It's that time of year when we perform just about the most difficult task in football - settling on 22 AFL players for our All-Australian team.
As with our previous All-Australian teams, we have selected a balanced side which we would want competing in a real game. This means, players have been selected in their correct positions, while we've also ensured the need for key position players, lock down defenders, ball-winning midfielders and genuine wingers have been met.
Every year there are a number of extremely stiff omissions, so shoutouts go to Callum Mills, Connor Rozee, Sam Walsh, Dion Prestia, Jarrod Witts, Tom Hawkins and Tyson Stengle.
FULL TEAM AT BOTTOM OF PAGE
James Sicily (Hawthorn): Leaving Sicily out of the official All-Australian team is an egregious error. The Hawk was simply sensational in 2022, ranking first for defenders in player ratings, disposals, uncontested possessions and marks. He even showed late in the year he is more than capable playing in the middle. Just about our first defender selected.
Sam Taylor (GWS): If you haven't seen much of Taylor play, we suggest you watch more Giants games in 2023. Taylor has transformed himself into an elite key back, leading the entire competition in intercept possessions (9.5 per game). His ability to lock down the league's best key forward is as good as any defender in the game right now.
Brayden Maynard (Collingwood): You only need to watch Maynard's game against the Blues in Round 23 to see how valuable he is to the Magpies. Maynard enjoyed a career best year in the black and white, proving he is one of the league's more versatile players as he seamlessly transitions from locking down smalls to talls and providing grunt through the midfield.
Jack Sinclair (St Kilda): A few years back Sinclair made the jump from C-grader to B-grader, he's now well and truly an A-grader. Sinclair was a shining light in what was a pretty disappointing season for the Saints. He finished seventh in the competition for metres gained, but might just be the best ball user of the top 20 in that category. He also ranked 10th overall for total disposals, the highest of any non-midfielder.
Tom Barrass (West Coast): A dour, old-school defender, Barrass has had to whether storm after storm in 2022 as part of a West Coast side that struggled immensely from the opening round of the season. The 26-year-old finished the season leading the league for intercept marks (72) from just 19 matches, and was ranked above average for spoils and disposals.
Adam Saad (Carlton): An elite rebounder, Saad has developed into an elite defender as well. His closing speed, one-on-one work, and defensive positioning has developed, and he nearly doubled his intercept mark tally from 2021 this season. Averaging a career-high 22 disposals, Saad has become a weapon off half back for the Blues.
Josh Daicos (Collingwood): His brother stole the spotlight with a magnificent rookie season but Josh himself enjoyed a sensational year on the wing. The Pie averaged 21 disposals per game, but it was his run-and-carry, for-the-most-part immaculate ball use, and ability to finish around goal which caught our attention.
Lachie Neale (Brisbane): The incredible bar Neale set in his Brownlow Medal-winning 2020 season may well have been surpassed this year by the Lions star. Neale may well have a second 'Charlie' draped around his neck following a season in which he averaged 30 disposals and seven clearances. Once again he was the No. 1 ground ball gets winner and finished third overall for total disposals.
Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane): The Scottish suitcase has been the standout winger of the year and would have to be in line for another top three finish in the Lions' best and fairest. He still averages his 25 disposals per game, but has become more of a goalkicking threat, with 18 majors on the season.
Shai Bolton (Richmond): It's not outrageous to suggest Bolton is one of the top 10 players in the competition. In the last 12 months he's surpassed Dustin Martin as Richmond's most important and dynamic player, with his ability to roll forward from the midfield second to none. In 2022, Bolton averaged 18 disposals per game and kicked a ridiculous 41 goals.
Jeremy Cameron (Geelong): What a year from Jezza. The star Cat booted 59 goals and ranked fourth in the competition for total score involvements. He showed on numerous occasions he has the ability to push up the ground and use his elite foot skills to set up attacks. Expect him to poll the most Brownlow Medal votes of any non-midfielder this year.
Christian Petracca (Melbourne): Averaging 28 disposals per game and having kicked 19 majors, Petracca could easily have slotted into the midfield, but his work rate in pushing up the ground is elite, so having him start at half-forward makes sense. He tallied 146 total inside 50s in 2022 - 20 more than the next best player (Noah Anderson with 126).
Charlie Curnow (Carlton): It's hard to believe Curnow was out of the game for almost two full seasons, only to win the Coleman Medal in 2022. He started slowly, too, going goalless in Round 1 against Richmond, but kicked a goal in every single subsequent game, including five bags of five or more goals. He snagged 42 contested marks in 2022, but was also prolific as a ground-level goalscorer.
Tom Lynch (Richmond): If Lynch had played every game and not been subbed out of three others, he would have won the Coleman Medal by the length of the Flemington straight. He averaged 3.3 goals per outing and has been the catalyst in the Tigers' late season resurgence. As long as he's healthy, Richmond remain a live flag chance.
Bayley Fritsch (Melbourne): One of the best kicks in the AFL, Fritsch had another outstanding season for the Dees. He is one of the toughest match-ups in the competition, possessing the ability to play both tall and small. Fritsch was the only player in the game to kick a goal in every round of the season, finishing with 50 goals.
Max Gawn (Melbourne): Gawn finished the season with the most score involvements of any ruckman (117), kicked 12 majors himself, and had the most disposals and inside 50s of any ruck throughout the season. A complete package.
Clayton Oliver (Melbourne): Another year, another All-Australian blazer for Oliver, who just keeps getting better. The gun Demon midfielder averaged a career-high 33.5 disposals per game as well as 17 contested possessions, eight clearances and five tackles. It's a season which is sure to see him feature prominently on Brownlow Medal night.
Patrick Cripps (Carlton): The Blues captain began the season in devastating form and finished with a flurry to earn selection in our team. His ability to put his side on his back is first rate, and in 2022 Cripps added goalkicking to his game.
Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle): Brayshaw is becoming an incredibly consistent, hard-edged performer in the Fremantle midfield. Rated elite for disposals per game (29) and tackles (6.3), and above average for clearances (4.1), he has well and truly filled the void left by Lachie Neale and to a separate extent, Nat Fyfe - and then some.
Touk Miller (Gold Coast): For the second year running, Miller can consider himself a little unlucky to be named on the bench. The star Sun should cruise to another best and fairest award after a dominant season which saw him average 28 disposals, eight clearances and five tackles per game. He was also the fourth-highest rated AFL fantasy player for the season.
Rory Laird (Adelaide): Speaking of underrated players, Laird is a player who doesn't get the plaudits he deserves. He was the No. 2 tackler in the league in 2022, was ranked sixth in clearances, fifth in contested possessions, and fourth for total disposals. His transition from an A-grade half back flanker to an A-grade midfielder has been seamless.
Charlie Cameron (Brisbane): Nine times in 2022 Charlie Cameron kicked three or more goals in a game, and he's become an incredibly consistent performer for the Lions. Rated above average for marks and tackles per game, Cameron is not just a roving small forward, but one who creates his own opportunities and brings his teammates into the game.
Craig McRae (Collingwood): Could it really be anyone else? What McRae has managed in 2022 is unprecedented. Not only has he taken a bottom four side into the top four, but he's instilled a resilience in his playing group which has resulted in no fewer than nine wins by seven points or fewer. Simply epic.
ESPN's 2022 All-Australian team:
FB: J. Sicily (HAW), S. Taylor (GWS), B. Maynard (COLL)
HB: J. Sinclair (STK), T. Barrass (WCE), A. Saad (CARL)
C: J. Daicos (COLL), L. Neale (BRIS), H. McCluggage (BRIS)
HF: S. Bolton (RICH), J. Cameron (GEE), C. Petracca (MEL)
FF: C. Curnow (CARL), T. Lynch (RICH), B. Fritsch (MEL)
R: M. Gawn (MEL), C. Oliver (MEL), P. Cripps (CARL)
I/C: T. Miller (GC), A. Brayshaw (FRE), R. Laird (ADE), C. Cameron (BRIS)
The official 2022 AFL All-Australian team:
FB: T. Stewart (GEE), S. May (MEL), B. Maynard (COLL)
HB: J. Sinclair (STK), S. Taylor (GWS), A. Saad (CARL)
C: T. Miller (GC), C. Oliver (MEL), C. Mills (SYD)
HF: C. Petracca (MEL), J. Cameron (GEE), S. Bolton (RICH)
FF: C. Curnow (CARL), T. Hawkins (GEE), T. Stengle (GEE)
R: M. Gawn (MEL), P. Cripps (CARL) L. Neale (BRIS)
I/C: M. Blicavs (GEEL), A. Brayshaw (FRE), I. Heeney (SYD), C. Rozee (PA)