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Time for the All Australian selectors to get ruthless

Updated: May 2, 2021

Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield, and Marcus Bontempelli shouldn’t be All Australian starters in 2020.

That’s not a criticism of them, but a reflection of how difficult it should be to earn a starting place.

A starting 18 consists of six defenders, six midfielders, and six forwards. The six midfielders are broken down into a ruckman, three on-ballers, and two wingers.

The 2020 All Australian starting 18 has eight on-ballers. They may as well call it the All Stars.

You can argue that most teams start with more than three on-ballers. Whilst that’s true, every position deserves a fair go.

Dan Butler and Tom Papley didn’t miss out because they weren’t top-two forward pockets, they missed out because there wasn’t room for Dustin Martin in the midfield. That’s unjust.

Butler was the number one pressure forward this year

Dusty may put up better numbers overall than those two, but when you’re picking him in the forward pocket, what he does outside of that position is largely irrelevant. He wasn’t a better forward pocket than Dan Butler or Tom Papley.

Marcus Bontempelli and Patrick Dangerfield kicked 11 goals each, are they the numbers of top-six forwards?

Jack Gunston kicked 31 goals to finish equal third in the Coleman Medal, and only went goalless in two games. Clearly the numbers of a top-six forward, but he missed out on a half-forward spot because Bontempelli and Dangerfield couldn’t be squeezed into the middle.

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Speaking on SEN this morning, All Australian selector Glen Jakovich cited the “impact” the likes of Dangerfield and Bontempelli have going forward warranting their selection as forwards.

How can impact override body-of-work when Matt Rowell didn’t receive a single vote in the NAB Rising Star due to his body-of-work, despite having far greater impact than any nominee? It’s a blatant contradiction.

Jack Macrae spent 4% of game time on the wing in 2020, yet was named as a winger in the All Australian side.

His impact on the wing must’ve been astronomical considering he got the nod over genuine wingers Sam Menegola (elite for goals, intercept possessions, contested marks), Andrew Gaff (elite for disposals, intercept possessions, marks), and Hugh McCluggage (elite for goals assists, score involvements, marks inside 50).

Breakout Cat Menegola was a more than deserving All Australian

Named on the other wing was Cam Guthrie, who spent 17% of his game time on the wing, making him the most genuine winger that’s been selected over the last two years. That's plain disrespect.

Lachie Neale, Travis Boak, and Christian Petracca were selected as the three best on-ballers. That means Dangerfield, Bontempelli, Martin, Macrae, and Guthrie should miss out on a starting spot.

On-ballers naturally rack up more impressive numbers than any other position, but every position is equally important. It’s time the All Australian selectors recognised that, and made the ruthless calls that come with it.

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