With the AFL’s State of Origin Bushfire Relief match just two weeks away, we’ve predicted who could line up for Victoria and the All-Stars.
We’ve followed the game’s selection format – 18 on the field, six interchange players and three emergencies, with a maximum of three players from each AFL club. However, we decided to exclude emergencies from this rule.
Due to Gawn’s injury, expect the Big V to look for an experienced hand for the ruck and that is exactly what 234 game North Melbourne veteran Todd Goldstein provides. With two specialist ruckmen, St Kilda’s Rohan Marshall sneaks in over Hawthorn’s Ben McEvoy following a breakout 2019 season for the young Saint.
For the backline, Adelaide’s Daniel Talia gets the nod at full back, with the three players per club rule proving unlucky for 2019 All-Australian Tiger Dylan Grimes. Hawthorn’s James Sicily and Geelong’s Mark Blicavs add versatility and size in this area while Essendon speedster Adam Saad slots into half-back after a strong 2019.
The midfield is obviously jam-packed with quality, with Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield and 2019 Norm Smith Medalist Dustin Martin creating a dream partnership. Western Bulldogs pair Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli patrol the centre line with Collingwood stalwart Scott Pendlebury.
After a 2019 bounce-back season, Richmond premiership star Tom Lynch slots into full-forward while 2019 Coleman medallist Jeremy Cameron will provide another tall option at centre half-forward. Port Adelaide pair Travis Boak and Robbie Gray provide speed and quality to the half-forward line with Collingwood’s Jordan De Goey bringing the excitement to the forward pocket. The versatile Jack Gunston provides a third tall option for the Victorians.
Due to the need for another tall on the bench, Robbie Tarrant pushes out fellow Kangaroo Shaun Higgins. Tarrant will act as an extra tall defender, freeing up both James Sicily and Mark Blicavs to push up the ground for extra versatility. Adelaide captain Rory Sloane midfield depth with Melbourne young gun Clayton Oliver and Essendon’s Dylan Shiel.
Those unlucky to miss out include Geelong champion Gary Ablett, Sydney co-captains Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy, North Melbourne hard-nut Ben Cunnington and West Coast star Andrew Gaff. Collingwood midfielder Steele Sidebottom can only make the squad as an emergency.
For the final two emergency spot, McEvoy will provide tall cover while Carlton’s Sam Walsh will provide some youth and excitement to the squad.
Finally, for the captaincy, it is hard to look past Pendlebury and his seven seasons of experience at Collingwood.
C: Brad Hill (St Kilda), Nat Fyfe (c) (Fremantle), Tim Kelly (West Coast)
Despite his recent setback and injury-riddled 2019 campaign, we have slotted Melbourne’s Steven May in at center-half-back following stand-out performances in previous seasons for Gold Coast.
2019 All-Australian Lion Harris Andrews mans the full-back position, with Sydney co-captain Dayne Rampe and Jarrod Harbrow taking the pockets. Harbrow is Gold Coast’s lone on-field representative sliding into the two pockets. Adelaide’s Rory Laird and Western Bulldogs nugget Caleb Daniel provide speed and quality ball delivery from the half-back flanks, with Daniel getting the nod over Bulldogs half-back partner Jason Johannisen.
The All-Stars midfield contains arguably the two best onballers in the game today with 2019 Brownlow Medalist Nat Fyfe and Carlton captain Patrick Cripps being joined by new West Coast recruit Tim Kelly, Brisbane’s Lachie Neale. St Kilda’s Brad Hill adds speed on the wing.
Speed and size is the name of the game for the All-Stars forward line with Geelong’s Tom Hawkins, North Melbourne’s Ben Brown and Richmond premiership hero Jack Riewoldt providing the size. 2019 All-Australian Lion Charlie Cameron will partner with Fremantle’s Michael Walters for the speed, while new GWS captain Stephen Coniglio adds extra quality to the half-forward line.
For the two ruck positions, Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy solidifies his status as the number one ruckman in the game today, with West Coast’s Nic Natinui providing support from the bench. Of course, if Nic Nat doesn’t get up, Gold Coast’s Jarrod Witts is the perfect replacement as an emergency.
Essendon’s cult hero Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will start on the interchange and will provide goal-kicking support with Gold Coast’s Alex Sexton and Hawthorn sharpshooter Luke Breust. For the tall on the bench, Carlton’s Liam Jones will provide another intercept mark option down back with St Kilda midfielder Seb Ross taking the last spot.
For the three emergency spots, Witts and West Coast’s Jack Darling provide key position cover, while Port Adelaide young gun Connor Rozee slots into the third position.
Those unlucky to miss out include 2019 All-Australian Elliot Yeo and Brisbane Lions captain Dayne Zorko. 2018 Brownlow Medalist Tom Mitchell is expected to miss to ease him back after missing the entire 2019 season with a broken leg.
The captaincy for the All-Stars is a no-brainer with 2019 All-Australian captain Nat Fyfe leading his team out onto Marvel Stadium on the 28th.