Who are the players you just love watching? You know, not necessarily favourites from the team you support, but the players from across the league who stop you in your tracks and make you tune in anytime, anywhere?
Welcome to ESPN's fourth annual Top 20 Must-Watch Players list.
This isn't just a countdown of the competition's biggest names, but a ranking of the players we simply can't wait to watch in action in 2022. It's a mix of the game's superstars, big names who have switched clubs, young guns who look ready to explode, top draftees or basically anyone we will be watching with interest in 2022.
This is the players ranked 20 to 11. The top 10 will be revealed on Friday, March 11.
20. Liam Ryan
Premiership player, All-Australian forward, Mark of the Year winner and an abundance of outrageous goals; Liam 'Flyin' Ryan can do it all. The electrifying forward's high-flying capabilities and innate goal sense makes him a nightmare to match up on and with 100 goals next to his name since debuting in 2018, he remains one of the most damaging players in the competition. After an injury-interrupted season last year, there's no doubt Ryan will be as hungry as ever to get back to his award-winning best in 2022, which looms as a scary proposition.
19. James Sicily
One of the league's best intercept defenders before suffering a heartbreaking ACL injury which had sidelined him for the best part of two seasons, it's fair to say a fit and firing James Sicily will make Hawthorn a far more attractive team to watch. The 27-year-old will add much-needed experience and offensive flair to Sam Mitchell's back six this season, and let's be honest, when tempers flare during games and this hot-headed Hawk and his antics are at the root of it, you cannot turn your head away.
18. Clayton Oliver
Clayton Oliver quickly established himself as one of the league's best contested ball-winners upon entering the AFL, so it's almost unfair that, at 24, he's still on an upward trajectory with the reigning champs. The premiership star and two-time All-Australian midfielder averaged an elite 31.6 touches last season, 7.4 clearances and recorded 80 more contested possessions than the next best player, topping the league with a whopping average of 17.4 per game on the way to a third place finish in the Brownlow Medal count. Can he go one better and claim 'Charlie' in 2022? He's got all the tools to do so.
17. Charlie Curnow
It isn't just Blues fans itching to see star forward Charlie Curnow get a fair run at it. The injury-cursed gun was completely robbed of two years after a series of knee injuries, but after a late-season cameo in 2021 and a full preseason under his belt, there is a natural excitement that the 25-year-old -- who at his athletic and mercurial best is one of the most threatening forwards in the league -- can partner with Coleman Medal winner Harry McKay to form a formidable one-two punch inside 50. The Blues have recruited fruitfully in the past couple of seasons but it could be forgotten star Curnow that unlocks their passage to finals footy.
16. Wayne Milera
Another emerging star with rotten luck on the injury front, fingers and toes will be crossed smooth-moving Wayne Milera can stay on the park in 2022. The former first round draft pick started his career as a classy small forward, but it was a move to the backline where the now-dashing defender showed his true capabilities in the 2018-19 seasons. A foot stress fracture restricted the 24-year-old to just two games in 2020, before a rupture to his patella tendon ended his 2021 season before it started. There's hardly a better sight in footy than a hard-running defender with elite speed and foot skills taking it upon themselves to slice their way through opposition zones, and we've got a feeling we won't remember what we've missed out on until Milera returns to the fold in 2022.
15. Cam Rayner
Is this the year the former No. 1 draft pick finally breaks out? An explosive forward who has pinch-hit in the guts in the past, Rayner has all the traits to excel in the current game. The enigmatic Lion has been tipped for more midfield minutes this season after an ACL injury ruled him out of 2021, and his game smarts forward of centre and power when deployed around stoppages should add another frightening dimension to an already box office Brisbane side.
14. Aaron Naughton
After announcing himself to AFL fans in 2019, to having an ankle injury interrupt his 2020 season, Naughton was in excellent touch in 2021, booting 47 goals throughout the year. In fact, the big-marking forward kicked a goal in every game he wasn't subbed out of (which was twice in 2021) and kicked a bag of four or more on three occasions. Now 22, this prodigious talent looks primed to take the next step, and with the likes Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy waiting in the wings as key forward options, Naughton is ready to lead a forward line keen to help the Bulldogs take the next step in 2022.
13. Bailey Smith
Is there a more marketable player in the AFL than Bailey Smith right now? Not only is he incredibly popular with fans, his form in 2021 was excellent, and with his trademark flair and a penchant for going in hard at the footy, this rising 21-year-old's stock is only set to continue soaring. After an unbelievable finals series, including three and four-goal hauls in the semi and prelim, Smith has shown he can be effectively used in both attack and on the ball. We're expecting fireworks from Smith and the Bulldogs this season.
12. Nat Fyfe
Are we finally going to see an injury-free Nat Fyfe get a real crack at it? It seems weird to say about a two-time Brownlow medallist, but he managed just 15 games in 2021 after battling a shoulder injury, and just 14 in 2020 (albeit in a shortened season). Now the wrong side of 30, Fyfe may only have a handful of years of good footy left in him, and we'd love nothing more than for him to once again take the competition by the scruff of the neck. With Freo looking like making moves up the ladder, a fit and firing Fyfe could help them to their first finals appearance since 2015.
11. Jordan De Goey
Controversial call might be understating it somewhat, but given the circumstances surrounding De Goey's return to the fold at both Collingwood and at league level, there's a massive amount of interest and intrigue in the 25-year-old. Coming off a year in which he became a more permanent fixture of the Pies' midfield -- averaging 29 touches per game from Queens Birthday onwards -- De Goey clearly has the tools to be influential around stoppages, on the breakaway, and in front of the big sticks. For now, though, it seems like the biggest barrier to De Goey being one of the league's best players, is ... himself.