The 2012 ‘Moneyball’ All-Australian team
As always the All-Australian AFL team’s selection has been full of controversy. It’s been a week since the team was announced and debate has been raging with people turning to various statistics to make a case.
One word that has increasingly been thrown around, particularly in the case of Jack Riewoldt and Sam Jacobs, is the term “moneyball”, a reference to the story highlighted by the recent Brad Pitt movie which tells the true story of the Oakland Athletics, who transformed their club (and the game itself) by picking players based purely on statistics.
With that in mind, I have come up with an All-Australian team based on players who statistically were the best in their chosen field. I have looked at players who have played 16 games or more and will go on averages, not aggregate.
First let us look at defence. For a long time the domain of the defender has been to spoil and stop the ball, and this gives Josh Gibson, who led the league in spoils (and one-percenters) and Scott Thompson, the leader in interceptions, a spot in the backline. Luke McPharlin led the AFL in average marks per game and joins the other two.
These days you need a backline that will also provide some rebound from defence. Grant Birchall got more possessions per game than any defender, and perhaps surprisingly it was veteran Dustin Fletcher who led the league for rebound-50s – the lesser-known cousin of the coach’s favourite statistic, the inside-50.
Finally we look for someone who can run the ball out of defence, and none was better than Rhyce Shaw, who led the league in bounces per game (narrowly beating Heath Shaw).
The ruck is an interesting one, with Darren Jolly leading in hit-outs per game but Sam Jacobs leading in hit-outs to advantage. For mine, hit outs to advantage is the more impressive stat, and Jacobs gets the nod as number one ruckman with Jolly to be named as second ruckman starting in the forward pocket.
Kennedy was the league leader in both contested possessions and clearances (something to keep in mind for those having a punt Monday night) and easily gets a spot in the team, as does Dane Swan who led the league in kicks, uncontested possessions and crook tattoos.
Andrew Swallow was the tackler of the year, and it is with much regret (as a Dockers fan) that my dream of an Eagle-less All Australian has been destroyed by Matt Priddis handballing more times per game than anyone else. The final spot goes to Brett Deledio for his league-leading 5.9 inside-50s per game.
Deledio ends up being the only Richmond player, with Riewoldt missing out in favour of Lance Franklin who beat him as far as goals per game. Incidentally, for all those in the outer claiming that Franklin is a selfish player, he also led the league in assists per game.
As far as small forwards go, Milne kicked the most goals and Kieren Jack got the most assists (though maybe not a specialist small forward). Well done to Luke Breust, though, who led the league in score involvements, so scores a spot on the forward flank.
We now have seventeen spots filled with just the centre half-forward to pick. Here is where my team either loses all credibility or strips credibility from every football journalist in the country. The centre half-forward position goes to Travis Cloke who led the league in contested marks – maybe proof as to why he is commanding such big bucks. After all, by definition there is no such thing as a cheap contested mark.
The interchange is not so easy, after all there is no such thing as a specialist interchanger. Instead I looked at blokes who statistically excelled in multiple areas. I cheated a bit here and went with Dreamteam scores, which resulted in Gary Ablett, Dayne Beams, Matthew Boyd and Jobe Watson getting the berths.
Finally, the idea of making the premiership coach the All Australian coach is pointless, and I instead went with Brenton Sanderson, as the coach who most improved his team (14th to second).
I proudly present the 2012 All Statistical All Australian Team of the Year.
B: Fletcher (Ess) Thompson (NM) Gibson (Haw)
HB: Shaw (Syd) McPharlin (Fre) Birchall (Haw)
C: Deledio (Rich) Priddis (WCE) Kennedy (Syd)
R: Jacobs (Ade) Swan (Col) Swallow (NM)
HF: Jack (Syd) Cloke (Col) Breust (Haw)
F: Jolly (Coll) Franklin (Haw) Milne (St K)
INT: Ablett (VC) (GC) Beams (Coll) Watson (C) (Ess) Boyd (WB)
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