They’re the ‘cream of the crop’: A squad of players who narrowly missed out on the All-Australian lineup of 44, but undoubtedly had valid cases for selection. Let’s examine.
*To meet the eligibility criteria, a player must have participated in at least 16 matches.
- Nic Newman (Carlton)
- Steven May (Melbourne)
- Brayden Maynard (Collingwood)
- Lachie Whitfield (GWS)
- Jake Lever (Melbourne)
- Lachie Ash (GWS)
- Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane)
- Josh Dunkley (Brisbane)
- Mason Wood (St Kilda)
- Shai Bolton (Richmond)
- Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)
- Gryan Miers (Geelong)
- Izak Rankine (Adelaide)
- Jeremy Finlayson (Port Adelaide)
- Jamie Elliott (Collingwood)
- Max Gawn (Melbourne, captain)
- Brad Crouch (St Kilda)
- Tim Taranto (Richmond)
- Will Day (Hawthorn)
- Sam Docherty (Carlton)
- Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)
- Josh Kelly (GWS, vice-captain)
Nic Newman proved instrumental in Carlton’s finals campaign, adept at shutting down top-flight small forwards and displaying precision with his disposal. In Round 3, he expertly limited Toby Greene to just five possessions, while amassing 24 disposals of his own. Newman’s offensive impact has grown significantly, elevating his defensive game.
Steven May averaged 6.57 intercepts per game, providing Melbourne with a reliable option when opponents had control. With an average of 17.1 disposals and an 82.93% efficiency rate, May consistently made good use of the ball.
Brayden Maynard never backs down from a contest, averaging 5.73 intercepts per game and contributing 18.50 disposals on average. He’s a valuable member of Collingwood’s leadership group.
Lachie Whitfield has blossomed for GWS, now an experienced player who offers plenty of run from the half-back flank. Defensively, he recorded an average of 6.19 intercepts per game across 21 appearances. GWS suffered a loss against West Coast in Round 2 when Whitfield was absent, highlighting his significance to the team.
Jake Lever stands out as one of Melbourne’s key players, deserving of a spot in the All-Australian roster. He expertly leads Melbourne’s defensive unit, consistently demonstrating composure and composure. Lever’s average of 8.32 intercepts per game ranked sixth in the league. Melbourne’s lone loss in season 2023, a 27-point defeat to Essendon in Round 5, occurred when Lever was absent, emphasizing his importance to the team.
Lachie Ash consistently generated offensive thrust from the GWS backline, averaging 434.30 meters gained per game. Without missing a match in the home and away season, Ash quietly fulfilled his role for the team, often going unrecognized.
Hugh McCluggage holds immense value to Brisbane, a player they could ill afford to lose. He excels at winning possessions both on the inside and outside, adapting to any situation to perform at his best.
Josh Dunkley played a crucial role for Brisbane, contributing significantly to their second-place finish and home final. His decision to leave the Western Bulldogs was justified by his impressive performances in a Brisbane jumper.
Mason Wood looked rejuvenated after a strong preseason, proving to be a revelation on the St Kilda wing. He averaged 5.09 score involvements per game and demonstrated durability, playing in every match during the 2023 season. Wood’s work rate on both ends of the field, 15 goals and 3.87 intercepts per game, underscore his contributions.
Shai Bolton showcased his X-factor, consistently delivering on his potential throughout all 23 games for Richmond. Averaging 7.00 score involvements per game, he proved to be a game-changer.
Jeremy Cameron had a strong season, averaging 2.65 goals per game, the fifth-highest in the league. Additionally, he ranked fifth in score involvements per game with 7.70.
Gryan Miers ranked tenth in score involvements per game, providing a unique kicking style that perplexed opposition players.
Izak Rankine emerged as one of the season’s standout recruits, showcasing an abundance of X-factor. He’s a key target and a match-winner.
Jeremy Finlayson averaged 6.80 score involvements per game and made a significant impact as Port Adelaide’s second ruckman, playing a pivotal role in their structure and system.
Jamie Elliott had a solid season, playing a crucial part in Collingwood’s victories. He recorded multiple goals in 12 out of 21 appearances and averaged 5.86 score involvements per game.
Max Gawn leads Melbourne as their captain, consistently driving his teammates forward. As a ruckman, he excels with an average of 16.40 disposals per game across 20 appearances.
Brad Crouch displayed remarkable consistency throughout the season for St Kilda, averaging 12.00 contested possessions per game. His defensive efforts were also notable, tallying an average of 6.09 tackles per game. Crouch did not miss a single game in the 2023 season.
Tim Taranto proved to be a revelation in his first year of a seven-year deal with Richmond. Averaging 12.39 contested possessions per game, he was unlucky to miss out on the All-Australian lineup.
Will Day possesses immense talent and versatility, capable of playing through the midfield or as a loose defender. Day consistently gave his best effort, with Hawthorn narrowly losing both games he missed due to suspension (Round 5 against GWS and Round 6 against Adelaide).
Sam Docherty plays a critical role for Carlton, evident from their winless record in the three games he didn’t feature in. Docherty’s experience and dedication elevate those around him.
Matt Rowell emerged as one of Gold Coast’s top performers, averaging the fourth-most clearances per game in the league with 7.65. He displayed strong ball-hunting and contest involvement, playing in all games. Additionally, Rowell recorded the most tackles in the AFL during the 2023 season with 190!
Josh Kelly proved his worth to the team with a pivotal goal in Round 16 against Melbourne, securing a victory and a finals berth for GWS. His absence in the Round 2 loss to West Coast by 19 points underscored his importance to the team.