Paul Johnson's mobility, prolific ball gathering and impact in the ruck and around the ground make him the key figure in East Perth's bid to improve on last season's fourth-placed finish.
Those match-winning attributes will also make Johnson the most influential player in the State league in 2013.
Johnson has replaced 2011 Sandover medallist Luke Blackwell as the footballer identified by The West Australian as the No.1 player in the league.
The classy Blackwell is still the WAFL's best midfielder, but he was forced to move down a rung on the ladder because of Johnson's anticipated impact this season.
The Royals boast two other top-class players who could be the major beneficiaries of Johnson's work this season.
Damaging forward Josh Smith (No.3) and clearance expert Brendan Lee (No.9) were also ranked highly and will be crucial elements in new coach Brian Dawson's bid to guide the Royals into a finals campaign.
Like Johnson, Smith has won a Simpson Medal while playing for WA and looms as the most effective spearhead in the competition.
And Lee, following consecutive fairest-and-best awards with East Perth and the VFL's Bendigo Bombers during his season with Essendon, should confirm his standing as one of the league's premier ball-getters.
Players were ranked on their form and impact last season, an assessment of their likely role and value to their team this year as well as the threat they provide to opposition teams. AFL-listed players were not included in the top 40, though eight players de-listed at the end of last year were included.
Perth expect that Hawthorn premiership player Chance Bateman (No. 6) will help make up for the loss of Ross Young, the highest ranked player in the league in 2009 and 2010.
The big mover is Swan Districts wingman Shaun Hildebrandt who jumped 27 places to No. 4 after moving clubs last year and rediscovering the spark that helped him become a dual Subiaco premiership player.
His teammate Tallan Ames moved up 15 spots to No. 8 in recognition of his status as the best defender in the league.
No full-forward relishes playing on the close-checking Ames, who marshals a highly effective defensive unit that gave up just 13 goals a game last season and includes Kyle Hams (No.13) and occasional back men Wayde Twomey (No. 24) and Matt Riggio (No.39).
Blackwell is one of nine Claremont players in the top 40.
The Tigers have lost 10 members of the teams that won consecutive flags in the past two seasons, but still have enough quality and depth to justify their confidence in seeking a premiership hat-trick.
Claremont's coup in signing West Coast premiership ruckman Mark Seaby was reflected in the big man's ranking at No. 5.
Seaby will work in tandem with dual flag-winner Mitch Andrews (No.33) and provide opportunities for a potent attacking combination that includes Paul Medhurst (No.14), Ian Richardson (No.15), Chad Jones (No.21) and Andrew Foster (No.22).
Newcomers to the list include Hams, versatile East Fremantle duo Rob Young (No.16) and Steven Dodd (No.27), and reigning Bernie Naylor medallist Ben Saunders (No. 19).While AFL promotions and retirements saw 11 players automatically drop out of last year's top 40, players like Peel midfielder Kris Thornton, West Perth defender Michael Pettigrew and forward Brock O'Brien, of East Fremantle, were omitted after failing to produce the form last year that saw them spend considerable time on AFL lists.
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