The All-Australian team causes heated debate every year, and this season should be no exception.
The 40-man squad is due to be announced after Round 23, with the finalised 22-man team confirmed a few days later.
Foxfooty.com.au has run its eye over every club and come up with who we think are the players with the best chances to get a call up.
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In all, we’ve nominated 66 players from across the 18 clubs who are in contention.
But a simple mathematics lesson will tell you that 66 doesn’t go into 40 — and certainly doesn’t fit into 22.
Suffice to say, we do not envy the All-Australian selection panel.
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The Crows will miss the finals again this year, but they certainly had some players that gave their supporters cause for excitement. Ball magnet Rory Laird continued to rack up huge numbers this season, as he has done for most of his career, collecting at least 30 disposals in 16 of his 18 games, including a couple of hauls of 42. Ben Keays has franked his breakout 2021 campaign with another impressive year in the midfield, Jordan Dawson has been one of the pick-ups of the year while Taylor Walker finds himself on the verge of a 50-goal year for the first time since 2017.
Lachie Neale has been magnificent in the midfield yet again this year, so much so that he is now the outright favourite to win his second Brownlow Medal. The 2020 winner of the award has raised his game in the last couple of months and is now averaging 31 disposals, 16 contested possessions, seven clearances, seven score involvements and four tackles per game, while he has also kicked 11 goals. Hugh McCluggage is having arguably his career-best season too, backing up his 2021 campaign which many thought should’ve yielded his first All-Australian nod, while Charlie Cameron is still one of the best small forwards in the business with 46 goals, and just needs 12 more for a career-high.
The Blues’ vastly-improved midfield this year has been widely seen as the main reason why they are in contention to break their nine-year finals drought. Superstar duo Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh have again been the key pillars in that part of the ground for the Blues. Adam Saad is playing career-best football off the half-back line, but two of the team’s biggest success stories this year have also been a couple of best footy stories of the year – Sam Docherty and Charlie Curnow. Docherty’s resurgence after overcoming cancer (not to mention he also recently missed two seasons due to knee injuries) has been nothing short of inspirational. He is in the top 10 for disposals in the league and has combined superbly with Saad in defence. Meanwhile, after ending his two-year absence late last year due to knee injuries, few could have envisaged how well Curnow would’ve performed this season. Incredibly, he is on track to win the Coleman Medal with a career-high 61 goals already to his credit.
Nick Daicos has put together one of the great rookie seasons and thoroughly deserves to have his name in the All-Australian conversation. The Magpies are currently a top-two team and he comfortably leads their disposals, averaging 26 per game, which is quite extraordinary from the 19-year-old who should also win the Rising Star award. But he’s definitely had assistance down back with Darcy Moore and Brayden Maynard both showing again this year that they are top-shelf defenders. That pair has played a key role in the Magpies’ spectacular success this year. Jack Crisp has also produced another consistent season, averaging 24 touches.
Another year has gone by the wayside for the Bombers, but key forward Peter Wright has proven to be a real beacon. Despite playing in a bottom-five team, the deadly-accurate Wright has kicked a career-high 49 goals so far, to sit fourth in the Coleman Medal and play a lone-hand in attack for the disappointing Dons. Dashing defender Mason Redman has been a standout for the Bombers in defence, while midfielder Zach Merrett has been metronomically consistent yet again, averaging 30 touches per game.
After showing huge potential in his first four years, Andrew Brayshaw elevated himself to ‘A-grader’ this year with a tremendous campaign in the middle of the ground. One of the driving forces behind Freo’s surge up the ladder in 2022, Brayshaw is one of the favourites for the Brownlow Medal, averaging 29 disposals (nine contested), seven tackles and four clearances to be the Dockers’ most influential on-baller. Fremantle also have one of the best backlines in the league, with Luke Ryan and Hayden Young the two standouts from that part of the ground. Sean Darcy continued to enhance his status as one of the best ruckmen in the competition this year as well.
When you’re sitting on top of the ladder, you’re going to have plenty of All-Australian contenders — and the Cats are no exception. Starting up forward, they have the best one-two punch in the league in Jeremy Cameron (56) and Tom Hawkins (54) who have combined for 110 goals to sit second and third in the Coleman Medal respectively. And those two have been ably assisted by one of the recruits of the year in Tyson Stengle who has exploded this season with 39 majors. Down back, another ominous pairing is forming between Tom Stewart and Sam De Koning, who would’ve clearly won the Rising Star this year if not for Daicos. And in the middle, Cam Guthrie and Mitch Duncan keep on keeping on and have yet again proven to be critical cogs in the Cats’ on-ball brigade.
GOLD COAST SUNS
The Suns have taken great strides this year and once again the man that is central to it all is their inspirational co-captain Touk Miller. After earning his maiden All-Australian jumper in 2021, Miller has picked up where he left off, racking up career-highs in clearances, contested possessions and inside 50s this season, while also averaging 28 touches. Former Tiger Mabior Chol has also proven to be one of the pick-ups of the year, and with 43 goals he became just the fourth Sun to break the 40-goal mark in a season following on from Tom Lynch, Charlie Dixon and Ben King. Like his fellow co-captain Miller, Jarrod Witts has also led by example, averaging 38 hit-outs, 13 touches and five clearances a game.
There hasn’t been a lot to write home about for the Giants, but key defender Sam Taylor has been a shining light. Taylor has produced arguably his best season so far, leading the league for intercepts, and has been a constant thorn in the side of the game’s best key forwards this year. The 23-year-old hardly gets beaten and would have to be a huge chance for his first All-Australian nod.
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Didn’t Hawthorn miss James Sicily last year? Their captain-in-waiting has made a triumphant return to the field after missing the 2021 season due to a knee injury. Not only is Sicily comfortably leading the Hawks for marks, intercepts and rebound-50s, but he‘s also second for disposals only behind Tom Mitchell. He has added much-needed steel to the Hawks’ backline and is extremely hard to play on at the best of times. And while Dylan Moore probably won’t get picked in the All-Australian team, he definitely deserves a mention for his impressive breakout year which has seen him average 20 touches a game and also kick 24 goals as a midfielder/small forward. The kid has a bright future.
Like the Cats, the Demons will have no shortage of All-Australian contenders this year. And while they have gone off the boil since starting the year with 10 consecutive wins, they still boast a host of standout players. Look no further than their midfield which contains inside bulls Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Jack Viney, as well as Max Gawn who will be very hard to stop from earning a sixth All-Australian jumper this year. Down back, Steven May continues to be a Rock of Gibraltar while Angus Brayshaw has displayed incredible versatility. A year after seamlessly being shifted onto a wing, Brayshaw has now become one of the AFL’s best defenders in what is basically his first full year in that part of the ground. Meanwhile, Bayley Fritsch is in strong contention for his first All-Australian gig with 45 goals as a small-medium forward.
It’s been a dreadful year for the Kangaroos but Todd Goldstein and Luke Davies-Uniacke have been among a handful that can honestly say they have not thrown the towel in. At 34, Goldstein has continued to battle away in the ruck this year, averaging 13 touches (eight contested), 24 hit-outs and four clearances, while also booting 15 goals. And Davies-Uniacke’s second half of the year has been fantastic, averaging 28 disposals since Round 12.
The move of Connor Rozee to the midfield has been a masterstroke. After seemingly stagnating as a forward, Rozee has been a welcome addition to the Power’s on-ball unit and has become arguably their most damaging and dangerous midfielder as the season has gone on. But he has also enjoyed solid support in the form of the ever-reliable Travis Boak and Ollie Wines who continue to set the standard for the rest of the team as the club’s top two ball winners this year.
Shai Bolton has elevated himself to one of the top handful of players in the competition this year. And if he isn’t the best player in the AFL, he is certainly the most watchable. Good luck to his direct opponents trying to quell his influence. He has all the tricks and has routinely displayed them for the Tigers this year, especially in situations when they have need them most. An exquisitely-skilled footballer with pace to burn and evasive ability the envy of the AFL, the only knock on his game at the moment is his goalkicking. Meanwhile, Tom Lynch is having another consistent year in front of goal with 47 majors while Jayden Short and Nick Vlastuin have stood out for them in defence.
Jack Sinclair is enjoying by far his best season and is going to take some beating for a spot in the final All-Australian 22. The reliable defender is averaging 28 touches (eight contested) and is ranked eighth in the competition for intercepts. And in the same part of the ground, Callum Wilkie has further enhanced his standing as one of the best key defenders in the game. Key forwards know they have a long day ahead of them when Wilkie stands next to them. Despite struggling from inaccuracy, Max King has still got a career-best 47 goals to his name, and while Jack Steele has been slightly down on the incredible standard he set for himself last year, he has still been the Saints’ best midfielder in 2022.
The top-four Swans will also have no shortage of players considered for All-Australian selection this year. Isaac Heeney has been brilliant up forward with a career-high 42 goals while averaging 16 disposals and although Lance Franklin is nearing the end of his career, he still has a team-high 45 majors to his name which is pretty good going for a 35-year-old. Callum Mills’ move to the midfield in 2021 continues maximum rewards as the 25-year-old enjoys his most productive season while the evergreen Luke Parker has also been a standout contributor in that part of the ground. And one of the feelgood stories of the year Patrick McCartin also deserves recognition. While he might not make the final cut, his return from career-threatening concussion issues to become a key plank in the Swans’ backline has been inspirational.
WEST COAST EAGLES
The Eagles are on track for the worst year in their proud 36-year history, but defender Tom Barrass can hold his head high. The star defender has produced arguably his best season while being bombarded by opposition forward entries. He is averaging a career-high 15 disposals and seven marks per game, and is also ranked 10th in the league for intercepts.
With Josh Bruce out for most of the year and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan only just recently cementing a spot in the team, the Bulldogs have largely relied on Aaron Naughton for their attacking potency — and he has done a pretty darn good job given the circumstances. Naughton has already equalled his career-high of 47 goals and is fourth in the league for contested marks. Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae have been their usual industrious selves in the middle of the ground while Bailey Dale continues to be one of the league’s best rebounding defenders.