CALDER Cannons have been referred to as a ‘footy factory’ and it is easy to see why with plenty of depth across the ground covering multiple positions. The clear standout as voted by you in our All-Star polls on Instagram page is Dane Swan who earns the captaincy of the side ahead of Paul Chapman who gets the vice-captain nod.
Calder Cannons have a noticeable strength in defence and among the small-medium forwards, while their midfield depth is ridiculous. There were quite a number of unlucky players to miss out on our Cannons’ All-Star side, though most who made it played more than 150 games of action. The least games played in the side belongs to former Bomber-now Saint, Jake Carlisle who slots into full-forward from 134 games and 61 goals. It is well known he has become more of a defender in recent years, but the one area the Cannons did not have an abundance of at the elite level was tall forwards, with the relatively inexperienced Joe Daniher the other key. Up the other end, the depth of key defenders was very impressive, with five or more capable of holding down the post, and a couple missing out due to that fact.
The defence is as solid as they come with Tom Lonergan – now ironically the Cannons Talent Manager – and Daniel Talia earning the two key position posts. Lynden Dunn is just as reliable and he squeezes onto the bench to provide some cover in case sides opt for a three-prong forward line against the team. Around the keys are players who the Cannons coaching staff can rely on such as Darren Milburn, Richard Douglas, Mark Johnson and Andrew Welsh who can be accountable of their opponent, while providing rebound out of defence. The likes of Douglas and Johnson can also push up to the wings. The bench also has a number of players who could play in the defensive half of the ground, with Brent Reilly, Brandon Ellis and even Cameron Guthrie able to rotate off a half-back to the wing.
While the half-backs can push up to the wings, James Kelly can play off half-back if needed, and provides the defensive running along with Fremantle and Essendon tagger, Ryan Crowley. Jude Bolton and Johnson shape the remainder of the midfield around Swan who provides the offensive power needed to get the ball forward and kick winning scores. Bolton played 325 games for the Swans with Kelly not far behind thanks to 313, and with Swan at 258 – and five All-Australians, three best and fairests and a Brownlow – the midfield certainly has its due credit. The likes of Guthrie and Dion Prestia provide some good running power off the bench, while Tom Liberatore is still young and showed that he has the potential to be one of the game’s best. The Cannons have not had a heap of rucks come through to be dominant players at AFL level, but Ivan Maric was a standout across his time, particularly at Richmond.
This is the most exciting part of the team, particularly if that ball hits the deck. While both Daniher and Carlisle are inexperienced compared to most in these All-Star line-ups, they are capable of roosting the ball long and taking big contested marks. If they fail to do so, then the smalls will go to work. A couple of the best medium forwards of the modern era in Ryan O’Keefe and Chapman are at half-forward, with the best small forward of the past decade in Eddie Betts joining David Rodan closer to goal. This front six would put bums on seats and when it gets down there they could certainly pile on a high score. How the coach would manage the team might be challenging, but with Swan providing good support as he rests down there, watch out.
There are a number of unlucky players who were considered but just missed out at the end. These included Jackson Trengove (185 games), Jake Melksham (168), Zac Dawson (166), Brock McLean (157), Matt White (153), Damian Peverill (144) and Mitch Wallis (133). Indeed Wallis will likely squeeze into the team by the time his career is done, but Liberatore’s best and fairest earned him a nod over the others on this list. Trengove and Dunn was a 50/50 contest and could have been argued either way, while most of the others are highly maligned players, but should be remembered as ones who forged out 150-plus game AFL careers. Among the current crop who are fast approaching the All-Star side are Touk Miller (100 games), Rory Atkins (97), Adam Saad (92) and Peter Wright (66) with the latter potentially taking that key forward spot in the future.