For many years, debate has raged about best 22’s of all shapes and sizes. Through the debate, many supporters believe they would be able to pick a best 22 on any given day. As part of a new opinion series, ‘Pick 22’, I will be selecting a squad of 22 (with three emergencies) just like a normal AFL team.
The first ‘Pick 22’ I have selected is the best interstaters (club), meaning that all those from non-Victorian clubs are eligible to make this team. Seems easy right? Well when you think about developing a midfield from the pure talent that is currently surfacing across AFL clubs, particularly out west and in Sydney, you begin to understand it is an almost impossible task.
I should preface by saying the 25 I have picked are based on best possible talent right now, injury-free. So Eric Mackenzie and Michael Johnson are based on what they would be providing to their sides if available.
In my squad of 25, I have five Giants, four Crows, four Eagles, three Dockers, three Swans, three Suns, two Power and one Lion. Let me tell you, this is far from easy because even looking over the team, names like Taylor Walker, Sam Jacobs, Dylan Shiel, Harley Bennell, Tom Rockliff and Dan Hannebery should be in there, but there are others who I think deserve their spots more.
Interstate clubs’ best 22:
B: Daniel Talia (Adelaide) – Michael Johnson (Fremantle) – Heath Shaw (GWS)
HB: Brodie Smith (Adelaide) – Eric Mackenzie (West Coast) – Nick Malceski (Gold Coast)
C: Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide) – Matthew Priddis (West Coast) – Josh P. Kennedy (Sydney)
HF: Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide) – Lance Franklin (Sydney) – Devon Smith (GWS)
F: Eddie Betts (Adelaide) – Josh J. Kennedy (West Coast) – Jeremy Cameron (GWS)
R: Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle) – Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle) – Gary Ablett (Gold Coast)
INT: Nic Naitanui (West Coast) – Luke Parker (Sydney) – Travis Boak (Port Adelaide) – Adam Treloar (GWS)
EMG: Shane Mumford (GWS) – Dion Prestia (Gold Coast) – Dayne Beams (Brisbane)
By far the hardest group was working out the defenders. While the other lines have plenty of elite players, many of the available defenders are either young and still yet to develop or on the other end they’re past their best. Malceski and Shaw were the last two players I slotted in to the side because there were less elite players in the back half (vindictive across the competition where midfielders, rucks and forwards are better recognised).
In the midfield it was harder for another reason – too much talent. I just picked the five best midfielders who in my opinion are Dangerfield, Priddis, Kennedy, Fyfe and Ablett. A midfield of that talent is pure scary. I also added Boak, Treloar and Parker onto the bench, ahead of Prestia, Beams and other stars like Bennell, Rockliff and Hannebery. Initially I had Luke Parker on a forward flank, but to try and be less like All Australian selectors, I wanted to have a genuine forward there and Devon Smith does not get enough praise for the work he does.
In the ruck I was looking at four possibles with Sandilands, Mumford, Jacobs and Naitanui, who have been consistently good over a number of years, with the latter not as consistent, but the potential to be unbelievable. I was going to go for consistency in Sandilands and Mumford, but because rucks seem to function better when one is a bullocking type and the other is an athletic type, ‘Nic Nat’ gets the gig, with Mumford as emergency.
In the forward line I’ve gone with ‘Buddy’, Kennedy and Cameron as the three tall forwards, who are all versatile, play different roles and simply can dominate games. Betts, Gray and Smith are the three best small forwards, possibly in the league, let alone the interstate teams so they get the gig comfortably.
Now to the reasoning behind the unlucky omissions. Many are a coin toss, but in terms of effectiveness I felt those named in the 25 were ahead of Rockliff in that department and more consistent than Bennell and Hannebery. Dylan Shiel has been just as impressive for the Giants and all four, among others could have a case to slot into the 22, I picked my 22 that I believe is the best.
What would your 22 look like?