IN just a few short hours the proceedings to announce the 2018 All-Australian team will get underway. The difficult task of narrowing the best 40 players from a season ago into a team of 22 is always going to see snubs and surprises emerge. I gave it my best crack to choose the 22 best players from the regular season, taking a lot of their individual efforts into account, while also trying to build the most accurate actual ‘team’ of AFL stars as possible.
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CANDIDATES: Rory Laird (Crows), Harris Andrews (Lions), Shannon Hurn (Eagles), Jake Lloyd (Swans), Jeremey McGovern (Eagles), Dylan Grimes (Tigers), Tom Stewart (Cats), Tom Jonas (Power), Alex Rance (Tigers), Mark Blicavs (Cats)
THERE are a few players who are locks in the back six stating with the key pillars. Both Alex Rance and Jeremey McGovern deserve the nod at fullback and centre half-back respectively following ripper years. Jake Lloyd and Shannon Hurn get the nod in the pockets with Bunger given the valuable honour of captain. Things get tricky from here on out with Tom Stewart firmly in the mix after a great second season with Geelong. In ‘the actual 22’ it’s likely that he takes Whitfield’s spot, but I think Lachie played more time as a half-back this season than in the midfield. Throwing Rory Laird on the other side means Stewart just misses the starting six.
CANDIDATES: Andrew Gaff (Eagles), Callan Ward (Giants), Trent Cotchin (Tigers), Tom Mitchell (Hawks), Patrick Dangerfield (Cats), Dayne Beams (Lions), Jack Macrae (Bulldogs), Shaun Higgins (Roos), Dustin Martin (Tigers), Kane Lambert (Tigers), Steele Sidebottom (Magpies), Max Gawn (Demons), Clayton Oliver (Demons), Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong), Lachie Neale (Dockers), Scott Pendlebury (Magpies)
AS is the case every year there are never enough spots for star midfielders, with Steph Coniglio’s harsh omission from the 40-man squad a clear sign of a deep talent pool. Brownlow fancies Tom Mitchell, Patrick Cripps and Max Gawn are all locks for starting spots in my mind with Andrew Gaff given a place on the wing without much debate. Clayton Oliver is a tough omission and to be honest, my arm could be twisted allowing him to take Jack Macrae’s starting spot on the ball, but for now, the star from Footscray holds it down.
THERE’S also a case for first timers Steele Sidebottom or Shaun Higgins to be given the final wing spot, but I think it deserves to got to Danger. Despite playing as a deep forward regularly for Geelong, Patrick Dangerfield finished the season with a bang helping to drag the Cats into the finals. Even with a slight dip in his numbers, he is still a class above the others challenging for this position.
CANDIDATES: Jack Riewoldt (Tigers), Tom Hawkins (Cats), Robbie Gray (Power), Jordan De Goey (Magpies), Josh Caddy (Tigers), Ben Brown (Roos), Lance Franklin (Swans), Devon Smith (Bombers), Shane Edwards (Tigers)
KEY forwards will be the talk of the town in this year’s All-Australian outfit. Coleman Medalist Jack Riewoldt is well and truly deserving of a spot with runner-up Ben Brown also named in the starting six. The debate over Tom Hawkins, Lance Franklin and Jack Gunston is an interesting one and at the end of the day, I had to favour a player’s entire body of work over the whole season. Devon Smith was stellar in his first season as a Bomber while the magnificent Luke Bruest rounds out the goalkickers.
CANDIDATES: Dustin Martin (Tigers), Tom Hawkins (Cats), Brodie Grundy (Magpies), Josh Caddy (Tigers), Tom Stewart (Cats), Elliot Yeo (Eagles), Clayton Oliver (Demons), Robbie Gray (Power), Dayne Beams (Lions)
FOR the final four interchange positions you could go a variety of different ways. I think regardless of which four players you have one spot definitely has to go to Brodie Grundy, with Clayton Oliver’s 2018 campaign giving him his first All-Aus berth too. Depending on your personal flavour you might be tempted to add a few Tigers given their dominant season. Personally, Dustin Martin is the biggest omission from my side, with Dayne Beams and Elliot Yeo taking out the final two selections.
IT’S a bit stuff for Dusty, but he had a quiet year by his lofty standings and the other two players mentioned balled out for their clubs. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw Josh Caddy, Robbie Gray and/or Tom Stewart included in tonights final 22. Honourable mention to the Tomahawk for his stellar year as well.
The Final 22
WITH just two Tigers, my best 22 probably won’t resemble the real team that will be revealed in the near future. That being said, this is a pretty imposing squad. West Coast takes out the honour for the most players with four, while Hawthorn (3) Sydney (2) and Melbourne (2) the only other clubs to have multiple players finish inside the 22. A fresh batch of talent is being recognised with 10 blokes getting their first All-Australians nod. For others like Buddy (8th) and Danger (6th) this is just everyday business.
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