As we hit the halfway mark, I thought it would be an enjoyable exercise to create a team of players who might not be considered for the All Australian side – especially mid-year – but are having unreal seasons nonetheless and deserve their due credit.
Before we get into the side, here is my one honourable mention per zone and coach.
Defender: Brandon Starcevich (Brisbane)
Channel Seven got onto his year’s achievements way too late and the fact it took him negating Dustin Martin to get credit? Disrespectful.
Midfielder: Tim Kelly (West Coast Eagles)
Not for the medial injury, he was just the midfielder who got squeezed out but his first half of the year was the best since his fourth placing in the Brownlow in 2019.
Ruckman: Toby Nankervis (Richmond)
Going under the radar is Nankervis but I went with a one ruck strategy here.
Forward: Matt Taberner (Fremantle)
Until his injury, was backing up his All Australian squad form from last season but that injury keeps him out of this side.
Coach: Matthew Nicks (Adelaide)
Adelaide knocked over Geelong and Melbourne when they had really no right to and just 28 games ago, this was the ‘worst side in years’ and now it is threatening to be one or two years away from finals and that credit goes to Nicks.
Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s get stuck into the team and don’t forget to comment who’s had an unreal season and who isn’t getting their due credit.
Daniel Rich (Brisbane)
The wily veteran is taking the mickey out of 2021 so far with 26 disposals, seven rebounds, six marks and 79 per cent efficiency, in a very good team as well. Both he and Brisbane are flying.
Sam Taylor (GWS)
He is a personal favourite but this young man is a genuine star. He rarely gets beaten and has an ability to leave his opponent and affect the contest. He uses it well for a key back too, with 76 per cent efficiency.
Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn)
Hawthorn are no good but Hardwick has been unreal with a career-best 22 disposals at 82 per cent and seven rebounds. He is one of the only young Hawks you could bank on being a 250-game player.
Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs)
From a man who could make a moment elite to creating elite moments, he’s having 24 touches, five score involvements and five rebounds. He uses it beautifully.
Jayden Laverde (Essendon)
He has had a bit of a rotten run with injury but from a fringe forward whose talent was outweighing his output, he went back and now beats his opponents regularly, especially his Anzac Day performance, which was unreal, and he helped repel many Eagles attacks on the weekend.
Sam Docherty (Carlton)
From two All Australians to two injury-wrecked seasons, the Carlton co-captain has now had a year and a half back and his 2021 has been fantastic: 26 touches (19 kicks) at 80 per cent with seven marks and six rebounds.
Karl Amon (Port Adelaide)
The men from Alberton are flying and they’ve got wonderful talent all over the park but the footy world has slept on Amon. Mark Ricciuto may have called it on Sunday but his wingman numbers are unreal: 23 touches, seven marks, four inside 50s, three rebounds and five score involvements.
Touk Miller (Gold Coast)
Gold Coast aren’t a side that attract a lot of love from outside their supporter base but Miller’s year has been unbelievable and career best, averaging 30 touches (11 contested), seven tackles, six score involvements and four clearances.
Paul Seedsman (Adelaide)
He needs to ditch the long sleeves but he’s been a pure winger this year and he is dominating with 25 touches, six inside 50s, marks and score involvements.
Jack Graham (Richmond)
A perennial feature in this series, Graham has teammates who attract headlines but for 18 touches, six tackles, four inside 50s and 74 per cent efficiency, huge tick.
Jack Darling (West Coast)
The epitome of ‘makes the hard look simple and the simple look impossible’, Darling has been West Coast’s best player forward of the centre square and is equal sixth on the Coleman with 28 goals.
Kyle Langford (Essendon)
He could be leading the race for most underrated season of anyone in the league. Going from whipping boy to 21 touches, six score involvements, six marks, three tackles and inside 50s is an amazing effort.
Bayley Fritsch (Melbourne)
The Dees are flying at the moment and with it being a more potent forward line than in recent years, Fritsch’s 25 goals is a big reason why and he doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.
Ben King (Gold Coast)
Like Touk Miller, King doesn’t get the credit he deserves and it’s only because of the jumper he wears. Max gets more heat for inaccuracy while Ben is fourth in the Coleman and is capable of clunking huge grabs.
Jake Aarts (Richmond)
The footy community has jumped on Richmond’s ‘downfall’. He was last year’s unluckiest player in terms of missing the grand final but his 2021 has been very good: a dozen touches, 1.25 goals a game, six contested possessions and five score involvements.
Sean Darcy (Fremantle)
Max Gawn is the All Australian ruckman, no doubt about that, but can we take a step back and acknowledge how good this man has been, averaging 16 touches, nearly a goal a game, 29 hitouts, four clearances, marks and tackles, as well as half a dozen score involvements. Unreal.
Ollie Wines (Port Adelaide)
This man should be top five in the Brownlow as we sit here, period. He averages 31 disposals at 70 per cent (14 contested), six score involvements, five clearances, four tackles and marks. If he isn’t in the actual All Australian team at this stage, it’s a joke.
Nat Fyfe (Fremantle)
‘He has the yips’, the bemused naysayers cry with their arms crossed and a wry smile. Sure, Fyfe isn’t in great goal-kicking form but don’t forget, the champion is averaging 26 touches (15 contested), nine score involvements, six clearances, five tackles and 70 per cent efficiency.
Jordan Dawson (Sydney)
Sydney’s defence credit wise is made up of Dane Rampe and Jake Lloyd but this man is putting together a very fine season, averaging 22 touches at 80 per cent, seven rebound 50s, four marks and more score involvements, with a lethal left foot.
Callan Ward (GWS)
There is nothing better in footy than seeing good players come back from injury and be back to their best and the former Giants captain’s form line of 25 touches, five score involvements, four marks, four clearances and three tackles is wonderful.
Joel Selwood (Geelong)
The Geelong skipper has had to be durable with injuries around him and is still putting up terrific numbers for a 33-year-old: 25 touches at 75 per cent efficiency, six score involvements, five clearances, five tackles and four inside 50s, which is wonderful.
Shane McAdam (Adelaide)
This is the biggest pick that will shock some. McAdam has stopped being the ‘half a highlight a game’ player he was threatening to be and is becoming well rounded. He has 17 goals from ten games with four score involvements and also averages a contested mark a game.
Coach: Ben Rutten (Essendon)
This should be an obvious one here, given the Bombers were predicted to be a bottom side with the club falling apart after their departures. But to be ninth on the ladder, third for points for and one of the most watchable teams in the competition is a credit to Rutten and his coaching staff.