With the All-Australian squad of 40 announced on Monday, I've wasted no time in predicting who would make the final team with the team to be announced tonight. Out of the 40 players named in the squad, 26 of them are fighting for their first-ever selection and eight of the 40 named are Adelaide players - that's nearly a quarter of the squad.
Today on Bulldogs Centre, I'm going to have another go at predicting the All-Australian team of 2017. I did do something similar last year and it was met with reasonably positive reviews and I had predicted 18 of the 22 players correctly.
Also like last year, I wrote up my All-Australian team at the midway point of the 2017 season this year, which went as follows:
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B: Elliot Yeo (WCE), Jeremy McGovern (WCE), Zach Tuohy (GEEL)
HB: Sam Docherty (CARL), Michael Hurley (ESS), Rory Laird (ADEL)
C: Josh Kelly (GWS), Rory Sloane (ADEL), Zach Merrett (ESS)
HF: Toby Greene (GWS), Lance Franklin (SYD), Robbie Gray (PORT)
F: Eddie Betts (ADEL), Josh Kennedy (WCE), Jeremy Cameron (GWS)
FOL: Brodie Grundy (COLL), Patrick Dangerfield (GEEL), Dustin Martin (RICH)
INT: Clayton Oliver (MELB), Dylan Roberton (STK), Marcus Bontempelli (WB), Tom Mitchell (HAW)
For full explanations of the mid-year All-Australian 22, click here
18 of the 22 selected in that team made it to the preliminary squad of 40, but will they make the real thing? That's what today's article is about, as I have a go at predicting this year's AFL All-Australian team
The squad announced on Monday, for those who missed it, went as follows:
Adelaide: Eddie Betts, Matt Crouch, Sam Jacobs, Rory Laird, Jake Lever, Tom Lynch, Rory Sloane, Taylor Walker
Brisbane: Dayne Zorko
Carlton: Sam Docherty, Matthew Kreuzer
Collingwood: Jeremy Howe, Adam Treloar
Essendon: Joe Daniher, Michael Hurley, Zach Merrett
Geelong: Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood
Gold Coast: None
GWS Giants: Toby Greene, Josh Kelly, Tom Scully, Dylan Shiel
Hawthorn: Tom Mitchell
Melbourne: Jeff Garlett, Michael Hibberd, Neville Jetta
North Melbourne: Ben Brown
Port Adelaide: Robbie Gray, Tom Jonas, Paddy Ryder
Richmond: Dustin Martin, Alex Rance
St. Kilda: Dylan Roberton, Sebastian Ross
Sydney: Lance Franklin, Josh Kennedy
West Coast: Josh Kennedy, Jeremy McGovern, Elliot Yeo
Western Bulldogs: Marcus Bontempelli
And now without further ado, It's time to announce who I think will make the 2017 All-Australian team.
Back Pocket - Dylan Roberton (St. Kilda)
It was a battle between Roberton and Collingwood's Jeremy Howe for the third tall defender position, and whilst Howe does average more marks than Roberton, it's Roberton's drive off the back-line and his much improved 2017 campaign that gets him the nod. In 2017 Roberton has averaged career-highs in disposals (23 per game), marks (six per game) and rebound 50s (five per game), being top three in the league for rebound 50s and kicks, averaging 17.5 per game.
Full Back - Alex Rance (Richmond)
An All-Australian key defender for the past three seasons now, it won't come as any surprise to see Rance named again after another great year as Richmond's best defender. Despite his averages taking a small dip, going from averaging 18 disposals and eight marks in 2016 to 16 and 5 this season, Rance still does the number one thing a defender should do - and that's beat his direct opponent, he hardly loses a one-on-one contest and still arguably remains as today's best key defender.
Back Pocket - Neville Jetta (Melbourne)
This one might sound a little left-field to some, but I had opted Neville Jetta over Elliot Yeo in this back pocket because of the lock-down role that Jetta has done brilliantly all throughout 2017. The stats might not display his talents (averaging 14 disposals, four marks, three tackles and two rebound 50s) but he has taken on the likes of Eddie Betts and Robbie Gray this season and have won comfortably. If Sydney's Nick Smith can get in the All-Australian team, so can Jetta.
Half-Back Flank - Rory Laird (Adelaide)
After the past couple of seasons that saw Laird make the All-Australian squad twice, he should be a lock to get his first selection here, playing every game for the Crows in 2017 and averaging a monsterous 30 disposals a game, whilst average five marks and five rebound 50s per game also. Laird is amongst the game's best running defenders and he has shown he's got elite creativity coming off half-back.
Centre-Half Back - Michael Hurley (Essendon)
After serving a 12-month suspension for his involvement in Essendon's supplements scandal, Michael Hurley hasn't skipped a beat in his return to footy in 2017, bettering his averages in 2015 - the first and last time Hurley was named an All-Australian. This season Hurley has averaged 25 disposals, along with 7.5 marks and is the league leader in rebound 50s, averaging over seven per game. A fine return from arguably the next best key defender in the competition.
Half-Back Flank - Sam Docherty (Carlton)
Perhaps unlucky not to get named in the team last year, but all that's done for Sam Docherty is propel his game to even further lengths. In 2017 he leads everyone in both kicks and marks and sits second in rebound 50s, such is his influence in Carlton's rebuilding defence. Docherty averages 28 disposals along with nine marks and nearly six rebound 50s per game in a season which should see him claim his second successive club best and fairest.
Wing - Josh Kelly (Greater Western Sydney)
Being out-of-contract and linked to a big-money move to North Melbourne hasn't fazed young Josh Kelly one bit, with the 2017 season seeing Kelly break out to be one of the game's elite ball-winners, averaging career-bests of 29 disposals, six tackles, five inside 50s, five clearances a game and close to a goal per game. Another player that is a near certainty to be a lock in this side, such is his influence in the GWS midfield.
Centre - Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn)
Tom Mitchell would most definitely be the recruit of 2017 after a mammoth year in his first season in the brown and gold. Mitchell led the competition in disposals, and was second in handballs, whilst being top 10 in both clearances and tackles, showing how good he is as an inside midfielder as well as an outside midfielder. Mitchell averaged a ridiculous 35 disposals a game - including one 50-disposal game - as well as six clearances, six tackles, five marks and three inside 50s per game in a breakout year.
Wing - Zach Merrett (Essendon)
Young Zach Merrett backed up his incredible 2016 season with a 2017 campaign that saw him average 30 disposals a game, along with five tackles, four clearances, four inside 50s, four marks and three rebound 50s per game, showing that he can run play both attacking and defensive. Is sixth in the league for kicks, averaging 17 per game, but his use of the ball that is remarkably elite, and at 21 years of age, he's going to continue to get better.
Ruckman - Patrick Ryder (Port Adelaide)
An honourable mention goes to Sam Jacobs, but I gave the ruck position to Paddy Ryder because I feel he makes just a little more impact to that of Jacobs. Despite Jacobs average three more hitouts per game (40 hitouts to Ryder's 37 per game), Ryder's ability to give his midfielders first use of the ball is a big reason why Port are playing finals this year. Not only can he dominate in the ruck, but he can also win his own ball, averaging 13 disposals, four clearances and three inside 50s per game.
Ruck/Rover - Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)
The 2016 Brownlow Medallist has enjoyed another fantastic season in 2017 after a slow start that saw him battle with broken ribs early on in the year to average 30 disposals, eight clearances (1st in the league), six tackles, five inside 50s (second in the AFL) and nearly two goals a game (38 for the season) , which for a midfielder, is remarkable statistics. One would have to imagine if he could've gone back-to-back Brownlow Medals if he hadn't recieved that one-week suspension late in the season.
Rover - Dustin Martin (Richmond)
After a breakout 2016 season that saw him secure his maiden All-Australian selection, Dustin Martin has followed it up with a season that I consider to be even greater, and it's no surprise that he is the favourite for the Brownlow Medal this year. Martin is averaging 30 disposals, along with six clearances, six inside 50s and over a goal per game (32 goals for the season). Another star out-of-contract at the end of this year, Martin certainly hasn't let his future of uncertainty get to his head - he's playing superb footy.
Half-Forward Flank - Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide)
After spending the last few seasons as an elite midfielder, Port's decision to move Robbie Gray down forward has payed off handsomely in season 2017, with the dual All-Australian sitting in the league's top 10 goal-kickers with a personal best 47 goals for the season. Gray also averages 18 disposals and four marks per game and at times this season, has played in the midfield, which underline his flexibility.
Centre-Half Forward - Lance Franklin (Sydney)
If you needed a reason why Lance Franklin deserves a spot in this year's All-Australian team, look at his performance on the weekend against Carlton. 25 disposals, 10 marks, six inside 50s and ten goals. That performance won him his fourth Coleman Medal in what has been an illustrious career for Buddy. 69 goals for the season and averaging nearly seven marks per game (sixth in the league), he is an absolute champion of the game.
Half-Forward Flank - Dayne Zorko (Brisbane)
Despite Brisbane struggling for years, one man that has consistently continued to play superb footy is Dayne Zorko, and with the Lions winning their first wooden spoon since 1998, Zorko again has proven to be one of a few shining lights for the Lions in 2017. Zorko averaged 25 disposals, seven tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s per game as well as kicking 34 goals for the year, leading all Lions in that category. His ability to rack up disposals at will, as well as kick goals is why I have him at a half-forward position.
Forward Pocket - Eddie Betts (Adelaide)
Once again, Eddie Betts has proven to be the game's best small forward, leading all small forwards and mid-sized forwards in goals, with 49 goals for the season, which might be well down on his last couple of seasons in which included season hauls of 63 goals and 75 goals, but this season he has continued to show everyone why he is the premier small forward.
Full Forward - Josh Kennedy (West Coast)
Despite missing five games with a serious calf injury, Josh Kennedy managed to finish second on the Coleman Medal tally with 65 goals, including 31 goals in the final seven games of the season. If that doesn't deserve a spot in the side, then nothing will. If it hadn't been for that calf injury, there would've been no doubt that Kennedy would have won his third-successive Coleman Medal., but there's no arguing that Kennedy should get his third All-Australian selection.
Forward Pocket - Ben Brown (North Melbourne)
2017 proved to be the breakout year for big Ben Brown, as he starred in a North Melbourne side that finished in the bottom four. Brown would kick 63 goals to finish third in the Coleman Medal and should be rewarded accordingly with a spot in the pocket here. A special mention goes to Joe Daniher for also breaking out in 2017, kicking 62 goals, but Brown's impact for the struggling Kangaroos and his efficiency in front of goal (63.30) was nearly impossible to ignore.
Matt Crouch (Adelaide)
I loved watching young Matt Crouch's season this year as he was another young man to break out for a career-best year, averaging career-highs in disposals (33 per game) to finish second behind Tom Mitchell in this category as well as clearances (six per game) and inside 50s (three per game). It could've been Rory Sloane in this position, but I felt Crouch's year had been a bit more consistent in comparison to Sloane.
Josh Kennedy (Sydney)
Much like the entire Sydney roster, Swans' captain Josh Kennedy rebounded beautifully from their horrendous 0-6 start to finish the year so strongly to the point that the Swans could very well be the premiership favourites despite finishing sixth on the ladder. After being appointed Sydney captain ahead of this season, Kennedy was consistently amazing for the Swans, averaging 28 disposals, seven clearances, five tackles and four inside 50s and looms as one of the players to watch this year's Finals Series.
Michael Hibberd (Melbourne)
Despite missing the opening four games of the AFL season with an achilles injury, I can't help but reward Michael Hibberd with a spot on the bench for what he has been able to produce in his 18 games for Melbourne this year. After moving from Essendon in the off-season, Hibberd has averaged career-bests in disposals, averaging 27 per game and sitting fourth in the league in rebound 50s, averaging nearly seven per game.
Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
Some won't agree with this decision given that Marcus Bontempelli's 2017 campaign wasn't as good as his 2016 season, but I wanted a versatile forward, and whilst there was a case for Toby Greene, 'The Bont' played every game in 2017, and averaged 23 disposals and nearly a goal per game, which is something you don't see in every midfielder. Bontempelli also averages six tackles, four clearances, four inside 50s and four marks per game and despite an inaccurate 20.29 in front of the big sticks, he has proven time and time again that he is a very dangerous threat.
The 2017 All-Australian Team
B: Dylan Roberton (STK), Alex Rance (RICH), Neville Jetta (MELB)
HB: Rory Laird (ADEL), Michael Hurley (ESS), Sam Docherty (CARL)
C: Josh Kelly (GWS), Tom Mitchell (HAW), Zach Merrett (ESS)
HF: Robbie Gray (PORT), Lance Franklin (SYD), Dayne Zorko (BL)
F: Eddie Betts (ADEL), Josh Kennedy (WCE), Ben Brown (NM)
FOL: Paddy Ryder (PORT), Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong), Dustin Martin (RICH)
INT: Matt Crouch (ADEL), Josh Kennedy (SYD), Michael Hibberd (MELB), Marcus Bontempelli (WB)