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Faster, Higher, Stronger: These 15 AFL players could dominate at the Olympics (with a little imagination)

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Roar Rookie
7th June, 2024
8

I am a big fan of the Olympic Games but they present a bit of a quandary when they overlap with the AFL season.

Which gets precedence? The grand international stage or the national obsession?

Well, as somebody with a killer haircut once put it, “I want it all!”

But how to combine these two very different flavours? The answer may well be to reimagine Olympic events – just a little bit – to accommodate the inclusion of some of the AFL’s most exciting talent.

Here then is my proposal for some late additions to the Australian Olympic team and the sporting events that they promise to take by storm.

(Pretend) Archery
Essendon’s Xavier Duursma is the standout candidate. There had to be some purpose for that long-perfected William Tell goal celebration and now we know.

Artistic Gymnastics (Post-goal – in Spite of all the Danger)
No doubt coaches hold their breath every time a goal is kicked these days, with many a misplaced high five finding its way into a teammate’s eye socket. Fremantle’s Michael Frederick upped the ante in last year’s Western Derby, performing a near-perfect backflip.

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Not to be outdone, young Gold Coast forward Lloyd Johnston repeated the manoeuvre during this year’s clash against Carlton. This being Olympic selection, I’ll go with the Queenslander.

Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs celebrates a goal.

Marcus Bontempelli. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Basketball (Background)
Of course there is Magpie veteran Scott ‘better than Patty Mills’ Pendlebury. But even he is sick and tired of the ‘basketball background’ epithet, so I’m going to give him a break and look to the next generation.

There are a host of worthy contenders, including the Dockers’ Luke Jackson, Demon Christian Petracca and Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli. I’ll go for the Bont. Some say that as a junior he was better than Scott Pendlebury.

(Inept) Boxing
The days of Big Bad Barry Hall are long gone. Current AFL rules might give a quiet nod to the cagey body puncher but the left-right combination has become all but extinct.

Jesse Hogan tried it against Lewis Young in the Giants’ Round 6 encounter with Carlton but, according to the Tribunal, managed only negligible impact.

A more-than-handy full forward, but inside the ring Jesse couldn’t bruise a grape. He looks ripe for selection here.

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Breaking (Bad)
I think Saint-turned-sinner Jimmy Webster now has the street cred to crush it in this new, urban-inspired Olympic event (oh alright, sport).

Once a relatively anonymous toiler, Webster sprung to notoriety this year with an act of violence against North Melbourne so shocking that it prompted Roo’s coach Alastair Clarkson to go all Sopranos on him. He’s served his time, now he can serve his country.

Canoe Slalom (Macho Section)
I’m no expert on the whitewater sport. It still mostly brings to mind those old Solo Man commercials. So I’m going to nominate Port Adelaide’s moustachioed heart-throb Ivan Soldo. I hope he can swim.

Diving (More in Hope than Expectation)
Brisbane’s Joe Daniher adds another Queenslander (sensu Greg Inglis) to the squad.

Joe Daniher looks dejected.

Joe Daniher. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Fencing (In)
In this age of team defence, corralling an opponent is an essential skill. It’s actually not very hard. Most players can do it. I pick … oh … Hawthorn’s Errol Flynn lookalike Harry Morrison.

Football (As in Soccer)
I’m sure you are expecting me to delve through a host of off-the-ground goal of the year contenders, in search of the AFL equivalent to Lionel Messi.

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But let’s face it, it’s goalkeepers like Mark Bosnich, Mark Schwarzer and Matty Ryan who have made Australia’s biggest mark on the World Game.

So I’m looking for a goalkeeping type and as usual YouTube provides the answer – Carlton’s Blake Acres. Check out the clip. If the Score Review says ‘Behind’, you can bet that Blake has had a hand in it.

Handball (Dodgy)
It really could be anybody these days. Back in the 1990s, the ‘Crow throw’ used to infuriate opposition supporters. But it soon became a case of if you can’t beat them, join them.

For legacy reasons I am going to select an Adelaide player. Irish hurler Mark Keane has got away with some beauties this year but fails to qualify on residential grounds, so I’ll go with young Jake Soligo. He’s pretty slick.

(Horse) Hockey
After a recent match against the Dockers, Collingwood defender Isaac Quaynor compounded his on-field lie about touching the ball by confessing to it. Not a perfect act of deceit but good enough to book a ticket to Paris.

Shooting (for Goal)
Full forward has always been the glamour position of Aussie Rules. But along with the charisma, these footy marksmen require nerves of steel.

My current favourite is Eagles surprise packet Jake Waterman but at least one Bombers fan has insisted to me that Peter Wright’s kicking action is so exciting it should be X-rated. I’m nothing if not democratic – Wright it is.

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Surfing (While Injured)
One for the daredevils. Fremantle legend Nat Fyfe was raked over by aggro broadcaster Kane Cornes a few years back bro, but still keeps charging. Teahopo’o awaits!

Water Polo (Special Ruckmen’s Division)
I quickly pencilled in Bomber Sam Draper for this spot in the team but we already have two Essendon players.

I think the big West Australian Cat, Toby Conway, has some Draper-like qualities, so I’m going to take a punt on him. I hope he can work out how to get his horse into the water.

Wrestling (for Position)
Football lore has it that there were certain people who you just didn’t wrestle. Tony Lockett. Yabby Jeans.

While nobody quite fits that category these days, being a key forward or a key defender still requires some pretty advanced skills in the grappling caper.

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Melbourne’s Steven May is as good as any of them. And he’d make a wonderful heel if he ever turned pro.

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