AFL 2 years ago

Revisiting The 2016 Mid-Year AFL All-Rookie Team: The Final Team

At the midway point of the year, I did my mid-year 'All-Rookie' Team - A team of players that debuted this year.

That was the only criteria, the players had to have debuted THIS YEAR.

For those that didn't see the team mid-year, the team went like this:

B: Michael Hartley (ESS), Jacob Weitering (CARL), Darcy Byrne-Jones (PORT)
HB: Josh Wagner (MELB), Marcus Adams (WB), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (ESS)
C: Callum Mills (SYD), Clayton Oliver (MELB), Jade Gresham (STK)
HF: Christian Petracca (MELB), Mason Cox (COLL), Wayne Milera (ADEL)
F: Tom Papley (SYD), Josh Schache (BL), Daniel Rioli (RICH)
FOL: Dougal Howard (PORT), Darcy Parish (ESS), Jacob Hopper (GWS)
INT: Mitch McGovern (ADEL), Charlie Curnow (CARL), Darcy Tucker (FREM), Josh Smith (COLL)

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But a lot has changed from that point to now, just how many players retained their spot? and how many players have done enough to come in to the team?

Here's the final edition of the 2016 AFL All-Rookie Team.

The Backs

Back Pocket - Tom Ruggles (Geelong)

A mature-aged recruit, Ruggles was rewarded with a superb season for Geelong's VFL team last year with a spot on the rookie-list for this season, and was given an opportunity to shine for the Cats early on, with a debut in round three, and only missed three games afterwards.

Full Back – Jacob Weitering (Carlton)

Entering season 2016 as the number one draft pick from the previous year, Weitering certainly showed all the attributes and showed all the signs that he'll be everything Carlton had hoped for in his first year. He played all but two games this year, averaging 14.5 disposals and five marks a game.

Back Pocket – Darcy Byrne-Jones (Port Adelaide)

The small defender spent the first two seasons playing in Port's reserves team before finally getting his chance early on in 2016, and from there has never looked back, playing every game since round three. While his stats aren't massive (15 disposals per game), his defensive work has been pretty impressive.

The Half-Backs

Back Flank – Callum Mills (Sydney)

Not many of my fellow Bulldogs supporters will approve of young Mills winning the Rising Star award ahead of Caleb Daniel, but when you establish yourself into a side as elite as Sydney, how can you not win the award? Mills played all but two games during the home and away season, and was a composed figure off half-back, averaging 18.5 disposals, under five marks and three rebound 50s a game.

Centre-Half Back – Michael Hartley (Essendon)

A former rookie at the Pies, Essendon took the punt on Hartley in last years draft and has been a real find for them as a key defender. Hartley debuted in round two and played 19 games this season and has battled the likes of Jesse Hogan, Josh Kennedy, Tom Hawkins and Jarrad Waite and has more than held his own. Ir'll be interesting to see what happens to him next year with Hurley and Hooker back in the fold.

Back Flank – Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon)

Another great find for the Bombers in an otherwise horrid year. Rookie-listed this year after spending time for Essendon's VFL team. He debuted in round one, and has played all bar one game this year with his attack on the ball a real pleasure to watch at times. Can play as a forward as well, but his best footy is on the half-back line.

The Centres

Wing – Josh Smith (Collingwood)

I was asking where in the hell this guy came from when the Bulldogs played Collingwood in their round 21 clash this year, but the reality is that he's been a real find for the Pies this year. Another player in this team to be pulled out of the rookie-list, Smith debuted on ANZAC day against the Bombers and has been solid since, averaging 20 disposals a game across 18 games to not only finish in the top 10 in Collingwood's best and fairest but he also took home the Pies' 'Best first-year player' award.

Centre – Darcy Parish (Essendon)

One of Essendon's high draft picks from 2015, Parish had to step up in his debut year, given the suspensions to the likes of Heppell, Watson, Stanton and others, and did so with aplomb, averaging 20 disposals, three clearances and three tackles a game across 20 games this year, and with the more senior blokes coming back into the team next year. He'll certainly be one that'll benefit from this.

Wing – Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

After being taken as the number two pick in the 2014 AFL draft, Petracca missed all of 2015 after rupturing his ACL in the pre-season, and despite a delayed start to 2016 with a foot injury, Petracca showed plenty of reasons why he was taken so early in the draft. Can play both inside and outside as a midfielder and is capable of kicking goals too. Averaged 17 disposals and kicked 12 goals in 17 games this year.

The Half-Forwards

Forward Flank – Mitch McGovern (Adelaide)

After not playing a single game last year for the Crows, the brother of West Coast defender Jeremy has enjoyed a breakout year in Adelaide's dynamic forward line, debuting in round one and playing 23 of a possible 24 games this year, and kicked 32 goals in what is considered a solid return for someone only in his second year at the club.

Centre-Half Forward – Mason Cox (Collingwood)

The big American has been somewhat of a revelation down forward for Collingwood this season, kicking 17 goals in 11 games this season. He had a dream debut on ANZAC Day, kicking his first goal in AFL with his first kick, and with Travis Cloke jumping ship next year, it's almost a certainty that Cox will get more game time in 2017.

Forward Flank – Jade Gresham (St. Kilda)

Jade Gresham was St. Kilda's first round choice in last year's draft and has solidified himself in the Saints' best 22 this season, playing 18 of a possible 22 games either as a midfielder or a small forward. He has at times set the game alight with his quick feet and ability to kick amazing goals. None bigger than the goal against Geelong in round 14 that won the Saints the game in an upset.

The Forwards

Forward Pocket – Tom Papley (Sydney)

Rookie-listed by the Swans at the end of last year and has been a great find as a small forward this year. Debuted in round one, Papley kicked 29 goals in 20 games for the Swans and was a part of Sydney's Grand Final team this year, and even though his influence on the game was limited, he'll learn from the experience in the long haul.

Full Forward – Josh Schache (Brisbane)

The second overall pick in last year's draft has been a work in progress over the course of 2016, but still managed to put in 17 games for 16 goals. Playing full-forward in a team as struggling as the Lions are is a difficult feat, but he'll only get better as he gets older.

Forward Pocket – Eric Hipwood (Brisbane)

After being unsighted in the first half of 2016, Eric Hipwood has emerged as a serious threat as a forward, kicking 11 goals in 10 games, including a bag of four and a bag of three. What's even more fascinating is that he was drafted initially as a backman. If he continues to work on his frame, I have no doubt that he will be a dominant force up forward with Schache in years to come.

The Followers

Ruckman – Dougal Howard (Port Adelaide)

There weren't a lot of ruckmen who debuted in 2016, but Howard's six games for Port this year gets the nod  At 200cm he can play forward as well as playing as a second-string ruckman. A knee injury in round 13 against Fremantle robbed him of anymore opportunties at senior level this year.

Ruck/Rover – Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs)

The son of Sydney star defender Andrew, could've been easily a Swan, but when you look back at it now, you reckon the Swans made a big mistake in not matching the Bulldogs' bid for the talented midfielder. Dunkley played 17 games for the premiers this year, including all four games in the Bulldogs' miracle September run.

Rover – Sam Menegola (Geelong)

After five years with no games at either Hawthorn or Fremantle, Sam Menegola finally got an opportunity to play senior footy at the Cattery, and despite only playing eight games for the Cats this year, has had a massive influence in most of them, averaging 24 disposals, four inside 50s and three clearances in such a short time.

The Interchange

Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

After such a great start to his AFL career, his form tapered off into the VFL in the second-half of the year, playing only 13 of a possible 22 games. But his numbers are pretty solid for a first-year player., averaging 19 disposals, five tackles and four clearances a game.

George Hewett (Sydney)

After being drafted by the Swans ahead of the 2014 season, George Hewett didn't get a chance to debut until round one this year against Collingwood and played all but two games this year as a half-forward/midfielder. Averaged 13 disposals and 3.5 tackles a game, and has also been somewhat of a goal-kicker, kicking 18 goals this season.

Rhys Mathieson (Brisbane)

This young man caused a little bit of noise during the off-season, impressing Brisbane coaches with his work-rate and his hardness towards the ball. A broken jaw postponed his inevitable debut until round nine. He managed a further 10 games, averaging 18 disposals and just under four clearances and four tackles a game and is certainly one for the future.

Daniel Rioli (Richmond)

The nephew of Richmond great Maurice Rioli found himself in 18 of the Tigers' 22 games this year, showing glimpses of what he's capable of. He kicked 13 goals in the season and averaged 10 disposals and three tackles a game. Still a work in progress but shows a lot of promise.

B: Tom Ruggles (GEEL), Jacob Weitering (CARL), Darcy Byrne-Jones (PORT)
HB: Callum Mills (SYD), Michael Hartley (ESS), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (ESS)
C: Josh Smith (COLL), Darcy Parish (ESS), Christian Petracca (MELB)
HF: Mitch McGovern (ADEL), Mason Cox (COLL), Jade Gresham (STK)
F: Tom Papley (SYD), Josh Schache (BL), Eric Hipwood (BL)
FOL: Dougal Howard (PORT), Josh Dunkley (WB), Sam Menegola (GEEL)
INT: Clayton Oliver (MELB), George Hewett (SYD), Rhys Mathieson (BL), Daniel Rioli (RICH)

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