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The Roar's AFL expert tips and predictions: All Australian team

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23rd September, 2020
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There may be no football to salivate over this weekend, but we do have one of the marquee events on the calendar this evening: the announcement of the All Australian side.

The squad of 40 was only announced on Tuesday afternoon, but there’s no time to dillydally, because we’ll have our 22 in a matter of hours.

We won’t be playing for points here, but I’ve wrangled in Marnie Cohen (Liam Salter was unavailable) and we’ll both offer our thoughts on who should be given a blazer, or at least a nice Zoom background, this evening.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick run-down of the 40-man squad.

Adelaide Crows: none
Brisbane Lions: Harris Andrews, Hugh McCluggage, Lachie Neale
Carlton: Jacob Weitering
Collingwood: Taylor Adams, Brayden Maynard, Darcy Moore, Scott Pendlebury
Essendon: Jordan Ridley
Fremantle: Nat Fyfe, Luke Ryan, Matt Taberner
Geelong Cats: Mark Blicavs, Patrick Dangerfield, Cam Guthrie, Tom Hawkins, Sam Menegola
Gold Coast Suns: none
GWS Giants: Nick Haynes
Hawthorn: Jack Gunston
Melbourne: Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca
North Melbourne: none
Port Adelaide: Travis Boak, Zak Butters, Darcy Byrne-Jones, Charlie Dixon, Tom Jonas
Richmond: Dylan Grimes, Dustin Martin, Nick Vlastuin
St Kilda: Dan Butler, Jack Steele
Sydney: Tom Papley
West Coast: Andrew Gaff, Nic Naitanui, Liam Ryan, Brad Sheppard
Western Bulldogs: Marcus Bontempelli, Caleb Daniel, Jack Macrae

Stirling Coates

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Line-up will be available at the bottom of the article

You’ve mostly been quite nice this season about my tips, even if you haven’t always agreed, but I’m fully expecting that to change.

Nothing seems to stir such fervent disagreement in the footy community than All Australian selection, and I’ve got my riot shield ready.

Starting with the key defenders, I can’t go past Harris Andrews and Darcy Moore. Andrews is the incumbent fullback and nothing has happened in 2020 to suggest he should be dethroned, while Moore’s superb ball use sees him get the nod over Jacob Weitering and Tom Jonas.

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Nick Vlastuin and Dylan Grimes do their jobs to perfection and earn their spots in the pockets, while the supreme intercepting ability of Luke Ryan makes him an easy choice on the halfback flank alongside the underrated rebounding specialist Brad Sheppard.

Up forward it simply has to be Charlie Dixon and Tom Hawkins controlling the air traffic. I’ve put Charlie in the goal square and Hawkins at centre half-forward but it hardly matters.

Dan Butler is the easy first choice in one forward pocket, and I’ve gone with Tom Papley over Liam Ryan as his stats make for much better reading, which is even more impressive given he’s Sydney’s only forward worth worrying about.

Tom Papley

(Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Versatility sees Jack Gunston edge out Matt Taberner for the key position spot on the bench and, although it pains me to see midfielders steal half-forward flank spots every year, I’ve rounded out the forward 50 with Dustin Martin and Christian Petracca. At least naming them there is somewhat believable.

I don’t think there’ll too much debate on the midfield beyond where each player has been specifically positioned. I’ve gone with Patrick Dangerfield in the centre, with Bulldogs Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae on the wings, while last year’s on-ball duo of Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale remains untouched.

It’s three midfielders on the bench too, with Travis Boak, Jack Steele and Sam Menegola rounding out the interchange. I don’t expect much resistance on the first two, but I’m prepared to go down swinging on Menegola’s inclusion.

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There’s a reason Tim Kelly’s departure and long-term injuries to Joel Selwood and Jack Steven haven’t seen the Cats tumble down the ladder in 2020 – it rhymes with Ham Tenepola.

Lastly, I’ve gone with Max Gawn over Nic Naitanui in the ruck. I know Nic Nat’s got the X factor, but Gawn’s vastly superior contested marking is too much to ignore. I don’t need my ruckman to kick great goals from forward clearances in an All Australian team; I need them to dominate the midfield air and help me move the ball.

Gawn has Naitanui covered in that department handily.

It’s a tipping article, so I may as well include a Shoe-In of the Week. I’ll go with the panel naming someone in an objectively absurd position and social media subsequently losing its mind.

Marnie Cohen

Ahh, the All Australian team.

Every year I promise myself I won’t get worked up over a hypothetical and deliberately divisive squad and team, but then Todd Goldstein didn’t make the cut of 40 and it genuinely brought me down for a few hours.

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Gets me every time.

Anyway, enough about that injustice and onto who will actually make the team tonight.

I must admit, I am not great at predicting the entire team, mainly because there are a few curly and questionable inclusions, but I’ll have a crack.

Starting with the ruck, if it wasn’t going to be Todd Goldstein, surely it’s Nic Nattinui. It’s incredible to think the Eagles won a flag without him.

The thing with Nic Nat is that he doesn’t need a lot of the ball or a lot of time to have a big influence on the game. This, however, could come back to bite the Eagles ruckman if the selection panel focuses solely on stats.

Nic Naitanui

Nic Naitanui (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

There are a few no-brainers for the side. Coleman medallist Tom Hawkins will be there, Brownlow favourite Lachie Neale should be there and household names Travis Boak, Nat Fyfe, Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield and Marcus Bontempelli have all been there before and should be there again.

Surely Harris Andrews, Dylan Grimes and Jack Macrae find themselves in the side as well.

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We should expect a host of All Australian debutants too. Christian Petracca, Dan Butler, Jack Steele and Tom Papley have all made pretty good cases over the year as to why they should be included for the first time.

Given Port Adelaide’s successful season, most of their nominees should make the final team. Charlie Dixon alongside Tom Hawkins and the second key forward appears likely, while captain Tom Jonas has had another great season and should make the side for the first time.

I’d like to see Darcy Byrne-Jones make the team too. He has grown in leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons and his inclusion would be a genuine reward for effort.

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As for the fifth nominee, well, his inclusion in the 40-man squad has been the talking point so far. There is no doubt that 20-year-old Zak Butters is an exciting and emerging star, but was his inclusion in the squad a little premature? Honestly, I don’t think so.

The rapid development of Port’s emerging stars has been key to the team’s incredible season. The decision to include Butters could be symbolic of the group as a whole. He may not make the final 22 this year but should be there in years to come.

As always, there will be a number of players stiff to be left out. I had a ping at the 22 myself and do not envy those tasked with putting the official team together.

Liam Salter

Unfortunately Liam wasn’t given enough notice to get properly involved in this, but he did say he’d “just about die” if Liam Ryan wasn’t selected.

Stirling’s team
B Nick Vlastuin Harris Andrews Dylan Grimes
HB Luke Ryan Darcy Moore Brad Sheppard
C Marcus Bontempelli Patrick Dangerfield Jack Macrae
HF Dustin Martin Tom Hawkins Christian Petracca
F Dan Butler Charlie Dixon Tom Papley
FOL Max Gawn Nat Fyfe Lachie Neale
I/C Travis Boak Jack Gunston
Sam Menegola Jack Steele
Marnie’s team
B Luke Ryan Harris Andrews Nick Vlastuin
HB Dylan Grimes Tom Jonas Darcy Byrne-Jones
C Lachie Neale Nat Fyfe Marcus Bontempelli
HF Patrick Dangerfield Charlie Dixon Dustin Martin
F Tom Papley Tom Hawkins Dan Butler
FOL Nic Naitanui Travis Boak Christian Petracca
I/C Taylor Adams Caleb Daniel
Jack Macrae Jack Steele