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2017 AFL team of the year

Josh Barnstable Roar Rookie

By Josh Barnstable, Josh Barnstable is a Roar Rookie

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    The 2017 AFL season is over, and in a year in which we were mesmerised by close finishes, comebacks and shifting positions in the top eight, we were also treated to special performances from some of the league’s best.

    I have compiled a team of the year, a selected side of 22 players (plus three emergencies) who captivated us all this season.

    » Vote to help us pick The Roar’s 2017 All Australian team

    Back

    Back Pocket – Neville Jetta (Melbourne)
    The standout small defender of the league. Hard-nosed and disciplined, Jetta didn’t miss a match for Melbourne, averaging 14.3 disposals, 4.3 marks and 3.1 tackles.

    Got handed some of the toughest assignments in football this year and performed incredibly well, taking on and beating the likes of Eddie Betts, Robbie Gray and Orazio Fantasia.

    Full Back – David Astbury (Richmond)
    In a coming-of-age year, David Astbury played every game of the season, something he had never managed to do before. Got better as the season went on, forming a formidable partnership with fellow Tiger key backs Dylan Grimes and Alex Rance.

    Played on some of the competition’s most dangerous key forwards such as Josh J Kennedy, Jarrad Waite and Charlie Dixon, worrying all with his mobility (ranked 10th in the league for intercepts) and marking ability (8th in marks). Also managed to provide some offensive drive, averaging 15.6 possessions and 3.8 defensive 50 rebounds per match.

    Back Pocket – Alex Rance (Richmond)
    The development of teammate Astbury as a key defender allowed Alex Rance to play more of a second-fiddle role in the Richmond backline in season 2017. All-Australian for the past three seasons, Rance should expect that to stretch to a fourth year after a standout season.

    The 27-year-old didn’t miss a game of Richmond’s campaign, averaging 16.4 touches, five marks and 3.8 rebounds from defensive 50. He was ranked number one in the league for intercepts, as well as one percenters. Despite his new role as a floating back, he still went toe-to-toe with some of the competition’s best forwards such as Lance Franklin, Ben Brown and Joe Daniher.

    Alex Rance of the Richmond Tigers

    (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)

    Half Back – Sam Docherty (Carlton)
    The backline general down at Princes Park had an unbelievably good season for the Blues, averaging 27.9 disposals from 22 games, as well as nine marks, 3.3 tackles and 5.7 rebound 50s.

    No one covered more ground than Docherty in 2017, with the defender ranked No.1 in the league for metres gained, while he also took the most marks and had the most kicks out of any player in the competition.

    Centre Half Back – Michael Hurley (Essendon)
    In his first season back after a year out of the game, Hurley took up right where he left off. Provided a terrific mixture of defensive ability and offensive game, averaging 25.4 touches and seven marks from 21 games.

    Proof of his lethal attacking edge was the fact Hurley led the competition for rebounds from defensive 50, while he was third for intercepts and sixth for total marks. Must recover from injury if Essendon are any chance of advancing past week one of the finals.

    Half Back – Rory Laird (Adelaide)
    The ball-magnet kept up the unreal standard he has set himself in the past couple of seasons with another brilliant year out of the back half for Adelaide in 2017.

    The small defender averaged just over 30 possessions a game this year, ranking fourth in the league for total disposals and second for effective possessions.

    His rebounding ability was also crucial to Adelaide’s year, with Laird ranked sixth for defensive 50 launches and fifth for intercepts.

    Middle

    Wing – Josh Kelly (Greater Western Sydney)
    The in-demand Giant showed why he is worth the crazy amount of dollars that have been offered to him and his management all season long with a sensational season in which he missed just one match.

    Kelly averaged 29.2 possessions, 3.4 marks, 6.3 tackles and 4.9 clearances. The Giants’ forward line was the main beneficiary of Kelly’s great year, with the gun midfielder averaging just under five inside 50s a match, ranking him in the top ten in the league. He also had an impact when going forward, booting 18.20.

    Centre – Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)
    The reigning Brownlow Medallist won’t go back-to-back in 2017, but his one-game suspension doesn’t stop him from commanding a position in the Team of the Year.

    The explosive Dangerfield was simply superb this season, averaging 30.3 disposals from 21 matches. He also averaged 4.4 marks, 5.9 tackles, 7.8 clearances (first in the AFL) and 5.7 inside 50s (second).

    The best thing about his campaign? He spent more time forward, allowing him to kick a personal-best 38.25. His 5.6 haul against Hawthorn in Round 17 was particularly mesmerising.

    Patrick Dangerfield Geelong Cats AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Wing – Dustin Martin (Richmond)
    We’ve all known about Dustin Martin’s game-breaking ability prior to this year, but the 2017 season saw the Richmond midfielder ascend to a level that saw pundits name him the best player in the competition. Martin didn’t miss a game this season, averaging 30.3 disposals, 4.4 marks and 3.6 tackles.

    Martin was one of the better performers in a number of key categorical areas in 2017. He had the most inside 50s of any player in the AFL, while he had the second most kicks.

    Martin finished third for disposals and metres gained and fifth for goal assists and clearances. After kicking just nine goals last year, the 26-year-old had a huge impact when forward, kicking 32.23. Is a short-priced favourite for this year’s Brownlow Medal.

    Forward

    Half Forward – Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions)
    Despite playing in a side that finished on the bottom of the ladder, Dayne Zorko took his game to another level in 2017, regularly terrorising opposition midfields and backlines with his speed, skill and goal sense. ‘The Magician’ missed just one game, averaging 25 possessions, 3.8 marks, seven tackles, 5.4 clearances and five inside 50s.

    Zorko’s ability to cover the ground makes him one hell of a player, finishing fifth for metres gained league wide, while he led Brisbane’s goalkicking for a second consecutive season with 34.27.

    Centre Half Forward – Josh J Kennedy (West Coast)
    Aiming to achieve something only Gary Ablett Sr and John Peck had managed to do, Josh Kennedy entered the 2017 season looking to secure a third consecutive Coleman Medal. His campaign got off to a red-hot start, booting 11 goals in the opening two games, but his season was derailed when he suffered a calf injury in Round ten against Greater Western Sydney.

    Kennedy returned in Round 17, quite a considerable amount of distance behind the pack at the head of the goalkicking leaderboard. With an incredible stretch of form that saw him boot 30 goals in just seven games, the quest for back-to-back-to-back Coleman Medals was on in earnest.

    Kennedy would fall just short, however, finishing with 65.38, ranked second in the AFL. Despite missing five games, Kennedy still managed to clunk the second most amount of marks inside 50.

    Josh J Kennedy West Coast Eagles AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

    Half Forward – Lance Franklin (Sydney)
    The Swans’ megastar entered the fourth of his nine-year multi-million dollar contract with the Sydney Swans in good touch, booting eight goals in the opening two matches. However he, like the rest of the team, would struggle as Sydney spluttered to a 0-6 start. With an eight-goal haul against the hapless Brisbane Lions in Round 7, Franklin, and the Swans, went on their way.

    Barring the eight-goal performance, Franklin’s year was built on consistently bobbing up with a few goals during Sydney’s run to a historic finals position. He played eight games where he was held to either a goal or none, and entered the final round of the season five majors behind Josh Kennedy at the top of the goalkicking table.

    With a stunning ten-goal performance against the Blues, Franklin sensationally claimed his fourth Coleman Medal, finishing with 69 goals for the season.

    Forward pocket – Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide)
    The superstar from Alberton had a terrific season for Port Adelaide after a much-discussed move to a more permanent forward position to get Chad Wingard into the midfield. It was a quiet start from Gray, collecting just eight touches and held scoreless in the Power’s opening round win over Sydney, but he exploded the following week with 30 possessions and six goals against the Dockers.

    Gray was a constant threat for opposition sides, flitting between the midfield and forward line to keep his opponents guessing. The 29-year-old averaged 18.4 touches, 4.2 marks, 2.4 tackles and 2.8 clearances from 22 matches in 2017, finishing first across the competition for goal assists and eighth for marks inside 50.

    Gray finished the season with 47.28, but it could have been much more if not for a quiet end to his year in which he booted just eight majors between Rounds 18 and 23.

    Full Forward – Ben Brown (North Melbourne)
    With the departure of Drew Petrie and the oft-injured/suspended Jarrad Waite failing to get continuity in the senior side, Ben Brown was expected to struggle as he copped the opposition’s number one defender week in, week out in 2017. Instead, the Tasmanian-born forward thrived with the added pressure.

    Despite a couple of standout performances early in the season, Brown’s year didn’t really get going until the midpoint of the year. Between Rounds 15 and 23, Brown kicked 32 goals, and that’s despite going goalless in Round 20 due to being stretchered off after being knocked out in a tackle from Brodie Grundy.

    The 24-year-old announced himself as one of the best exponents of the contested mark, taking the fifth most of any player across the league, while he took the second most marks inside 50. Brown’s late season run saw him finish third in the Coleman Medal with 63.30, an incredible effort in a team that managed just six wins.

    Ben Brown North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL 2017

    (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    Forward Pocket – Eddie Betts (Adelaide)
    Fresh off a career-best campaign in which he booted 75 goals, Eddie Betts entered 2017 as the competition’s best small forward. His year got off to a hot start, kicking 19 goals across the opening five weeks of the season. From there, his magic dried up considerably, despite Adelaide continuing to beat teams most weeks.

    After his six-goal haul against Essendon in Round 4, Betts’ next-best effort came in Round 20 against Port Adelaide when he kicked 4.4, and he managed just four majors in the final three matches of the season.

    Still, with a total of 49.25, and averaging over one goal assist per game, Betts has earned this position, but his form would want to improve dramatically if the Crows want to secure a third premiership.

    Followers

    Ruckman – Sam Jacobs (Adelaide)
    It came down to a three-horse race for the coveted ruck position in the Team of the Year, but Sam Jacobs’ consistent campaign saw him outlast Matthew Kreuzer and Paddy Ryder.

    Jacobs didn’t miss a match in 2017, averaging 14.6 disposals, 3.8 marks and 2.9 tackles, while he had the most hitouts of any player across the league.

    He showed his worth in the all-important Showdown clash with Port Adelaide in Round 20, dominating Ryder with 12 touches, six tackles, two goals and 42 hitouts to claim best-on-ground honours.

    Ruck Rover – Matt Crouch (Adelaide)
    In a breakout season, the younger of the Crouch pair at Adelaide was sublime across the 22 matches in 2017, averaging a massive 33 possessions per game to go with 4.6 tackles and 5.6 clearances. He ranked third in the AFL for effective touches, while only one player managed to get their hand on the ball more times than Crouch.

    In a sign of his consistency across the season, Crouch’s lowest disposal tally for the year was 27. He had over 30 touches a massive 16 times, including a career-best 45 possessions in the final game of the season against West Coast.

    Rover – Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn)
    The only player to have more disposals across the season than Crouch was Tom Mitchell. In fact, the former Swan had the most touches in a season of any player in VFL/AFL history, averaging an obscene 35.8 possessions across 22 games to finish with a final tally of 787.

    Mitchell was ranked first in the league for effective disposals, and he rounded out the top ten for clearances with his average of 6.3 a match. He also showed a hard edge to his game with 6.5 tackles across his 2017 campaign.

    Tom Mitchell Hawthorn Hawks AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Interchange

    Zach Merrett (Essendon)
    The young Bomber was expected to thrive with the return of his senior teammates this season and that he did, averaging 30.4 touches, 4.4 marks, 5.5 tackles and 4.3 clearances across 21 matches in 2017.

    The 21-year-old finished seventh in the AFL for metres gained and inside the top ten for total disposals. Becoming more dangerous around goals is the next step for Merrett, and he showed he is working on that side of his game with his Round 23 performance against Fremantle in which he slotted a career-high four majors.

    Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
    In just his second season, young Clayton Oliver had a sensational year for the Demons despite the odd bit of controversy here and there. The recently-turned 20-year-old played every game for the season, averaging 30 touches a game.

    Finished second in the AFL for contested possessions, third for clearances, fourth for tackles and fifth for disposals. Not many kids in their teenage years have been able to lay claims to being that high up in the echelon of midfielders like Oliver can.

    Seb Ross (St Kilda)
    The hard-nosed Saint took his game to another level in 2017, averaging 29.9 possessions across 22 games as he stamped himself as St Kilda’s most consistent performer. Finished sixth across the league for disposals, while he averaged five clearances a game to go with 4.3 tackles.

    Michael Hibberd (Melbourne)
    Of the 12 banned players returning to the AFL this season, Hibberd had to be more patient than most, with an Achilles complaint pushing his debut for the Melbourne Football Club back to Round 5. But once he was in, he never looked back, averaging 27.4 disposals and 5.4 marks from 18 games.

    Finished the season fourth in the AFL for rebounds from defensive 50, averaging 6.8 a game as the Demons trusted him with their attacks from the back line.

    Michael Hibberd Melbourne Demons AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Emergencies

    Brad Ebert (Port Adelaide)
    The heart-and-soul type of the Port Adelaide midfield, Brad Ebert was vital in helping bring the Power back up the ladder and into its first September campaign since 2014. Ebert didn’t miss a match across the year, averaging 24.9 disposals, 3.7 marks, five clearances and 4.5 inside 50’s a game.

    He was important in the clinches for Port Adelaide, laying the second most amount of tackles of any player across the competition, averaging 7.5 a match.

    Jeremy McGovern (West Coast)
    Quite possibly the most versatile player in the league, McGovern had an interesting season for West Coast. As usual, he starred in defence, hauling in plenty of grabs across the defensive 50. After Josh J Kennedy’s injury in Round 10, McGovern moved forward to offer the Eagles some potency in attack.

    McGovern played every game for the season, averaging 16.4 disposals, 2.3 inside 50’s, 2.4 rebound 50’s and kicked 10.14. He finished the year third in the AFL for total marks, and second for contested grabs.

    Joe Daniher (Essendon)
    The most polarising selection of this team goes to Essendon young star Joe Daniher. After showing signs of his immense talent in his first few seasons, Daniher exploded with a huge 2017 campaign as he relished having the likes of Dyson Heppell, Travis Colyer and Jobe Watson back in the midfield delivering the ball to him.

    Daniher didn’t miss a match this season, averaging 15.2 possessions and kicking 62.37, finishing fourth behind Brown, Kennedy and Franklin. He finished 10th in the AFL for total marks, averaging 6.7 a game, while he was also valuable as a pinch-hitter in the ruck, getting just under four hitouts per match.

    Daniher just misses out on a spot in the best 22 due to the unreal seasons of fellow key forwards Franklin (who won the Coleman), Kennedy (averaged the most amount of goals per game of any player this season) and Brown (had to contend with being the only key forward option in attack at times in a team that finished 15th).

    I could have included Daniher, but frankly a team selecting four key forwards plus a ruckman is a bit unrealistic.

    On paper
    FB: Neville Jetta (Melbourne), David Astbury (Richmond), Alex Rance (Richmond)
    HB: Sam Docherty (Carlton), Michael Hurley (Essendon), Rory Laird (Adelaide)
    C: Josh Kelly (Greater Western Sydney), Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong), Dustin Martin (Richmond)
    HF: Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions), Josh Kennedy (West Coast), Lance Franklin (Sydney)
    FF: Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Ben Brown (North Melbourne), Eddie Betts (Adelaide)
    R: Sam Jacobs (Adelaide), Matt Crouch (Adelaide), Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn)
    I/C: Zach Merrett (Essendon), Clayton Oliver (Melbourne), Seb Ross (St Kilda), Michael Hibberd (Melbourne)
    EMG: Brad Ebert (Port Adelaide), Jeremy McGovern (West Coast), Joe Daniher (Essendon)

    Club-by-club
    Adelaide: Laird, Betts, Jacobs, M Crouch (4)
    Brisbane Lions: Zorko (1)
    Carlton: Docherty (1)
    Collingwood: Nil (0)
    Essendon: Hurley, Z Merrett (2)
    Fremantle: Nil (0)
    Geelong: Dangerfield (1)
    Gold Coast: Nil (0)
    Greater Western Sydney: Kelly (1)
    Hawthorn: Mitchell (1)
    Melbourne: Jetta, Oliver, Hibberd (3)
    North Melbourne: Brown (1)
    Port Adelaide: R Gray (1)
    Richmond: Astbury, Rance, Martin (3)
    St Kilda: Ross (1)
    Sydney: Franklin (1)
    West Coast: Kennedy (1)
    Western Bulldogs: Nil (0)

    Do you agree with my team? Make sure to leave your comments below, or hit up my Twitter at @JBarney1994.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (18)

    • August 29th 2017 @ 9:15am
      Shane said | August 29th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Probably the best AA squad I have seen so far, still don’t get t Jetta hype, though.

    • Roar Guru

      August 29th 2017 @ 10:26am
      Ron Swanson said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      1 from the Swans and Cats as opposed to 3 from the Demons?? You’re having a laugh. Everyone is entitled to their opinion though, good for you for putting it out there. No Callum Mills, I almost stopped reading right then and there.

      • August 29th 2017 @ 1:52pm
        Marshall said | August 29th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

        Should certain teams be mandated certain numbers of selections based on ladder position?

        Always found that argument confusing.

        It’s based on individual performance so how well the team went doesn’t really matter. Also depends on the scarcity of nominees at that particular position where an individual on a relatively poorer team has performed exceptionally relative to their position competition.

      • August 29th 2017 @ 1:52pm
        Marshall said | August 29th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

        Should certain teams be mandated certain numbers of selections based on ladder position?

        Always found that argument confusing.

        It’s based on individual performance so how well the team went doesn’t really matter. Also depends on the scarcity of nominees at that particular position where an individual on a relatively poorer team has performed exceptionally relative to their position competition.

      • August 29th 2017 @ 3:39pm
        Jim said | August 29th 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        I don’t really see why Mills would be anywhere near the team, but Rampe and Grundy have decent shouts to at least be close into the conversation.

        I know Rampe missed a fair bit of footy in the first half a dozen weeks or so, but there is no co-incidence that since he has returned, the defence has been absolutely miserly overall.

        And Grundy has continued on continuing on as a highly reliable, highly effective no 1 KPD. I know he doesn’t get the man love that Rance (Worlds greatest player ever TM) gets, but like Rance, few forwards comprehensively beat him. Probably doesn’t rack up quite the stats of a Rance or a Hurley or a Lever, but a mighty fine KPD nonetheless that deserves higher recognition then he gets.

        • August 29th 2017 @ 6:39pm
          Hyena said | August 29th 2017 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

          I guess the Swans are now being considered a champion team as opposed to a team of champions….

          Best defence in the league from round 7 onwards and no one considers any of the AA… ?

    • August 29th 2017 @ 1:11pm
      Ads said | August 29th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

      where’s Jeremy howe??

    • August 29th 2017 @ 1:47pm
      Doctor Rotcod said | August 29th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      Where’s Elliott Yeo? McGovern for Hurley

    • August 29th 2017 @ 2:23pm
      Peter the Scribe said | August 29th 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

      Jeremy Howe will make the final AA starting 18 so a bad omission.

    • August 29th 2017 @ 3:56pm
      Birdman said | August 29th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

      but but but Tom Mitchell is only g-o-o-d……

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