Sunday, May 4, 2014

The AFL Team of the Second Century

This week, the Herald Sun ‘rebooted’ the VFL/AFL Team of the Century that was selected in 1996, updating the ‘best’ team to include players up to the present day. It is a topic that I have often thought about, as have many others, but the difficulty of course in undertaking the exercise is that I have never seen most of the players.* Whereas if I did it for the AFL’s second century, that is 1997 onwards, I can claim to having watched all of the players.

I found the team pretty easy to select actually. One difficulty was what to do with players who crossed ‘centuries’ like Wayne Carey. Though Carey only played half of his career after 1996 it seems to me ridiculous not to have him included in either the AFL Team of the First Century or the Second when he has clearly been better than any other centre half-forward that has come after. Similarly I also put Tony Lockett in, as while other full-forwards have kicked more goals since ’96 (Matthew Lloyd in particular) none of them would generally be rated above him, and Lockett played enough seasons after that date to make his selection defensible. I also considered Glen Jakovich, but Jakovich did not make a single All-Australian team after 1996, and the difference between him and my selection Justin Leppitsch was not large enough to overlook that point. So here it is:

B: Gavin Wanganeen (Ess/PA), Matthew Scarlett (Geel), Dustin Fletcher (Ess)

HB: Andrew McLeod (Adel), Justin Leppitsch (BL), Corey Enright (Geel)

C: Nathan Buckley (Coll), Michael Voss (BL), Chris Judd (WC/Carl)

HF: James Hird (Ess), Wayne Carey (NM/Adel), Mark Ricciuto (Adel)

F: Lance Franklin (Haw), Tony Lockett (Syd), Ben Cousins (WC/Rich)

R: Dean Cox (WC), Robert Harvey (StK), Gary Ablett (Geel/GC)

I: Dane Swan (Coll), Nick Riewoldt (StK), Matthew Pavlich (Fre), Adam Goodes (Syd)

I think this team captures pretty much every significant player since 1997, except possibly Jonathan Brown. But if Brown came in, then I think the player that would have to come out is Nick Riewoldt. And given that Brown only has one All-Australian selection to Riewoldt’s four, and Riewoldt also has an AFL Players MVP to his name, I am sticking with the St. Kilda captain. Luke Hodge for Corey Enright also made me think a bit, but I stuck with Enright because he is a ‘true’ defender, and there are enough midfielders slotted elsewhere.

Of course by the time the AFL Team of the Second Century, or the Bicentennial, is picked most of these players will be well and truly forgotten. It will be up to a few to argue that Gary Ablett was talented enough to adapt to using jetpacks in the forward 50.

*PS: For what it is worth only Wayne Carey, Gary Ablett Jr., and Michael Voss would force their way into the team for me, at the expense of Jack Dyer and Greg Williams (with the bench expanded to four players).

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