This was an interesting exercise, but it was difficult to narrow down the players currently aged 23 and under to fewer than 26 and eventually the best 22.
The four players chosen as emergencies deserve honourable mentions, as it was tough to leave them out, but that’s the reality of picking a team: there are players who have to miss out.
Sam Walsh is the captain of this team as he has all the qualities that make a great leader: he believes in himself but is still humble. Tim Taranto is vice-captain of this formidable line-up as it was impossible to go past Sam Walsh as captain!
This team would be a formidable line-up if it played an exhibition match, as many of these players have All Australian potential. Players must have played a minimum of one season of AFL to be considered.
Under-23s line-upB: Brayden Maynard (Collingwood Magpies), Tom Doedee (Adelaide Crows), Liam Duggan (West Coast Eagles)
HB: Jordan Dawson (Sydney Swans), Ryan Burton (Port Adelaide Power), Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton Blues)
C: Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane Lions), Tim Taranto (vice-captain, Greater Western Sydney Giants), Sam Walsh (captain, Carlton Blues)
HF: Jade Gresham (St Kilda Saints), Eric Hipwood (Brisbane Lions), Tom Phillips (Collingwood Magpies)
F: Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans), Charlie Curnow (Carlton Blues), Tom Papley (Sydney Swans)
Foll: Tim English (Western Bulldogs), Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs), James Worpel (Hawthorn Hawks),
IC: Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide Power), Andrew Mcgrath (Essendon Bombers), Jacob Hopper (Greater Western Sydney Giants), Caleb Daniel (Western Bulldogs)
Emg: Kyle Langford (Essendon Bombers), Sean Darcy (Fremantle Dockers), Darcy Tucker (Fremantle Dockers), Jy Simpkin (North Melbourne Kangaroos)
Brayden Maynard has plenty of ability and is a pivotal player in the Collingwood defence.
Tom Doedee is a key player for Adelaide. He was added to their leadership group and is capable of playing a role as a key defender.
Liam Duggan has so much talent and has All Australian potential.
Jordan Dawson can provide a lot of run off the half-back line.
Ryan Burton can play centre-half-back and not only hold down a key position but also provide plenty of run out of the back line.
Sam Petrevski-Seton is underrated. He managed to finish in the top ten of the Carlton best and fairest in 2019.
Hugh McCluggage has a lot of ability and has the capability of being the Brisbane Lions best player while spending time in the middle of the ground as well as on the wing.
Tim Taranto was the 2019 best and fairest winner for the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
Sam Walsh was elevated to the Carlton leadership group. He has the ability to win a best and fairest for the Blues and be regarded as one of the best players in the AFL.
Jade Gresham is capable of being St Kilda’s most important player.
Eric Hipwood has already kicked over 100 goals despite being only 22 years of age.
Tom Phillips finished seventh in the Collingwood best and fairest in 2019. He is underrated and has the capability of being elite.
Isaac Heeney showed his class in Round 1 in 2020 by kicking four goals and being the matchwinner for the Sydney Swans. He managed to finish sixth in the 2019 best and fairest.
Charlie Curnow is a quality player and arguably Carlton’s most important player from a structural perspective. If Curnow can stay injury free, he has the potential to develop into a second ruckman, which will make him more versatile.
Tom Papley is an outstanding player who has already kicked over 100 goals in his career. He managed to finish fourth in Sydney’s best and fairest in 2019.
Connor Rozee finished fourth in the Port Adelaide best and fairest in 2019 and showed that he has the ability to play in the midfield, where he gathered 21 possessions and kicked a goal in Round 1 in 2020.
Andrew McGrath can play through the midfield and have a big impact there, as he showed in Round 1 in 2020 when he gathered 23 possessions and worked hard defensively, making eight tackles.
Jacob Hopper showed what a quality player he is in 2019 by finishing third in the Greater Western Sydney Giants best and fairest.
Caleb Daniel finished fifth in the Western Bulldogs best and fairest in 2019. Round 1 of 2020 is indicative of Daniel’s mental strength, as he never stopped trying, even though his team didn’t perform well. He finished the game with 20 possessions, his endeavour impressive.
Kyle Langford nearly made this team, just missing out as he needs to be more consistent despite having plenty of ability.
Sean Darcy has to be an emergency because I’ve picked Tim English as the only genuine ruckman in the best 22. Darcy has to improve his work around the ground.
Darcy Tucker often flies under the radar and wasn’t far away from making this team’s best 22. His performance in Round 1 of 2020 shows why he nearly made the team.
Jy Simpkin needs to replicate his performance against St Kilda in Round 1 of 2020 to become highly regarded, as he definitely has the ability to do so.