Category: All-Star Teams

Draft Central All-Star Teams Grand Final: East Fremantle vs. Geelong Falcons

THE ultimate All-Star Teams clash has arrived with the two best sides reaching the Grand Final after a month of voting. Top seeds East Fremantle take on second seeds Geelong Falcons, and they would play out a hypothetical thriller if they clashed.

STAR POWER

Both these teams have no shortage of star power, with elite midfields that have deep rotations, as well as strong key position options, and plenty of runners and defensive options. It is no surprise that both these teams reached the final match of the knockout tournament, and it shapes as an absolute thriller. The two captains that lead these sides are Brownlow Medallists and two-club players, Ben Cousins (West Coast and Richmond) and Gary Ablett Jnr (Geelong and Gold Coast). They have accolades that few dream of, and when comparing them, Ablett Jnr gets the marginal nod, but both were (and are in Ablett’s case) champion players.

KEY STATS

Brownlows: East Fremantle (3) – Geelong Falcons (4)
All-Australians: East Fremantle (29) – Geelong Falcons (41)
Best & Fairests: East Fremantle (21) – Geelong Falcons (33)
Coleman Medals: East Fremantle (2) – Geelong Falcons (1)
Norm Smiths: East Fremantle (1) – Geelong Falcons (3)
Rising Stars: East Fremantle (2) – Geelong Falcons (0)
Average Games: East Fremantle (83.1) – Geelong Falcons (66.6)
Average Brownlow Votes: East Fremantle (13.2) – Geelong Falcons (11.2)

KEY MATCHUPS

Simon Black (East Fremantle) vs. Jimmy Bartel (Geelong)

Alongside their Brownlow captains, Black and Bartel were some of the classiest and most consistent footballers going around. They also have near-identical accolades with three premierships, a Brownlow and a Norm Smith – the only two players to achieve those feats and still play over 300 games. Bartel was one of the best wet weather players, whilst Black hardly played a bad game, and with three club best and fairests during a golden era for the Brisbane Lions, the East Fremantle product might marginally get the nod.

Harry Taylor (East Fremantle) vs. Jonathan Brown (Geelong)

If these teams played out in a match, this would be absolutely crucial to the success of their respective teams. Like their real-life teammates (but on opposite sides in this) above, they had plenty of success during their careers and were among the best in their respective positions. If Taylor could shut down Brown it would go a long way to the Sharks winning, whilst a big bag of goals from Brown would aid in the Falcons getting up.

Aaron Sandilands (East Fremantle) vs. Matthew Primus (Geelong)

You would probably hand the points to Sandilands in the ruck battle due to the added centimetres, but Primus would potentially have more influence around the ground. Both their midfields are star studded, so it would be a huge start for the rucks to win first hands to the ball. However given the quality of the onball groups, if one ruck got on top of the other, the midfielders would no doubt be able to learn to shark the opposition taps.

KEY QUESTIONS

Which midfield gets on top?

It is a tough question to answer because both are ridiculously talent rich to the point of All-Australians, Best and Fairests and even Brownlows and Norm Smith Medals feature highly. East Fremantle have the star power in terms of the starting onballers, but the half-forwards for the Falcons in Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield provide better rotation, though Daniel Kerr coming off the bench and Elliot Yeo rotating through there would be electric.

Who does Cameron Ling tag?

Imagine being the Falcons coach and having to pick just one player to saddle up Ling alongside with given all the rest will likely get off the chain. The first impression would be Black as the most damaging, but Cousins is another option in there as someone who must be stopped. Jordan Lewis could even play a defensive role, whilst the likes of Dom Cassisi and Josh Carr coming off the bench would likely follow around Dangerfield and Bartel.

Are the defences too tall?

It would be an interesting proposition for the coaches seemingly having two key position players in each forward line, but three key defenders. Chances are, the Sharks may throw Cale Hooker forward, which gives Lachlan Henderson a matchup, otherwise Henderson goes in without a direct player to man for his size. The Falcons might opt to bring in young guns James Worpel and Sam Walsh, but with these kinds of midfields, chances are they would not play in their preferred position. For the Sharks, they have David Swallow who is waiting in the wings, but with midfield depth for days, it is hard to squeeze them all in.

OVERALL:

This match is an absolute cracker with elite players across both sides. You get the feeling that Geelong’s elite group stretches a little more, but the East Fremantle side has greater depth in the right areas. Either of these teams could win on the day and it is fair to say they would bring in a full house with this kind of star power on show.

Which All-Star Team is the best?
East Fremantle
Geelong Falcons
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: East Fremantle vs. Murray Bushrangers

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for an intriguing semi final clash, set to play out between a West Australian talent factory, and a powerhouse Victorian region in East Fremantle and the Murray Bushrangers respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were West Coast Eagles champion Ben Cousins (East Fremantle) and current Collingwood star, Steele Sidebottom (Murray).

These clubs are seeded first (East Fremantle) and fourth (Murray) respectively, as the seed gap between each side closes with each passing fixture. The proposed Bushrangers squad outvoted Sturt, the Oakleigh Chargers and Northern Knights, while East Fremantle’s path to this stage came through the Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons after a first round bye. The winner will qualify for the Grand Final, set to face either the Port Adelaide Magpies or Geelong Falcons.

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TALKING POINTS

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

This one should be fairly straightforward, as East Fremantle arguably boasts the strongest starting midfield group in the draw. With Brownlow medalists and AFL premiership players, Cousins and Simon Black joined by current Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps at the centre bounces, it’s hard to see any side beating that kind of balance through the engine room. Cripps provides the inside grunt, while Black is the silk, and Cousins the gut-running accumulator. Fremantle champion Paul Hasleby has even been pushed out to a wing, partnering the late Chris Mainwaring.

That’s not to say that Murray lags in the midfield department, with David Mundy, Clayton Oliver, and Tom Rockliff no slouches by any stretch. Add the running power of Sidebottom and dynamism of Brett Deledio on the outer, and you have a seriously talented group. While we would still take the Sharks’ starting centre bounce trio, what really sets them apart in this matchup is their depth. Not only have Elliot Yeo (half-back) and Andrew Swallow (half-forward) been squeezed out to the flanks, but the likes of Daniel Kerr, Shane Woewodin, Dom Cassisi, and Shaun McManus also remain on the interchange. Murray would be able to rotate Jack Ziebell and Steve Johnson through from the forwardline, but that kind of firepower is near-impossible to match.

You could hardly build a better midfield core if you tried than what East Fremantle lays claim to, so the Sharks clearly get the points in this midfield battle. With a balance of class, grunt, endurance, and depth, it’s everything you could ask for.

THE KEY POSITION STOCKS:

As has been the case with many of Murray’s matchups, its starting key position spine is arguably weaker than the opposition offering, but depth seems to give the Bushies a deal of versatility which cannot be matched. East Fremantle lays claim to Luke McPharlin and Harry Taylor down back, with Paddy Ryder accompanying Josh J. Kennedy up forward, and Aaron Sandilands taking on the ruck duties. Bigman Darren Bennett also features in the forward pocket, potentially able to fill Ryder’s spot once the Port player gives Sandilands a chop-out on the ball. With McPharlin and Taylor also know to swing forward at times, the Sharks have a pretty handy rotation, with Cale Hooker also in the mix.

But Murray’s may well be better through a sheer weight of options. Where East Fremantle may struggle for numbers, the Bushrangers thrive, able to fit a bunch of pieces to its key position puzzle. Ben Reid and Alipate Carlile make up the defensive pairing, while Barry Hall and Jarrad Waite are a solid forward combination. Add Fraser Gehrig and ruckman Steven King to the mix, and the spine is quite good. The difference makers come from the bench though, with Ben McEvoy and Justin Koschitzke both able to plug gaps through the ruck or up either end, while Sam Reid could also prove a handy swingman – much like his brother.

By way of its diversity and superior range of options, Murray takes out the key position battle overall, even if East Fremantle’s starters arguably hold a slight edge.

SUMMARY:

To cut a long story short, we’re backing our first seed to qualify for the Grand Final. As one of the most prolific producers of high-level West Australian talent, East Fremantle simply boasts too much class for many sides to handle. Murray matches up well, and may even get ahead in some areas, but would not be able to match the Sharks where it matters most, in midfield. They’re strong everywhere else too, and will be difficult to top in the decider.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
East Fremantle Sharks
Murray Bushrangers
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Geelong Falcons vs. Port Adelaide Magpies

IT is getting serious now. The final four in the Draft Central All-Star Team matchup are the top four seeds which means it is only the best of the best. The four sides are evenly matched with two Victorian teams, as well as one from South Australia and one from Western Australia. In our first semi-final today, we look at Geelong Falcons up against Port Adelaide Magpies.

TEAM COMPARISON

Geelong Falcons have had the most players of any club reach the AFL, with 153 having made it to the elite level (including those yet to make their debut). The Port Adelaide Magpies are lower down the list with 92, but with an average of 82.5 games between them, the Magpies are ranked second – behind our top seeds East Fremantle (83.1). Even more remarkably, Port Adelaide has had one third (34 per cent) of the players who have passed through the club to go on to reach 100 games, agains second of the top sides with this feat.

The Falcons are still great with 25 per cent, but it is the Brownlow votes and premierships where Geelong comes to play. They sit third of the teams with 50 players or more in the system, averaging 11.2 Brownlow votes per person, third overall behind Port and East Fremantle. They have had 18 premiership players, three more than the Magpies, and only 24 per cent of their graduates fail to play a game at AFL level (28 per cent Port).

Overall both these sides are clearly in the top three overall for top-end quality.

CAPTAINS

The two captains are legends of the game in Geelong superstar Gary Ablett Jnr (Geelong Falcons), and one of Collingwood’s best of all-time and current coach, Nathan Buckley (Port Adelaide Magpies). Ablett has won two Brownlow Medals, eight All-Australians, five Most Valuable Players (MVPs), six best and fairests, three AFL Coaches Association Awards, and two premierships. Buckley has won one Brownlow Medal, one Rising Star Award, seven All-Australians, six best and fairests, one Norm Smith Medal and one AFL Coaches Association award.

GEELONG DEFENCE vs. PORT ATTACK

We begin breaking down this match up by looking at the Falcons’ defence going head-to-head with Port Adelaide’s attack. Full-back Matthew Scarlett will likely play a sweeper role opposed to Clive Waterhouse, but could go up and match-up with Warren Tredrea if he starts to get out of hand. Will Schofield might find himself without a pure matchup, but realistically, he could be the one to go to Waterhouse, Scarlett to Tredrea, and allow Tom Stewart to be the intercepting force.

With Nick Maxwell there to come across as third man up, expect Maxwell to take the least dangerous forward, which in fairness is arguably Brett Ebert. Steven Baker would likely lockdown on Alan Didak, with Luke Hodge going head-to-head with Lindsay Thomas, knowing the former Hawks skipper could run off his opponent whilst doing enough defensively to remain accountable. Tredrea’s ability to take contested marks would be dependent on his teammates’ abilities to remain accountable on their direct opponents. Peter Burgoyne could be the damaging option at half-forward to try and make Stewart more accountable as well and the Port midfield would look to hit him up going forward.

GEELONG ATTACK vs. PORT DEFENCE

Geelong’s forward 50 is ridiculous filled with talent, and could be an All-Australian forward line – right down to the midfielders named on flanks. Having the luxury to play elite midfielders in Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield there is amazing, while Shaun Higgins would be free given he would have less attention than usual with the stars at half-forward. Luke Dahlhaus is the other pocket who is always damaging around goal, and would love roving at the feet of one of the greatest centre half-forwards in Jonathan Brown, as well as champion Bomber, Scott Lucas.

The key for Port Adelaide here is the matchups, because they have so many elite kicks and composed decision makers, that they can also put the Falcons on the back foot if Geelong goes ball-watching in attack. Andrew McLeod, Corey Enright and Gavin Wanganeen coming out of the back 50 – keeping in mind Buckley could roll back there as well – and any loose ball could be picked up and hitting a target back up the field. The counter attack by the Magpies would be sublime. Graham Johncock himself is more than capable too, but he will likely play a more defensive role to keep Higgins or Dahlhaus under wraps.

The key defensive posts in the Wakelin brothers – Shane and Darryl – would have big jobs, but expect Enright to come across as that third option to mark in front of Brown or Lucas. The fact we could see McLeod on Dangerfield would simply be mouth watering, and whichever one of Enright, Wanganeen and McLeod is not taking Ablett or Dangerfield would be the designated user from defence.

MIDFIELD BATTLE

Much like everywhere else, this is a beauty. You would hand the points to Matthew Primus over Scott Lycett in the battle of the big men, but an onball group of Buckley, Craig Bradley and Scott Thompson is great, but then you compare them to Jimmy Bartel, Travis Boak and Cameron Ling. One would expect Ling would go to Buckley to tag as the best user of Port’s trio, whilst the speed of Shaun Burgoyne on the wing would be great against Jack Steven of the Falcons. On the other wing, Jordan Lewis and Byron Pickett will go head-to-head and everyone knows neither player will back down.

Of that midfield group, you would hand the points to Geelong because of the depth – keeping in mind Ablett and Dangerfield could role through there – despite Port having the elite talents at the top-end in Buckley and Bradley.

DEPTH

Again Geelong have the edge in terms of midfield depth with the likes of Ben Cunnington and Taylor Adams just sitting on the pine. Lachlan Henderson is also there and capable of taking a Tredrea or Waterhouse to free up one of the rebounding defenders, whilst Maguire is another option. They do not have as many forward options as the Power, so would rely on the midfielders to hit the scoreboard.

On the other bench, Port have plenty of forward options with Scott Hodges kicking 100 goals in 38 games, as well as Brad Ebert a known goal kicker as a mid-forward. Che Cockatoo-Collins kicked more than 200 goals in his career, whilst further up the field, Darren Mead, Michael Wilson and Greg Anderson would assist the Magpies with depth.

OVERALL

This is as tough as it gets. As a general rule of thumb it looks like skill against hardness but that is not to say the opposite teams do not have plenty of the other. Port Adelaide is the most skilful side through this series, whilst Geelong has arguably the greatest top-end talent and balance across the ground. The Falcons are second seed to the Magpies’ third, but you can easily make a case for either side getting up in this one.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
Geelong Falcons
Port Adelaide Magpies
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Murray Bushrangers vs. Northern Knights

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between Victorian regions, in the Murray Bushrangers and Northern Knights. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were current Collingwood star, Steele Sidebottom (Murray) and the AFL’s games record holder, Brent Harvey (Northern).

These clubs are seeded fourth (Murray) and fifth (Northern) respectively, as the gap closes to its narrowest margin yet in our overall draw. The proposed Bushrangers squad outvoted Sturt and the Oakleigh Chargers, while Northern’s path to this stage came through Norwood and Swan Districts. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face either East Fremantle or the Sandringham Dragons.

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TALKING POINTS

THE REBOUNDERS:

Both defences are stacked, as one would come to expect at this stage of the draw, with rebounding quality a clear strength across either back six. The Stingrays are well stocked in the running department, as flankers Jack Crisp and Jarrod Harbrow are supported by Joel Smith and Zac Williams on the last line. While Harbrow and Williams possess pure pace to break the lines, Smith and Crisp are reliable users by foot who can create in transition. Add the endurance of Sidebottom and power of Brett Deledio up on either wing, and there threatens to be some serious force behind Murray’s attacking play.

But the Knights are also well stocked, with the Shaw brothers – Rhyce and Heath – both sure to generate some forward momentum out of defensive 50. Fellow former Magpie Ben Johnson has a weaponous left peg, while Chris Johnson provides a good balance to the back six alongside Dylan Grimes, and Nick Vlaustin off the bench. Further afield, the likes of Leigh Montagna, David Zaharakis, and Brent Stanton will run all day between the arcs, with Paul Licuria another who accumulates with ease.

Ultimately, it’s clear both sides have serious run in their legs, particularly in defence. But given Northern’s elite runners further afield allow for a greater balance in the defensive setup, we give the Knights a big tick in that third of the ground.

THE KEY POSITION STOCKS:

Northern’s spine has an ominous look about it, propped up by four formidable key position starters. Collingwood fans would get a good hit of nostalgia seeing Simon Prestigiacomo and Anthony Rocca line up at opposite ends, accompanied by Michael Hurley and Lance Whitnall respectively. In terms of starting stocks, particularly in defence, the Knights arguably have Murray covered. Jarrad Waite and Barry Hall stack up well inside forward 50, with Ben Reid and Alipate Carlile up the other end for the Bushrangers.

However, the country region seems to gain an edge in terms of depth, laying claim to some high level bench depth. Ben McEvoy and Justin Koschitzke, who can both rotate through the ruck or at either end of the ground, make for sound back-up, along with Fraser Gehrig hidden in the forward pocket. The ruck duel between Murray’s Steven King and Northern’s Matthew Kreuzer is difficult to split, so it seems Murray has the greater weight of options in the tall department.

THE DEEP MIDFIELDS:

As is the case with almost every side seeded in the top 10, the midfields run deep. Northern’s centre bounce starters jump off the page, with Adam Simpson at the core alongside Trent Cotchin and Marcus Bontempelli. Murray’s selection of David Mundy, Clayton Oliver, and Tom Rockliff is solid in its own right, but doesn’t quite compare to what the Knights have to offer. On the outer, Sidebottom and Deledio ensure Northern’s Montagna and Licuria will be in for a tough day at the office, while the options of Jack Ziebell and Steve Johnson linger up forward. Northern also has options, with Harvey and Josh Caddy among those able to add a spark when required. This is a tough one given Murray’s range of options once again, compared to the weight of elite talent on Northern’s side.

SUMMARY:

As the rankings would suggest, there is hardly anything to split these two sides. Northern was a prolific talent region throughout the 90s and early-2000s, hence why so many of their All-Stars are already household names. Murray has long been a hotbed of talent as far as regional areas go, and it clearly shows in its well-balanced, well-stocked side. In a flip of the coin, and given the areas touched on above, I am taking Northern.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
Murray Bushrangers
Northern Knights
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Port Adelaide Magpies vs. Dandenong Stingrays

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between powerhouse South Australian and Victorian clubs, in the Port Adelaide Magpies and Dandenong Stingrays respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood champion and current coach Nathan Buckley (Port Adelaide), and fan favourite goalkicker Brendan Fevola (Dandenong).

These clubs are seeded third (Port Adelaide) and sixth (Dandenong) respectively, with the competition getting as tight as ever. Our proposed Stingrays squad outvoted Central District and West Adelaide, while Port’s path to this stage came through Peel Thunder and the Gippsland Power. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face either South Fremantle or the Geelong Falcons.

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TALKING POINTS

THE DEFENSIVE STRUCTURES:

You’ll be hard-pressed to not only find a pair of defences with more talent, but also two sets of six with a better balance than what Port and Dandenong have to offer. They match up so well in size, skill, and versatility, with not one player out of place.

A big tick for the Magpies’ selections is the amount of class apparent, with the flankers and pocketmen all sublime users of the ball. Brownlow medalists Gavin Wanganeen and Andrew McLeod are both just as capable further afield, but fit in nicely alongside Geelong great Corey Enright and Crows cult figure Graham Johncock. Aside from the Wakelin brothers up the spine, the only real knock on Port’s defence is its lack of height, though the defensive combativeness of Enright and Johncock makes up for it.

Dandenong’s back six ticks a lot of boxes too; with a couple of true key position players who can also swing up the other end, a small lockdown option, a runner, a sharp user by foot, and an enforcer. Trent Croad and Justin Leppitsch are the tall options, with Adam McPhee providing added physical presence, while Austinn Jones and Chris Newman are club favourites who can both break the lines and mop up at ground level. Add Michael Hibberd‘s classy ball use on the rebound, and you have a pretty complete defence.

While Port Adelaide’s troops may just take our vote on a pure player-to-player comparison basis, Dandenong’s mix makes them difficult to look past. This is a tough one.

SILK VS. RUNNING POWER:

There are many effective ways to quickly gain meterage, whether it be through efficient disposal, pure running power, or a combination of the two. In reviewing some of the outside movers on either side, it seems they may differ slightly in their attacking methods. For Dandenong, the likes of Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully, and Travis Johnstone all provide a great mix of speed and endurance, able to transfer the ball forward or provide outlets in transition through sheer gut running. Treloar, Shiel, and Johnstone in particular are known to carry the ball, while Scully is your outside endurance machine, and Whitfield boasts arguably the best balance of the lot.

For Port, it’s the silk that shines through. The near-untouchable pairing of McLeod and Wanganeen can carve up the opposition and set up attacks from the back half, combining their speed with phenomenal skill. Enright, too, has a good balance in his game to provide a similar rebounding quality. The quality remains further afield, as both Burgoyne brothers are prolific decision makers with ball in hand, and Byron Pickett a damaging momentum generator. If that kind of class can’t get them through, the Magpies can match Dandenong’s run through midfield too, with Buckley and Craig Bradley able to accumulate and break lines all day long.

THE FORWARD BALANCE:

The ledger may be quite even in an array of areas, but finding small flaws is key to separating such well-matched sides. When viewing the Dandenong forwardline, it may seem like a high-level bunch on paper, but to us it’s only half-perfect. The twin talls in Fevola and Tom Lynch make for an elite combination, especially with Stephen Milne at their feet. But the remaining forwards – Treloar, Shiel, and Shane Savage – just don’t fit the bill in their given positions, despite being great players elsewhere.

This is especially evident when compared to Port Adelaide’s balance, which boasts two true key position targets, but a more complete array of ground level players. Alan Didak and Lindsay Thomas are very crafty in front of goal, while Peter Burgoyne and Brett Ebert are much more true half-forwards. It makes for a better structure up forward, and gives the Magpies a big tick in that department despite Dandenong’s weight of talent on paper.

SUMMARY:

There is plenty to like about both sides, which is exactly why they both feature among our top six seeds. A superior ruck department and serious running power steals some points for Dandenong, but we feel the greater balance and overall class of Port Adelaide’s team is enough to nab our vote in this matchup.

Which All-Star Team do you think would win?
Port Adelaide Magpies
Dandenong Stingrays
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Geelong Falcons vs. South Fremantle

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between a powerhouse Victorian region and West Australian club, in the Geelong Falcons and South Fremantle Bulldogs, respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were ‘the little master’ Gary Ablett Jnr (Geelong Falcons) and West Coast great Peter Matera (South Fremantle).

These clubs are seeded second (Geelong Falcons) and 10th (South Fremantle) respectively, meaning the Bulldogs will be made to pull off another upset in order to advance. Our proposed Falcons squad outvoted the Greater Western Victoria Rebels after a first-round bye, while South’s path to this stage came through Claremont and the Bendigo Pioneers. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face the Port Adelaide Magpies/Dandenong Stingrays.

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TALKING POINTS

THE STINGY DEFENCES:

While there lies plenty more glitz and glamour further afield, a solid starting point is the stingy defences of either side. Geelong’s is one of the best of the lot, boasting premiership skippers Luke Hodge and Nick Maxwell at half-back, while Geelong pair Matthew Scarlett and Tom Stewart take up the key position posts, and Steven Baker takes up the opposite pocket of Will Schofield. If you’re left wanting more, the versatile Lachlan Henderson and Matt McGuire await rotation from the bench, potentially adding a touch more height to deal with monster key forwards. The marking power is evident, as is the pure defensive nous, and leadership in spades. Baker’s addition also adds a much-needed small option, able to lockdown the liveliest of opposition forwards.

We feared there would be no match for the Geelong defence, but alas, South Fremantle’s back six comes in strong. The Bulldogs lay claim to a premiership captain of their own, in outgoing Essendon coach and Eagles champion John Worsfold, who slots in alongside fellow West Coast great Glen Jakovich at half-back. With the ever-reliable Darren Gaspar and James Clement behind them, it would take something special to penetrate South Freo’s last line. Let’s not forget Paul Duffield in the pocket, along with ‘Miracle on Grass’ hero Ash McGrath at half-back, who add a different dimension to the back six.

On paper, these defences are difficult to split. Balance is a key aspect to the equation, slightly favouring South, but versatility looks to clearly be in Geelong’s favour, with the bench depth allowing for a good range of possible lineups. The players themselves, namely Hodge, Maxwell, and Stewart can play a variety of roles down back both below and above their heights, but the key position strength remains. We’re sticking with the Falcons here, just.

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

Two contrasting midfields also do battle when these sides line up, with the Geelong side boasting a rich vein of ball winners, while South Fremantle’s prime movers are most significantly based on the outer. Local Cats premiership players Cameron Ling and Jimmy Bartel feature at the heart of Geelong’s engine room alongside Travis Boak, making for a durable trio which balances both sides of the game well. South also lays claim to a tagging centreman in Clinton Jones, who is joined by Fremantle stalwart Peter Bell and current Eagles star, Tim Kelly. In terms of credentials at the centre bounce, Geelong takes the chocolates. That’s without touching on the ruck battle, which looks to also favour Geelong as Matthew Primus opposes Jaymie Graham.

But on the outside is where it gets interesting, with Matera and Nicky Winmar making for one hell of a fine wing pairing. Jordan Lewis and Jack Steven are no slouches, but would have their hands well and truly full with those two for opposition. Steven’s prime running power would serve him well, as would Lewis’ hardness and ball use, but we feel the Bulldogs have their counterparts found out in this area.

Then there is the question of depth, which will also spawn a later talking point. Geelong could well make up three or four centre bounce combinations to rival that of every club, but see many of their midfield options squeezed out to flanks or the bench. While South Fremantle’s proposed engine room is the cream of its crop, Geelong has the like of Patrick Dangerfield, Ablett Jnr, and Shaun Higgins up forward, while Taylor Adams, Ben Cunnington, and Devon Smith remain benched. That kind of depth is scary, and proves another tick for the stacked Falcons side.

THE FORWARD BALANCE:

As alluded to, the weight of Geelong’s midfield depth somewhat hinders its balance on other lines, namely up forward. While the likes of Dangerfield and Ablett Jnr are both no strangers to the forward 50, their work as midfielders is what they are primarily known for. Add Higgins into the mix, and that’s three of the four flanks/pockets filled up by improvised forwards. Luckily, they may not be needed much at ground level with Scott Lucas and Jonathan Brown in the key position posts.

But we feel the balance of South Fremantle’s front six looks much better. Peter Sumich is a terrific spearhead, aided aerially and in strength by Brad Hardie and Allen Jakovich, while true smalls in Phillip Matera and Jeff Farmer are joined by Mark Williams, who made the ‘shotgun’ celebration famous (or, infamous). Add Andrew Krakouer and Ashley Sampi to the mix off the bench, and you have a truly dynamic forward set-up, laden with x-factor and match winners. It gives the Bulldogs a good edge over Geelong, despite its overspill of talent.

SUMMARY:

While South Fremantle lays claim to some important points of difference over the second-ranked Geelong side, it is difficult to look past the Falcons’ weight of elite talent. Geelong’s midfield and defence come up trumps, and there is plenty of firepower up forward despite a lesser structure when compared to South’s. We’re taking the Falcons.

Which All-Star Team do you think would win?
Geelong Falcons
South Fremantle
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: East Fremantle vs. Sandringham Dragons

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for the first quarter final clash, set to play out between a West Australian club and a Victorian region, in East Fremantle and the Sandringham Dragons respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were 2006 West Coast premiership teammates, Ben Cousins (East Fremantle) and Chris Judd (Sandringham).

These clubs are seeded first (East Fremantle) and eighth (Sandringham) respectively, forming an intriguing final eight clash in our draw. Our proposed Sharks squad outvoted the Calder Cannons after a first-round bye, while Sandringham’s path to this stage came through East Perth and Glenelg. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face the Northern Knights/Murray Bushrangers.

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TALKING POINTS

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

Where do we even begin with this East Fremantle side? The most obvious strength is its midfield, with a terrific balance among the centre bounce trio of Patrick Cripps, Simon Black, and Cousins. Cripps provides the inside grunt, while Black is the silk, and Cousins the hard-running accumulator. All three are terrific leaders too, but boy do they have support in spades. The trio of Paul Hasleby (wing), Elliot Yeo (half-back), and Andrew Swallow (half-forward), who have all been squeezed out, could well make up the midfield of a second Sharks All-Star side. That is not to mention those on the bench, with Brownlow medalist Shane Woewodin joined by Daniel Kerr as the rotational x-factor, while Dom Cassisi adds to the strong leadership core alongside Fremantle icon Shaun McManus. Perhaps most ominously of all, they will follow under the ruckwork of 211cm giant, Aaron Sandilands.

But if there is any side that can go pound-for-pound with any other midfield stock, it is Sandringham. The Dragons will fancy their chances of matching the Sharks for inside grunt, with Josh P. Kennedy and Luke Ball joined in the middle by Judd, who transitioned into a contested beast later in his career, at Carlton. Add Jobe Watson to the mix, as well as Angus Brayshaw, Tim Taranto, and Jarryd Lyons off the bench. Like East Fremantle, Sandringham also boasts a few elites squeezed out of the prime positions, with Andy McGrath out at half-back and Josh Kelly at half-forward. Meanwhile, Zac Merrett takes up a wing, tasked with matching the run and flair of Chris Mainwaring.

With the question of depth a non-factor at this point, it is difficult to seperate these two midfields. In terms of experience, accolades, and runs on the board, East Fremantle seems to sneak ahead – especially given six of the 11 names listed above for Sandringham are still playing out their careers. Furthermore, the Sharks seem to have an edge in terms of balance, with the run of Cousins, Kerr, and Mainwaring in particular greater than what any Dragon can offer, while the honest ball winners remain. Sandringham’s big asset, its inside power, is arguably matched too, especially with the likes of Hasleby and Yeo destined to rotate through the engine room. Max Gawn makes for a terrific adversary against Sandilands and beats him around the ground, but not in the ruck contest, which is crucial with such class to utilise at ground level.

THE SPINE:

The respective spines also provide a key area of interest, with champions scattered throughout, but one side coming out a clear winner in our eyes. There is not much you could do to improve the Sharks’ key position set-up, with Luke McPharlin and Harry Taylor making for a formidable defensive partnership, while Josh J. Kennedy and Paddy Ryder line up down the other end. Sure, Ryder is more of a ruckman, but the swingman support of Cale Hooker slots in as well should the latter fall to the bench. The versatility of Hooker, McPharlin, and Taylor is also handy, given all three have been known to swing forward from time to time.

Sandringham answers with goals in spades among its two key position forwards, with the career tallies of Tom Hawkins and Jack Gunston outweighing that of their counterparts in Kennedy and Ryder. However, the defensive pairing is perhaps what sets the two sides apart the most. Ted Richards is a fine centre half-back option, and St Kilda stalwart Jason Blake was a terrific servant in his own right, but both come up slightly undersized against East Fremantle’s monster forwards. That is not to say the likes of Tom LangdonBrayden Maynard, and Simon Beaumont could not provide aerial support, but in a pure man-on-man scenario, that factor gives the Sharks the edge in this department.

SUMMARY:

The competition is getting tighter by the round among our All-Star teams, and this is one of the closest calls yet. But given the two areas identified which see East Fremantle come out on top, we are inclined to stick with the Sharks. As the number one seed, they simply boast a greater amount of depth, and match up well against the key strengths of Sandringham here.

Which All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era are you picking?
East Fremantle
Sandringham Dragons
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Northern Knights vs. Swan Districts

OUR next All-Star Team battle is the final one of the Round of 16 between a Victorian club and a West Australian club, in the Northern Knights and Swan Districts. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were AFL games record holder, Brent Harvey (Northern Knights) and Richmond full-back, Alex Rance (Swan Districts).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded fifth (Northern Knights) and 12th (Swan Districts) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face the Murray Bushrangers/Oakleigh Chargers.

STRENGTHS:

The Knights have a really underrated squad when it comes to this series simply because there are not too many weaknesses. The Knights’ spine is A-grade quality from the key defenders in Simon Prestigiacomo and Michael Hurley, to the key forwards in Anthony Rocca and Lance Whitnall. Though that is not to take anything away from the midfield with Marcus Bontempelli, Trent Cotchin and Adam Simpson a really well balanced core with different strengths.

For the Swans, they have an elite starting midfield. Nic Naitanui in the ruck, with Stephen Coniglio, Michael Walters and Andrew Embley at the stoppages, you would back them in to win the midfield battle. Up forward, the likes of Charlie Cameron and Jeff Garlett would create havoc at the feet of their key forwards, while Lewis Jetta‘s elite kicking and Rance’s intercepting ability means they have some strong players across the field.

WEAKNESSES:

There are not really any weaknesses with the Knights. If you had to be picky you could argue the lack of wingers, given Leigh Montagna and Paul Licuria are more inside ball winners, and while both Blake Caracella and David Zaharakis could play on the wing, it leaves the forward line a little short. Overall though, the depth is pretty sound.

For the Swans, it is that depth and little pockets in different parts of the field where they just fall short. They could match it with the Knights in the midfield, but outside of that, they would be stretched in different areas of the field.

SUMMARY:

The Knights would be favoured in this one for a bit more balance across the ground. Swan Districts has an elite midfield, and some star talent around the ground, but the depth of the Knights would be a bit too much.

Who would you pick?
Northern Knights
Swan Districts
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Dandenong Stingrays vs. West Adelaide

OUR next All-Star Team battle is between Victoria and Adelaide, as the Dandenong Stingrays and West Adelaide face-off. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Carlton full-forward, Brendan Fevola (Dandenong Stingrays) and Adelaide champion, Mark Ricciuto (West Adelaide).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded sixth (Dandenong Stingrays) and 11th (West Adelaide) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face the Port Adelaide Magpies.

STRENGTHS:

The Stingrays have a number of strengths, but it is hard to look past the spine. With Trent Croad and Justin Leppitsch holding down key defensive positions and Tom J. Lynch and Fevola being the twin towers up forward, they have enough talls to control the airways. Further to that, they have one of the best small forwards of all time in Stephen Milne, and a ridiculously deep midfield with Matthew Boyd, Luke Parker and Nathan Jones providing the hardness, and Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel providing the run.

The West Adelaide starting 18 is very strong, particularly in midfield and defence. Ben Rutten and Sam Fisher form a stingy key position pairing down back, supported by the likes of Rory Laird and Beau Waters among the six. It gets even better in the engine room, led by skipper Ricciuto, who is joined by fellow Brownlow medalist Adam Cooney on the ball. Adelaide 300-gamer Tyson Edwards is also among the action, while Shaun Rehn was a straightforward choice for the ruck duties.

WEAKNESSES:

The Stingrays do not have too many weaknesses in the line-up with a real honest group of players across the field. If you were to be picky, you would say another small forward or two would be handy, because aside from Milne and Shane Savage – who realistically has been turned into a defender – the Stingrays are relying on their midfielders to rotate up forward.

Scott Welsh featured as an 188cm centre-half forward for the Bloods, though he has swapped with Rhys Stanley up forward, and pure excellence of Tony Modra. While the starting 18 is very solid, West Adelaide’s bench depth is decent, but does not feature as many world beaters.

SUMMARY:

Both these sides have elite key position talent and would have some dream matchups across the field. Dandenong has a bit more depth and a better balance across midfield and in defence, while the Bloods have a more potent small forward line. Expect the Stingrays to win, but it would be close.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
Dandenong Stingrays
West Adelaide
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Murray Bushrangers vs. Oakleigh Chargers

OUR next All-Star Team battle is between two Victorian clubs, in the Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood midfielder, Steele Sidebottom (Murray Bushrangers) and West Coast counterpart, Luke Shuey (Oakleigh Chargers).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded fourth (Murray) and 13th (Oakleigh) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face the winner of Northern Knights and Swan Districts.

STRENGTHS:

Where do you start with the Bushrangers? The balance they have across the field is ridiculously good. They have a nice balance of midfielders, plenty of depth at key positions, and a plethora of hard and skilful midfielders. That is before you get to a forward line containing Fraser Gehrig, Barry Hall and Jarrad Waite who provide a three-prong attack to die for. The midfield of Sidebottom, Clayton Oliver, David Mundy, Tom Rockliff and Brett Deledio is just perfect for matching up on any other midfield.

The Chargers have an elite midfield that bats really deep, from the inside talents of Jack Macrae and Dan Hannebery with Marc Murphy, to the outside run of Shuey and Andrew Gaff. The forward line is damaging with the likes of Robbie Gray, Toby Greene, Jordan De Goey and Jack Billings joining Luke Power. With Darcy Moore as centre half-back and Josh Gibson coming across as the third tall, the defence should have great intercepting ability, whilst Todd Goldstein will control the ruck.

The battle of the midfields would be unbelievable, though the Bushrangers would back their defence in against a dynamic Chargers’ forward line.

WEAKNESSES:

There really is not one on paper for the Bushrangers. Genuinely their depth goes beyond the squad of 24, with the initial team featuring Josh Fraser who could also come in and replace one of the rucks going around. The only question mark might be the durability of some players with the Reid brothers – Ben and Sam – as well as Jamie Elliott and Justin Koschitzke all having their injury troubles over the years.

The Chargers lack a little in defence, with Bret Thornton the second best key position player, and the depth for small defenders being a little weaker than other sides. Their forward line is undersized, though still provides X-factor, but would need to use the ball well with a lack of height in there.

SUMMARY:

In this match-up you would expect the Bushrangers to stretch the Chargers’ backline, but at the same time, the speed of the Chargers forward line would trouble the taller defenders there, meaning there is every chance one of the Bushrangers’ key position stocks would drop out and a small come in.

Which team would you pick?
Murray Bushrangers
Oakleigh Chargers
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