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Opinion

What the one-off AFL State of Origin teams could look like

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Editor
8th January, 2020
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If you haven’t already heard the news, the AFL is holding a one-off State of Origin exhibition game at Marvel Stadium in February to raise funds for bushfire relief across the country.

In an unprecedented display of good thinking by the administration, fans will get something they’ve been passionately demanding for years and the proceeds will go to an indisputably good cause.

But who should line up for each side? I’ve undertaken the unenviable task of coming with a 22 for both Victoria and the All Stars.

I’m sure nobody will disagree with any of my selections and there’ll be no debate whatsoever.

Without further ado…

Proposed State of Origin teams

VICTORIA
B Tom Stewart (GEE) Dylan Grimes (RCH) Nick Vlastuin (RCH)
HB Jake Lloyd (SYD) Daniel Talia (ADE) Lachie Whitfield (GWS)
C Andrew Gaff (WCE) Scott Pendlebury (COL) Josh Kelly (GWS)
HF Robbie Gray (PA) Tom Lynch (RCH) Jordan de Goey (COL)
F Toby Greene (GWS) Jeremy Cameron (GWS) Dustin Martin (RCH)
FOL Max Gawn (MEL) Patrick Dangerfield (GEE) Marcus Bontempelli (WB)
INT: Jack Macrae (WB), Darcy Moore (COL), Luke Shuey (WCE), Steele Sidebottom (COL)

Hoo boy, what a midfield! When you’ve got players like Luke Shuey, Jack Macrae and Steele Sidebottom on the bench – with Adam Treloar, Clayton Oliver, Travis Boak and Dylan Shiel missing out altogether – you know you’re packing serious heat in the engine room.

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Andrew Gaff, Scott Pendlebury and Josh Kelly complete one of the most imposing centre lines you’ll ever see, while Patrick Dangerfield and Marcus Bontempelli round out an on-ball brigade let by Max Gawn.

For all the enviable midfield depth the Vics have, however, picking the rest of the team was a fair bit easier.

Michael Hurley and James Sicily are the unluckiest exclusions from defence, but it’s very hard to argue their inclusions in the key positions over the likes of Dylan Grimes and Daniel Talia. Tom Stewart and Nick Vlastuin pick themselves in the pockets, while Lachie Whitfield is a lock on one half-back flank. Jake Lloyd narrowly beat out Bachar Houli and Adam Saad for the last spot in the back six.

The forward line was quite an easy task too. Jeremy Cameron and Tom Lynch are the key position forwards, that’s that. Dustin Martin proved over the last 12 months he can genuinely play up forward, so he’s not just a token inclusion to make more room for midfielders, while Toby Greene, Jordan de Goey and Robbie Gray will have plenty of goals between them at ground level.

Shaun Higgins was the man who narrowly missed out here, with Gary Ablett not far behind.

ALL STARS
B Dane Rampe (SYD) Harris Andrews (BL) Zac Williams (GWS)
HB Rory Laird (ADE) Jeremy McGovern (WCE) Shannon Hurn (WCE)
C Stephen Coniglio (GWS) Patrick Cripps (CAR) Tim Kelly (WCE)
HF Luke Breust (HAW) Jack Riewoldt (RCH) Shane Edwards (RCH)
F Charlie Cameron (BL) Tom Hawkins (GEE) Michael Walters (FRE)
FOL Brodie Grundy (COL) Nat Fyfe (FRE) Lachie Neale (BL)
INT: Isaac Heeney (SYD), Brad Hill (STK), Jacob Hopper (GWS), Elliot Yeo (WCE)

Upon first glance, it looks like Victoria has the edge in the middle – certainly in terms of midfield depth – but I like what the Dream Team has to offer inside each 50-metre arc.

The back six is prepared for forwards of all shapes and sizes. Harris Andrews and Jeremy McGovern have the talls covered, with Dane Rampe prepared to pitch in on that front if necessary. Zac Williams and Rory Laird have the smaller forwards and then you’ve got Shannon Hurn ready to boomfa the ball into next week on the rebound.

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Jeremy Howe was close to taking Laird’s spot here, but I thought that made the back six a bit too tall.

Up forward, you’ve got Jack Riewoldt roaming the half forward areas and Tom Hawkins parked in the goal square. Ben Brown obviously came very close here, but I think the former two would work better in tandem. Charlie Cameron and Michael Walters form an unstoppable pairing at ground level, Luke Breust provides the forward pressure, while the criminally underrated Shane Edwards performs his role as the glue holding it all together to perfection.

The Dream Team’s midfield can absolutely go toe-to-toe with Victoria’s – Coniglio, Cripps, Kelly, Fyfe, Grundy and Neale could easily be a Brownlow podium as much as it’s a mock Origin team – but they probably fall just short on the bench.

So, what do you think Roarers? Who’d win if you put these sides on the field tomorrow?