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The meta-AA midseason teams

Dustin Martin of the Tigers. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
29th June, 2018
9

As always, I’ve compiled the consensus teams from all the surrounding presentations of opinions and evaluations of the 2018 AFL season.

There are two teams here – one from the totals of the different teams themselves, and another from our year-long point totals, gathered from the game by game evaluations of the outstanding players in each contest from rounds one through 14 (the last ‘bye’ round, so each team has played 13 games – even if each player hasn’t).

First, the ‘meta-team’ from the collection of the various all-Australian teams from different magazines, web pages, and so forth (there were 19 in all):

First team Second team
Defensemen
James Sicily (Haw) – 33 votes Jeremy McGovern (WCE)
Alex Rance (Rich) – 31 Paul Seedsman (Adel)
Rory Laird (Adel) – 30 Elliot Yeo (WCE)
Tom Stewart (Geel) – 28 Jimmy Webster (SK)
Harris Andrews (Bris) – 22 Jeremy Howe (Coll)
Shannon Hurn (WCE) – 20 Tom Jonas (PA)
Midfielders
Nat Fyfe (Frem) – 38 votes Shaun Higgins (NM)
Tom Mitchell (Haw) – 31 Tom Phillips (Coll)
Clayton Oliver (Melb) – 29 Robbie Gray (PA)
Andrew Gaff (WCE) – 29 Patrick Cripps (Carl)
Jack Macrae (WBD) – 28 Steele Sidebottom (Coll)
Dustin Martin (Rich) – 25 Trent Cotchin (Rich)
Ruckman
Max Gawn (Melb) – 26 votes Brodie Grundy (Coll)
Forwards
Josh Caddy (Rich) – 32 votes Lance Franklin (Syd)
Jack Darling (WCE) – 31 Luke Breust (Haw)
Ben Brown (NMK) – 25 Adam Treloar (Coll)
Jesse Hogan (Melb) – 22 Jack Martin (Gold)
Devon Smith (Ess) – 15 Charlie Cameron (Bris)

A few notable items I should point out – as with most other evaluations of the 2018 season we’ve seen, Nat Fyfe is the number one player on this list with 38 votes, meaning he was on literally every first team put out there that we’ve seen (and that statement is true for no other player in the league).

The margin between ruckmen is as close as it could get: Gawn had 26 votes, Grundy checked in at 25 votes. Nic Naitanui and Stefan Martin were the others getting votes in our survey of AA teams.

Brisbane’s Harris Andrews, at just 21 years old, looks ready to assume his place on this year’s All-Australian team, where he’ll probably take up residence for the next decade or more.

Meanwhile, Dustin Martin barely squeaked onto the first team this year after an all-everything season in 2017 – and I can’t help but wonder if he’s simply under-appreciated this year by comparison only. Like LeBron James in the NBA, he may have already reached a point where he can’t be appreciated at his true level because we’d get tired of giving him the MVP every single year (taking nothing away from the miraculous recovery to form made by obvious Brownlow favourite Fyfe, were the Brownlow less fussy about one-game suspensions).

Dustin Martin of the Tigers (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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Just being gone for three games dropped Franklin out of the minds of some of the voters – where he appeared, he was near the top of the forward list, but he was missing from too many polls to catch Devon Smith, just ahead of him.

[An aside: Being American, we selected our teams the way they’re picked over here: rather than pick a four-man bench, we list a starter and a back-up for every position on the field. The choice to include six mids but only five forwards stems from the general use of the ruckman up front during the flow of play, rather than as a midfielder, as well as the prevalence of great ball handlers in the middle of the pitch right now. If you need the four-man interchange, the four highest vote-getters after the starting 18 were Grundy, Higgins, Phillips and Hurn.]

For comparison, here’s what emerges when we used the season-long point totals developed by ‘Following Football’ from all the game-by-game evaluations (which included, by the way, the above votes as well):

First team Second team
Defensemen
James Sicily (Haw) – 200 points Shannon Hurn (WCE)
Elliot Yeo (WCE) – 181 Tom Stewart (Geel)
Alex Rance (Rich) – 170 Paul Seedsman (Adel)
Rory Laird (Adel) – 169 Jeremy McGovern (WCE)
Harris Andrews (Bris) – 152 Kade Simpson (Carl)
Tom McDonald (Melb) – 148 Jeremy Howe (Coll)
Midfielders
Nat Fyfe (Freo) – 350 points Steele Sidebottom (Coll)
Tom Mitchell (Haw) – 267 Robbie Gray (PA)
Patrick Cripps (Carl) – 263 Trent Cotchin (Rich)
Dustin Martin (Rich) – 239 Clayton Oliver (Melb)
Jack Macrae (WBD) – 234 Joel Selwood (Geel)
Shaun Higgins (NM) – 220 Andrew Gaff (WCE)
Ruck
Max Gawn (Melb) – 223 points Brodie Grundy (Coll) – 220 points
Forwards
Lance Franklin (Syd) – 216 points Jordan deGoey (Coll)
Jack Darling (WCE) – 201 Jeremy Cameron (GWS)
Jesse Hogan (Melb) – 189 Luke Breust (Haw)
Ben Brown (NM) – 186 Josh Kelly (GWS)
Josh Caddy (Rich) – 150 Jarrad Waite (NM)

Most of the names from the first team squads overlap, at least by appearing on the second team on the other format. The names that appear at the top of the first teams in both cases are Fyfe, Sicily, and Gawn, who are all first choices at their position regardless of format (and Fyfe remains the high vote-getter on both formats).

Josh Caddy makes first team on both, although four other forwards have higher point totals year long (with Lance Franklin first, despite missing three games already this season – imagine his impact had he not had foot problems!).

Those players present on the first teams of both lists are Sicily, Rance, Laird, and Andrews on defence; Gawn at the ruck; Fyfe, Mitchell, Martin, and Macrae in the midfield; and Darling, Hogan, Brown, and Caddy up front. (Had Buddy been healthy all year, it’s likely that all five forwards would have held their spots on both lists!)

Lance Franklin

Buddy Franklin (Photo by Brett Hemmings/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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There are some players, on the other hand, who seem to have been done wrong in the mid-season voting based on the game-by-game performance evaluations. In particular, Carlton’s Patrick Cripps seems to have gone unrecognised by the vast populace of media types. But he’s been one of the lone bright spots in the Blues’ tragic season, a young player whose time has already arrived.

The other is Elliot Yeo of West Coast, an outstanding defender who has taken over games from time to time as the Eagles ran off ten wins on the trot. He shows up second among all back-liners in the game-to-game surveys, but just ninth in the All-Australian voting.

I’ve included Grundy’s point total to demonstrate, again, how narrow the margin between the two top ruckmen is. They’ve left the other viable candidates in their wake, and there will be no wrong answer in the final decision for the All-Australian ruck between them this season.

Finally, here are the current ELO-Following Football ratings for the eighteen clubs, with their starting point and their high and low water marks for the season in parentheses. All ratings are at the start of Round 15 (Richmond gained 2.1 points with their victory against Sydney Thursday night, while the Swans lost the same amount – that’s what an ELO system does):

Richmond 78.0 (77.8 – 84.3 / 69.4)
Sydney 72.4 (75.1 – 76.6 / 65.7)
Melbourne 70.1 (50.7 – 80.4 / 45.3)
Geelong 69.0 (61.0 – 72.1 / 59.4)
Collingwood 64.7 (51.1 – 69.8 / 46.4)
Port Adelaide 63.7 (62.8 – 68.0 / 54.1)
West Coast 59.3 (49.0 – 72.9 / 49.0)
GWS 57.3 (60.9 – 70.7 / 42.5)
N Melbourne 56.1 (37.5 – 63.4 / 33.8)
Hawthorn 56.0 (50.7 – 64.3 / 49.7)
Essendon 52.9 (46.4 – 52.9 / 35.2)
Adelaide 43.2 (73.7 – 76.7 / 43.2)
Fremantle 38.6 (25.7 – 38.6 / 25.0)
Brisbane 32.0 (29.6 – 40.5 / 24.1)
Western BD 30.6 (45.3 – 45.3 / 26.7)
St Kilda 29.4 (49.8 – 49.8 / 29.4)
Carlton 20.1 (35.3 – 37.7 / 15.0)
Gold Coast 5.9 (17.6 – 28.4 / 3.2)