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Most Improved - The Contenders

Simon Conway  October 3, 2017 1:45 PM

20171003_Gleeson_H.jpg

Martin Gleeson become a regular member of the Essendon defence in the second half of the season.

"The most improved award at Essendon goes to a player who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence.  They must have shown clear improvement from previous seasons and a willingness to go above and beyond."

The winner of this award will be announced during the Crichton Medal on Thursday, but here is a look at some of the top contenders:

Martin Gleeson 

In raw numbers, Gleeson’s output throughout 2017 is similar to what he produced in 2016. But those statistics don’t tell the full story.

Gleeson was dropped from the side early in the season, but returned to become a central part of the defence. He was challenged to back himself in the air and he delivered showing his ability to play on taller opponents.

The 23 year old returned to the side in round 11 and played out the rest of the season. Throughout those 13 straight matches Gleeson averaged 17 disposals, seven marks and three rebounds from the defensive 50.

He also picked up 25 disposals, took seven marks and had four rebounds from the defensive 50 in the Elimination Final against Sydney.

Orazio Fantasia

Fantasia booted 39 goals in 2017, ten more than he kicked in the previous season.

The small forward who turned 22 last month, kicked three goals or more on seven occasions.

Fantasia finished 21st on the competition’s goal kicking tally, with only a handful of small forwards placed ahead of him.

Joe Daniher

The key forward set some lofty standards in 2016, but despite the high benchmark he took his game to a new level in 2017.

Daniher booted 65 goals, 22 more than he kicked in 2016.

He kicked at least one goal in every match on his way to selection in the All Australian side and third place in the overall leading goal kicker standings.

The 23 year old also won the AFL's Mark of the Year award.

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti

After spending his AFL first season in defence, McDonald-Tipungwuti was moved into attack in 2017 and proved a revelation.

He kicked 34 goals, the fourth highest at the Club – but a return that would have seen him win the Dons goal kicking award in six of the last seven seasons. 

Walla was also ranked third at the Club for goal assists.

Conor McKenna

After playing 12 games in 2016, McKenna featured 19 times this season and became a regular in defence.

McKenna led the Club for running bounces and averaged career highs in disposals, marks and rebounds from the defesive 50.