The HPN All-Overlooked Team (and a Round 11 preview)

The HPN All-Overlooked Team of 2016

Rather than naming an All-Australian side we’ve decided to take a different tack and try and identify some of the overlooked, underrated players who are unlikely to get a mention in All-Australian honour. If the All-Australian side is the team that represents the best of the league in a hypothetical representative fixture, these guys might be the train-on squad they practice against.

Some of these guys probably should be under consideration, some others won’t be but deserve some recognition. Some mostly rate a mention for a statistical reason. The criteria we’ve used are fairly fluid but are more or less “guys who haven’t gotten All-Australian honours in the recent past” and guys we haven’t seen mentioned too much in mid-year lists for 2016.

B: Hombsch Fisher N.Wilson

HB: N.Jetta Rowe Rampe

C: Ross N.Jones (c) Coniglio

HF: Watts Bruce Greene

F: Young Dixon Heeney

R: Smith Cunnington Swallow

IC: Stanley Blicavs Laidler Shiels

Breakdown by line

Centre Line

Nathan Jones has been the centrepiece for the Demons for a number of seasons, and he’s the literal heart of any All-Overlooked team. His performance is slightly down statistically this year, but primarily because he has some help around him for the first time in forever. On the wings, Stephen Coniglio is constantly overlooked as a top level midfielder at GWS, even though his performance has been phenomenal. With Shiel, Ward, Griffen and even Scully grabbing the headlines this year, Cogs has struggled to see recognition for his stellar performance. Seb Ross is one of the more overlooked players at one of the most overlooked clubs in the league, but over the last two years the little-recognized midfielder has really come into his own. As pick 25 in the super draft of 2011 he’s been able to find his own feet under the spotlight of other more recognized talents. This year Ross has upped his effective and total disposals markedly.

Half Back and Back

Dane Rampe might be overqualified for this list, but he has been the constant for the best defence in the league so far this year. Rampe has played every role in the Swans backline this year, and provides the lost rebounding of Shaw and Malceski. If you consider him to be no longer overlooked, then Jeremy Laidler certainly fits the bill. Filling a spot on the All-Overlooked bench, Laidler often fills the role Rampe can’t, and plays a critical role for the imposing Sydney defence.

To identify defenders we looked closely at 1%ers, which tends to be dominated by key defenders. This identified Hombsch as the league-leader, and he’s been a shining light for a surprisingly weak PA defence. Even to the naked eye, Hombsch has looked like a player of substance in his five years in the league, often tasked with jobs that belie his size. Sam Fisher also figures highly – he has been an All-Australian before, but it was about a decade ago and he has become a bit of a forgotten man toiling away at St Kilda. Neville Jetta, often thought about as the other or even third Jetta, has leapt to the top of the Jetta leaderboard. Jetta is a one man Swiss army knife for the Melbourne defence, able to match up on smalls and talls, to provide rebounding attack or lockdown defence.

Nathan Wilson has been a revelation, providing GWS with a second rebound option with close to the longest kick in the league (and more accurate than McKenzie’s cannon). Sam Rowe has been through a lot in his AFL career, not least a bout of cancer. With Carlton Rowe has been shifted all around the ground, finally landing a spot in defence. With Bolton’s revival of Carlton’s fortunes, it might be convenient to place the focus on the Blues’ adapt small defenders, but statistically it’s been the talls leading the way. Carlton sit in the top echelon of the league for fewest marks conceded inside 50 per entry, and Rowe is a big reason for that.

Half Forward and Forward

Jack Watts has officially found his role, and he’s pretty good at it. Turns out the guy drafted as a tall forward has been really good as a 2nd/3rd forward. He’s got 22 goals so far this year, as well as ten goal assists and 23 marks inside 50. In addition he has served a “link-man” role, sitting 6th at Melbourne for inside-50s with 82% disposal efficiency. Josh Bruce has been the Saints best key position forward for the last two years now, and draws the best opposition defender on a weekly basis. Since his move from GWS, and his transition from defence to attack, he has emerged as one the best KPFs in the league.

In the past we have slammed Toby Greene as a failure as a small forward due to appalling rates of clangers and poor disposal, but we are eating our words. He’s averaging two goals a game now, and is in the top 10 in the league for inside 50s. Greene has managed to do this while keeping his tackling pressure high and improving his marking. Clangers remain a big issue for Cleaver, but the rest of his game is solid to very good.

Aaron Young isn’t a household name, but he’s one of the best forwards representative of the seagull goal. Young is a master of leading back into empty space, often close to the goalsquare, and capitalising. At 188cm, Young often draws a tallish opponent that he can burn for pace. He epitomizes the new generation of goalsneaks. Lining next to him in this team, as would happen in a real game, is Charlie Dixon. Dixon has been revitalised as the solo tall focal point of the Power attack, and been redeemed from any responsibility in the ruck. Half a season isn’t a big sample size, but the new Charlie Dixon is a vast improvement over the old one. For the Swans, Isaac Heeney has been hugely important, and yet he sometimes falls into obscurity behind the stars of Sydney. Finding a matchup for Heeney is hard, as he is good in nearly every facet of the game of football. Equally quick and confident above his head, Heeney is the type of player to cause opponents nightmares if left unchecked.

Ruck

We’ve picked the Geelong ruck division as a whole, as we are totally enamoured of their three-headed ruck hydra. Smith and Stanley are nearly replaceable clones of each other, and are equally comfortable up forward as in the ruck. Geelong will have one of the two in the contest, with Blicavs as the support. Blicavs is the league’s tallest midfielder, but also manages about eight hitouts as the third man up. As a ruck division, Geelong are 5th for hitout differential, which is far more than their spare parts approach would suggest.

Followers

North Melbourne often get overlooked in the scrum for attention among Victorian teams. North have had an above-average midfield output this year, despite the slight decline of Todd Goldstein. Two of the key reasons are Cunnington and Swallow. Their ability to win the ball and use it well have set up the imposing North forward line, and prevented easy forward entries going back. Swallow will likely come into late season AA contention, but his lack of recognition to date qualifies him for this team.

The X Factor

The final spot on the bench falls to an absolute specialist, but not of the ordinary variety. Liam Shiels is a tackling machine, on track to break the season record for tackles per game (minimum 18 games played). He’s getting less of the ball than last year, but remains an integral player (if not largely ignored) for the three-time premiers.

Hot Take of the Week

We’re not sure if Brian Taylor is trying to deliberately suggest some sort of strange AFL “special treatment” here, and what he said was otherwise positive about the womens game (the comments on this article, not so much). However he’s factually incorrect to claim that there is a blanket prohibition on curtain-raisers in the AFL, or even specifically in Victoria. There were five curtain raisers in 2015 in the VFL, mostly at Etihad and Kardinia Park. In the NEAFL, the four reserves sides regularly play curtain raisers at the NSW, Queensland and ACT grounds. For example, before the severely rain  affected game between Gold Coast and Sydney last weekend, footage of the NEAFL curtain raiser in a torrential storm went viral (in the footy nerd world at least).

Many Port Adelaide games have community curtain raisers including a City v Country match in round 1 and a Defence Force v Emergency Services match in round 5 this year at Adelaide Oval. The apparent lack of curtain-raisers at the MCG and Etihad is an issue with ground management, not the AFL, and there’s no reason to link it to women’s football.

Maybe Brian Taylor is more concerned about developing catchphrases and jokey banter than actually following football. Who would’ve guessed that shock turn-up?

Items of interest in Round 11

  1. Lance Franklin is really good you guys.

While coming up with the All-Overlooked team, we had a think about what is actually valuable yet underrated in analysis of football players. So we decided to look at who gets the ball inside 50 the most when they have the ball, and also how much they turn it over (min 6 games played):

2016 r11 I50 player

Some of those names are on that list above, and some are just really, really good players. Like Lance Franklin. Apparently it wasn’t enough to lead the league in goals, but he also needs to be the guy who has a tonne of marks inside 50 and get the ball inside 50. Is he kicking it to himself? Is he some kind of genius who is re-inventing the game? Time-travel?

Who really knows, but it’s sure fun to watch him doing his thing.

2. This round shapes as the most competitive of the season

The majority of games this week are between teams that are quite close on the ladder, and relatively difficult to pick. This is reflected in the betting odds (taken from aussportsbetting.com and oddsportal), which on average have the longest-price favourites of any round this season by some margin:

odds

Every game outside of Hawthorn v Essendon and Richmond v Gold Coast shapes as a real contest. What a stroke of fixturing fortune heading into the winter long weekend.

3. North faces a real test

A couple of weeks ago, before the Sydney game, we wrote that North hadn’t beaten a team higher than the bottom four away from this home ground. In addition, the HPN ratings seem to think of North as a middling side, and not the all-conquering ladder leaders that simple wins and losses suggest.

This week the Roos get to travel to Kardinia Park Etihad Stadium…But the high flying Cats should present the Roos with a real challenge, regardless of venue (even if North seem to keep catching all the breaks in that department). Both sides have some similar strengths, as both have top four attacks by the HPN ratings and like to use the ball by foot rather than hand.

But the midfield looms as a potential issue for North, as Geelong’s has been incendiary of late and North’s more ho-hum. Geelong have been dominant in both the clearances and inside 50s this year, and their aforementioned three-headed hydra of a ruck combination has actually been outpointing North’s much vaunted ruck division in terms of hitout ratio.

The question remains: will North step up to the plate and prove us as incompetent fools who know nothing about football wrong?

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