St Kilda’s Luke Dunstan was named the Rising Star nominee for Round 1 this week – a fitting accolade given the young Saint’s outstanding performance in his first game – but given the quality performances on show from young players in the opening fortnight of the season, it’s only right to make mention of them. Already, there is an abundance of young guns putting their hands up for selection in this year’s #22under22 side.
2013 was the first year in which the #22under22 concept was brought to life – it’s a team made up of the best players of the year aged 22 or younger. The squad of 40 is handpicked by the AFL Players’ Association Board; from there, the final team is decided by votes cast by fans on social media.
Last year’s team was full of big names – Essendon’s Dyson Heppell was named captain, with North Melbourne’s Jack Ziebell his vice-captain. Some of the game’s most exciting youngsters, including Jeremy Cameron, Chad Wingard, Dan Hannebery and Dustin Martin were also rewarded with selection.
The 2013 team can be seen below.
While those above shone in 2013, rarely have we seen young players take control of a round of footy quite like they did in the opening round of 2014; significantly, the first Saturday of the season was the first time two babies of the competition, the Giants and Suns, emerged victorious on the same day. Astoundingly, more than half of the Greater Western Sydney side that defeated Sydney is eligible for this year’s #22under22 team. Led by key forwards Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton, and well-serviced by midfielders Stephen Coniglio, Adam Treloar and Toby Greene, the Giants are fast becoming a scary prospect.
While the expansion sides look set to have plenty of players in line for #22under22 selection by season’s end, there’s no shortage of young talent from the other 16 clubs.
A few hours after the Giants upset the Swans, young Suns Dion Prestia, Jaeger O’Meara and David Swallow led their side to victory over the Tigers – with some help from skipper Gary Ablett, of course. If Prestia and O’Meara continue their good form, they’re a good chance to be in contention for the #22under22 side for the second successive year.
But while the expansion sides look set to have plenty of players in line for #22under22 selection by season’s end, there’s no shortage of young talent from the other 16 clubs. Port Adelaide young guns Ollie Wines and Chad Wingard have shown they’ll be just as dangerous in 2014 as they were last season, and players such as Jack Darling, Dyson Heppell and Daniel Talia are eligible for back to back #22under22 selections.
Predicting how this year’s #22under22 team might look at season’s end after just one round of footy is incredibly difficult, to say the least.
The team below is made up of players who have runs on the board already. For example, Essendon’s Jake Carlisle looks set to line up in the forward half of the ground this season, but based on last year’s form he’s a monty to fill a spot as a key defender.
If you had every player eligible at your disposal and picked a team to play tomorrow, the team might look something like this.
Though the team above looks fairly menacing, there are sure to be others who stake their claim for selection as the year goes on. Other players who may find themselves in contention include:
Joe Daniher (ESS), Tom Langdon (COL), Jackson Macrae (WB), James Aish (BRI), Josh Caddy (GEE), Dom Tyson (MEL), Reece Conca (RIC), Brad Hill (HAW), David Swallow (GC), Luke Dahlhaus (WB), Elliot Yeo (WC), Jake Stringer (WB), Ben Lennon (RICH), Jack Viney (MEL), Taylor Adams (COL), Jimmy Toumpas (MEL), Jesse Hogan (MEL), Luke Parker (SYD), Harley Bennell (GC), Lachie Neale (FRE), Kane Lucas (CAR) Troy Menzel (CAR), Jared Polec (PA), Dylan Buckley (CAR), Billy Longer (SK), Rory Laird (ADE), Andrew Gaff (WC), Jarman Impey (PA), Luke McDonald (NM), Lachie Whitfield (GWS), and Luke Dunstan (SK).
For those wondering, Fremantle’s Nathan Fyfe misses out by a week. He will turn 23 a week before the AFL Grand Final, and is therefore ineligible.
Who do you think is a lock to make this year’s #22under22 team? Let us know in the comments box below.