Kane Cornes is just as comfortable winning his own ball as he is shutting down an opponent.
Photo: Getty Images
Steven Baker's revelations about the dark arts of tagging - sharpened stops, targeting injured players and constantly punching his opponents - sparked renewed debate about the role of players who wholly dedicate themselves to negating their opponents.
Baker and former Geelong skipper Cameron Ling were among the best taggers of their generation but the baton has been passed on. Here's our take on those currently making game day a misery for the AFL's best midfielders...
6. Kane Cornes
The Port Adelaide veteran would once have ranked among the top couple on this list, such was his ability to stop his opponent while gathering plenty of the footy himself. He was among the first picked in Mark Williams' powerful Port side of the early noughties but age has wearied him to a degree. However, his job in stopping West Coast young gun Luke Shuey in round 21 was a throwback to the days when the younger Cornes was an opponent to be dreaded.
5. Andrew Raines
Once an aspiring midfielder in his days at Richmond, Raines has rejuvenated his career under Michael Voss at Brisbane as a stopper first, ball winner second. The knock on the Tiger version of Raines was his ball use but his endurance and game sense was first class. As a Lion, Raines has harnessed both these attributes to establish himself as a valuable part of the Brisbane midfield. His stoush with Joel Selwood in round five, after which both players were cited by the match review panel but only Raines was suspended, was testament to his ability to get under an opponents' skin.
4. Liam Picken
Where Cornes and Raines tend to niggle their opponents, Picken simply wears them like a glove. The ultimate team man has made a career of sacrificing his own game to benefit his side's overall cause. Eighty-five games since making his debut in round one, 2009 is testament to his value in a Western Bulldogs side that has been blessed with some outstanding midfielders. Brisbane Lions veteran Simon Black was the most recent of his big scalps, with the Brownlow Medallist restricted to 23 disposals of debatable impact and a reprimand for lashing out at Picken during the game.
3. Jordie McKenzie
The Demons have struggled to find regular winners in recent years but McKenzie has often ensured that Melbourne's opposition has one less star to worry about. Brendon Goddard, Ryan Griffen and Chris Judd are among the midfield guns who have battled against the Demon hard nut in 2012. McKenzie can also be a dominant clearance player on his day but a lack of leg speed and an occasionally dicey kick means his talents are best used in a defensive role at the stoppages.
2. Andrew Carrazzo
The very best taggers are those who are equally at home winning the ball and using it well, as they are stopping their opponents getting near it. Ling did it wonderfully well as Geelong marched their way to three premierships and Carrazzo is the heir to the Cat champion's crown. 'Carrots', as he is affectionately known, is a prolific ball winner but with Judd, Marc Murphy, Kade Simpson, Bryce Gibbs and Brock McLean also in the midfield, he has been most useful locking down the likes of Essendon's Jobe Watson. It's no coincidence Carlton's form dropped away when he was out with a fractured shoulder.
1. Ryan Crowley
As laudable as ball players like Carrazzo and Cornes are, the most memorable stoppers are those who sit on an opponent to the exclusion of all else. Crowley has long been a fine stopper but Fremantle's increased emphasis on defence under new coach Ross Lyon has allowed the Docker to flourish. Adelaide star Scott Thompson and Carlton skipper Judd are among those to have lost duels with Crowley this year, while champion Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett famously labelled him a "joke" after watching him quell Judd's influence. He might not be popular among his peers but Lyon and the Fremantle faithful wouldn't swap him for quids.
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