The 10 best AFL players at the halfway mark of the 2023 season

We're now halfway through the 2023 AFL season, which means it's time to re-rank the 10 best players of the year.

There have been plenty of changes since I last ranked them after the first quarter of the year (post-Round 6), with five new faces in this installment. That means just five have managed to hold on to their place. There's also a new No. 1!

But before we begin, I'd like to give a special shout-out to Darcy Moore, Charlie Curnow, Toby Greene, Jack Sinclair, Charlie Cameron, Tim Taranto, Tom Liberatore and Zach Merrett, who were all in the conversation.

10. James Sicily (Hawthorn)

He may have missed this past weekend's game through suspension but Sicily still makes my top 10. The Hawthorn skipper does it all off half back. He sets up attacking thrusts with his pinpoint kicking, locks down on dangerous forwards and intercepts more ball than literally anyone else in the game.

Among defenders, Sicily ranks elite for just about everything including disposals, kicks, inside 50s, rebound 50s, contested possessions, uncontested possessions, intercept possessions, ground ball gets, metres gained, score involvements and score launches. He's also taken more marks than anyone in the league, even with that missed game. My top 15 ranking of Sicily at the beginning of the season was met with wild criticism. Not so crazy now, huh?

Best performance: In my mind, Sicily's game against the Saints in Round 11 was the best anyone has played all year. His stat line at fulltime was just wild: 43 disposals, 24 kicks, 16 marks, 11 score involvements, 22 intercept possessions, eight intercept marks and 658 metres gained.

9. Jordan De Goey (Collingwood)

There's a real argument to be made that De Goey has been the best and most important Magpie in 2023. The bullocking mid-forward looks to have finally discovered something which had been missing in his earlier years: consistency. This year De Goey's averaging career-highs in disposals (25), contested possessions (12), clearances (6.2), inside 50s (5.5) and goal assists (1), while only Christian Petracca has kicked more goals among midfielders.

Unfortunately for De Goey, this is likely the last we see of him on these lists after he was slapped with a three-week suspension for rough conduct against Eagles youngster Elijah Hewett.

Best performance: He set the new De Goey standard back in Round 1 with a 25-disposal, three-goal game against reigning premier Geelong. De Goey also had a game-high 11 score involvements and three direct goal assists in the win.

8. Noah Anderson (Gold Coast)

In the absence of Touk Miller, Anderson has assumed full responsibility in the Suns midfield and is playing inspired football for a team which all of a sudden has a finals pulse. He is great at the contest, working in tandem with inside bull Matt Rowell, but also uses his tank to spread and cause damage on the outside.

Just five players this season are averaging 27 disposals and seven clearances per game; Darcy Parish, Lachie Neale, Marcus Bontempelli, Caleb Serong and Anderson. Of that group, nobody has kicked more goals than Anderson (9), and only Bontempelli has a greater number of score involvements, albeit only two more. Anderson is also in a select group of just three to have had four 17+ contested possession games this year, along with Patrick Cripps and Neale. Fair company!

Best performance: Anderson's game against the Demons in Round 8 was ridiculous and it was a damn shame the Suns didn't get the four points. He was everywhere, finishing the game with 37 disposals, 17 contested possessions, 10 clearances, six tackles and a goal.

7. Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

Without suffering the hamstring injury against Port Adelaide in Round 10, Oliver is almost certainly on the podium here. The fact he's still in the top 10 shows just how well he was going pre-injury!

This year, no player is averaging more contested possessions than Oliver, and only Nick Daicos and Darcy Parish are averaging more disposals per game. Champion Data ranks Oliver elite among midfielders for just about every statistic you can think of including disposals, contested possessions, uncontested possessions, kicks, handballs, ground ball gets, clearances, metres gained, score involvements and pressure acts. He is expected to return on King's Birthday and will, once again, be one of the favourites for the medal.

Best performance: You could throw a blanket over five or six games, but I'll go back to Round 2 against the Lions when Oliver tallied 37 disposals, 11 inside 50s, five clearances, 774 metres gained and kicked a goal. Shame it was in a loss.

6. Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)

Call it recency bias if you like but Cameron has taken a little tumble down the order after cooling off from what was a blistering start to the season. The Geelong spearhead was ranked No. 1 on this list after six games, when he had already tallied 27 goals and talk of a 100-goal season began heating up. But over the next six weeks he's booted just 11.11.

Still, Cameron's kicked the equal-most goals of anyone this year and ranks second in the competition for score involvements. I love the fact he's always willing to push up the ground and influence the game either in the midfield or at half back. Through 12 games he is also averaging career-highs in disposals, uncontested possessions and inside 50s.

Best performance: Cameron single-handedly kept the Cats alive against the Blues in Round 2, but how could his best game not be Round 4 against Hawthorn on Easter Monday? A season-high seven goals and 12 score involvements from his 22 disposals as the Cats ran away big winners.

5. Jordan Dawson (Adelaide)

The meteoric rise of Dawson has to be one of the great surprises of the season. From unheralded Swan to captain of the Crows in the space of 24 months, Dawson is now seriously staking a claim as one of the league's best midfielders.

Since moving into the middle in Round 3, the 26-year-old has rocketed into Brownlow Medal contention. He has great balance to his game, the ability to win his own ball at the contest as well as spreading and using it better than just about anyone else who plays the position. There would be 17 coaches in the league who would kill to have a player that can use the ball as well as Dawson going inside 50. Over the last 10 weeks, he is averaging 29 disposals, six inside 50s and over 500 metres gained per game.

Best performance: Dawson absolutely humiliated the Blues and Patrick Cripps in Round 5. He ended the night as the standout player on the ground, tallying 32 disposals, 10 inside 50s and 11 score involvements, using the ball through the midfield better than anyone else in the position.

4. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

The Bulldogs skipper is back to his best. In fact, he might be going better than that. Bontempelli has been doing a bit of everything this year and after 12 weeks is the only player in the league to rank top five in clearances, contested possessions and tackles. He's also the No. 1 rated player according to Champion Data's rating points.

Bontempelli is one of the most difficult match-ups in the sport as he can destroy you at the contest, on the outside and then in the forward line. However, it's worth noting he is down on goals this campaign, with just six from his 12 games. Still, he is looking like a lock for another All-Australian blazer and who knows, maybe some extra accolades as the Bulldogs eye a strong finish to the season.

Best performance: Bontempelli's game against the Giants in Round 8 was simply outrageous. He tallied 32 disposals, a career-high 26 contested possessions, a career-high 14 clearances, laid seven tackles and kicked a goal. Epic.

3. Zak Butters (Port Adelaide)

Who here had Butters as an All-Australian lock at the beginning of the year? Well that's exactly the way he's tracking through the first half of the season after leapfrogging the likes of Ollie Wines and Connor Rozee to become the No. 1 midfielder on a team that's now won nine games in succession.

Butters is the ultimate competitor. He works hard both in attack and defensively, can win ball in tight at the contest and in space. His ball use is elite, too. Butters rarely wastes a touch and is a brilliant user when going inside 50. After 12 rounds he leads the AFLCA coaches votes. Don't count him out for the Brownlow Medal, either.

Best performance: You'll struggle to see a better wet weather game ever played than what Butters produced against the Demons in Round 10. The 22-year-old had a career-high 41 disposals (at 78% efficiency), 10 clearances, 12 score involvements, eight intercept possessions, eight inside 50s and kicked two goals in the four-point win.

2. Nick Daicos (Collingwood)

Is Daicos the best second-year player we've ever seen? Quite possibly. What he has produced so far in his short career is pretty remarkable. He leads the league in disposals, uncontested possessions and metres gained, playing perhaps the most crucial part in Collingwood's 11-1 start to the season.

When opposition coaches elect not to deploy a run-with role, Daicos is killing them with his immaculate ball use and elite work-rate off half back and through the midfield. But even when they do send someone to him, he's still managing to find ways to positively impact games. It's ultra impressive for a 19-year-old.

Best performance: Still not sure Daicos has topped his epic Anzac Day effort. The young Pie starred on the biggest stage, finishing the game with 40 disposals, nine score involvements, 600 metres gained and two crucial goals. Oh, and he also took home the Anzac medal.

1. Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

Melbourne's star mid-forward has justified my pre-season ranking as the best player in the AFL and right now should be the favourite to win the Brownlow Medal (I've currently got him leading my predictor with 19.5 votes). Petracca has been in career-best form through the first half of the year, averaging 28 disposals, 14 contested possessions and six clearances per game.

There's also no player in the league who has as much influence on scoring than Petracca. He leads the competition in inside 50s, score involvements and goal assists, ranks second in metres gained, and of the top 80 disposal winners, no player has kicked more goals.

Best performance: There's a number of near-certain three-vote games to choose from but it's hard to go past his 35-disposal, three-goal effort against the Kangaroos in Round 7. Petracca also had 16 contested possessions, 14 score involvements and nine inside 50s in the 90-point win.