It’s a word that is used to describe dozens of players in the AFL at any given time, even those who have received such recognition as a Best and Fairest Award, or selection in the All-Australian team, it seems.
As such, it becomes rather dangerous to label players as underrated. What you get are supporters of any particular player falling into one of two camps – they’re either happy that the player is getting some sort of recognition, or they get annoyed that the player you’re now calling “underrated” is someone they’ve rated all along, and accuse us of being slow on the uptake.
Well, whilst I will readily admit I am slow on the uptake when it comes to many things, one thing I will do is stick my neck out and incur your wrath here and there. Maybe that makes me even s-l-o-w-e-r than the average writer at The Mongrel? Perhaps the slowest? Surely I can’t be as slow as some of the people who demanded Leigh Matthews be inserted into the All-300-Game team, even though I clearly detailed I would only be covering from 1990 onwards to capture the AFL era?
I guess we’ll soon see.
Putting together a team of underrated players seemed like an easy thing to do. It’s amazing how often things seem that way, and turn out to be quite difficult. As said in the opening, there were dozens of players that could be considered underrated for a variety of reasons, so it was important to have some kind of criteria they had to fit within.
Here’s what I came up with to simplify things.
1 – The player must not have been named All-Australian in his career. See, that’s Cam Guthrie out, even though I still hear people call him underrated quite often. Isaac Heeney – out.
2 – The player must not have finished in the top three in their club’s Best and Fairest in the last three seasons. That’s Matt Guelfi out – can you believe he came third in the Essendon B&F this year? Dylan Moore, as well. He would have been high on my list to include.
3 – The player must be at least 23 years old. That rules out blokes like Max King, Kysaiah Pickett, or everyone’s favourite, Jack Ginnivan. Do you know anyone who doesn’t rate them? They can be content with the 22 under 22 Team the AFL does.
And from there, we can start to formulate our team. However, before we do, I must make it clear that we are compiling this team based on form in 2022.
Imagine being so underrated that you don’t make the All-Underrated Team? That’d make you the ultimate underrated player – wear it like a ba
Griffin Logue – Fremantle
Mason Redman – Essendon
Isaac Cumming – GWS
Lewis Young – Carlton
Zach Tuohy – Geelong
Jake Kolodjashnij – Geelong
Damn it and damn it again, my first two selections for defenders went and ruined it by finishing second and equal third in the Freo Best and Fairest this season. So, with Alex Pearce and Brennan Cox removed from the equation, Griffin Logue chugs on in to take one spot, and Zach Tuohy is elevated from the bench to secure the other.
Bloody Freo ruining things by acknowledging their own players… how dare they!
Redman’s star continues to rise at Essendon, with many speculating he may have been in with a big chance at winning the Crichton Medal this season. alas, fourth-place was where he finished, but his run-off half-back proved to be one of the few consistent positives for the Bombers.
Isaac Cumming flies under the radar in a big way. Racks them up, is precise by foot and looks to be an AA-contender for years to come.
Lewis Young was the one who stood out to me in 2022. Before this season, people were questioning whether he could be best-22 at Carlton, but he slotted in and took the Liam Jones role, playing it with a powerful intent to kill contests. As a matter of fact, he now owns the equal highest number of one-percenters in a single game, with his 25 against Melbourne matching Harris Andrews’ effort from 2018. But this was no fluke – he also had a huge 22 one-percenter game against the Tigers.
To put that in context, there have been 12 20+ one-percenter games in history. Nobody has three to their name. Great year by Lewis.
And finally, Jake Kolodjashnij, whose name I can spell without checking it, these days, had another stellar year in defence for the Cats. I know he cops a bit of flak, but he takes on big jobs and plays his role perfectly for the Cats. And I know I’ll get this, so I’ll nip it in the bud here – Jack Henry has finished top three in the Cats B&F, so please, don’t ask.
Karl Amon – Port Adelaide
Mitch Duncan – Geelong
Tom Atkins – Geelong
Will Brodie – Fremantle
Ed Langdon – Melbourne
Angus Brayshaw – Melbourne
I find it amazing to believe that Mitch Duncan is still to make an AA team. It seems he will be one of those players that is hailed as fantastic but has never received the accolades others have. He finished second in the Cats’ B&F, but that was way back in 2017, so he continues to be underrated, even by his own club, seemingly.
I was rapt to see Angus Brayshaw starting to get receive plaudits for his selflessness over the last two years. Working from the wing, to half-back, and eventually back into the middle of the ground, he has continued to do whatever is required for his team… but part of me wonders whether his move back into the midfield at the same time he re-signed with the Dees was a coincidence, or part of negotiations…
Will Brodie’s record speaks for itself. After being ignored for the final year of his Gold Coast tenure, his first season at Freo was a massive hit. He played every game, assumed the role of inside mid, and worked his arse off to make a name for himself in that rotation. Whilst Fyfe was out, not only did Brodie fill in, he made himself indispensable. It will be interesting to see what the addition of Jaeger O’Meara does to his role in 2023.
Another paragraph… another Cat. If there was one bloke who SCREAMS underrated, it is Tom Atkins. Does the hard stuff each and every week, and does it the only way he knows how – through sheer guts and determination. I reckon every team needs one or two of these types of players. Pity there are not that many of them.
And lastly, the two wingmen that make the team – Amon and Langdon – both had stellar seasons. Amon won our Wingman of the Year Award, as the most consistently brilliant wingman of the season, running the outside lanes better than anyone. Others may have had bigger games, but Amon did it week in and week out. Langdon was so spectacular early in the season that teams started to employ defensive runners against him. Gold Coast threw Jeremy Sharp onto him with the express purpose of slowing him down, and the Hawks did it with Finn Maginness to great effect. That’s how you know you’re getting respect – the other team starts to target you.
Lincoln McCarthy – Brisbane
Bayley Fritsch – Melbourne
Brad Close – Geelong
Ben Ainsworth – Gold Coast
Taylor Walker – Adelaide
Brody Mihocek – Collingwood
Putting it out there – I think Brad Close might be my favourite Geelong player now that Joel Selwood is gone. Runs hard from half-forward, works the wings, and consistently beats his man back inside 50. Love the way he goes about it, yet, you hardly ever hear of him. I see you, Brad.
There was plenty of talk about what the Suns lose in Izak Rankine, but with Ben Ainsworth in the side, they still have a small forward that is very close to the elite level. Of course, you may not have heard of him, but the bloke was second in goal assists per game in 2022, and 18th in score involvements. He also ramped up his defensive pressure to average over one tackle inside 50 per game in 2022. Watch this space on him – he could yet be an All-Australian forward.
How the hell does Bayley Fritch record back-to-back 50-goal seasons and still make this team? Well… sixth and seventh finishes in the Bluey Truscott Medal helps.
And Brody Mihocek is a workhorse for the Pies. He just does the hard stuff, leads hard, attacks the footy, takes his opportunities, and refuses to give in. I reckon his background, moving to Melbourne to play local footy to get a VFL contract has instilled a huge work ethic in him, and you can see that in terms of his second efforts.
Tex has been a pillar for Adelaide up forward, holding the fort whilst Darcy Fogarty, Elliott Himmelberg, and Riley Thilthorpe learn and refine their craft. I’d go so far as to say that without Tex, this team would have gone close to a couple of wooden spoons in the last few years, such has his influence been. Like him or not, he has been wonderful on-field for the Crows and may be one of the more underrated players of the last decade.
Toby Nankervis – Richmond
You’ve gotta love the big man from the Tigers – he’d run through a brick wall for that club, seriously.
Has really emerged as a player that thrives on second efforts and his work at ground level – when you get tackled by Nank, you stay tackled. Tends to give away early free kicks every week, which is probably something that needs to be addressed, as he blurs the line between “setting the tone” being a bit careless, but you can never, ever question the heart of the bloke – there is a reason he was handed the captaincy.
Isaac Smith – Geelong
Screw these Geelong players, am I right? Six of them! Can’t they just win the flag and be content? I suppose, there’s a reason they haven’t fallen away for years – blokes like the ones mentioned above keep doing hard yards and get overlooked in terms of AA and B&F awards!
The last three spots on the interchange are like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book – strange for me, because I always used to die due to my decisions when I read those books. I hope you fare better. They also act like a get-out-of-jail-free card for me, as when you say “you forgot so-and-so” I can just say “nah… he was on the bench in my team” and I can add the best two suggestions. Everyone’s a winner, baby.
But I suppose that can only work thrice, though…
If I was going to add another, it’d probably be Tom Doedee from Adelaide, but it is over to you, now.
So, fill in your own last three members on the bench and let me know who deserves to make it. Obviously, this is a very subjective team, and you may like and respect certain things that I don’t, and vice versa. I’m keen to see who I missed, and who you think should be in the mix.
So, off we go – who is missing, and who should be nowhere near this team? I’m all ears. And don’t forget… if you’re advocating for someone to be included, you probably should flag the player whose place they’re going to take.