Free agency is one of the most contentious concepts in the AFL in recent times, with such inequities as Tom Lynch walking to the powerful Richmond club from an expansion franchise seemingly powerless to prevent it. Or were they?
In Part 2, I tackle Geelong, Gold Coast, GWS, Hawthorn, Melbourne and North Melbourne.
Geelong: Mark Blicavs (defender)
Honourable mentions: Mitch Duncan and Jack Steven
After Blicavs’ unconventional path to football from steeplechase, he has starred in multiple positions for Geelong. He’s been a ruck, midfielder, third man up and a rock at fullback over the last two seasons.
Blicavs won the best and fairest in 2015 and 2018 and made the All Australian squad in the last two seasons. Despite being the pillar of one of the best back lines across the last two years, he has not made the team. Many people assume that Blicavs has already been an All Australian because of his recent form, but it should not be long before he actually becomes one.
Gold Coast: Jarrod Witts (ruckman)
Honourable mention: Jarrod Harbrow
While the main focus has been on Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy, Witts has quietly been establishing himself as one of the game’s best ruckmen on the Gold Coast.
Ever since joining Gold Coast in 2017, the former Magpie has made himself the number one man, becoming the club’s co-captain and taking out the best and fairest last year. It will be hard to get his name ahead of Gawn or Grundy in the next couple of years, but Witts has the talent to potentially do it.
GWS Giants: Phil Davis (defender)
Honourable mentions: Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio, Nick Haynes and Sam Jacobs
It was very hard to narrow it down to just one Giants player, but in the end their former co-captain, Phil Davis, got the nod. It feels like he has been continually overlooked by the selectors, due to being a key defender and playing for an expansion team in a non-AFL state.
Davis has been consistently great for the Giants throughout their short history during their formative years and now that they are contenders, almost single-handedly has won games by holding up the back line. Alex Rance retiring does thin up the competition for spots and despite turning 30 later this year, Davis still has some great footy in him.
Hawthorn: Tom Scully (midfielder)
Honourable mentions: Ben McEvoy, James Sicily and Ben Stratton
Known as the hardest running man in the AFL, Scully has a point of difference from everyone else in the competition due to his elite gut-running ability. After being strongly scrutinised for most of his career, he established himself as a great wingman and made back to back All Australian squads in 2016 and 2017.
Unfortunately, Scully suffered a career-threatening injury in 2018, which saw him miss virtually the whole season. He moved to Hawthorn for the 2019 season and incredibly managed 21 games, though he did not hit his best form. After getting back on the field last year, hopefully Scully can recapture his career-best form from a couple of seasons ago.
Melbourne: Nathan Jones (midfielder)
Honourable mention: Neville Jetta
Another victim of playing for a struggling club during his peak, Jones was one of the bright lights for Melbourne during their dark years. The former captain won three consecutive best and fairest awards from 2012 to 2014 as a tough inside midfielder who was a bull around contests, but he never earned a spot in the team.
At 31 years old, Jones is definitely nearing the end of his career and other Melbourne players have taken over in the midfield, but his contributions and leadership should not be forgotten.
North Melbourne: Ben Brown (forward)
Honourable mentions: Robbie Tarrant and Ben Cunnington
Brown is very unlucky to not be wearing an All Australian blazer or Coleman medal. He’s kicked more goals than anyone else across the last three seasons (188), but has failed to get either accomplishment.
He has been the odd man out with the All Australian selectors, who have chosen other key forwards over him, despite Brown kicking more goals than some of his contemporaries who made the team. There is a feeling of when not if with Brown, as he will surely make the team soon.