Halfway home, here’s my mid-year All-Australian team

Josh Elliott Editor

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    Now that the bye rounds are done and dusted, and every club has played the same number of games, it seems like the fairest time possible to pick my mid-season All-Australian team.

    Backs

    Zach Tuohy
    Has slotted into Corey Enright’s role perfectly since joining the Cats from Carlton and is averaging a career-high 26 disposals, six more than any other previous season of his. The clear leader when picking a small defender.

    Michael Hurley
    Has picked up right where his 2015 All-Australian left off before he was of course suspended for the entire 2016 season. With Cale Hooker playing forward, he’s become the lynchpin in Essendon’s defence and is getting it done expertly.

    Jake Lever
    Might seem like a surprise pick to some but he’s had a really consistent season despite missing the first two games and has been a genuine match-winner on more than one occasion. Plenty of competition for this spot before the year is out, though.

    Half-backs

    Sam Docherty
    Carlton’s best and most important player, averaging career highs in disposals, marks and tackles. Should have been All-Australian this year and barring some serious disruption in the second half of 2017, certainly must be this time around.

    Alex Rance
    Close to the first picked in the All-Australian team these days, which is a compliment given how many AA-quality key defenders there are running around. Enjoying another season as the undisputed best tall back in the league.

    Alex Rance of the Richmond Tigers

    (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)

    Jeremy Howe
    Ironically came to Collingwood with the goal of playing forward, but has once again settled in defence and now looks comfortable there. Close to the best interceptor in the league these days, averaging career-high disposals and marks. His quality as a player finally matches the excitement of his high marks.

    Midfielders

    Josh Kelly
    Not hard to see why clubs are lining up to offer him seven-figure salaries. Has gone from being a really promising winger type to someone who can do it all. An absolute guarantee for the final team so long as nothing goes awry.

    Joel Selwood (Captain)
    Selwood is having another elite season and will be All-Australian for the sixth time, and captain for the fourth time, if he keeps up this pace. Is averaging career-high disposal numbers at the moment, albeit by a razor-thin margin.

    Gary Ablett
    Has wasted no time this year in reminding us all that we were silly to ever doubt him. Not unfeasible that he could win a third Brownlow Medal this year. The prospect of him playing with Dangerfield and Selwood next year is scary as all hell.

    Half-forwards

    Lance Franklin
    Narrowly leading the Coleman Medal race at this point in the season, and as always has shown that incredibly dynamism and excitement power to finish from unlikely situations. Terrifying to imagine a world in which he is a more reliable set shot.

    Jeremy Cameron
    The Giants’ most reliable avenue to goal by a mile in a season where they have been hit hard by injuries, Cameron is just one goal behind Buddy in the Coleman Medal race and every chance of winning it for the first time this year.

    Dayne Zorko
    Quietly putting together a genuinely elite season of footy for the Lions. Was great last year too but has improved his disposal, goal and tackle numbers this year. The best Dayne at the club and in the league – sorry, Beamsy.

    Dayne Zorko of the Brisbane Lions AFL

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    Forwards

    Eddie Betts
    Betts has been more consistent rather than explosive this year, with only two games so far in which he’s kicked more than three goals, but has hit that mark eight out of twelve times this year. No one is even in the same league as him when it comes to small forwards in the AFL right now.

    Joe Daniher
    I thought he was excellent in an undermanned side last year and now with the Bombers becoming a strong team again, Daniher has stepped into the elite category for key forwards. Two goals off the Coleman lead, gets it done against good teams, and will only get better.

    Jeff Garlett
    Has really come along as a player this year after being equal parts promising and frustrating in the past. So far this season, Garlett has kicked as many goals as he did all year in 2016. Averaging career-high numbers for goals and tackles per game.

    Followers

    Paddy Ryder
    So tough to pick this spot with as many as half a dozen players in contention, but Ryder narrowly gets the nod from me this time around. Averaging almost eight more hit-outs per game than his next best season, a key factor in why Port Adelaide have improved.

    Dustin Martin
    An absolute lock for the team at this stage and my Brownlow Medal pick with ten rounds left to go. Has learnt to perfectly combine being an elite midfielder with being a regular goal-kicker. Dynamic, strong, horrendous haircut – all the things we value most in footballers.

    Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Patrick Dangerfield (Vice-captain)
    Averaging thirty touches and nearly two goals a game, as well as career-high tackle numbers. Hard to believe he could be better than he was last year, but he is. Not much more you can say really – back-to-back Brownlows would be well deserved.

    Interchange

    Rory Sloane
    His elite form in the start to the season earns him a place on the bench – the most important player in the Crows’ midfield set-up, combining an elite work rate with a solid helping of class. Will lose his spot here if he keeps getting tagged out of it, though.

    Josh P Kennedy
    While some other Sydney midfielders haven’t replicated their best form at times this year, Kennedy has, and that’s all the more impressive now that he is carrying the responsibility of captaincy. Has a knack for kicking goals at important times.

    Zach Merrett
    I thought he might be less of a ball magnet this year given the sudden return of midfield depth at Essendon, but he has lifted his disposal numbers further and is averaging more than 20 kicks a game. A very well-deserved nod.

    Elliot Yeo
    Yeo is having an absolutely brilliant year and can have an impact in many different areas of the ground. Arguably the best intercepting defender in the game but also elite when placed forward of centre. Can’t go past him as a valuable utility.

    On paper

    B: Zach Tuohy, Michael Hurley, Jake Lever
    HB: Sam Docherty, Alex Rance, Jeremy Howe
    C: Josh Kelly, Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett
    HF: Lance Franklin, Jeremy Cameron, Dayne Zorko
    F: Eddie Betts, Joe Daniher, Jeff Garlett
    Fol: Paddy Ryder, Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield
    Int: Rory Sloane, Josh P Kennedy, Zach Merrett, Elliot Yeo

    Club-by-club

    Adelaide Crows: Eddie Betts, Jake Lever, Rory Sloane (3).
    Brisbane Lions: Dayne Zorko (1).
    Carlton Blues: Sam Docherty (1).
    Collingwood Magpies: Jeremy Howe (1).
    Essendon Bombers: Joe Daniher, Michael Hurley, Zach Merrett (3).
    Fremantle Dockers: none.
    Geelong Cats: Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, Zach Tuohy (3).
    Gold Coast Suns: Gary Ablett (1).
    GWS Giants: Jeremy Cameron, Josh Kelly (2).
    Hawthorn Hawks: none.
    Melbourne Demons: Jeff Garlett (1).
    North Melbourne Kangaroos: none.
    Port Adelaide Power: Paddy Ryder (1).
    Richmond Tigers: Dustin Martin, Alex Rance (2).
    St Kilda Saints: none.
    Sydney Swans: Lance Franklin, Josh P Kennedy (2).
    West Coast Eagles: Elliot Yeo (1).
    Western Bulldogs: none.

    The unlucky players
    Key defenders and ruckmen were especially hard to pick this year – Jeremy McGovern, Daniel Talia, Robbie Tarrant all wouldn’t be out of place in the backline, nor would Matthew Kreuzer, Shane Mumford, Sam Jacobs, Brodie Grundy, Ben McEvoy or Aaron Sandilands in the ruck.

    Robbie Gray, Toby Greene and Josh J Kennedy were all very close in the forward line, and as always there’s a wealth of midfielders that could command a spot, with Rory Laird, Lachie Neale and Marcus Bontempelli the hardest to say no to.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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