Although this is coming a couple of weeks later than a bunch of the other mid-year sides, HPN thought we’d look at who is spat up by Player Approximate Value (PAV) as being in AA contention so far this year now that the byes have finished and every team has played 13 games (side note – PAV was recently featured in the Herald Sun).
While we’ve used the notional team sheet, think of the side as more “groups of players” rather than strict positions (which don’t really exist anymore).
There was a bit of debate here on how to pick a backline. This is probably a good chance to talk about one of the key challenges of player rating systems, that of rating defenders. One of the key features of PAV is that, as opposed to possession-based counting statistics, it does intrinsically rate defenders for defence. The team element of PAV means that we can draw out good defensive sides, and the individual component can find the most involved players in those defences.
However, the nature of footy is that some players get stuck in very narrow roles; especially defenders and defensive forwards. Even Alex Rance, clearly the best defender of the year so far, sits outside our top 50 for overall PAV right now. This is mostly due to the predominance of midfield and forward players who are drawing value across multiple parts of the ground.
In the end we’ve gone for the most valuable players from a defensive standpoint, with an eye to team balance and overall contribution as well. Roughly, this is two taller types, a couple of flex options and a couple of smaller, rebounding players. Tom Stewart has improved tremendously in the last 12 months, and anchored a staunch Cats defence. Dane Rampe and Stewart can slide both tall and small, as can Shaw at a pinch. Yeo hasn’t really been playing as a full time defender this year, but he merits selection somewhere according to PAV, so here is as good as anywhere else. Westhoff also gets a run in the team, but his place is more as a tall utility than a pure defender. Westhoff is nearly the missing piece – his size and speed can cover a lot of gaps for a team.
The Next Nine
Harris Andrews, who unfortunately suffered bleeding on the brain after a clash last week with Jeremy Cameron, will probably not make the final side due to the time off he is expected to have to recuperate. Tom Jonas is only very marginally behind Andrews as a pure key defender as it is now, and should leapfrog him in total output next week.
Phil Davis would have a clear run to the team if not for his injury troubles earlier this year, and still may make up enough ground to get there. Tarrant, Howe and Hurn are also unlucky to miss out, with the latter two coming in the mix if a specialist replacement for Yeo is desired.
The first five names starting on the field write themselves in the team sheet, and are as non-controversial as they come.
The bench, however, contains three players probably not thought of as being in the mix before the season started. Higgins has dragged North into finals calculations this year, while Gibbs and Steven have had to put the world on their shoulders for their sides to even have a chance from week to week. But for midfielders in the AFL, the margins between the best bunch and the next lot are razor thin, and all three could lose their spots in the weeks to come.
The Next Nine
Hey, want to argue that Treloar or Parker or Bontempelli should be selected on the bench? Fine. They could be, and might be come the end of the year. Jack Macrae was in the side last week, but his time off will deny him the time to climb back up. All nine names here could conceivably feature in the final team, as well as a few who are a bit further back.
The closest run issue here is the ruck spot, and the fight between Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn. When HPN tracks PAV each week, the first thing we look for is who has established a lead in that fight. In short – Grundy has the barest of edges right now, but it will likely change a couple more times before the season is over.
The Next Three
Suddenly the league is stacked for good rucks right now. Goldstein has found good form again, and he can’t even crack the top four right now. Rucks are being asked to do much more than attend hitouts and lay bodies out. If they can’t either provide a reliable target under the high ball (Gawn, Sinclair) or find their own ball and affect contests (Martin, Grundy), they are probably not going to make an impact at AFL level. It also helps to be able to ruck solo all day.
We can’t justify picking two rucks in this team right now – Brown and Westhoff can more than provide cover, and Grundy is an all around the ground character. If you absolutely need a second ruck, Lycett or Naitanui probably come into the discussion due to how West Coast currently set up.
Franklin and Brown are walk-up starts right now. Because of the Andrews incident, it’s highly likely that Cameron will have a few weeks on the sidelines, and therefore he won’t make the end of year team (more importantly it may cost the Giants a finals berth).
We’ve bent the rules a bit by listing both Martin and Zorko as half forwards, but rotating across different roles is a key component of the modern game, and both spend considerable time up forward. Caddy was a borderline call with Will Hoskin-Elliot and Luke Breust more than in the mix if a more specialised option is required. Fyfe and Dangerfield would also be expected to spend up time forward, along with Westhoff on the bench.
The Next Nine
Jack Riewoldt should come in for Jeremy Cameron and would play a similar role, a super dangerous leading third forward. Normally three tallish forwards would create space issues, but all three operate in very different ways on the ground. Jesse Hogan could too make a charge for that spot, but Tom McDonald might mean he isn’t even the best Demons forward right now.
Hawks duo Breust and Gunston are right in the mix as smaller type forwards. Josh Kennedy slips into the this group because even off fewer games he’s still that good in pure offence terms. If he comes back quickly enough from his injury he could give the AA team a shake.
Back: Tom Stewart, Harris Andrews, Heath Shaw
Half Back: Dane Rampe, Alex Rance, Elliot Yeo
Centre: Joel Selwood, Tom Mitchell, Nat Fyfe
Half Forward: Dayne Zorko, Lance Franklin, Dustin Martin
Forward: Josh Caddy, Ben Brown, Jeremy Cameron
Followers: Brodie Grundy, Clayton Oliver, Patrick Dangerfield
Bench: Justin Westhoff, Shaun Higgins, Bryce Gibbs, Jack Steven