With the 40-man All-Australian squad announced following the conclusion of the 2017 home and away season, five members of the AFLPA’s 22Under22 squad are in contention to earn a place in the team.
Minor premiers Adelaide have the largest contingent of players with eight selected, while Fremantle and Gold Coast have none.
A host of new faces could be set for their maiden selection with 26 of the 40 able to receive their first All-Australian blazer.
All of the 22Under22 players selected in the initial squad have taken on greater roles at their respective clubs in 2017, with five players being named in each representative squad and all players except Marcus Bontempelli set to be involved in September.
The final All-Australian team will be announced on Wednesday, August 30.
Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
In a difficult season for the reigning premiers, Marcus Bontempelli continued to underline his status as one of the game’s rising stars. The 21-year-old was an attacking force for the Dogs going forward, ranking second at the club for average score involvements (6.9) while finishing third for goals with 20. Bontempelli often came to the floor with a number of big final quarter performances in the back half of the season as his side battled to keep their season alive. If he is selected in the 2017 it would be the second of his career and he is aiming to become the first player in 22Under22 history to be selected four times to the youth team.
Matt Crouch (Adelaide)
Early in the season, Matt Crouch was often not getting the credit he deserved for his form but the industry is now fully aware of his abilities. The younger brother of Brad Crouch was a ball magnet in 2017, averaging the second most disposals (33) across the competition. Crouch saved his best performance of the season until Round 23 when he finished with 45 disposals and a goal against West Coast in Perth. He has never been selected in the All-Australian or 22Under22 team.
Josh Kelly (GWS Giants)
In a year where there has been plenty of talk about his future, Josh Kelly has stood out in a Giants’ midfield packed with talent. Averaging the most disposals (29.2) at the club, Kelly has proven to be damaging with ball in hand with 21.8 of those disposals being effective. While injuries have struck down his teammates at times in 2017, Kelly has stood tall — putting him on the brink of a maiden All-Australian selection. His highlight included 43 disposals and a goal against West Coast in Round 22.
Jake Lever (Adelaide)
Just like Kelly, Jake Lever has let his footy do the talking in a year where media circles are speculating about his future. His form in 2017 has shown exactly why he is one of the hottest properties on the footy market. Lever’s ability to come off his man and make an impact a contest is highlighted by his league-leading 9.8 intercepts per game, while averaging 3.5 rebound 50’s — the second most at the club. Selection in the All-Australian team will be the first of his career but he already holds two 22Under22 selections.
Zach Merrett (Essendon)
After a breakout 2016 season, Zach Merrett has continued his rapid rise during the 2017 season. At just 21, Merrett is arguably Essendon’s best midfielder highlighted by a club-high average of 30.4 disposals per game. The club sees the former Sandringham Dragon as a future captain, having named him vice-captain prior to the 2017 season, showing maturity beyond his years. If named as a 2017 All-Australian, it will be Merrett’s first and his 31-disposal and four goal performance in Round 23 wouldn’t have done his chances any harm. Merrett was named as the vice-captain of last year’s 22Under22 team.