THERE are plenty of stars in the making across AFL lists in 2019, with some shining brighter than most. This week, the spotlight shone on 40 specific individuals as the AFL Players Association announced the squad for the 22 under 22 team. For the seventh time in AFL history, a team of the 22 best players who are aged under 22 for the entire AFL season (including finals) is set to be announced. The only catch is, we will have to wait until the end of August at the AFLPA MVP awards to here the official team. I couldn’t wait that long, so instead, I’ve made my selections narrowing down the list from 40 to 22.
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CANDIDATES: Tim English (Bulldogs), Harry McKay (Blues)*
THIS one is fairly easy. Harry McKay’s continued development could see him make the actual team as a forward/back-up ruck, but this is hands down Tim English’s spot. The young Footscray pup has played 17 games so far this year and has shown off his stellar foot skills for a man of his size. As English continues to develop it will be clear that the Dogs have a winner on their hands.
CANDIDATES: Wayne Milera (Crows), Harris Andrews (Lions), Alex Witherden (Lions), Jacob Weitering (Blues), Sam Taylor (Giants), Blake Hardwick (Hawks), Bayley Fritsch (Demons), Dan Houston (Power), Sydney Stack (Tigers), Jordan Dawson (Swans), Callum Mills (Swans)
THE first easy defensive pick goes to stellar fullback Harris Andrews from the Lions, who has been a catalyst in their success this season. Andrews is in All-Australian form and the Brisbane vice-captain could very well end up being named the skipper of the 22 under 22. I can’t see any iterations of the squad that don’t include Andrews, who will chalk up his third consecutive appearance on the coveted list.
Image from sportingnews.com
HIS teammate Alex Witherden will push for selection one of the half-back flanks along with Dan Houston, who is thriving in a bigger role for Port Adelaide right now. That duo along with Tigers rookie sensation Sydney Stack will vie for selection either side of Jacob Weitering at centre-half back, who has shown promise for Carlton as a key backman. The other two starting positions virtually come down to a bit of personal preference with Bayley Fritsch and Wayne Milera getting the nod for me.
CANDIDATES: Jarrod Berry (Lions), Hugh McCluggage (Lions), Zac Fisher (Blues), Sam Petrevski-Seton (Blues), Sam Walsh (Blues), Andrew McGrath (Bombers), Darcy Parish (Bombers), Darcy Tucker (Dockers), Jordan Clark (Cats), Brayden Fiorini (Suns), Jacob Hopper (Giants), Tim Taranto (Giants), James Worpel (Hawks), Clayton Oliver (Demons), Oliver Florent (Swans), Josh Dunkley (Bulldogs), Bailey Smith (Bulldogs)
PICKING five starting midfielders out of this group is a near-impossible task with 10-12 players worthy of consideration for the final nod. You can’t consider leaving out Tim Taranto, Josh Dunkley and Clayton Oliver all of whom could see some Brownlow recognition after posting awesome 2019 campaigns.
FINDING a spot for players on the wing and bench then becomes tricky, with most of the midfielders, not natural wingers. However, in today’s league, there isn’t a lot that Sam Walsh can’t do, posting one of the best first-year seasons we have seen in a long time. James Worpel is probably the next best name on the list in my opinion, but Hugh McCluggage feels like a better team fit on the wing, forcing the Worpedo to come off the pine. Given the depth at this position, I’ll allow one more bench spot to go to the midfield with a tight fight between Fiorini, Parish and Hopper, with the Gold Coast Sun getting my vote. Pick your poison.
Image from goldcoastbulletin.com.au
CANDIDATES: Eric Hipwood (Lions), Harry McKay (Blues) *, Gryan Miers (Cats), Brent Daniels (Giants), Jy Simpkin (Kangaroos), Cameron Zurhaar (Kangaroos), Connor Rozee (Power), Shai Bolton (Tigers), Jade Gresham (Saints), Liam Ryan (Eagles), Aaron Naughton (Bulldogs)
AGAIN this position group kicks off with the Brisbane Lions, with Eric Hipwood locking down the full forward position for the third straight season. While Aaron Naughton deserves mention there’s nothing wrong with slotting him at the top of the 50 as the CHF after an awesome second season. Naughton’s switch from key back to key forward has been a revelation this year with multiple seasons of 50+ goals well and truly in his sights.
THE flanks and pockets are usually dominated by smaller, zippier types, including Liam Ryan and Connor Rozee. Both have shown the ability to play small or tall and become match-winners off their own boot early in their careers. I’d find it hard to leave Cameron Zurhaar off the list, who could emerge as a star for North Melbourne and I’m handing the final starting slot in the forward 50 to excitement machine Gryan Miers. In his first year of footy Miers has cemented himself into Geelong’s best 22, edging out Harry McKay for the last starting spot on the field.
THE FINAL 22
FB: W.Milera, H.Andrews (C), B.Fritsch
HB: A.Witherden, J.Weitering, D.Houston
C: S.Walsh, J.Dunkley (VC), H.McCluggage
HF: C.Zurhaar, A.Naughton, C.Rozee
FF: G.Miers, E.Hipwood, L.Ryan
FOLL: T.English, C.Oliver, T.Taranto
BENCH: S.Stack, J.Worpel, B.Fiorini, H.Mckay
AS I’ve mentioned a few times, this team varies depending a bit on personal preference, but I think I’ve done a solid job of structuring a well rounded, competitive 22. Harris Andrews will be my selection for the captaincy and I look forward to watching him develop into an elite backman in the AFL, while Josh Dunkley is more than deserving of VC responsibilities.
Pick you 22under22 at this site with voting closing on Wednesday 21st August.
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