This year shapes as one of the toughest for the All-Australian selection panel, with a vast array of talent across the league putting their hands up. The depth in the midfield stocks as well as a number of dual position players having outstanding 2014s has made picking a team of 22 incredibly difficult. The team at Bound For Glory News have each picked their team’s based on each player’s overall performance throughout the season. I’ve compiled my squad along with a short explanation for each player and the people who were unlucky to miss out.
LBP: Nick Smith – The quintessential quiet achiever has had a brilliant year shutting down some of the best small forwards in the competition. He doesn’t get a lot of the footy but his dour defensive skills make him a massive asset to the Swans back six. Smith has taken a while to hit his straps since being taken in the 2006 rookie draft, but a few consistent years in recent times will be capped by an All-Australian guernsey.
FB: Eric Mackenzie – Mackenzie was definitely in the top two best key defenders this year, having been tasked with taking over as the defensive leader when club legend Darren Glass called it quits in June. He had a great year highlighted by his one-on-one skills against the power forwards.
RBP: Cale Hooker – There were a number of defenders who played the loose man role well, but Cale Hooker was at the very top. His ability to take important intercept marks in defence was a key to Essendon’s charge to the finals. Hooker averaged a brilliant 7.4 marks and 18 disposals a game as a defender that was able to hurt the opposition on the rebound.
HBF: Nick Malceski – At 30 years old and possibly at the end of his Sydney tenure, Nick Malceski is still a brilliant rebounding defender with superb efficiency. He turned back the clock in 2014 with a season that will make opposition clubs throw the chequebook at him in the summer. Malceski ranked number one in both kicks and rebound 50s, eighth in uncontested possessions and racked up 23 disposals a game. Malceski has to be a big chance of securing a spot in the defensive six.
CHB: Daniel Talia – The Malcolm Blight Medallist is a lock for the All-Australian team after a dominant season down back, taking charge of the Crows defence and providing fans with a glimpse at the future in the wake of Ben Rutten’s retirement. Adelaide has a definite 200-gamer to control the opposition’s key forwards and a man who will be in All-Australian contention for years to come.
HBF: Dyson Heppell – A significant Brownlow contender at only 22 years old, Dyson Heppell has turned his previously uncontested style of play into an all-out attack on the footy. His ability to fight through the congestion and send his team into attack is right up there with some of the best players in the competition. Heppell’s stats sheet would bring a tear to the eye of any Bombers supporter. Averaging 28 disposals and 5.6 clearances, he is arguably the most important player in the red and black. He is a future captain of Essendon and might even be a future All-Australian captain to back it up.
Ruck: Sam Jacobs – The hitout machine had another consistent season and gets the nod ahead of Sandilands from the squad of 40. Jacobs averaged an impressive 16 disposals and four marks which unequivocally showed he is more than just a tap ruckman.
Ruck Rover: Matt Priddis – Priddis is my surprise pick, and the most underrated midfielder in the squad of 40. He was brilliant in a disappointing side. His contested work and tackling around the stoppages was elite, and without him the Eagles would be a basket case. He had the most handballs, the third most tackles, the second most clearances and third most contested possessions in the competition. It was a complete display by Priddis in 2014, and it’s likely he will be overlooked despite having a much better season than some of his Victorian counterparts.
Rover: Scott Pendlebury – The silky smooth captain of Collingwood was at his unbelievable best this year, taking control of the Pies midfield and displaying leadership all season. He averaged 28 disposals and despite the team not performing as well as expected, Pendlebury was still supreme in the clinches, giving Collingwood vital clearances and hitting up his forwards with ease.
Wing: Tom Rockliff – If not for suspension, Tom Rockliff would be odds on to win his first Brownlow Medal as he reaches his footballing peak. The tough midfielder was a shining light in another bottom four finish for the lowly Lions. He racked up 32 disposals a game and had a ridiculous five games over 40 touches. His attacking ability was matched by his defensive running, averaging nine tackles in the best season of his career.
Centre: Gary Ablett – Despite missing the last seven games, I still have the little master making the final team. He is truly the greatest player of this generation and 2014 proved no different with the champion amassing 32 touches and almost 2 goals a game. He will battle with Joel Selwood for All-Australian captaincy.
Wing: Nathan Fyfe – It’s hard to believe this big-bodied follower is only 22 years old, especially given he shows the leadership and dominance of a player with 10 years under their belt. A player who is everywhere on the field, his contested footy is something to cherish. Fremantle’s tall midfielders are led by Fyfe as he constantly kickstarts their attacking ventures with brute force. The only negative of Fyfe’s season was the two suspensions that could end up costing him a Brownlow.
HFF: Robbie Gray – A major catalyst in Port’s excellent start to the season, Robbie Gray has taken his game to elite levels. His transition from inconsistent half forward into one of the most damaging midfielders in the league came from nowhere, and it will see Gray certainly factor in Brownlow voting. Gray’s ability to rack up possessions is second only to his attacking prowess, kicking 35 goals and leading the competition for assists.
CHF: Lance Franklin – It wouldn’t be a proper All-Australian team without the Coleman Medalist, and Buddy makes the cut after having arguably his best season since 2008. The move to Sydney evidently hasn’t affected his freakish talent and goal sense. One significant improvement in Franklin’s repertoire is his contested marking, taking 41 for the year.
HFF: Jack Gunston – In almost any other side a goal return of 54.24 would’ve won the club goal kicking: however, at Hawthorn, Jack Gunston had to settle for equal second. Gunston is the perfect foil to Jarryd Roughead and constantly gets under the skin of the opposition. Since leaving the Adelaide Crows he has been the perfect second or third tall and is a great link-up forward for the Hawks.
LFP: Luke Breust – Gunston’s partner in crime up forward for Hawthorn would be in serious contention for the best small forward in the league. 54 goals and ranked third in goal assists, Breust went on an incredible, unblemished run of 29 goals in a row during the season and his accuracy was just one highlight of his brilliant year.
FF: Jarryd Roughead – You could almost slot Jarryd Roughead into any spot on this team. He is the ultimate utility, with 2014 providing another platform for him to showcase his ability to play all over the ground. He kicked 64 goals but was able to dominate with stints in the midfield, the ruck and could even back up his teammates in defence if need be. The post-Buddy era at Hawthorn still looks just as dominant in attack, with Roughead is vital to the team’s success.
RFP: Eddie Betts – The livewire small forward made Adelaide Oval his own this year, kicking 51 goals in electric fashion while also providing the Crows with his trademark forward pressure. One the best recruits of 2014, Betts had a season that would rival any he had in the navy blue, which will most likely receive his first All-Australian honour.
Brent Harvey – In his twilight years, Brent Harvey is still playing remarkable football and 2014 saw him almost at the peak of his powers. Brad Scott has managed to get the best of out the 36 year old in 2014, with Boomer dominating both in the middle and up forward. 27 goals and an average of 25 disposals placed him in the upper echelon of dual position players, with North hoping he can go again in 2015 as they begin to build towards serious premiership contention.
Joel Selwood – The captain of Geelong had another brilliant season, consistently stepping up and willing his side over the line in a number of close games. He averaged less disposals than many of his fellow midfielders: however, when he got the ball, he made a significant impact. Selwood’s 20 touches are worth 35 to his team as he lifts everyone else to the next level, verging on Judd-like in terms of his inspiration.
Jay Schulz – The third best key forward in 2014 makes it onto the bench and was unlucky to not lock down one of the key posts on the field. Another superbly accurate season up front with 61 goals and 23 behinds, Schulz is one of the best players in this team who won’t let age slow them down.
Luke Parker – The competition for the final spot in the team was fierce, but Luke Parker just makes it based on his impact on games and pure ability. Parker had a breakout season in a very competitive Swans midfield, averaging 26 disposals, 6 tackles and kickings 22 goals. There is a lot of Jude Bolton in the way Parker attacks the footy and he will be an absolutely elite player in the next few years.
Unlucky to miss:
Brodie Smith – A very efficient, damaging half back who has come along incredibly well for such a young player, Brodie Smith was up against Nick Smith, Malceski and Hooker for the half back spots which ultimately brought about his undoing.
Dayne Beams – It was another consistent season for Beams who returned to his form of 2012, averaging 27 disposals a game while doing all he could to keep Collingwood in finals contention.
Hayden Ballantyne – In any other season Ballantyne would have sewn up the small forward spot, but he was instead beaten out by the standout seasons of Betts and Breust.
Callan Ward – The Giants co-captain showed why he was snapped up so quickly by GWS. He led the young brigade very well in another season of progression for GWS.
B: Nick Smith, Eric Mackenzie, Cale Hooker
HB: Nick Malceski, Daniel Talia, Dyson Heppell
C: Tom Rockliff, Gary Ablett, Nathan Fyfe
HF: Robbie Gray, Lance Franklin, Jack Gunston
F: Luke Breust, Jarryd Roughead, Eddie Betts
Foll: Sam Jacobs, Matt Priddis, Scott Pendlebury
Int: Brent Harvey, Joel Selwood, Jay Schulz, Luke Parker