State of Origin. I’m torn on my opinion. While it could be a huge spectacle, and it would certainly be better than the utter garbage that has been ANY PRESEASON COMPETITION, it’s probably not viable. The sheer concentration of stars likely to be involved in the competition would mean that any injury/suspension, would presumably be to an important player and could impact an AFL team’s season.
Realistically, the call of whether or not SOO returns is probably a call that needs to be made by the players. They would need to want to play, to show that parochialism and more than likely, they would need to get paid. There’s no point rolling it out again for a quick buck if the players are pussy-footing , squibbing (https://bit.ly/2NKUQIo), shirking (https://bit.ly/32IlSEB) and concerned mainly about getting injured, the desire needs to be there.
What probably could be done though, is to name an honorary team for each state – an accolade that players could take pride in, and who knows, maybe that pride could evolve into a desire for the return of SOO.
Anyway – this is my crack at the WA side. Keep in mind that it is merit based, so the individual’s performance over the 2019 season and not an individual’s potential (hence Lobb over, say, NicNat).
Brad Sheppard, WCE
One of the most underrated players in the land. Sheppard’s 2019 was again, sublime. His versatility means that he is able to lock down on an offensive opponent (smalls & talls), and in the next stanza launch the Eagle’s forward with a rebound from defensive 50.
Stiff to not be in 2019’s AA side, Sheppard lead the league in total marks, and was 16th in total rebound 50’s.
His game in the Derby in round 16 where he earned his only brownlow vote saw him record 25 touches and tellingly, 11 defensive 50 rebounds.
Cale Hooker, ESS
With Rance unavailable for the year, Hooker edges out Joel Hamling for the Fullback spot. Hooker had a solid year and had career high’s in a few major statistical areas.
He averages 7 1%’ers per game and was 6th in league marks per game. He also ranks highly in contested marks per game, ranked 19th in the league for total contested grabs.
Lewis Jetta, WCE
Nathan Wilson could be considered stiff here, but Jetta makes the cut, mainly for his kick-outs from full-back. His laser-like 50m bullets launched a bunch of WCE attacks in 2019. That, and he loves a photo op.
Daniel Rich, BRL
2019 has been his best year. Career highs in a number of statistics, his raking left boot saw him finish 2nd in the league for metres gained, 3rd in total kicks and was included in the All-Australian squad of 40.
Jeremy McGovern, WCE
The Intercept King was again prolific in 2019. The boy from Albany was as staunch as ever, reeling in marks at will and being an absolute pain in the arse for teams that insist on bombing it in on the reg (fix it Ratten). Indeed the “gov” finished 1st in the league for intercepts, and 3rd in total contested marks.
Jason Johannisen, WBD
JJ missed the first few rounds due to an injury, but managed to play the rest of the season, providing his trademark toe and dash – finishing 7th in the league for total bounces (loves a dash) and recorded season averages of 22 disposals (80% DE) and 425 metres gained.
Boy, oh boy – this is where WA look formidable.
Brad Hill, FRE
Absolute running machine. Covers the ground like nobody else and at pace. His cruising speed is what sets him apart, meaning he has a tank that enables him to get to more contests to provide an option. Hill was ranked sixth in Kicks per game and ninth for metres gained per game.
Nathan Fyfe (Captain), FRE
The 2019 Brownlow Medallist is the modern midfielder exemplified. At 190cm and 90 kegs, Fyfe is a bull, an accumulator, a goal-kicker and has the abilty to clunk them. Lake Grace do two things very well – Produce AFL-quality footballers and….ok they do one thing very well.
Nat finished 2019 ranked 3rd for total contested possessions, 6th in total clearances and 10th for disposals per game. Star.
Mitch Duncan, GEE
I’ve put Duncan as a starter over Kelly and Coniglio, because he is a pure wingman. Duncan enjoyed another solid year, averaging 25 disposals and 7.5 marks (ranked 5th total marks). He is an important link-up player for the Cats, who look to him time and again to set up their attack.
Jamie Cripps, WCE
As hard-working as it comes. The Blue-collar Cripps seems to bob up at important times for West Coast, provides good forward pressure and 2-way running. He averaged a very handy 1.5 goals per game, and 3.5 tackles per game, with many of them indside 50.
Jack Darling, WCE
2019 was probably the season that Jack shed a fair portion of stigma around his attack on the ball and his ability to take a simple chest mark (the .gif’s are still funny though). Darling had a fantastic year, particularly in the absence of Josh Kennedy.
He finished equal 3rd in the Coleman on 54 goals, averaging 2.5 per game. He ranked 5th in total contested marks, 8th in tackles inside 50 (huge for a big man), and 6th for marks inside 50.
Michael Walters, FRE
Walters has the ability to absolutely rip open a game the way I would a packet of salt & vinegar’s. An example would be his effort against Port/Pt/POwert/PorPow in round 13. 25 disposals (11 contested), 6 goals, 536 metres gained, 5 clearances and 3 Brownlow votes. The ultimate barometer.
Lance Franklin, SYD
Buddy only played the 10 games, but he still managed to produce some pearlers – 10 marks and 4 goals against the saints, and 9 marks and 5 goals against the Eagles. Another one who can turn a game on a dime, he adds another x factor in a Sandgroper forward line.
Josh Kennedy, WCE –
The veteran managed 22 games for the year, and averaged 2.2 per game, including hauls of 7 against the Roos, and 4 against the Demons and Bombers. He still knows how to clunk them, ranked 4th for marks inside 50, his agility and ability to get some separation on opponents still a trademark.
Charlie Cameron, BRL
Sensational year. Equal 3rd in the Coleman, little Charlie was a menacing presence. His innate ability to bob up at important times in games, and swing momentum Brisbane’s way was on display time and again in 2019. Sure to provide headaches and perhaps a few twisted ankles for those who line up on him.
Rory Lobb, FRE
Ideally, Nic Naitanui would be lining up here but being a merit based approach, and with NicNat being injured for the majority of the season, Lobb makes the cut ahead of Tim English and Paddy Ryder.
He’d be up against Gawn if WA were taking on the Vics, and Grundy against the Croweaters so it’s really a case of who is going to limit the impact of those two best. Lobb has the capacity to get around the ground ahead of Ryder, and a bigger frame to minimise the bigger bodies of Gawn and Grundy at the bounce, his aerial ability and forward craft is ok too.
Lobb had probably his best season, albeit only playing the 15 games before succumbing to injury. He provided a good aerial option, finishing the season ranked 7th in contested marks per game.
Patrick Cripps (VC), CAR
Freak. Just a huge unit with a heap of talent, drive and a fair amount of mongrel, Patty Cripps was acknowledged by his peers as the league’s MVP – and make no mistake, he is certainly, when considering his age, and the team he is in – he is 100% the league’s most valuable player.
He is unstoppable in the middle, ranked first in Centre clearances per game, 2nd in contested possessions per game (17!) and 15th in tackles per game. As far as extractors go, he is absolutely the best there is.
He has the ability to impact the scoreboard – take his round 12 performance in the Blues’ win against a heavily favoured Lions. Cripps went on an absolute tear – finishing the game with 38 disposals (16 contested) at 86%, 8 clearances, 7 marks and 4 goals. He was the difference.
Elliot Yeo, WCE
He’s not the best player in the league, despite reports (see above – Cripps, Fyfe). He is however, probably one of the best all-round performers. He tackles like a man possessed (1st in total tackles, 3rd in tackles per game), he marks (and has the ability to take some fantastic ones), he is a clearance beast (ranked 6th in total clearances) and he sends it inside 50 on the reg (ranked 4th in inside 50’s per game).
Yeo is a weird Liger-Buffalo hybrid bull; he has the ability to impact a game with clearance and then run and carry, but also has the x-factor and presence to turn a game on a dime.
Tim Kelly, GEE
What a sophomore year Kelly had. At one point a Brownlow fancy, Kelly has the ability to play both as an inside and outside mid, and the IQ to sneak forward for handy goals as well.
He is damaging (12th in inside 50’s), he gets his own ball (9th in total clearances), he finds it well (20th in total disposals) and he gets involved on the scoreboard (9th in total score involvements, averaging a goal per game) and he is not afraid to put it on the boot (8th in total metres gained)
He also looks to be a big-game player, which bodes well for the Eagles, who he joined in the off-season – his game in the Cats’ preliminary final loss to the Tigers was a ripper, recording 31 touches, 9 marks and 3 snags.
Stephen Coniglio, GWS
“Cogs” started 2019 with a bang, recording 31 touches, 9 marks, 7 tackles and 3 goals against a putrid Bombers outfit in round 1. He was then fairly consistent throughout (he did struggle with a hard tag at times) before getting injured in round 17.
Coniglio ranked 13th in kicks per game, and 16th for centre clearances per game. His star is definitely on the rise, and GWS will be stoked that he has signed on to continue with them. He will be itching to make his mark on the finals in 2020, having missed the Giants’ 2019 campaign through injury.
Jaeger O’Meara, HAW
Jaeger earned 3 Brownlow votes in his game against Carlton in round 6 (that still counts!) that saw him notch 42 disposals, 8 marks and a goal. In the absence of Tom Mitchell (himself a West Australian) he performed admirably and had probably his best year.
He was ranked 12th in clearances per game and 15th in total tackles. He was however, ranked 1st in total clangers, so he’ll need to clean up his disposal in 2020 (62% in 2019).
Timothy English, WBD
English gets a spot for team balance, someone who can relieve Lobb who has the ability to go forward. English had a few great games in 2019, his best against Carlton saw him with 15 disposals, 29 hit-outs and 2 goals.
- Joel Hamling, FRE
- Aaron Naughton, WBD
- Brandon Matera, FRE
- Liam Ryan, WCE
- Nathan Wilson, FRE
- Dom Sheed, WCE
- Ben Stratton, HAW
- Paddy Ryder, STK
- Nic Naitanui, WCE (injured)
- Tom Mitchell, HAW (injured)
- Alex Rance, RIC (injured)
I think that the current pool of WA players in the AFL is about the best that there has been in a while. Were they to take on South Australia, who are probably at a bit of an ebb at the moment, talent-wise – I think the Sandgropers would account for them quite easily.
Against the Vics though, I think it becomes a lot tighter. Were the Sandgropers at full strength with inclusions of Rance, Tom Mitchell and Nic Naitanui – I think they may get home, but their injuries in season 2019 probably means that the Vics get up in a tight one.
While WA’s impressive midfield would probably take the ascendancy, the Vic’s superior backline in Stewart, Grimes, Blicavs et al. and their possible forward setup inclusions of Toby Green, Jeremy Cameron, De Goey, Dustin Martin, Bontempelli (bloody hell )may prove too much for WA.