
Oct 7, 2014
20,871
25,771
AFL Club
Collingwood
Ben Reid went from a spud forward who couldn't kick to an elite AA intercept premiership defender almost overnight
 

Dancing Dougy

Club Legend
Apr 13, 2008
1,742
1,163
Melbourne
AFL Club
Western Bulldogs
Not sure about this choice, as I’ve never seen him being “below average”. Seems to be a handy player for what little I’ve seen of him.
I suppose it helps when you’ve watched his entire caterer. Pickens progression really kicked into gear when he started getting time in the middle which wasn’t until the 2nd half of his career.
 

p4p1

Debutant
Apr 24, 2020
62
58
AFL Club
Brisbane Lions
Ablett jr went from a good yet inconsistent Foward/Mid to being the best player in the last 20 years
Yep, one season he was a good but not elite forward then the next he was an elite midfielder and won the MVP. Interestingly his old man went from playing 5 games for Hawthorn at 21 (didn’t play the year he turned 22) to winning Geelongs B&F playing only 15 games when he was 23, the same age Jnr won the MVP.
 

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Virgin Dog

Norm Smith Medallist
Oct 29, 2017
7,135
13,762
AFL Club
Western Bulldogs
Not sure it counts but I would go with Charlie Cameron. There was nothing early in his career at Adelaide to indicate that he would become anything more than a reasonably servicable small forward. He has become a lot more than that now.
That's gotta be one of the best ones named yet. Cameron was below average at best in his early days, building slowly over the years, until he absolutely exploded in his 6th season. Now most would rate him a top 3 small forward, if not the best
 

Mkcaptain

Norm Smith Medallist
Mar 2, 2011
9,274
15,053
Melbourne
AFL Club
Collingwood
Other Teams
Bushrangers
Jeremy Howe who was 25 years old struggling to get a game as a forward to being an elite intercept defender pretty much overnight.
 

BillHickman

You work your side of the street, I'll work mine
Feb 18, 2021
32
93
AFL Club
Richmond
Jay Schulz went from 7 years of spuddery and elite drink driving at Richmond to a pretty decent career at Port.
 

WillHayward

Premiership Player
Aug 13, 2018
4,847
6,556
Newcastle
AFL Club
Sydney
Dane Rampe went from genuine VFL battler to AA and B & F winner through sheer determination, persistence and rat cunning.
 

HairyO

Brownlow Medallist
Jul 13, 2015
24,151
25,753
AFL Club
Hawthorn
Sam Menagola
Good choice. Struggled on a bunch of lists but then really started to excel.

Dusty was always a very good player, but in the last 4 or 5 years has been truly elite.

Isaac Smith took a fair while to really become good.
 

Mr_Moogle

Brownlow Medallist
May 29, 2011
15,019
23,020
SA
AFL Club
Adelaide
Other Teams
Sturt
Not sure it counts but I would go with Charlie Cameron. There was nothing early in his career at Adelaide to indicate that he would become anything more than a reasonably servicable small forward. He has become a lot more than that now.
I think that prelim against Geelong should have been a hint that he's better than just serviceable.
 

BigBreakfast

Premiership Player
Sep 19, 2019
4,663
7,279
AFL Club
Carlton
Other Teams
Lakeshow
As much as it gauls me to admit, Kane Lambert was a VFL Carlton player in a terrible era to Richmond premiership player. The one of many that got away.
 

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