Richmond put a much-publicised effort into recruiting lots of big-name players.
Nothing in the AFL seems to generate conjecture, quite like the annual announcement of the All-Australian team, and when the AFL extended the squad to 40 men in 2007, it gave further recognition to players who might not necessarily make the final team.
The squad is selected, based on how well players perform during the year, with the criteria somewhat arbitrary, with no set game threshold, nor a team’s ladder-position being taken into account.
With every squad announcement however, the inevitable debate arises, as to whether a player deserves to take their place in the team, regardless as to whether they even played in that position during the year at all.
For instance, Barry Hall was selected in the forward pocket in the 2010 All-Australian team, even though he was the Western Bulldogs’ full forward.
Furthermore, Jonathan Brown was named in the forward pocket of the 2009 team, even though the Brisbane spearhead played most of his football as the Lions’ centre half forward.
Brown and Hall were entitled to their spot. But contention arises when you have a man in Mark LeCras, who missed out on selection in 2009, after kicking 58 goals as a small forward – the very position Brown was selected in – but never actually lined up in throughout the year for Brisbane.
So what’s the solution?
Do players who have had a great year deserve a place in the All-Australian team, regardless of their position, or should best players for their position be selected?
The proposal is this: each position should have four to five players nominated and unless they are selected in the said position or on the bench, they cannot make the team.
For instance, if we take the players selected for the 2011 squad, who have played full back this year: Matthew Scarlett, Darren Glass, Josh Gibson and Luke McPharlin and if the proposed selection criteria comes in, only one of these four players can assume a place on the field, with the other three in contention for a bench spot.
However, the 2011 squad threw up several players, who actually played several positions in the ground.
Adam Goodes and Steve Johnson were two players that played both, midfield and forward in 2011, which is where the idea can get somewhat complicated.
In the situation that a player who does play two positions arises, the player would be eligible to be selected as a midfielder or as a half forward flank; the typical rotating midfielder/forward spot.
The All-Australian team should be the AFL’s best team; each player selected in the best position that they have played that year.
When the team has players selected in a spot they wouldn’t normally line up at, it cheapens the accolade and alienates the players who have made the position their own.
So, the AFL needs to change the criteria as soon as possible, before the All-Australian team becomes more redundant than it already is.