The All-Australian Team has been named, and as happens every year, the debate only intensifies once the names are read out and the blazers are fitted.
Lance Franklin was named captain in a move that shocked just about everyone. Despite never being a club captain, and not even being part of the current Sydney leadership group, the selectors decided that a man whose rousing pre-game warm up to the All-Australian team would constitute “just kick it to me” was the man to lead the best of the best.
What I would give for a close up of Shannon Hurn, a man who lives and breathes leadership each and every day with his West Coast Eagles, as the announcement of captain was made. ThoughI’m certain he would be the disciplined leader he’s trained himself to be, I reckon there’d be a little glint in his eye. He was the ONLY club captain out there, yet he was bypassed for a part-timer and a bloke who was probably lucky to be in the side at all.
It got me to thinking – how would a B-Side stack up? How would a side made up of those who either made the squad of 40, or were snubbed from even that list for reasons unbeknownst to us, fare against those who stood on the podium tonight?
It’s worth exploring. There are a few whose bodies let them down over the course of the season. They appeared poised to make the AA side prior to an injury, and there were others who just weren’t considered despite being on the tips of tongues everywhere when the All-Australian team was floated.
Here’s what we came up with.
Back Pocket – Dylan Grimes
So this is the bloke that allows Alex Rance to freelance in the Tiger backline. Possibly the best lockdown defender in the game, but that’s not something that AA selectors don’t seem to reward. Deceptively fast, he can play tall or small, and would make an amazing combination with the other bigs in this line up.
Full Back – Harris Andrews
But for an errant Jeremy Cameron elbow, we may have seen him make the AA team, but that would mean displacing Alex Rance. Notched a record 23 spoils in May this year against the Swans.
Back Pocket – Tom Jonas
Probably missed a game or two too many to make the actual team, but how valuable would he be slotting in here and taking the second tall? Held together a Port defence when it was one of the stingiest in the game.
Half Back Flank - Jake Lloyd
He is the B-Team’s equivalent of Rory Laird. Has racked them up as the Swans’ preferred kicker out of their backline.Averaged 28.3 touches per game at almost 80% efficiency.
Centre Half Back – Mark Blicavs
Took on some huge jobs this season and won most of the time. To paraphrase Brian from Anchorman, most of the time, he wins… every time!
Half Back Flank – James Sicily
Well, if Franklin can get in despite missing a heap of games, why not Sicily? Only played 14 games, with two missed due to his own stupidity early in the year, but averaged almost 24 touches per game, and reads the ball so well across half back. Runs forward and hurts on the scoreboard when the opportunity presents, too.
Wing – Jack Macrae
So stiff not to make the actual team. Had a few weeks off with a hamstring injury, and it probably cost him. Only Franklin gets to miss games and make the side, apparently. Averaged a mammoth 32.8 touches per game, and would be running as hard at the end of games as he was at the start.
Centre – Ben Cunnington
Not sure there’s a harder nut in the game. Cunnington v Dusty in the guts would be a fend-fest. Averaged 25.6 touches and had a record game where he amassed 32 contested touches. An absolute warrior, and isn’t the kind of bloke to bask in the limelight… gotta love that.
Wing – Devon Smith
Broke an AFL record for tackles, but that wasn’t good enough to get in. Easily the best recruit of the year. Didn’t miss a game whilst averaging 22 touches per game.
Half Forward Flank – Stephen Coniglio
A goal-kicking midfielder that was desperately unlucky not to make the 40-man squad. Actually, it boggled the mind how he missed out. Almost 28 touches per game and 21 goals for the year.
Centre Half Forward – Tom Hawkins
Had 58 goals for the year and hit a purple patch in the last third of the season. Put the Cats on his back several times and missed only two games for the season – probably worked against him. Great contested mark, and looked like the player this season the Cats have needed him to be.
Half Forward Flank – Gary Ablett
The Little Master is judged too harshly. That’s what you get for setting such lofty standards. Over 29 touches and almost a goal per game in 2018 weren’t enough, but are plenty to make this one. You’d imagine Ablett playing against the AA side with a real chip on his shoulder.
Forward Pocket – Josh Caddy
Could’ve easily replaced Gunston in the side, and was a genuine threat to the Coleman, himself at one point in the year. Kicked three or more goals on eight occasions.
Full Forward – Ben Brown
Led the Coleman for all but the last few rounds and was a huge reason behind the North Melbourne resurgence in 2018. Finished the year with 61 goals for the year.
Forward Pocket – Jordan de Goey
There is no more exciting player in the game. Averaging over two goals per game and is a genuinely scary match up. Had five games where he kicked four goal or more. Not bad for a bloke spending time in the midfield as well.
Overshadowed by the big two this season, but as we neared the half-way point of the season, he was right there in contention for an All-Australian berth.
Not a one-way runner by any stretch. Remember his game on Dustin Martin earlier this year? Yeo doesn’t accumulate meaningless possessions – maybe that’s his problem? He averaged 24.4 touches per game and possesses what many elite mids lack – accountability.
Averaged over 30 disposals per game at 74% efficiency and was the workhorse for Fremantle in the middle. Didn’t miss a game all year and fantastic at getting first hands on the footy at stoppages.
The Rolls Royce has still got something left in the tank. Almost 28 touches per game at 76% efficiency, and laid over five tackles per game as well. Still an A-Grader.
Very rarely beaten, Tarrant has been overlooked for AA selection his whole career despite being one of the most consistent key defenders of this decade.
A slow start to the season made way for a blinding second half of the year. Averaged 32.8 disposals per game from Round 14 onwards.
Here’s an ace in the hole. Played only 15 games in 2018 (almost enough to be considered as captain!) but was favourite for the Brownlow before a week off for an indiscretion.
Not a bad line up of those who were left. How do you think they’d go against the actual AA-side?
Even when throwing this side together, there were those I left out who could make a claim on being added. Trent Cotchin, Joel Selwood, Callan Ward, Kane Lambert, Bryce Gibbs, Justin Westhoff, Lachie Hunter, Tom Phillips, Jared Polec… maybe someone can get upset at this line up and create a third team? Feel up to it?
And our captain? Scott Pendlebury. Already a club captain - to name anyone else would be disrespectful.
And that’ll do, you old Mongrel… that’ll do. You got to work quick on this... go get some sleep.
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