Which AFL star would you build your team around?

Justin Ahrns Roar Pro

By Justin Ahrns, Justin Ahrns is a Roar Pro

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47 Have your say

    Suppose you are the general manager of a newly introduced AFL club with the luxury of choosing any one player to build your team around.

    You also have the luxury of numerous high draft picks as well as the ability to sign willing out-of-contract players to multi-year deals, just as any other club does.

    Which star would you build your first premiership team around?

    Things to consider
    The club is likely going to be around for a long time so, realistically, choosing a player currently in the latter stages of their career is not the smartest move. However, if you believe that player can win you a premiership in the few years he has left, that is your call to make.

    You are starting with a blank sheet – every position on the ground needs filling, so it is important to decide not only who the best players in the game are but also which position is most valuable in winning a premiership.

    For reference, in the AFL coaches survey conducted in July the inside midfielder was rated as the most important player in a team, with the key forward second. No coach said that any defensive position was the most important.

    Finally, consider briefly the publicity and marketing value the player can bring to your club – but only briefly.

    With that all said, which player would give a newly formed AFL side the best chance at winning a premiership?

    Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin are in the eyes of many the two best players in the game, and both fit the profile of an inside midfielder. Along with their inside toughness, both players possess outside speed, skill and explosiveness and are serious threats when they play up forward. Martin, aged 26, and Dangerfield, 27, are both in the primes of their careers.

    (Image: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    They figure to have four or five years of their best footy left before their form starts to drop off. However, their ability to play up forward gives them more upside than players such as Rory Sloane, Josh Kennedy or Joel Selwood.

    Of a similar mould to Dusty and Danger are Marcus Bontempelli, Luke Parker and Nathan Fyfe. Staying clear of Fyfe is advisable because since winning the Brownlow Medal in 2015 he has struggled with injury and form.

    Bontempelli, aged just 21, has not missed a game in the past two seasons and is the Bulldogs reigning best and fairest. He too is able to take his opponents deep into his forward line and use his strength and height to take marks. The only knock on the Bont, similarly to Fyfe, is his inaccuracy in front of goal.

    Luke Parker is just 24 years of age and has developed into one of the premier midfielders in the competition. He’s probably slightly below the likes of Martin, Dangerfield and Bontempelli in terms of recent production, but he is certainly worth considering. He is very capable of kicking goals from forward stoppages.

    Other young midfielders to consider include Matt Crouch, Josh Kelly, Clayton Oliver and Zach Merrett. These players, however, are typically more one-dimensional than the ones mentioned above and aren’t as physically capable of playing deep inside 50.

    Moving to the forward line, three players stand out. Josh Kennedy, Lance Franklin and Joe Daniher. Kennedy and Franklin both turn 30 this year, so their time at the peak of their powers is limited. Kennedy is on the verge of winning his third consecutive Coleman Medal, however, and Franklin was voted by the coaches as the most valuable player in the AFL.

    Daniher, 23, has the football world at his feet if he can remain healthy. His blend of size, height and contested marking ability is as good as there is, and he is a drawcard for fans. Despite this, his set shot goal kicking troubles stand out, and until he can rectify this there are better prospects available.

    (Image: AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    There are no ruckmen in the league worth building a team around, so onto the defence. The obvious one that springs to mind is Alex Rance. Labelled by some as the greatest defender in the history of the game, Rance rarely has a bad game – though the key word is ‘rarely’; think Harry Taylor at Simmonds Stadium!

    Other key defenders worth considering are Michael Hurley, who leads the AFL in rebound 50s by a long way, and Jake Lever, who is labelled as the next Alex Rance. Of the smaller defenders, Rory Laird, Sam Docherty, Dylan Roberton and Jeremy Howe stand out, but none are worthy of this discussion.

    The three players I have dwindled it down to are Patrick Dangerfield, Marcus Bontempelli and Josh Kennedy. Dangerfield is on the list purely because he is the best player in the league with a few years of greatness left in him. Bontempelli features because he could be just as good as Dangerfield and has six years less mileage on his legs. Josh Kennedy makes the cut because he is a beautiful set shot, a great lead-up forward and the most underrated star in the league.

    The player I would build around as the general manager of a newly formed AFL club is Patrick Dangerfield. He is simply better than the rest, can carry a team on his back as a forward or from in the midfield and the nature of his position will allow the younger midfielders on his team to develop without the nuisance of a tagger.

    The idea of building around a key forward with a young midfield is risky, as he would serve no use if the team is getting beaten to the clearances and struggling to win the ball. Because of this, Kennedy was excluded.

    There is no right or wrong answer – it is purely based on opinion. But which player would you build your list around?

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • Roar Guru

      August 17th 2017 @ 9:56am
      Paul D said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

      As a Queensland fan, Tom Lynch.

      I think KPP’s are more critical than mids, even one as good as Dangerfield.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 5:31pm
        Justin Ahrns said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

        Yeah there’s no doubt that you can win premierships on the strength of your key forward.

        Interesting going with Lynch over the likes of Kennedy, Buddy, Daniher etc too.

        • Roar Pro

          August 17th 2017 @ 5:54pm
          Anonymous said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

          I would take Lynch, Patton or Brown over all three you mentioned.

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2017 @ 6:07pm
            Pumping Dougie said | August 17th 2017 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

            I would too. He’s already been appointed captain of Gold Coast. The others have never captained, so clearly Lynch has impressive leadership credentials, as well as being a great young key forward on the rise.

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 6:03pm
          Paul D said | August 17th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

          “As a Queensland fan”

          • August 17th 2017 @ 8:49pm
            Justin Ahrns said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

            Yeah that’s a good point – he has the leadership qualities. He’s also been unfairly criticized this year too – battling it out with hip problems and playing in a poor side.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 10:14am
      Aransan said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      The salary cap is the limiting factor in building and keeping a top team together. Dangerfield and Bontempelli are being paid unders by the Cats and the Dogs but will add value to themselves by being club icons, especially Bontempelli. The advantage that a team has for developing their own top talent is that they should be able to retain these players for under full market value, my rule of thumb is 80%. It will be interesting to see how GWS manage their salary cap, keep their top talent willing to accept 80% of market value, gain high draft picks trading out players chasing money, paying unders for early career high draft picks? If a club can correctly identify its premiership window perhaps the value is in late career good players on acceptable contracts.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 5:32pm
        Justin Ahrns said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

        You make a great point. Value is everything in footy these days. Geelong and Hawthorn built dynasties on the philosophy of not overpaying anyone, and having several players take less than they could elsewhere.

    • Roar Guru

      August 17th 2017 @ 10:17am
      Cat said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      Id choose Joel Selwood. He fits the inside mid need but he also leads from the front. Don’t under estimate the need to get right who your first Captain is. Selwood would absolutely set the standards and drive the club in the direction it should go in. Every player would be held accountable. There would be no coasting along in training. Who better to teach what would primarily be a young list the courage and dedication it takes to get the best out of an AFL career?

      If the question was who would be the #1 draft pick if everyone went into the draft, that of course would be a different answer. The most important player to a side isn’t always the best player to build around though.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 3:16pm
        Slane said | August 17th 2017 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

        If Selwood was 3 years younger he would be my first pick by a mile. I’m not sure that he will be around in another 5 years so he would only be laying the foundation at my new team and not necessarily pushing for the flag.

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 3:25pm
          Cat said | August 17th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

          Foundation is more important than ‘being around for the next flag’ IMO.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 5:35pm
        Justin Ahrns said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

        Interesting choice. You make a great point – building a culture at a club is crucial. Without it, you can’t win a premiership. But the balance, as far as this discussion is concerned, between finding a great leader and the best player available is tight. I’d be reluctant to build around Selwood because of not only his age, but his history of head knocks and knocks everywhere else too may shorten his career slightly.

        The leadership aspect is partly why I was iffy about Dusty. Danger is a good leader I believe, nothing special. But his footy is special. I think he is the best mix available between leadership and production on the field.

        What are your thoughts on this?

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 5:58pm
          Cat said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

          It depends on whether you are actually trying to find someone to actually build a club around or just who would be the #1 draft pick. IMO, I don’t think those two things need to be the same.

          I just read this quote a couple minutes ago:

          [Scott] Selwood told 1116 SEN joining brother Joel and the honest feedback that came with it has proved catalyst in reviving his career.

          “Since coming back, one of the big things that he asked me was ‘we want you here at the club, but how are you going to influence the club to make everyone else better as well’,” Selwood said.

          “From there, I probably knew I needed to get my arse into gear and get back into really striving to get back to playing my best footy and get my body right.”

          Setting that kind of standard, even for your own family, is what invaluable to team building.

          Do you want a team of Champions or a Championship team?

          I understand the age and wear and tear concerns and I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. I just think if you are starting from scratch you absolutely must get the culture and leadership right, or you’ll be doing a Suns and rebuilding before ever contending.

          • August 18th 2017 @ 5:44pm
            Justin Ahrns said | August 18th 2017 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

            You certainly make a strong case. It’s also important to build a strong leadership group around the captain, and then have a lower rung of players willing to buy in

            • Roar Guru

              August 18th 2017 @ 5:49pm
              Cat said | August 18th 2017 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

              Absolutely. Ablett at Gold Coast probably would have been an okay captain if Gold Coast didn’t leave everything to him. He had very little support on field as far as leadership goes. He was the entire face of the organisation and had to do all the promo and sponsor appearances. He also had to carry the teams performances on his back. One man was never going to be able to do it all without help.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 10:31am
      Mattyb said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      It’s an interesting question,especially with Abletts career coming to an end and how poorly that turned out for The Suns.
      I’d choose one of Cameron,Lynch or Patton.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 12:08pm
        Peter the Scribe said | August 17th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        I agree with you Mattyb rather than Cat with Selwood. Selwood is getting on and there are several mids at his level in the competition. Most flags are built around big units, usually forwards… the Doggies last year defied that in a way making the GF but then big Tommie Boyd had the game of his life and paid back his contract in 2 hours of footy. Patton may propel GWS to the GF this year though the Crows should still win it.

      • August 18th 2017 @ 6:41pm
        Brinnx said | August 18th 2017 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

        Lynch for me, seems to have better leadership qualities than the other two

    • Roar Guru

      August 17th 2017 @ 10:31am
      Pumping Dougie said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      I’d go the Bont. He can play Ruck, Forward, Back, Midfield and captain. He can win the inside ball, lay the tackles, be the outside playmaker, good below his knees, good above his head and we’d all be happy for him to marry our daughters. No need for any other players to take the field either, so you’d save on salary cap.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 10:51am
        Rissole said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        Imagine the cohesion of 22 Bonts running around on the same team.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 12:51pm
        Slane said | August 17th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

        I’d pick the Bont, too. Still so young and so good.

      • August 17th 2017 @ 5:37pm
        Justin Ahrns said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

        All of what you said is correct, and the case for the Bont is compelling. The only concern I would have is that his level has dropped slightly in 2017.

        But I would pick him second behind Danger still, which shows just how good he is.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 11:59am
      Rene Silva said | August 17th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      The game can be influenced most through kicking goals.

      I would go for the key forward provided he has the whole package of being able to read the play to mark contested and on the lead, be good below and knees when the ball is on the ground and in the air, be able to kick goals from open play and set shots, doesn’t suffer from the yips, has leadership qualities and sets the example on field and off field and very importantly, is mentally and physically durable. No point if he can’t get on the field.

      That’s quite a list! I’m not sure such a player actually exists in reality…

      I just feel that kicking a goal also psychologically has more of an effect on the opposition than a clearance won on the wing

      Glenn Archer made a point in an interview that when Wayne Carey was ‘on’ running amok on the field the effect wouldn’t just demoralise Carey’s opponent but would also have the simultaneous effect of demoralising Archer’s opponent at the other end of the ground (and stands to reason it would do so to a lot of other player match ups on the ground) thus making Archer’s job easier during the game.

      Great key forwards are worth their weight in gold and then some….

      • August 17th 2017 @ 5:39pm
        Justin Ahrns said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

        You are right, key forwards are vital. But the game has also changed a lot since Carey’s days. Back then a marking key forward was no doubt the most important position. But nowadays the game is more focused on tackling pressure, locking the ball inside 50 and keeping the ball out of your defensive zone.

        Don’t get me wrong, the key forward position is still a huge one. And when players such as Danger, Bont and Dusty can also play up forward as well as they can, it adds a whole new dimension to a team.

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 6:00pm
          Cat said | August 17th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

          A side can have the best forward line in the world, if the mids don’t get the ball to them, they won’t score.

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