AFL Rd 2 - GWS v North Melbourne
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 14: Callan Ward of the Giants watches on during the round 2 AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at GIANTS Stadium on June 14, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The All-Australian team is (usually) comprised of the best 22 players each season. With a league littered with stars, every season a few unlucky players are left off the list. While not all snubs are as egregious as Brownlow Medal-winning pait Shane Woewoden and Matthew Priddis, there are some excellent performances that have been left out of the team.

Some players are disappointed for missing out on one standout season. While others have had a whole career of missing the cut for the All-Australian team.

We take a look at six players who have had exceptional careers, filled with accomplishments and accolades, and despite those careers, only one thing has eluded them... an All-Australian selection.

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1. Callan Ward

Greater Western Sydney's games record holder, Ward has put together an impressive career as a Giant. He was one of the club's big signings in the 2011 off-season, allowing him to be a part of the club from their first season in the league. By the time he left the Bulldogs, he had just enjoyed a breakout season. Ward was coming into the year primed to move into the league’s elite.

During the mid-2010s, Ward was the Giants' best midfielder and helped the club turn itself from a bottom of the ladder side into a finalist by 2016. Between joining the Giants and the end of the 2018 season, Ward averaged over 23 disposals, 3.9 tackles, 4.5 clearances and 3.0 inside 50s. His excellent play included winning the club's first-ever best and fairest in 2012.

In 2017 and 2018 especially, Ward elevated his game to another level, turning himself into a 27-disposal player who would give you over 6.5 clearances. He also wasn’t afraid of working on the inside, having nearly half his possessions being contested and still nearly making four tackles a game.

Ward’s courage was admirable for his club and helped form the culture and toughness of the team. His leadership was evident throughout his time as a co-captain between 2012 and 2019. He was awarded the Robert Rose Award by the AFLPA as the league’s Most Courageous Player in 2018. That hard and tough play ended up catching up with him in the following off-season.

Ward was a consistent presence for the Giants playing in 95 consecutive games until an injury in the 2019 pre-season saw him miss time early that season. In Round 4, he attempted a comeback against Geelong but reinjured himself early in the match. He would go on to miss the remainder of the season, including their Grand Final loss to Richmond.

After battling with injuries for two seasons, 2021 was a bounce-back year for Ward. He played in every match for the season and still averaged over 22.5 disposals a game. For most players, his averages around the board would still be impressive, but it does mark the start of a drop-off for Ward. Injuries and age are starting to show and he could be past his best football.

The Giants also have a range of talented midfielders that will be competing with Ward for opportunities. Jacob Hopper, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Green, Toby Greene, Tim Taranto, Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield and top draft pick Finn Callaghan could all see time in the midfield this season. While Ward will still play, his numbers and impact on the game will likely continue to decrease as their other stars continue to improve.

While there was a time when Ward was the Giants' best midfielder and pushing towards the league’s elite, sadly those days appear to be over. GWS has a midfield filled with talent and around the league, there is a stack of elite midfielders. Ward will finish his career as a star without an All-Australian selection.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 14: Callan Ward of the Giants kicks during the round 17 AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Richmond Tigers at Spotless Stadium on July 14, 2018, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
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