2017 AFL All-Australian team: Who makes the grade?

Lance Franklin won the Coleman Medal with a final 10-goal haul and should earn his place in the All-Australian squad. 

By LAURENCE ROSEN

Selection in the AFL All-Australian team is a hotly contested event, recognising the best players in their respective positions across the 23 home and away rounds. So who could feature? 

BACK 

Sam Docherty – Carlton

Docherty completed another fine season at the Blues and should collect his maiden All-Australian honour. Ranked No.1 in the league for marks and total metres gained. 

Alex Rance – Richmond

What is there left to say? Bar a slight aberration against Harry Taylor in round 21, the Richmond star has continued his stellar form. Has benefited immensely from Dylan Grimes’ and David Astbury’s improvement and looks set to claim his fourth consecutive honour. 

Rory Laird – Adelaide

Adelaide finished the regular season on top of the ladder and it’s been largely down to Laird. A breakout season for the Crows defender, where his supreme ball use has stood out.

HALF BACK

Elliot Yeo – West Coast

Yeo has been mighty for the Eagles this year. The dashing defender’s best game arguably came in round 22 against GWS, where he collected 30 touches and took eight marks.

Michael Hurley – Essendon

Hurley’s form has tailed off in the last few weeks – largely through injury – but he deserves his place in the side and looks set to return during Essendon’s elimination final against Sydney. Much like Alex Rance, his game has been helped by the emergence of Marty Gleeson and the ability of Michael Hartley to take the best forward each week.

Michael Hibberd – Melbourne

The former Essendon player is exactly what the Demons craved – a dashing defender off half back that compliments the McDonald brothers perfectly. 

CENTRE

Zach Merrett – Essendon

Merrett was unlucky to miss selection in the 2016 All-Australian squad of 40 but there’s no doubt he deserves a place this season. It’s a credit to him that he’s largely fought through several hard tags this year as opposition sides looked to quell the influence of Essendon’s best player.  

Josh Kennedy – Sydney

Kennedy has hardly missed a beat this year, even flourishing amid Sydney’s winless start to the season. Poised to become a four-time All-Australian.

Rory Sloane – Adelaide

Is tagging back in vogue purely because of the Crows star? If so, it’s a compliment to the player at the heart of Adelaide’s midfield. Along with the Crouch brothers, he’s done a power of work in the middle.

HALF FORWARD

Dayne Zorko – Brisbane

He’s taken the leap in 2017 to become one of the league’s premier midfielders that pushes forward. Zorko averaged 25 touches and nearly two goals a game this year and, in doing so, should secure his first All-Australian honour. 

Joe Daniher – Essendon

Along with teammate Zach Merrett, a promising 2016 has led to bigger things this year. Missed out on the Coleman Medal after Franklin’s 10 goals in round 23, but is surely destined to win one before his career’s over. Daniher has solved his kicking woes after a wobbly start and coupled with short stints in the ruck, has made him a lock in this year’s side. 

Lance Franklin – Sydney

Franklin won the Coleman Medal for the fourth straight year and is a lock in this year’s team. Like much of the Swans side, he started slowly but hasn’t missed a beat since kicking eight against Brisbane in round 7. Capped the year off nicely with 10 goals and looks primed for finals. 

FORWARD

Eddie Betts – Adelaide

Betts has missed a few weeks this year but there is still no better small forward in the league. Should collect a third successive All-Australian award in a career that shows no signs of slowing down.

Josh Kennedy – West Coast

No Coleman Medal for Kennedy this year but he is the biggest reason West Coast snuck into eighth spot and will be playing finals footy. He’s the most accurate set shot in the game and has kept his side in many matches throughout the year.

Robbie Gray – Port Adelaide

His winning goal against St.Kilda stands out this year, but even discounting that, his 47 goals speak for themselves in his best season to date. Poised to add a 2017 All-Australian selection to his dual honours in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

FOLLOWERS

Paddy Ryder – Port Adelaide

There’s still nothing in the game like an elite ruckman and in Ryder, the Power have gained what they sorely missed in his absence last year. Matthew Kreuzer and Sam Jacobs were the two other ruckman considered but Ryder won out purely because of his overall contribution to Port Adelaide relative to what they missed without him in 2016.

Patrick Dangerfield – Geelong

Pace, power and contested ball. Three things that are crucial in the modern game and characteristics that define the Geelong star. Who knows where the Cats would be without him?

Dustin Martin – Richmond

It’s a credit to Martin that he’s put together arguably his best season of footy at a time where his contract is one of the game’s biggest stories. Will add an All-Australian berth to his near-certain Brownlow Medal in 2017. Could there be more individual honours to come for footy’s hottest property?  

INTERCHANGE

Tom Mitchell – Hawthorn

No player in the game’s history has had more disposals in a season than Mitchell’s effort in 2017 and on that basis alone, he earns a spot on the interchange. To his credit, he’s added a handy 10 goals to his game and, in his first season, was a welcome boost to Hawthorn’s midfield.

Ben Brown – North Melbourne

Brown’s emergence as an elite key forward was one of the genuinely feel-good footy stories this year. Sixty-three  goals in a bottom-four team, just how much better could he get as North look to climb the ladder? 

Josh Kelly – GWS

Kelly is pure class and deserves to earn his first All-Australian jumper. Much like Martin, he hasn’t let the constant contraction speculation distract him, averaging 29 touches and six tackles for GWS this season

Toby Greene – GWS

He’s hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons at various stages this year but when on the park, Greene has proved himself as one of the best small forwards in the game. Forty-one goals from just 16 games is impressive.

Unlucky: Matthew Kreuzer (Carlton), Joel Selwood (Geelong), Clayton Oliver (Melbourne) and Matt Crouch (Adelaide).