The 2019 HPN All Australian Team

As a mandatory requirement for having a website about Australian Football in 2019, HPN is obliged to provide one (1) All Australian Team for the 2019 AFL season, if not more.

Unlike other fine journals of record, HPN has decided to wait until the team was announced to compare and contrast against the official side. Additionally, HPN has decided to create two different teams, and to try to align it with something close to a real world set up. As ever, the teams are derived from the Player Approximate Value (PAV) system, which was developed to provide consistent player valuations from available statistics back to 1988. The marginal PAV (mPAV) per-game measure is also used.

Don’t worry – there’s some controversy below. Tea will be spilt.

The sexy methodology

Like in previous years, it is worth acknowledging that HPN will take a slightly different approach than the official side, before compromising slightly at the end. The two sides that we will present are based primarily on our PAV and mPAV player rating systems, with some additional guidance from other statistical measures HPN has developed.

The standard player positional grid – the lines of three up and down the ground, bear little resemblance to modern footy. It has probably been a long while since it has, and other than for a brief period at the start of each centre bounce, does not even adequately describe how many players stand in roughly each area of the ground at a given time.

Noted AFL intellectual (and past Big Day Out attendee) Mitch Robinson wrote an interesting piece recently on his transition to playing on a wing, and the modern role of a winger. It’s a fascinating read, and contains a role statement for the two respective types wingers. Note that this is nothing like the commonly understood or historical role of a wing, with Robinson’s wings being more identified by their relative position in the outer “layer” of stoppages and width spacing, rather than being defined by occupying the physical part of the ground between the arcs and wide of the centre square known as the “wings”.

The role also varies from club to club. Some use the spare spacing wing to play as a spare defender instead of as a “width” player, others choose to plant both on the second layer of the stoppage. The point about where players “play” is significantly less relevant – positional classification on the level that Robinson quotes is only based on centre bounce position. In the opinion of HPN, and those spoken to in the wider footy community, this has little value.

Regardless of specificity, Robinson (and his research assistant) make a good point – there are other midfielders than just inside players. Stoppages often have multiple layers, and given the importance of intercepts and turnovers to modern football (at the expense of the relatively unimportant clearances), the second layer of outside midfielders are becoming increasingly important.

As a result, HPN has chosen to identify “outside midfielders” by choosing players with a high midfield PAV/mPAV value, but a low Team Clearance Contribution and other “inside” attributes – identifying them as being in the middle but not at the coalface.

The classifications used in the team are:

  • Ruck (R)
  • Key Position Forward (KPF)
  • General Forward (GF)
  • Inside Midfield (IM)
  • Outside Midfield (OM)
  • Key Position Defence (KPD)
  • General Defence (GD)

HPN has leaned on the prior work of The Arc while using the tripartite component breakdown (def/off/mid value) of the PAV rating system, and various secondary measures to sort players. It is thus a blend of a objective ratings and subjective decisions about how to combine them into a team.

First up, here’s the two versions of the team complete with two wings, 6 forwards and 6 defenders named as such, and the bench entire populated by the next best generalist players, who happen to all be midfielders.

The PAV 22

The first team presented is the PAV Team, based on the most absolute value across a season. These may not be the “best” players across the 2019 season, but instead the most valuable players. Weight of games played matters a lot in this side – it is very hard to make the team while missing several games. Each game is about 4.5% of an AFL season so if a game is missed, roughly about 4.5% of the possible value a player can contribute in a given year is not available.

As a result, players like Harris Andrews (19 games) find no place in this side.

Ruck (R)

Brodie Grundy – 2nd overall.

Key Position Forward (KPF)

Jeremy Cameron – 25th overall, 1st Off PAV

Ben Brown – 39th overall, 2nd Off PAV.

Jack Darling – 45th overall, 3nd Off PAV.

General Forward (GF)

Charlie Cameron – 61st overall, 5th Off PAV.

Michael Walters – 11th overall, 13th Off PAV.

Tom Papley – 43rd overall, 7th Off PAV.

Inside Midfield (IM)

Marcus Bontempelli – 1st overall, 1st Mid PAV.

Patrick Dangerfield – 3rd overall, 11th Mid PAV.

Elliot Yeo – 6th overall, 9th Mid PAV.

Luke Shuey – 7th overall, 8th Mid PAV.

Tim Kelly – 8th overall, 17th Mid PAV.

Dion Prestia – 9th overall, 3rd Mid PAV.

Nat Fyfe – 10th overall, 10th Mid PAV.

Outside Midfield (OM)

Dayne Zorko – 4th overall, 19th Mid PAV, 88th Team Clearance Contribution (4th at Lions).

Mitch Robinson – 38th overall, 69th Mid PAV, 143rd Team Clearance Contribution (7th at Lions).

Key Position Defence (KPD)

James Sicily – 52nd overall, 2nd Def PAV.

Dane Rampe – 54th overall, 3rd Def PAV.

Robbie Tarrant – 93rd overall, 6th Def PAV.

General Defence (GD)

Tom Stewart – 18th overall, 1st Def PAV.

Jake Lloyd – 51st overall, 5th Def PAV.

Daniel Rich – 34th overall, 7th Def PAV.

Quick overview

There’s a little bit of cheating here, Zorko has been put on the outside, but he is a hybrid inside/outside type. If a more pure type is desired, then names like Hugh McLuggage or Ricky Henderson come into consideration.

There are four inside mids on the bench – Shuey, Kelly, Prestia and Fyfe. Those four, in combination with the other names in the team’s forward and back lines, make up a well balanced team. A 3-3 player size split up forward and down back was chosen – the next general forward in would be Gary Ablett, and the next KPD would be Mark Blicavs.

Travis Boak is also a touch unlucky – he rates 4th for Mid PAV, but only 22nd in overall standings. If a true midfield specialist is required, then Boak would come in consideration.

The mPAV 22

Where the PAV team focused on the most value produced, the mPAV team uses a per-game conversion of PAV and focuses on the “best” players, period. A 15 game minimum cutoff has been applied, which is a little arbitrary, but the actual All-Australian selectors seem to be generally harsher on missed games than this 15 game cutoff, and HPN felt that if more than a third of a season was missed that there was no conceivable way that they could be considered to have been one of the best players in the league for that year.

Ruck (R)

Max Gawn – 3rd overall.

Key Position Forward (KPF)

Jeremy Cameron – 25th overall, 1st Off mPAV

Ben Brown – 54th overall, 2nd Off mPAV.

Jack Darling – 59th overall, 3rd Off mPAV.

General Forward (GF)

Charlie Cameron – 94th overall, 6th Off mPAV.

Michael Walters – 14th overall, 16th Off mPAV.

Jordan De Goey – 35th overall, 5th Off mPAV.

Inside Midfield (IM)

Marcus Bontempelli – 1st overall, 1st Mid mPAV.

Patrick Dangerfield – 2nd overall, 9th Mid mPAV.

Nat Fyfe – 5th overall, 5th Mid mPAV.

Elliot Yeo – 6th overall, 8th Mid mPAV.

Luke Shuey – 9th overall, 11th Mid mPAV.

Tim Kelly – 10th overall, 21st Mid mPAV.

Dion Prestia – 13th overall, 4th Mid mPAV.

Outside Midfield (OM)

Dayne Zorko – 4th overall, 24th Mid mPAV, 88th Team Clearance Contribution (4th at Lions).

Mitch Robinson – 28th overall, 53rd Mid mPAV, 143rd Team Clearance Contribution (7th at Lions).

Key Position Defence (KPD)

Dane Rampe – 69th overall, 2nd Def mPAV.

James Sicily – 75th overall, 3rd Def mPAV.

Darcy Moore – 98th overall, 4th Def mPAV.

General Defence (GD)

Tom Stewart – 24th overall, 1st Def mPAV.

Jake Lloyd – 72nd overall, 10th Def mPAV.

Daniel Rich – 46th overall, 14th Def mPAV.

Quick overview

Just three players come into this side based on per-game output. Gawn just pips Grundy on a very close run valuation split, while injury-impacted Magpies De Goey and Moore slot in at each end over Papley and Tarrant, respectively. The other shift is the relative position of the midfield cohort, with Fyfe, who was better over fewer games, moving up to be onfield at the expense of Yeo.

Where the hell is…

Patrick Cripps?

In short, PAV ignores raw disposal counts and doesn’t really value his key strengths such as his number of handballs, contested possessions and clearances. There’s some basis to this – soon-to-come research undertaken by HPN has shown that there is almost no difference between the correlation of score and winning contested v uncontested possessions, with kicks being significantly more valuable than handballs. This applies likewise for clearances – which show a relatively low correlation with final margin. Patrick Cripps is perhaps the best contested possession winner in the league, and seems to have an aversion to putting leather-on-leather.

Patrick Cripps is an undeniably talented player, which PAV recognised last year, but the combination of missing games, playing for a poor team, and being fantastic at parts of the game that may not be that valuable, combine to give him a rating that is clearly lower than public opinion. Being such a specialised and polarised player, it should be unsurprising that different statistical systems view him quite differently.

It is worth noting that in the games which Cripps missed this year, Carlton more than covered for his absence, going 1-1 against Fremantle and Melbourne, with a more even share of midfield contribution covering for the lack of the single accumulator.

Jack Macrae/Scott Pendlebury/Lachie Neale?

All three rated in within the top 26 players in the league on PAV, but some of the other midfielders selected rated slightly higher and these three official All-Australians fell out on positional grounds.

Tom Hawkins?

Hawkins was the next player in for the PAV team, and the arguments between Brown and Hawkins are valid. It’s a relatively close cut thing, and could go either way. Both are very good football players.

Max Gawn/Brodie Grundy together?

This argument seems to have been settled with actual all-Australian selections and it’s hard to argue with the logic. If Brodie Grundy couldn’t play effectively with Jarrod Witts, and Max Gawn can’t play effectively with Braydon Preuss, then Grundy and Gawn probably couldn’t fit in the same hypothetical all-star side.

Both work best as sole rucks, as has been demonstrated in the past three or four years by performance and coaching selections. Playing both of them together would remove a significant amount of what makes them valuable . One can make (failing) arguments for using Gawn or Grundy in secondary roles at club level, depending on needs and player availability, but neither are good enough to hold any other spot in an All-Australian calibre side other than sole ruck.

Jeremy McGovern/Dylan Grimes/Harris Andrews

All three were pretty close to selection, just a little behind a solid crop of other defenders. McGovern, Andrews and Grimes fall outside our raw cutoff of being in the top 100 most valuable players in the league, but even without this call they are slightly outside the top tier.

Some of this comes down to the way overall team defence influences PAV, with Richmond in particular sitting in the bottom half of the league for points conceded per inside 50. By contrast, Geelong and Sydney were by some distance the top two in this measure of team defence, giving defenders from those two sides the generally higher overall defensive value.

There aren’t major arguments if you include different defenders in your personal sides, but PAV rates these players as on the outside looking in. Andrews in particular was extremely close to selection in the mPAV team.

Bachar Houli/Shannon Hurn

Both had worthy years, and perhaps this goes to the difficulty in rating defenders, but both fell outside PAV’s top range of defenders. Players such as Wilson, Howe, Jonas and Blicavs were identified a little above those two, as well as the names mentioned directly above.

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