As a fan of the AFL, there’s not much more we enjoy than debating the league’s best players and who trumps who in terms of on-field play.
Although everyone’s opinion may differ, we here at Zero Hanger have decided to put together a the team of the best players at each position since the beginning of this decade.
Players are decided on every aspect of their game, including game-by-game stats, All-Australian selections and their impact on their team’s finals success. However, player’s will only be judged on games after 2010, therefore a league legend like Chris Judd, although he retired in 2015, will not make the team as he only made two All-Australian squads this decade.
Now that all the formalities have been completed, let’s get into Zero Hanger’s team of the 2010s.
Heath Shaw (Collingwood/Greater Western Sydney)
A player who isn’t the most loved by the fans and somebody who has had his fair share of off-field trouble, however, his effort and play on the field cannot be denied. Heath Shaw started the decade off right as a star defender who shined in two of Collingwood’s 2010 grand final matches. Following a few off-field issues, Shaw was traded to GWS where he didn’t miss a beat. Shaw was GWS’ best and fairest in 2015, and made the 2015 and 2016 All-Australian teams.
Alex Rance (Richmond)
Undoubtedly the most consistent one-on-one defender this decade. He started off slow as he only played 10 games (all losses) in 2010, however since then he’s only improved and has quickly become the league’s most feared defender. He was selected as All-Australian captain in 2017 and in the same year helped the Tigers to their first premiership since 1967.
Brian Lake (Western Bulldogs/Hawthorn)
Much like Rance, Brian Lake had a forgettable start to the decade, however for him it was a change of scenery that sparked a major turnaround. As Lake integrated into a winning team, he grew to be one of the league’s most sound defenders and a very reliable piece of a team that went on to win three straight premierships
A player everybody loved, Bob Murphy was the personification of hard work and determination. Not the biggest defender on the field, but his poise and high IQ was always important throughout the decade as he helped pave the way for the Dogs’ 2016 success. Unfortunately, due to injury, Murphy couldn’t play in the 2016 grand final, but as the players and coaches will tell you, that premiership wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for Bob Murphy.
Michael Hurley (Essendon)
A very valuable swingman for Essendon, Michael Hurley has been selected into two All-Australian sides and looks primed to make a few more. The very versatile Hurley can play as a one-on-one defender, an extra man or run and find a target off half-back. His versatility is important to Essendon’s success and following the difficulties he and the club have faced in recent years, Hurley looks to be on the up and up.
Luke Hodge (Hawthorn/Brisbane) (captain)
Not so much for his time in Brisbane, but Luke Hodge will go down as one of the league’s best to play off of half back and for his ability to lead a team to success. Since 2010, he led the team to four grand finals and lifted the trophy in three of those. Also, Hodge managed to pick up the Norm Smith Medal in 2014.
Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
A no brainer, Scott Pendlebury was selected in the first five All-Australian sides of the decade (2010-2014), played in the first two grand finals of the decade, where he won a premiership and a Norm Smith Medal. The accolades and team success speak for Pendlebury.
Dustin Martin (Richmond)
One of the league’s most entertaining players. There’s not much that gets fans more excited than when Dustin Martin stiff arms a defender and carries the ball for one of his trademark runs. Martin was as important as any during Richmond’s road to the finals in the years leading to Richmond’s premiership. His Brownlow, Norm Smith and Premiership triumphs all in one calendar year are a testament to the type of player Dusty has been.
Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn/West Coast)
Not many players had a more decorated decade than this man. Three All-Australian selections, a Brownlow Medal and three straight premierships. A player who could pick up upwards of 40 disposals on any given night, and be efficient with every touch on both sides of his body. Unquestionably one of the league’s classiest with ball in hand.
Cyril Rioli (Hawthorn)
Another key player in Hawthorn’s dynasty. One of the most exciting players to ever play the game, it’s hard to keep your eyes off the screen when Cyril Rioli starts heating up. Selected in three All-Australian sides this decade, Rioli has had a dream run with the Hawks also picking up the Norm-Smith Medal in 2015 and playing in the three premiership Hawthorn teams.
Lance Franklin (Hawthorn/Sydney)
A no-brainer. Even Hawthorn fan would have to place Buddy in their team of the decade. He’s won the Coleman Medal three times, won two premierships, and made five All-Australian teams; All in the last eight years. He’s kept his team as final contenders every year and helped his squad make the finals after an 0-6 start in 2017.
Jack Riewoldt (Richmond)
Not often playing on the flank, the Richmond premiership player has been one of the most dangerous big forwards the entire decade. He ended up leading the Coleman Medal race in two seasons and was selected in two All-Australian sides. Riewoldt was vice-captain in 2017 as his team won the premiership.
Eddie Betts (Carlton/Adelaide)
Eddie Betts has always been a joy to watch, however it wasn’t until he made the move to South Australia that he started to see team success. He has been a key piece in Adelaide’s search of a premiership cup and helped the team to the grand final in 2017. Betts has also been selected in three All-Australian sides since 2010.
Josh J. Kennedy (West Coast)
Another dangerous key forward who has dominated key defenders the entire decade. At age 30, Kennedy is already West Coast’s leading goalkicker and has been important to West Coast’s deep runs in the finals. He has won two Coleman Medals and been selected into the last three All-Australian sides.
Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn)
There goes another from the Hawthorn dynasty. One of the Hawk’s most reliable players, played in all three premiership victories. Roughead won the Coleman medal in 2013 and was selected in two All-Australian squads. A soldier for Alistair Clarkson since the start of the decade, every team needs a Jarryd Roughead.
Max Gawn (Melbourne)
The most debatable position in the team, it’s very difficult to agree on the ruckman. Ultimately we went with Max Gawn due to how dominant he has already been and the upside he has. there had been a different starting ruckman selected in the All-Australian squad each year since 2011. Out of the 7 ruckman chosen, Gawn is the youngest and looks to end this decade on a very very strong note.
Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide/Geelong)
An absolute superstar of the league, not much needs to be said to defend this selection. Selected in five of the past six All-Australian teams and winning virtually every award in 2016 including the Brownlow Medal, Dangerfield is one of the leagues most dominant players. All he needs now is a premiership.
Gary Ablett (Geelong/Gold Coast) (vice-captain)
Whether this was a team of the last decade, the last century or of all time, Gary Ablett Jr. is going to be on it. Dubbed ‘the little master’, not many can duplicate what he does on field. Ablett was selected in this decade’s first five All-Australian squads and won the Brownlow Medal in 2013 in a very young Gold Coast squad. It’d be hard for someone to snub the Little Master.
Matthew Priddis (West Coast)
The league’s Brownlow Medalist in 2014, Matt Priddis will go down as one of the league’s most underrated players. Surprisingly selected in the All-Australian team the year after he won the Brownlow, Priddis was an absolute ball magnet and a must-have in the team of the decade.
Dane Swan (Collingwood)
Unfortunately, Dane Swan retired in the middle of the decade, but when he did play was amongst the league’s most dominant players. Breaking records yearly for disposal in a season, his four All-Australian selections this decade were more than well deserved. The 2010 Premiership Medal alongside his 2011 Brownlow also help in the decision to put him in the team.
Rory Laird (Adelaide)
Rory Laird is the youngest player in this team and the only player to have debuted after 2010. There were many young stars to choose from including Sam Docherty and Elliot Yeo, however, we went with Laird due to the value he brings to his team and how quickly he has become one of the league’s elite defenders. His first All-Australian selection came in 2017, and we have a feeling it won’t be his last.
Jack Gunston (Hawthorn)
One more selection from the Hawthorn dynasty, Jack Gunston was a vital piece in the team’s success. His consistent play made it difficult for the defenders to stop Hawthorn’s deadly offense. Also, after the team fell off, it’s Gunston who stuck with the Hawks and has been able to keep up his level of play during their transitional period.
Alistair Clarkson (Hawthorn)
You guessed it, it’s the man at the helm of Hawthorn’s ship during all those dominant years. The Hawks won three of a possible eight premierships so far and played in a fourth. Their dominance early on was unmatched and they were being compared to the greatest teams to ever play. A lot of that could be credited to the head coach.
AFL team of the decade
FB: Heath Shaw, Alex Rance, Brian Lake
FF: Eddie Betts, Josh J. Kennedy, Jarryd Roughead
FOLL: Max Gawn, Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett jr (vc)
Coach: Alastair Clarkson