The 2021 All Australian team has been revealed on Thursday night, with the 22 players selected all very deserving of the accolades after stellar individual seasons.
However, wingmen have once again been overlooked with Zach Merrett (4.1 per cent of game time on a wing) and Sam Walsh (11.7 per cent) named ahead of genuine wingmen in Karl Amon, Hugh McCluggage and Paul Seedsman.
Amon and McCluggage both spent 53 per cent of their game time on a wing, while Seedsman notched up over 75 per cent on a wing.
In the 2020 All Australian team, Bulldog Jack Macrae (3.5 per cent) and Cat Cam Guthrie (13.7 per cent) were selected on the wings, with McCluggage, Sam Menegola and Andrew Gaff all overlooked from the 40-man squad.
Over the past decade, Gaff has been the premier wingman in the AFL, earning All Australian honours in 2015 and 2018.
Interestingly, he has also been the only player selected on a wing in an All Australian team to spend more than half his time on ground in that position.
You could probably mount a strong case for Dan Hannebery in 2015-16, or Josh Kelly in 2017, but half of the players named on a wing in the last 10 years have spent under 10 per cent of that season playing in that position.
In 2019, Marcus Bontempelli and Tim Kelly didn’t tally up 10 per cent combined.
All Australian Wingmen 2012-2021 and game time on a wing that season
|Year||Wing 1||% on Wing||Wing 2||% on Wing|
|2012||Trent Cotchin||9.2%||Dayne Beams||7.7%|
|2013||Ryan Griffen||9.3%||Scott Pendlebury||8.0%|
|2014||Nat Fyfe||6.6%||Dyson Heppell||10.5%|
|2015||Dan Hannebery||23.8%||Andrew Gaff||60.4%|
|2016||Dan Hannebery||35.2%||Rory Sloane||7.2%|
|2017||Josh Kelly||23.1%||Zach Merrett||13.5%|
|2018||Andrew Gaff||50.7%||Steele Sidebottom||16.1%|
|2019||Marcus Bontempelli||1.1%||Tim Kelly||8.6%|
|2020||Jack Macrae||3.5%||Cam Guthrie||13.7%|
|2021||Zach Merrett||4.1%||Sam Walsh||11.7%|
A standard response from some is ‘but wouldn’t you take Walsh and Merrett over Seedsman and Amon?’.
In isolation, yes. To be fair, most would take Walsh first, regardless, because he’s an elite inside-outside hybrid mid.
But when your All Australian team is already stacked with inside bulls Clayton Oliver, Ollie Wines, Jack Steele, Christian Petracca, Darcy Parish, Jack Macrae, Touk Miller and Marcus Bontempelli, the choice between Merrett, Seedsman and Amon suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.
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There is no prototype wingman, but it is a critical role in any AFL side – a player that can break the lines, connecting the back half to the forward half and integral to both defensive and offensive structures.
You pick your best 22 on balance – you don’t pick Touk Miller, one of the most prolific midfielders in the competition, in a back pocket because he spent one per cent of game time in Round Five as a defender.
Ask any Port Adelaide supporter just how influential Karl Amon has been to their top two finish this year. Ask a Crows fan how good Paul Seedmsan has been at West Lakes in Season 2021.
These types of players have made the wing their own, and it’s time they were rewarded with their deserved recognition.
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