Gary Ablett and Dustin Martin missed the cut this year.
Gary Ablett and Dustin Martin missed the cut this year.

The biggest AFL All-Australian shocks

Twice this year across an entire AFL season Marcus Bontempelli was standing on the wing when the umpire held the ball aloft.

Tonight the AFL's All-Australian selectors named the Dogs' superstar as one of their two starting wingmen.

The AFL's Brownlow Medal is almost the exclusive domain of the inside midfielder, and this year they took over the All-Australian team, too.

 

 

That team is full of brilliant players who have set this competition alight this year with glorious deeds and matchwinning feats.

Then there are the extraordinary omissions of Gary Ablett and Dustin Martin - one who torched rival teams early this season and one who came home like a freight train.

But the most obvious quibble about this team - and arguing the toss about All-Australian teams is a time-honoured tradition - is the shunning of the traditional wingman.

 

It was a point not lost on Mitch Robinson, whose Lions teammate Hugh McCluggage was nominated in the 40-man squad but was overlooked.

Robinson took to social media during the awards, saying: "Couple (of) great "wingers" there."

Bontempelli's season, winning the Herald Sun's Player of the Year award and the AFL Coaches Award, makes him a walk-up start for this team.

 

Dustin Martin is finishing 2019 like 2017. Pic: Getty Images
Dustin Martin is finishing 2019 like 2017. Pic: Getty Images

 

Yet consider the breakdown of his centre square involvements.

Once in Round 2 and once in Round 7 he started a centre bounce on the wing, compared to 441 as a midfielder and 102 as a forward.

At least the other starting wingman, Tim Kelly, played 9.7 per cent of his game time on the wing.

If there was no wingman worthy you could argue the case but Brisbane's McCluggage should be in this team as a starting wing.

He is clearly the best wingman this year in the second-best team, a 22-goal tyro who does it all racking up huge numbers, elite pressure, great clearance stats and high assists.

Yet if the All-Australian team will always have points of contention, the one thing you can't accuse the selectors of is a popularity contest.

Martin's omission could come despite nine best-on-grounds and after a second half of the year of rare quality.

 

 

Richmond would argue he is judged by his astronomically high standards, having still kicked 20 goals with 31 goal assists and had 15 games with 97 ranking points or more.

Ablett kicked 33.16 with 37 score assists but is squeezed out by Patrick Dangerfield on a forward flank in a forward line with obvious selections Charlie Cameron, Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins, Jack Darling and Michael Walters.

Scott Pendlebury, the 11th best midfielder by ratings this year, might consider himself fractionally lucky but he missed out in 2015-2017 when he was stiff to be overlooked in all of those seasons.

And Elliot Yeo and Jack Macrae find a spot on the bench not only for their star power but after being controversially excluded last season.

The All-Australian captain was once the domain of the most feared, inspirational bull-at-a-gate leader, but has gone to Alex Rance, Lance Franklin and Nathan Fyfe in successive years.

It is a different path to the days when Chris Judd, Mark Ricciuto and James Hird were All-Australian captains, but who wouldn't want to follow Fyfe into battle?

But as with most All-Australian scrutiny it is only splitting hairs over players over degrees of greatness in a team full of extraordinary players and mighty role models.

 

 

Geelong’s Tim Kelly and Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli are on the wings. Pic: Michael Klein.
Geelong’s Tim Kelly and Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli are on the wings. Pic: Michael Klein.

 

The 2019 All-Australian team is littered with stars.
The 2019 All-Australian team is littered with stars.

 

 

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Hugh McCluggage is a genuine winger. Pic: AAP
Hugh McCluggage is a genuine winger. Pic: AAP