It’s hard to believe Round Seven of the AFL season is already in the books. This game we all love so much is the ultimate team sport, but we must also sit back and marvel at some of the best players’ individual efforts at this point in the season.
So many players have shown significant improvement, while others are so consistently brilliant their efforts sometimes get lost in the shuffle. To celebrate some of the best performances of the year so far, we here at the Mongrel Punt decided to put our heads together and have come up with the definitive All Australian team after the first seven rounds of season 2019.
So you’ve seen the experts pick their teams to this point of the year, now it’s time to see ours… the non-experts.
Back Pocket: Shannon Hurn (West Coast)
Our team’s captain, Hurn is having a career year at 31 years old. Averaging 27 disposals at an astounding 87% efficiency, as well as seven marks, Hurn is once again leading West Coast brilliantly. Quietly going about his business, Hurn uses his penetrating kick to regularly deploy the Eagles forays into the forward line. The man they call “Bunga” has increased his disposal output from a career average of 17 to 27. West Coast may be currently experiencing a slight premiership hangover, and if they are to resurrect their flag defence, Hurn will be leading the charge.
Full Back: Mark Blicavs (Geelong)
The Full Back position (now known as the Alex Rance position… try that one out tonight) is taken by former steeplechaser Blicavs. Selected in six individual Mongrel teams, Blicavs has transformed his game from an athletic ruckman/midfielder to a tall rebounding defender. When the sub rule was rescinded, many thought Blicavs’ effectiveness would wane, but he has found his home behind the ball. Regularly using his running ability to cover the ground, Blicavs’ stats don’t necessarily lend themselves to a spot in the AFL’s best 22, but he just knows exactly where he needs to be at all times to stop his direct opponent having any influence and rebound effectively once he gains possession.
Back Pocket: Alex Keath (Adelaide)
Having started the season as Adelaide’s fourth choice in a key defensive post, Keath has made the most of his opportunity as Tom Doedee’s replacement. Ranked No. 1 in the competition for intercept marks, the former cricketer has a quiet confidence in his ability to read the ball in flight and take the often uncontested mark. This was the closest call between Keath and Dylan Grimes, with Keath just getting the nod as he was selected in six individual teams. If Adelaide are to go anywhere this season, it will be Keath’s work in defence that will be critical to their success.
Half Back Flank: James Sicily (Hawthorn)
Perhaps the most polarising player in the AFL, the ever irritating but enormously talented Sicily has continued his stellar 2018 form, and was selected eight times. Sitting fifth in the league for marks, and in the top 10 for interceptions, Sicily consistently and effectively cuts off many opposition scoring thrusts. If he can keep his anger and frustration in check, Sicily has the talent to push into Hawthorn’s midfield and continue to keep his side closer to premiership contention than the wooden spoon.
Centre Half Back: Darcy Moore (Collingwood)
If you had told me this time last year that Moore would be featured in this team, I would’ve called the local mental asylum. A much maligned forward, Moore has turned himself into one of the best defenders in the competition. A man with the worst haircut in the game, Moore is equally adept at stopping his opponent and rebounding from 50. With Jordan Roughead alongside him, Moore has made Collingwood the complete team, and if his body continues to hold up, will be a generational defender for the next 10 years.
Half Back Flank: Tom Stewart (Geelong)
Let’s please all remember, this week was Tom Stewart’s 50th game. From football wilderness to an ultra-consistent defender, Stewart averages 25 disposals a game at 80% efficiency. Seemingly has never played a bad game, and has no doubt cemented himself as one of the best rebounders in the game. Interestingly, 84% of Stewart’s disposal is by foot (145 kicks, 28 handballs), and Stewart loves to run out of defence and utilise the so-called “80 metre play.” What Corey Enright was to Geelong’s all conquering team of the late 2000’s, Stewart is to this pace setting Cats squadron.
Wing: Lachie Whitfield (Greater Western Sydney)
What a luxury for the Giants that their midfield runs so deep they can afford to have player with the talent of Whitfield and deploy him off a wing and half-back. Whitfield is in top five in the competition for marks taken, averaging over nine a game, and would likely be first had it not been for his injury. His elite running and disposal efficiency sees Whitfield regularly set up GWS’s forward thrusts. Averages 28 disposals (a career best), and looks set for a big year as GWS pushes towards another shot at their first premiership.
Centre: Travis Boak (Port Adelaide)
After relinquishing the Power captaincy, Boak has shattered his own glass ceiling to sit comfortably in the Brownlow Medal discussion. Selected in all of our teams in varying positions, Boak is comfortably Port Adelaide’s best player, averaging a career high 33 disposals. His last outing against Collingwood was perhaps his most inspirational, with his efforts in trying to drag the Power back from the impossible margin. Boak is second behind Lachie Neale for total possessions, and is also in the top 10 in the league for tackles, highlighting his ability to defend and apply pressure on the ball carrier.
Wing: Stephen Coniglio (Greater Western Sydney)
Another ultra-consistent midfielder who never seems to play a bad game, Coniglio’s barnstorming performance in last week’s Battle of the Bridge ensured his place among this season’s finest midfielders. Selected in nine individual teams, we at the Mongrel were split as to his best position, with majority just in favour of a spot on our team’s wing. Averaging just under 30 disposals, Coniglio has also contributed nine vital goals for his team. Perhaps the captain in waiting, Coniglio is now the Giants’ most important signature to obtain, with fellow young gun Josh Kelly signing on during the week.
Half Forward Flank: Jordan de Goey (Collingwood)
On the eve of the 2018 season, Collingwood suspended De Goey after a drink driving incident. Since then, De Goey has seemingly turned his career and life around, quickly becoming the Magpies most damaging player in front of goal. Now a permanent forward, De Goey has continued his excellent form from last season, a year in which he was Collingwood’s leading goal kicker with 48 goals. Running second in the Coleman Medal race, he is right at home on the big stage, and looks to setting himself up for another tilt at a premiership.
Centre Half Forward: Tom Hawkins (Geelong)
With all talk about Geelong’s army of small forwards (two of which make our team) Tom Hawkins still reigns supreme as the Cats most important forward. Reaching his 500th goal in Round One, Hawkins is regularly double teamed yet still finds a way to take the clutch mark when needed the most, and is surprisingly agile at ground level for a man of his size. Having now past 30 years of age, Hawkins is showing no signs of slowing down, and is yet to have a major injury, indicating that his body will be able to stand up for at least few more years to come.
Half Forward Flank: Michael Walters (Fremantle)
Fremantle’s leading goal kicker, Walters having a career best year in Fremantle’s renaissance. On track to surpass his best year in goal kicking, Walters has benefitted greatly with Fremantle’s tall forwards, regularly crumbing at the feet when the ball comes to ground. Moving into the midfield more often this season, Walters’ pace and improved endurance allows him to cover the ground much more effectively than in previous seasons. With Fremantle now having an intimidating unit of tall forwards, Walters now has a lot more freedom and less pressure to supply the majority of the Dockers goals.
Forward Pocket: Gary Ablett (Geelong)
A change of roles for the best player of his generation, Ablett was selected in the forward line of seven Mongrel teams. Turning back the clock, Ablett is playing like he is 10 years younger, and along with Gary Rohan, has been the perfect foil for Tom Hawkins. Chris Scott was determined to rest Ablett for at least one of these first seven weeks, but with his form tracking the way it is, Ablett is too crucial to Geelong’s forward setup to be left out of the side. Averaging 23 disposals as a permanent forward, Ablett has contributed 12 goals to the Geelong’s cause, and could give coaches nightmares for a few more years to come.
Full Forward: Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney)
A man in absolute career best form. Tracking at over four goals a game average, Cameron is entering his prime as a footballer. Kicking 30 majors in the first seven rounds, Cameron is poised to well and truly pass his finest year in front of goal. There is even talk in the media, somewhat prematurely, that Cameron could become the first player since Lance Franklin in 2008 to cross over the 100 goal mark. Selected in all 11 of our teams based on sheer forward line dominance, Cameron will likely be a mainstay in our side if his form continues.
Forward Pocket: Gary Rohan (Geelong)
I’m sure not even Rohan himself could’ve expected this start to a season. 16 goals from his seven matches, Rohan’s best output of goals (25 in 2016) looks set to be shattered. He may have lost a yard of pace, but is still very quick, and he uses his pace brilliantly in the Cats’ forward line. Equally effective as a smaller marking forward, or crumbing beneath Tom Hawkins’ feet, Rohan has become an important cog in front of the big sticks, and has also increased his defensive pressure inside forward 50. Still a touch inconsistent, Rohan needs to maintain his form to keep his spot in our team.
Ruckman: Brodie Grundy (Collingwood)
This was by far the most unanimous selection in our team. Grundy is head and shoulders above his competitors as the best ruckman in the game. Averages 42 hitouts per match (73 to advantage at an average of 12), Grundy is also ticking over 20 possessions per week. The head of the table of the best midfield in the competition, Grundy is set to turn his back on big money offers to re-sign with the Magpies. He is their most important player, and something would need to go wrong for Grundy to relinquish his position as our ruckman.
Ruck Rover: Patrick Cripps (Carlton)
It isn’t unreasonable to suggest that the new Carlton skipper would be a Brownlow medallist if his team was more successful. Leading the competition for clearances, well ahead of the next best, 23 year old Cripps will continue to lead Carlton back from the brink to the Promised Land. Leading the competition in contested possessions, Cripps’ charges are still in their “green shoots’ phase, and once their young on-ball brigade matures, surely the Blues will start to rise up the ladder. Cripps is far too talented to not be playing in September.
Rover: Lachie Neale (Brisbane)
The new head of Brisbane’s midfield, Neale is leading the competition in disposals with 236 (an average of 34). Often seen at the bottom of the pack ready to fire out a handball to his teammates, Neale is the most likely candidate to take over the Lions’ captaincy once Dayne Zorko hands over the reins. Brisbane gave up pick six and 19 (which were Ben King and Liam Stocker for those playing along at home), and given Neale’s start to the season, this was an investment that has been more than returned.
Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)
It is a testament to the strength of the competition’s midfielders that Dangerfield was selected in nine teams, but on the interchange bench in seven of them. Averaging 29 disposals and seven inside 50’s before playing under much duress against the Bombers, Dangerfield has few weaknesses to his game. Perhaps it’s only his kicking efficiency that lets him down on occasion. The scariest part about this Cats team is that as good as Dangerfield is, you could make the argument that whether it is forward, midfield or defence, he is not the most important player in any position.
Nat Fyfe (Fremantle)
Another midfielder selected in the majority of our teams but mostly on the pine, Fyfe has collected 30 or more possessions in five of his six matches, the only exception coming when he was injured during the match. The Fremantle skipper has been his side’s best player in their somewhat surprising ascension up the ladder. What is most staggering about Fyfe is that he is having a career best year, improving his output in disposals, marks and tackles, and is looking on track to better his dominant Brownlow Medal winning 2016 production. He is absolutely Fremantle’s most important player in their quest to once again return to September.
Dylan Grimes (Richmond)
Rance’s understudy in many ways, Grimes has now fully stepped out of the champion defender’s shadow, a necessity due to the nasty knee injury Rance suffered. A defensive stopping force, Grimes is rarely beaten one-on-one, and although not physically the biggest defender going around, is able to hold his own whether he is playing on Franklin or Betts. A player that doesn’t get many possessions, Grimes has become Richmond’s most important defender in Rance’s absence in their quest for another premiership.
Jake Lloyd (Sydney)
Sydney’s rebounding machine, Lloyd, who is fourth in the competition for disposals, would perhaps would’ve found himself a spot in our backline had his side had won more matches. Averaging 26 disposals (21 uncontested as he dashes from defence) at 84% efficiency, Lloyd was selected in six of our teams. With the Swans now entering the latest rebuilding phase in their history (although they won’t admit it publicly), Lloyd has and will continue to be a vital member of Sydney’s backline, and in time will move into the midfield to lead the Swans into its next period of success.
For those looking for a more simplified version, here is the full team:
B: Hurn (c), Blicavs, Keath
HB: Sicily, Moore, Stewart
C: Whitfield, Boak, Coniglio
HF: De Goey, Hawkins, Walters
F: Ablett, Cameron, Rohan
R: Grundy, Cripps, Neale
INT: Dangerfield, Fyfe, Grimes, Lloyd
So there we have it. The Mongrel Punt’s All Australian team after the first seven rounds of the season.
There were a total of 57 players selected in our teams, and many would consider themselves unlucky not to be included in the final 22. Liam Jones has transformed his game just as strongly as Moore, Jack Billings is in career best form after being in and out of St. Kilda’s team in the last few years, Tom Lynch has led Richmond’s attack in Jack Riewoldt’s absence, and contested marking machine Harry McKay is the type of player Carlton will build their forward line around.
Four of our players (Boak, Cameron, Cripps and Grundy) were selected in varying positions in all of our teams, and it is very pleasing that so many players selected are first timers. Our team is a work in progress, and in the next four weeks more players will put their hands up for a spot in our All Australian team.
See you after Round 11.
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