Best and fairest: There are several contenders for this award, namely dashing defender Brodie Smith and ruckman Sam Jacobs, both of whom are in All-Australian contention. Smith’s precision kicking and run and carry off half-back has been a revelation this year, while Jacobs is in career-best form. Midfielder Richard Douglas has also had a fantastic year, and although he has flown under the radar this season, he is sure to feature highly in this award. Key defender Daniel Talia has also had a super season.
First year player: Matt Crouch has impressed in his few games this season, but the leading contender for this award is rookie forward Charlie Cameron, who has been impressive after being elevated from the rookie list this season. His energy and manic tackling pressure has been a highlight of his game.
Most improved: Eddie Betts has become a much more consistent performer this season after crossing from Carlton at the end of last year, while David Mackay has cemented his spot in the Crows’ midfield after several inconsistent years. Defender Matthew Jaensch has also become a much more consistent player this season.
Best and fairest: 2013 winner Joel Patfull will again be in contention for this award after another stellar year, but the leading contender is midfielder Tom Rockliff. In the absence of fellow midfielders Jack Redden and Daniel Rich through injury, Rockliff has carried the young Brisbane team, and should be a lock for an All-Australian berth.
First year player: Given the number of players Brisbane has blooded this year, there are a host of youngsters in line for this award. The leading contenders are midfielders James Aish and Lewis Taylor, but fellow draftees Nick Robertson, Darcy Gardiner and Tom Cutler have also been impressive.
Most improved: After showing promising signs in his debut season last year, Marco Paparone has had a great season, becoming a reliable and consistent forward. However, the biggest improver in the past few rounds has been ruckman Stefan Martin. Behind Matthew Leuenberger and Trent West in the ruck pecking order at the beginning of the season, Martin has been nothing short of a revelation since coming into the team.
Best and fairest: In an inconsistent season for the Blues, midfielder Bryce Gibbs has been a beacon of hope. Having by far his best season, and finally fulfilling the potential that saw him taken as pick one in his draft year, Gibbs has been a consistent performer throughout the season. Reliable veteran Kade Simpson keeps on keeping on, having another standout season.
First year player: There’s no real standout amongst the new draftees here. Patrick Cripps showed good signs in his handful of games before injury, and Blaine Johnson has also shown glimpses in his few games. Of Carlton’s 2013 recruits, Dale Thomas and Sam Docherty have been the most impressive for their new club.
Most improved: There are several contenders for this award, namely Levi Casboult, who finally seems to have developed into a damaging key forward, and Sam Rowe, who has been reinvented as a consistent key defender after being tried as a ruck/forward last season.
Best and fairest: Midfielders Dayne Beams and Steele Sidebottom have had very consistent seasons for the Magpies, as has captain Scott Pendlebury. All three, Pendlebury in particular, will feature in All-Australian calculations. Outside of those three, tagger Brent Macaffer is highly regarded for his lockdown work, and small forward Jamie Elliott should also feature highly after a successful year.
First year player: The standout in this category is young defender Tom Langdon. After being passed over in the 2012 draft, Langdon was taken by the Pies with a late pick last year, and has been rock solid holding down a defensive post.
Most improved: Brent Macaffer has found new consistency in his role as a tagger this year, and young defender Jack Frost has cemented himself as one of Collingwood’s key defensive pillars. Elliott could also have claims to this award with his super consistent season.
Best and fairest: The injury to captain Jobe Watson has seen Dyson Heppell go to new heights in 2014. Averaging 28 disposals a game, the young midfielder is having a sublime season, and is odds-on favourite to take out the award. Defender Cale Hooker could also challenge after a superb season.
First year player: The standout here is Zach Merrett, who has established himself as a consistent player in Essendon’s midfield and forward line.
Most improved: There are a few contenders for this award. Travis Colyer was on the AFL scrap heap until the middle of this season, but has shown great improvement since being recalled to the senior team. Hooker has also improved markedly from last season, winning more possessions to go with his lock down approach.
Best and fairest: Look no further than star midfielder Nat Fyfe. He is a shoe-in for All-Australian selection, and could give the Brownlow a shake, even if he can’t win it. He has had a super consistent year, and has been Fremantle’s best player by far.
First year player: This one is difficult to pick as Freo hasn’t blooded too many players this season. Max Duffy and Michael Apeness have played three games between them, but both have shown glimpses of their talent.
Most improved: Hayden Crozier has become much more consistent this season, as has Nick Suban. After establishing himself as an important defensive cog last year, mature defender Lee Spurr has become one of the competition’s most consistent third defenders, and will give this award a good shake.
Best and fairest: Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson will most likely be the leading contenders for this award. Both have again had excellent seasons, and should both gain All-Australian berths. A smoky is midfielder Mitch Duncan – he flies under the radar, but has had a super consistent season, and has been one of the Cats’ best and most consistent players.
First year player: Shane Kersten and Jed Bews are the two leading this award, with both making contributions in their few games this year.
Most improved: Josh Caddy and Jordan Murdoch have both had markedly improved seasons this year, finding greater levels of consistency.
Best and fairest: Gary Ablett. Enough said. Although Dion Prestia will give him a run for his money, especially over the latter stages of the season with Ablett injured.
First year player: Kade Kolodjashnij has had a superb debut year, and is a leading contender for the Rising Star award. He looks to have already established himself as a key member of the Suns’ back six. Sean Lemmens has been a surprise packet in his first year at the club, adding some dash off half back, and is also in contention.
Most improved: There are a number of contenders for this award, which is perhaps one of the reasons why the Suns have been in finals contention for much of this season. Youngsters Luke Russell and Matt Shaw have improved markedly since last year, establishing themselves in the team’s best 22, while Tom Lynch, Steven May and Rory Thompson have also become key members of the Suns’ young team.
Best and fairest: Captain Callan Ward is a virtual shoe-in for this award. One of the most underrated players in the competition, Ward 26 disposals a game, and has carried his young team with him for most of the season. Young gun Adam Treloar should also poll well after another great year, as will gun ruck recruit Shane Mumford.
First year player: There are several contenders for this award. Josh Kelly has been impressive with his silky skills, and Tom Boyd has shown glimpses of his under-18 form that saw him taken as last year’s number one pick.
Most improved: Small forward Will Hoskin-Elliott has established himself as a consistent performer this season after showing only flashes of his talent in previous seasons.