When it comes to All-Australian selection, one thing is guaranteed. People will disagree and debate will rage about who deserves to make the side. I have decided to throw myself to the sharks and reveal who I believe should be in the All-Australian side this year.
Back pocket: Nick Smith (Sydney). In an All-Australian squad filled with rebounding defenders, Nick Smith is the one who gets the job done every week locking down on the best small forward. A perfect example of why Nick Smith deserves selection came during the Swans qualifying final victory over Fremantle. Smith held dangerous small forward, Hayden Ballantyne to seven disposals and no scoreboard impact.
Full back: Daniel Talia (Adelaide). Talia earns this selection due to his consistency. Talia takes the best forward most weeks and holds his own. Talia kept Tom Hawkins, Jarryd Roughead and Travis Cloke to a combined two goals and conceded more than three goals on only four occasions this year.
Back pocket: Brodie Smith (Adelaide). Brodie Smith had a break out year in 2014. Smith was ranked 2nd for rebound 50’s and not only got a lot more of the ball in 2014, but he was damaging off half back from start to finish, with very few poor games.
Half back flank: Nick Malceski (Sydney). The Swans defender had an outstanding year. Sydney did a lot of damage to sides attacking from half back and Malceski lead that charge having the most rebound 50’s in the AFL and averaging 1.5 bounces per game.
Centre half back: Cale Hooker (Essendon). Hooker started the year in red hot form and was clearly the stand out defender of the first 10 rounds. He was a marking machine all season and earns selection in this side over the likes of Mackenzie and Taylor.
Half back flank: Dyson Heppell (Essendon). What more can be said about Dyson Heppell? He has had a year that has put him in Brownlow contention and at only 22 years old, he is capable of becoming one of the best midfielders in the competition.
Wing: Jordan Lewis (Hawthorn). Jordan Lewis has always been a competitor and a damaging player but in 2014 he became Hawthorn’s best midfielder. Lewis only dropped below 20 disposals once and stepped up in the absence of Sam Mitchell. His days in the shadows of Hodge and Mitchell are over.
Centre: Joel Selwood (Geelong) (captain). Selwood has once again proven himself to be one of the game’s best midfielders and leaders. He has won games off his own boot in 2014 and without him, Geelong would be in a lot of trouble. He could be about to add Brownlow honours to an already excellent 2014 season.
Wing: Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle). Fyfe has confirmed his status as Fremantle’s best midfielder in 2014. The recently voted players MVP could find himself in the awkward position of being the leading Brownlow vote’s getter despite being ineligible to win. Despite that, his 2014 was a glimpse of the damage he’ll be able to do in the future.
Half forward flank: Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide). While Fyfe won the players award, Gray won the coaches award which, in my eyes, assures him for All-Australian selection. No one analyses the game more than coaches and for them to deem Robbie Gray the best player of 2014 is good enough for me. Gray was comfortably the most damaging half forward in 2014.
Centre half forward: Lance Franklin (Sydney). One year down, eight to go. ‘Buddy’ has momentarily silenced the critics by not only winning the Coleman medal, but by winning games off his own boot and propelling Sydney to a minor premiership. He has proven to be unstoppable at times this year.
Half forward flank: Luke Parker (Sydney). In the best team in the competition, Luke Parker has been the midfielder who has stood out the most for me. Parker is only 21 and is already a star. He kicks goals, he gets the ball and is as tough as they come.
Forward pocket: Luke Breust (Hawthorn). Simply, Breust has been the best small forward in 2014. He kicked over 50 goals and at incredible accuracy. There’s not much more to say than he did exactly what justifies selection as the forward pocket in the All-Australian side.
Full forward: Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn). Roughead just edges out Schulz in this side based on his flexibility. The two of them were on par in terms of goal kicking but Roughead’s ability to ruck and go in the midfield gives him the edge here.
Forward pocket: Brent Harvey (North Melbourne). There are a lot of first timers and young stars in this list so here is the veteran. Even at his age, Harvey was still North Melbourne’s most important attacking player in 2014 and has lost none of the speed that allows him to win games.
Ruck: Sam Jacobs (Adelaide). After a somewhat stagnant 2013, Jacobs has been the standout ruckman in 2014. Jacobs edges out Sandilands based on disposals per game meaning Jacobs is capable of getting involved around the grounds as well as holding his own in the ruck.
Ruck rover: Travis Boak (Port Adelaide) (vice-captain). Boak earns this spot not only based on his leadership but on the fact that in a side with Gray, Hamish Hartlett, Chad Wingard and Brad Ebert, Boak still gets tagged every week and manages to be in Port’s best players most weeks. Wayne Carey put Boak in his top five players in the competition earlier in the season and Boak has proven the doubters wrong by leading from the front and standing up in big games and that justifies his position as ruck rover.
Rover: Gary Ablett (Gold Coast). Season ending injury or not, Gary Ablett is still the best player in the league and was the best player of 2014 up until injury. 15 games are enough to qualify for All-Australian selection.
Tom Rockliff (Brisbane). Rockliff was a disposal machine all season. He finished the year with three straight games of 40 disposals or more and was also ranked 2nd in tackles. Without Redden and Rich, Rockliff carried the Brisbane midfield and was certainly their best player.
Bryce Gibbs (Carlton). In a poor year for the Blues Bryce Gibbs finally took the step into the elite bracket. Gibbs was far and away Carlton’s best player in 2014 and the best part was his consistency. In previous years, he’s had a good game here and there but this year he took the reins from Murphy and Judd and validated Carlton’s selection of him as a number one draft pick.
Matthew Priddis (West Coast). West Coast can thank their lucky stars that Matt Priddis took his game up a notch in 2014. He all but carried their midfield for most of the year and finished ranked 1st in the AFL for disposals and third for tackles.
Dustin Martin (Richmond). Martin’s preseason was as eventful as his 2014 season was good. There was a stage where it looked like any club could take him and that he had parted ways with Richmond. The Tigers would be incredibly relieved that he’s still there as he dominated no matter where on the field he was placed. He caused havoc at full forward late in games and won many of them for Richmond.
Every year, players are unlucky to miss out. Here are a few who got squeezed out of the side:
Josh Kennedy (Sydney). I replaced Kennedy with Martin last minute because of the amount of inside midfielders in the side. Rockliff, Priddis, Lewis and Selwood all had seasons justifying All-Australian selection and based on 2014, Kennedy falls just behind them in my eyes.
Brandon Ellis (Richmond). Ellis misses out in my eyes simply because he falls behind the likes of Heppell, Gibbs and Fyfe. He had an excellent year and will have plenty of years in the future to make the side.
Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood). This was tough, I rate Pendlebury as the second best player in the competition behind Ablett and that doesn’t change. However, Pendlebury’s year, like Collingwood’s, was overshone by others and unfortunately he got squeezed out of the team.
B: Nick Smith, Daniel Talia, Brodie Smith
HB: Nick Malceski, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell
C: Jordan Lewis, Joel Selwood, Nathan Fyfe
HF: Robbie Gray, Lance Franklin, Luke Parker
F: Luke Breust, Jarryd Roughead, Brent Harvey
Foll: Sam Jacobs, Travis Boak, Gary Ablett
Int: Tom Rockliff, Bryce Gibbs, Matt Priddis, Dustin Martin