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Cunnington "best I've seen"

Nathan Buckley, Michael Voss, Chris Judd, Gary Ablett Jnr, Scott Pendlebury, Sam Mitchell, Jimmy Bartel, Nat Fyfe, Dayne Swan; names of some of the greatest midfielders in recent history.

But according to AFL Hall of Famer and North Melbourne assistant coach Gavin Brown, none can match Kangaroos’ superstar Ben Cunnington at what he does best; his clearance work and ability to win the contested footy. 

“Where does he rank among the players I’ve seen? He’s right up there,” Brown told North Media ahead of Cunnington’s 200th game.

“For that pure contested, inside role, I’ve never seen anyone better. He’d be number one, by far.”

“I played with Buckley, I’ve been involved with Pendlebury and Judd, but for that role, there’s no one better.”

Such bold statements are powerful and full of significance given Brown himself was one of the most courageous players there ever was. 

A premiership player and club captain, three-time best and fairest winner, dual all-Australian, AFL hall of famer and Collingwood hall of fame and team of the century member, Brown has seen it all. 

“People talk about him being a contested bull but he’s much more than that. He has incredible touch, and he is probably the best handballer I’ve ever seen," Brown continued. 

“He’s got courage, and he’s quite dynamic in a small area. People say he’s not quick, but he’s super powerful in-tight.

“His reaction times are better than anyone’s around, and it’s like he plays with people. He’s an elite contested mark and kick as well.” 

The numbers go a long way to back Brown up. Cunnington leads the competition for clearances and contested possessions.

“He’s a genuine superstar. He’s been doing this for a few years now, and people have started cottoning on," Brown added.

“He won a B and F (Best and Fairest) in 2014, so he’s been doing it for five years. There’s no doubt that opposition teams and coaches know exactly how good he is.”

Brown believes Cunnington's low profile is one reason why he isn’t perceived as highly externally as he is internally. 

“He doesn’t have huge profile in the media and on social media, doing interviews and all that. If he did, I have no doubt he’d be seen in the same light as Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield, Nat Fyfe, Patrick Cripps, and the like,” Brown commented. 

“Everyone talks about Cripps being this elite contested bull, but you can’t tell me that ‘Cunners’ isn’t on that same level; and he’s been doing it for longer.” 

Brown added Cunnington is arguably North's most important player.

“He’s obviously critical to our team and midfield, and he makes things happen from stoppages and a contested ball point of view,” he said 

“He’s so calm and composed because he has that confidence he can deal with anything. He’s a team oriented guy, and no fuss.

“Like I said, he’s the best I’ve seen at that contested and clearance work, there’s no one better.”