As I stated in my recent article, history tells us that since 2015 three teams from the final eight in the previous year will go missing and be replaced by three new contenders for the premiership cup.
Even though each of the NAB League sides have had their representative teams selected by me in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, I thought it would be useful to keep exploring the Victorian talent pathways by selecting representative sides for the country and metro regions.
The selection criteria mainly involves selecting players based off their NAB League side. However, players from NAB League teams selected from NSW junior clubs are not eligible. Also, selection in NAB League teams is necessary. The main omissions because of these rules are Tom Hawkins and Mark Blicavs, so I apologise to any Geelong fans.
B: Darcy Gardiner (Brisbane), Jordan Roughead (Collingwood), Tom Stewart (Geelong)
HB: Jake Lloyd (Sydney), Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne), Jack Crisp (Collingwood)
C: Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood), Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood), Shaun Higgins (North Melbourne)
HF: Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong), Tim Membrey (St Kilda), Dustin Martin (Richmond)
F: Tom Papley (Sydney), Jeremy Cameron (GWS), Jake Stringer (Essendon)
Foll: Rowan Marshall (St Kilda), Ben Cunnington (North Melbourne), Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
Int: Ben McEvoy (Hawthorn), Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs), Travis Boak (Port Adelaide), Shaun Atley (North Melbourne)
The pool of defenders was not awfully large, which can be identified when looking at the country teams in Part 3 of this series. Jordan Roughead takes the full back role after a tremendous 2019 for the Pies. With Darcy Gardiner and Robbie Tarrant as the other talls, Jake Lloyd and Jack Crisp are in since they happen to be two of the best rebound defenders in the AFL.
Plenty of experienced faces grace the Vic Country midfield. Steele Sidebottom, Scott Pendlebury and Shaun Higgins combine 755 extraordinary games into one star-studded line-up. The inclusion of Ben Cunnington and Clayton Oliver as on-ballers certainly encourages a focus on centre clearance domination. Rowan Marshall’s coming-of-age season makes him the number one ruck choice.
It should be a shock to find both of this team’s Brownlow medallists in the forward line. Although, at the same time, it should not be a surprise that Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin can utilise their skills in other positions like the champions they are. Tom Papley and Tim Membrey were leading goal-kickers for their teams in 2019, while Jeremy Cameron topped the whole league. Adding Jake Stringer to the forward pocket means the average height of this forward line is 188cm, which nearly forces only an aerial style of play.
Ben McEvoy is selected as the back-up ruckman after playing very well during a tough 2019 campaign. Josh Dunkley and Travis Boak act as midfield/forward utilities. Since there midfield/forward utilities in the forward line as well, Shaun Atley is selected to support the back line.
There are plenty of the highest rated players in the AFL on this team. The one area for improvement would be in the key defender department. However, Darcy Gardiner and Jordan Roughead certainly have room to continue their good football into the future. While the team lacks the variability in structure that might be useful in an actual representative game, the squad demonstrates some extraordinary talent coming out of country programs.
B: James Sicily (Hawthorn), Dylan Grimes (Richmond), Nick Haynes (GWS)
HB: Nick Vlastuin (Richmond), Daniel Talia (Adelaide), Bachar Houli (Richmond)
C: Josh Kelly (GWS), Jack Macrae (Western Bulldogs), Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
HF: Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Toby Greene (GWS)
F: Jordan De Goey (Collingwood), Tom Lynch (Richmond), Eddie Betts (Carlton)
Foll: Max Gawn (Melbourne), Adam Treloar (Collingwood), Luke Shuey (West Coast)
Int: Todd Goldstein (North Melbourne), Darcy Moore (Collingwood), Tim Taranto (GWS), Lachie Whitfield (GWS)
Dylan Grimes and Bachar Houli lead a strong defence as 2019 All Australians. Nick Vlastuin’s premiership year lands him a half back role, which in part is due to the Richmond defensive system that includes Dylan Grimes and Bachar Houli. Daniel Talia plays as the other key defender, while James Sicily is free to be the multi-use defender. Nick Haynes had a strong 2019 playing his usual intercepting role for the Giants.
Jack Macrae finds himself as the designated ball-winning midfielder. His counterparts in Adam Treloar and Luke Shuey can be dangerous around the ground as well. Josh Kelly is one of the best wingmen in the AFL, while the all-round ability of Marcus Bontempelli made him All Australian on the wing in 2019. Along with being one of the finest ruckmen in the game, Max Gawn has also become dangerous as a prominent intercept-marking player.
This Vic Metro team follows a similar half forward model to the Vic Country team, with prominent ball-winners Toby Greene and Robbie Gray at the flanks. Tom Lynch starts at full forward after a strong first season for the Tigers, while Jack Gunston’s selection heavily depends on his extraordinary 2018 season. Jordan De Goey is in as one of the most damaging small forwards in the AFL, while Eddie Betts’ record in 2019 outside of the Adelaide Oval does enough to earn him a selection.
Todd Goldstein in the ruck allows for the effective use of Max Gawn in multiple positions. Darcy Moore has his favoured role taken up by the taller defenders, but is still important at both ends of the ground. Tim Taranto plays the important substitute in the midfield, while Lachie Whitfield is another player who is useful all around the ground.
The bounty of talent for the Victorian Metro team has made the selection process quite strict on excellent players. The final result is a list of 22 that includes several of the important faces of AFL clubs. This indicates the success of Vic Metro development programs, especially the Oakleigh Chargers, who have seven players from their program on this list.