Instead of picking the top 40 players from 2017, and picking a team from there, we have decided to go down a slightly different path instead. Out of interest, here are the top 40 players according to Player Approximate Value (PAV):
As you can see, there just aren’t enough defenders available to fill a team in this manner, and the number of small forwards is also a little lacking.
Similar to the AFL Coaches Association All Australian Team of 2016, we have implemented several selection rules to guide us. Firstly, we wanted to pick as versatile a team as possible, with a hybrid attack, leaning to the shorter side.
We have instituted a limit of 15 PAVs in order to make the side. That covers the top 96 players this year, with Dan Hannebery falling just on the wrong side.
We decided that the back six should be made up of two to three tall defenders, and three to four smaller defenders. In practice we will identify these by their DefPAV, however overall PAV will come into consideration for the smaller options.
The forward is selected with a slightly different mix – we wanted two or three tall forwards followed by a bunch of small/mid-sized options. We didn’t predetermine the small/mid mix because we have seen a number of different, versatile structures with small forwards come to the fore this year. The KPFs are chosen by OffPAVs, and the smaller options taken as a hybrid of OffPAV and total PAVs. More than anything, we have tried to pick a bunch of players than can rotate through the forward line and create mismatches, and can spell the first-choice midfield if required.
In the middle we don’t have pure wings, but the team shouldn’t lack pace/creativity on the outside. We think it contains a multitude of options through the middle, including from the forward line and from the bench.
The bench is filled by the next best available. We also tried to ensure that there is a second or pinch hit ruck option available to give the number one ruck a chop out.
The PAV AA side shares a lot of players with the true All Australian side, with 16 common members and six changes. Of those changes, a different structure or rules for selection would have put several of the official All Australians in our team.
Jeremy McGovern was a consideration, however he didn’t have a high enough pure DefPAV score, as he spent some time up forward in 2017. However he made several early drafts of the team. If a third tall defender were required, Daniel Talia had the third highest pure DefPAV rating, but only had 14 PAVs overall. Eliot Yeo was also a little unlucky, as he had a high number of total PAVs but lacked the gaudy defensive totals of those who made the final cut. In the end, the call was a direct decision between the stellar Hibberd and Yeo, and we opted for the more specialist defender, even if he had slightly lower total PAVs.
Looking to the midfield, Zach Merrett and Josh Kelly narrowly missed selection for this side, and both were in the top 20 players overall according to PAV. If more specialised outside mids were required, both of them would be the choices ahead of a couple of midfielders we’ve named. However, it should be noted that neither are “truly outside” – if you were looking for that, guys like Tom Scully would come into consideration.
Joel Selwood was a little further back in 33rd, however on a per-game basis he would have made the side. Matt Crouch ended up just one spot behind Selwood in 34th for the year. All of Kelly, Merrett, Selwood and Crouch had great years, but were just edged out by others.
Also in that unlucky mix are Taylor Adams, Nat Fyfe and Brad Ebert – one could argue a case for their inclusion, but we ended up sticking with the raw data. None are bad choices, are all are arguably worthy. Sydney’s Josh Kennedy would also have been close to selection had he played one or two more games as well. Clayton Oliver, considered unlucky not to make the real All-Australian team by many, was hurt by the influence of the Melbourne co-captains, Jones and Viney. Jones in particular was likely in line for a spot in the PAV All Australian side (and perhaps the real one) until injuries got the better of him.
Josh J Kennedy had the third highest OffPAV score (hampered by missing games), but the early decision to focus on a multi-dimensional forward line pushed him out. In a real game we imagine a rotation of Ryder and Kreuzer to play as the third tall forward, with Bontempelli, Martin, Parker and Dangerfield also able to fill a marking forward role depending on rotations. However, an alternate structure could be to move Martin to the centre, Wines to the bench, and Shiel out of the team.
We’ve picked Martin as a HFF because we wanted to fit an extra elite midfielder in the team, and both Dangerfield and Martin would also have qualified as small forwards. We took this liberty and ran with it, but Martin would be expected to run through the middle for most of the game.
Paddy Ryder easily makes the bench for the side, and forms a very athletic and versatile ruck duo with Kreuzer. Although Cotchin is rated higher than Wines overall, we opted for Wines in the middle in order to add grunt at the opening bounce (Wines also shades Cotchin for MidPAV). Bontempelli was a little down on last year but still had a year most would envy, and Shiel provides both grunt on the inside and class on the outside in the last spot on the pine.
Whilst we can’t say that this hypothetical side would beat the real hypothetical side (especially with 16 of them wearing two jumpers), we feel that they would give them a good run for their money.