Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli has added a third 22Under22 cap to his collection and underlined his status as arguably the competition’s best young player.
Bontempelli, 20, will skipper the 2016 fan-voted team that recognises the best 22 players aged 22 or under, with Bomber best and fairest winner Zach Merrett serving as his deputy.
With his 2016 22Under22 selection, Bontempelli becomes the most capped player in the concept’s short history, drawing level with Port Adelaide’s Chad Wingard and Richmond’s Brandon Ellis with three selections each.
Of the final 22, Carlton, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have the most representatives with three each, while Adelaide, Collingwood, Essendon, the GWS Giants and Sydney also receiving multiple players in the 2016 team.
Enjoying a stellar first season in the AFL, Carlton’s Jacob Weitering is one of three 2016 debutants to feature in this year’s 22Under22 team.
He said to be considered one of game’s best youngsters is a great accolade.
“It’s a massive honour. I came into the AFL after playing junior football, and you’re obviously the best in your region. Then you come into the AFL and you come up against the best players in the country – Jesse Hogan, also Paddy Cripps and Sam Docherty from Carlton,” Weitering told Aflplayers.com.au.
“It’s an honour to be voted alongside those types of players.”
After the initial release of the 50-man squad, 6,000 votes were cast by fans from all over Australia to determine the best 22 players aged 22 or under.
To be eligible for the 22Under22 team, players must aged 22 or younger for the entire AFL season, including finals.
Exciting Melbourne youngster Christian Petracca also received his maiden 22Under22 selection in his debut season.
Slotting onto the forward flank, Petracca said he was initially focused on successfully returning from a long-term injury but was proud of his contribution in 2016.
“This year was about getting back on the park and just having fun and enjoying my footy. I wanted to get some continuity in my footy, and I felt like I did that,” Petracca said.
“To be back after an ACL and to be selected as a nomination, and then voted to the 22Under22 team is just so surreal. I’m quite proud of my achievements, to be honest.”
This year’s 22Under22 side features three debutants from 2016 and 14 first-time selections, while Tim Membrey becomes the first Saint to receive a 22Under22 honour.