The votes have been counted and the inaugural 22under22 team has been finalised. There’s been plenty of heated debate but in the end, the people have spoken. Thousands of footy fans made their thoughts clear via Facebook and Twitter, and in our opinion, they’ve done a pretty good job. As always, a number of players were unlucky to miss out – but it’s hard to argue against the ones who made it. If you’ve got some doubts, check out the explanations below. Don’t like the results? Make sure you vote and ensure your voice is heard next year!
The blonde Tiger averaged more than 18 possessions and five marks per match this season and is set to make a permanent transition from half-back to the midfield. He has a proven ability finding the footy, racking up 39 and 35 disposals in games against Melbourne and Essendon respectively this year. His pace and smart ball-use look set to become a hallmark of Richmond’s midfield for years to come.
Success is built on a solid defence, and in 2013 Rory Thompson played a huge part in Gold Coast’s rise up the ladder. His side had the second-highest ‘points against’ column in 2012, but improved on that dramatically in 2013. Thompson’s ability to consistently shut the opposition’s best key forward out of the game each week had plenty to do with this.
After winning the ‘Rising Star’ Award last season, Talia again showed an ability to shut down some of the competition’s best key forwards. The 196cm Crow finished the year with more kicks, marks, handballs, rebound-50s and inside-50s than in 2012, despite playing less games.
Sidebottom proved to be Collingwood’s ‘Mr Fix-it’ this year, playing roles in the midfield, forward line and back half throughout various stages of 2013. He’s named as a defender in the 22under22 team, but could realistically slot in anywhere. The clever Magpie averaged more than 24 possessions, five marks and three tackles per game.
The 198cm Bomber was pivotal in Essendon’s surge up the AFL ladder during the first half of 2013. Nicknamed ‘Buckets’ due to his ability to take strong, one-grab marks, Carlisle looked at ease against the game’s best tall forwards in the first half of the year before being utilised as a swingman in the latter part of the season. He averaged more than 14 possessions, six marks and two rebound 50s per game throughout.
One of the best kicks in the game, ‘The Cannon’ had his best season yet. McKenzie averaged more than 14 kicks, five marks and five rebound 50s in 2013, proving to be one of the Suns’ best rebounding defenders. He also showed a great understanding of the game when played as a loose man in defence, best evidenced by his 24-possession performance in the Round 17 win against Collingwood.
Entering the 2013 season with a stronger frame than in previous seasons, the high-flying kid from Lake Grace became one of the game’s premium inside midfielders. Fyfe averaged more than 25 disposals, 13 contested posessions per game and led the Dockers in centre clearances throughout 2013.
The surfy-haired Bomber has gone from strength to strength since winning the ‘Rising Star’ Award in his debut season in 2011. Now a permanent midfielder, Heppell’s toughness on the inside of the contest complements his natural ability to read the play and pick out the best option available. He brings plenty of composure to the 22under22 midfield.
The young Swan backed up his incredible performance in last year’s Grand Final win with a sensational 2013 campaign. Averaging 25 touches and three clearances per game, Hannebery has become one of Sydney’s most important players, and adds leadership to the 22under22 team.
Martin has been one of the game’s most dynamic players since debuting in 2010, and had arguably his most consistent season yet this year. The strong midfielder/forward averaged 24 possessions per game, and accumulated 17 or more touches in all but one match.
Armed with a body that seems far too mature to fit into the 22under22 team, Darling had another brilliant season. Averaging two goals per game, the 191cm Eagle worked beautifully in tandem with teammate Josh Kennedy, and would be right at home alongside Jeremy Cameron in this side.
The Power youngster averaged 21 possessions and almost two goals per game in 2013, but even those numbers don’t do his season justice. Whenever his side needed to be shocked into action it seemed Wingard was the one to make it happen. He’s a match-winner and an obvious choice for the 22under22 team.
After a few years in the AFL system, Steven Motlop blossomed in 2013. The silky, creative half-forward played a pivotal role in Geelong’s return to the top of the ladder. Averaging 17 possessions and almost two goals per game, Motlop has become one of the game’s elite small forwards.
It’s hard to think of a young player who had a more impressive campaign than Jeremy Cameron in 2013. The agile 20-year-old came within six goals of winning the Coleman Medal in just his second AFL season; the fact his team won just one match this year makes it all the more remarkable.
The AFL’s leading goal-assist player, Breust would fit in beautifully amongst this group of creative young forwards. The clever Hawk averaged 14 possessions to go with a goal and a half per game in 2013. Perhaps most importantly he also averages four tackles per game, and would bring plenty of forward pressure to the 22under22 outfit.
Nicholls played just one senior game in his first two seasons at AFL level, but showed plenty of signs of what’s to come in his eight matches in 2013. Averaging 23 hit-outs and 13 disposals per game, his sure hands and astounding vertical leap make him a player to watch in years to come.
Gold Coast fans expected plenty of O’Meara before he’d even made his AFL debut. When he did, nobody was disappointed. The 19-year-old is already a complete midfielder, and was a clear winner in this year’s ‘Rising Star’ Award. He might well become the most capped 22under22 player – he will be eligible to make the team for the next three seasons.
Liberatore well and truly stepped out from the shadow of his Brownlow Medal-winning father in 2013, becoming the competition’s leading clearance winner. He averaged almost 26 possessions per game, 14 contested, to go with an incredible eight clearances.
Having been elevated from North Melbourne’s rookie list, Mullett grabbed his opportunity with both hands. The 184cm rebounding defender cemented his spot in the Roos’ backline, averaging more than 18 possessions and three rebound 50s per match. He also kicked 14 goals (and just one behind) for the year. His damaging run and lethal left-boot add plenty of spark to the 22under22 backline.
North Melbourne’s brave vice-captain had another great season; it’s hard to believe he’s eligible for this team, given how much he’s accomplished in his career already. The tough midfielder averaged 21 possessions and five tackles per game, and provides the 22under22 team with equal amounts of grit and leadership.
With the spotlight firmly on Gary Ablett and Jaeger O’Meara throughout season 2013, Dion Prestia’s year went largely unnoticed. The stocky 175cm midfielder became an absolute ball magnet, averaging 25 touches and four clearances per game. He looks set to become one of the competition’s elite midfielders for years to come.
The classy small forward was Fremantle’s leading goal-kicker (with 41) this season, despite missing four matches through injury. He kicked at least three goals on eight occasions, and averaged 15 touches and three inside 50s per game.