As we roll past the midway point of what is shaping up to be one of the most even AFL premiership seasons in recent memory. As we did this time, last year, today we present to you my mid-year All-Australian team.
Footy experts and analysts such as Herald Sun chief writer Mark Robinson, Fox Footy's Alastair Lynch and The Age's Rohan Connelly among others have presented their own respective All-Australian teams over the past few days, and now it's my turn to predict who would be in the All-Australian Team if the season ended today.
The 2017 premiership season is so even right now, and it shows by the team I'm presenting to you today, with 14 of the 18 teams in the league representing at least one player. Only Brisbane, Fremantle, Gold Coast and North Melbourne don't have a player representing my team, but there is at least one player at each club that was unbelievably unlucky not to be selected.
So without further ado, let me present to you the 2017 Mid-Year AFL All-Australian team.
Back Pocket - Elliot Yeo (West Coast)
Until 2017, Elliot Yeo's career has been plagued with inconsistency. This year, not only has he managed to be consistent with his performances, he's increased his value in the Eagles' back-line. In 2016, Yeo averaged 16 disposals, four marks and under a rebound 50 per game as a utility player. This year he has averaged 25 disposals, eight marks and three rebound 50s per game and has been established as one of the game's most elite interceptors down back.
Full Back - Jeremy McGovern (West Coast)
An All-Australian in 2016, McGovern has become the lynch-pin of the West Coast backline with his ability to intercept mark nearly everything that comes his way a huge asset to his game and the Eagles' defensive strategy. McGovern's averages have been solid in 2017, averaging 17 disposals and eight marks per game this year in all 11 games and along with the likes of Yeo, Shannon Hurn and others, the Eagles' defensive unit this season has been brilliant at times.
Back Pocket - Zach Tuohy (Geelong)
Since crossing over from Carlton at the end of 2016, Zach Tuohy has been in stunning form across Geelong's back six in season 2017. He is averaging career-highs in disposals (26 per game), marks (five per game), rebound 50s (five per game and uncontested possessions (17.5 per game). Geelong acquired him in the off-season to replace the retired Corey Enright in defence, and he's certainly done an impressive job so far.
Half Back - Sam Docherty (Carlton)
In 2016, Sam Docherty emerged as a key figure in Carlton's quest to climb back up the ladder, taking home his maiden best and fairest and was incredibly unlucky not to make the All-Australian team last year in a breakout season. This year he has managed to increase his already elite numbers even further, averaging 27 disposals, 9.5 marks and six rebound 50s per game as a rebounding defender.
Centre Half Back - Michael Hurley (Essendon)
Coming back after a year out of the game to star in your team isn't an easy feat, but Michael Hurley's 2017 has been sensational given that he had to endure those circumstances last year. An All-Australian in 2015, Hurley has averaged 23 disposals, 7.5 marks and 6.5 rebound 50s (1st in AFL) in 11 games in 2017, those numbers all improving from his career-best year in 2015.
Half Back - Rory Laird (Adelaide)
After being named in the All-Australian squads both in 2015 and 2016, Rory Laird continues to improve his numbers as he presses his claims to be the game's premier rebounding defender. Laird's stats in 2017 as a running defender is incredibly ridiculous and if he doesn't get a spot in this year, there's something wrong - Laird averages 31.5 disposals, five rebound 50s and four marks per game across 11 games in 2017.
Wing - Josh Kelly (Greater Western Sydney)
The former number two pick in the 2013 AFL Draft has had a career-best season so far in 2017. Kelly averages 30 disposals, 6.5 tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s per game in 2017 - all of those statistics being career-highs in a season in which the Giants are relishing the idea that they are premiership favourites. and it's scary to think he is among a bunch of stars that have a long way to go in their careers.
Centre - Rory Sloane (Adelaide)
Rory Sloane broke through in 2016 with a spot in the All-Australian team after a stellar year leading the Crows' midfield brigade after the Patrick Dangerfield's defection to Geelong. In 2017, Sloane averages 26 disposals, nine tackles (1st in the AFL), and seven clearances a game and has proven to be the barometer in the Adelaide team, averaging nearly 30 possessions a game when the Crows win.
Wing - Zach Merrett (Essendon)
2016 saw Zach Merrett breakout in a team that was missing several key players. Despite winning Essendon's best and fairest in dominant fashion, many people believed that 2017 was the year that his statistics would drop given that Heppell, Watson and company are back in the side, but that only enhanced Merrett's game even further this season - he averages 32 disposals, five tackles, four clearances, 3.5 inside 50s and 3.5 rebound 50s this season.
Ruckman - Brodie Grundy (Collingwood)
The ruck spot is a hard spot to determine as I had three ruckmen listed as genuine All-Australian candidates. In the end I gave it to Brodie Grundy, who's enjoying a fine year. Grundy has averaged a career-best 37 hitouts per game which sits him in the league's top three, as well as averaging 18 disposals, 3.5 tackles and a career-high 4.5 clearances per game and has hardly had his colours lowered in the ruck contests all year long.
Ruck/Rover - Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)
The 2016 Brownlow Medallist has had a slow start to his 2017 campaign due to battling sore ribs, but his performances over the last month look like he's back. Dangerfield is the only player at the moment averaging 30 disposals and two goals a match and a spot on the All-Australian side just simply cannot be ignored. Aside from averaging 30 and two, he also averages seven clearances, six tackles and 5.5 inside 50s per game.
Rover - Dustin Martin (Richmond)
Another midfielder that has backed up his stellar 2016 with one that might be better if it isn't as good. For the second-straight season, Martin has averaged 30 disposals per game, but has also managed 16 goals from 11 games, which is an average of nearly 1.5 goals per game - not many midfielders can achieve this. On top of averaging 30 disposals, he is also averaging career-highs in clearances (6.5 per game) and inside 50s (six per game).
Half Forward - Toby Greene (Greater Western Sydney)
After a career-year in which he slotted 44 goals for the Giants as well as averaging over 21 disposals as a high forward option, Toby Greene started 2017 on fire, kicking 20 goals in the first six matches, before he was rubbed out for a fortnight for slugging Caleb Daniel in the nose. Still averaging just under three goals a match as well as 19 disposals a game, there's no doubt that Greene has earned his spot.
Centre Half Forward - Lance Franklin (Sydney)
Already a six-time All-Australian, Lance Franklin has been a real positive in what has been an unusually down year for the Swans. As it stands right now, he sits equal-third in the Coleman Medal with 32 goals in 10 games. On top of this, he has averaged 17.5 disposals per match and has got career-highs in marks (seven per game) and inside 50s (5.5 per game). Buddy has also managed to climb into the top 10 goal-kickers in the history of the AFL.
Half Forward - Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide)
A two-time All-Australian and reigning three-time club best and fairest winner at Port Adelaide, Robbie Gray is averaging way less disposals than recent seasons, down from averaging 26 disposals in 2016 to averaging 16 disposals per game, but has been in very good form down forward, kicking 24 goals so far in Port's 10 games this year and don't let his disposal average fool you, more often than not he's been a key factor in Port's resurgence this season.
Forward Pocket - Eddie Betts (Adelaide)
After two consecutive All-Australian selections and Adelaide's leading goalkicker of the past three years, Eddie is shaping together another fine season down forward for the Crows and is looming towards a third consecutive All-Australian selection, kicking 32 goals in 11 games so far, sitting him at equal-third with Lance Franklin in the Coleman Medal. His goal average is slightly down compared to last year from averaging over three goals a game (3.1) to just under three goals (2.9), but there's no arguing he is the top small forward in the game today.
Full Forward - Josh Kennedy (West Coast)
Before a calf injury sidelined Josh Kennedy, he was well on his way to making it three-straight Coleman Medals, kicking 34 goals in 10 games, As it stands right now, he shares the lead in the Coleman Medal race but will sit out at least the next couple of rounds with this calf injury he sustained over a week ago in West Coast's loss to the Giants. However he's done everything right to earn his spot in the forward line.
Forward Pocket - Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney)
After being held to only just five disposals and no goals in the Giants' Preliminary Final loss to the Bulldogs last year, Jeremy Cameron has been in red-hot form in 2017, sharing the lead with Josh Kennedy in the Coleman Medal after 11 rounds with 34 goals, including two bags of six goals. On top of this, he's averaging career-highs in disposals (17 disposals per game) and marks (7.5 marks per game). He is well on his way to toppling his career-best season tally of 63 goals set back in 2015.
Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
I don't think there has been a second-year player that has taken the AFL by storm quite like Clayton Oliver at the moment. For a player who is only entering the second year in the AFL system and to average over 30 disposals, seven tackles, and seven clearances per game is an incredible statistic and honestly, there should be a spot on the All-Australian team for Oliver if he continues to play the way he has played so far this season, he's been one of Melbourne's best players this season.
Dylan Roberton (St. Kilda)
I wanted a defender on the bench and with Dylan Roberton enjoying a career-best season so far in 2017, earns himself a spot on the bench. With the recruitment of both Nathan Brown and Jake Carlisle over the past couple of seasons, it has enabled former Docker Dylan Roberton to be used more freely, averaging a career-highs of 25 disposals, 7.5 marks and 5.5 rebound 50s per game this year and has definitely been amongst some of the most-improved players this season.
Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
The Bont doesn't average 30 disposals a game like the other midfielders in this group, but what he does do is that he often makes all his disposals count. He is amongst the rare group of midfielders who average 24 disposals and a goal a game. Only Dangerfield and Martin are the others who are to feature in this category. After a successful 2016 season in which he took home the team's best and fairest in a premiership year, Bontempelli averages 24 disposals, 6.5 tackles, 4.5 inside 50s and four marks in 2017.
Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn)
Despite the Hawks absolutely struggling this year, Tom Mitchell has arguably been one of the better recruits of 2017. His disposal average skyrocketed from 27 disposals per game in 2016 when he was at the Swans, to 35 disposals per game in 2017, including a 50-disposal performance against Collingwood back in round nine. Mitchell is also averaging career-highs in tackles (seven per game), marks (six per game) and clearances (5.5 per game) in what is proving to be a breakout year for the former Swan.
With every All-Australian Team, there will be a fair amount of players who were incredibly unlucky not to be selected. This is no exception here.
In defence, Robbie Tarrant has been consistently good in North Melbourne's backline all season long and will be in contention for a spot in the All-Australian team in season's end, whilst Jake Lloyd's name has been tossed up a fair bit at half-back, his impact at Sydney often goes unnoticed.
In the ruck slot, honorable mentions go to Adelaide's Sam Jacobs and Brisbane's Stefan Martin as both men have been huge for their respective teams. Jacobs leads the league in hitouts, averaging 41 per game, whilst Stefan Martin averages 19 disposals and 40 hitouts a match in a Brisbane team that is struggling at the moment.
There are so many midfielders deserving of a spot, but I just couldn't fit them all in. Geelong's Joel Selwood, St. Kilda's Seb Ross, Gold Coast's Gary Ablett, Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury, Carlton's Marc Murphy and Western Bulldogs' Luke Dahlhaus would've been the next dozen midfielders selected, that's how hard it is to settle on a midfield when selecting an All-Australian team.
Up forward, the next best key forwards would be Geelong's Tom Hawkins and Essendon's Joe Daniher, both men have snagged 30 goals in 11 games, but it's been Daniher's improvement this season that would have fans asking why he wasn't in this team. In terms of small forwards, Essendon's Orazio Fantasia, Geelong's Daniel Menzel and Melbourne's Jeff Garlett have all bagged 25 goals so far this season and were in consideration.
The Mid-Year All-Australian Team
B: Elliot Yeo (WCE), Jeremy McGovern (WCE), Zach Tuohy (GEEL)
HB: Sam Docherty (CARL), Michael Hurley (ESS), Rory Laird (ADEL)
C: Josh Kelly (GWS), Rory Sloane (ADEL), Zach Merrett (ESS)
HF: Toby Greene (GWS), Lance Franklin (SYD), Robbie Gray (PORT)
F: Eddie Betts (ADEL), Josh Kennedy (WCE), Jeremy Cameron (GWS)
FOL: Brodie Grundy (COLL), Patrick Dangerfield (GEEL), Dustin Martin (RICH)
INT: Clayton Oliver (MELB), Dylan Roberton (STK), Marcus Bontempelli (WB), Tom Mitchell (HAW)
Photos Courtesy Of Getty Images