The AFL Players Association Board announced its annual squad of 40, who it deems are the best players aged 22 and under for the whole season. The concept – which began in 2013 – is then fan-voted, with the final 22 announced at the AFL Players’ MVP awards later in August.
22under22 recognises young players who are impacting their clubs in the early days of their careers. Their roles might not be as significant or noticeable as the older players, but these young guns light up match days with their flare and talent.
The squad of 40 players was announced on Tuesday, August 7, and voting is now open.
Brisbane and Carlton have five nominees each, while the Western Bulldogs have four. Both Sydney sides are also well represented across the ground, with six players included between the teams.
Number-one draft pick Sam Walsh headlines six first-year players included in the squad.
2019 22under22 squad
Defenders: Wayne Milera (Adelaide), Harris Andrews (Brisbane Lions), Alex Witherden (Brisbane Lions), Jacob Weitering (Carlton), Sam Taylor (GWS Giants), Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn), Bayley Fritsch (Melbourne), Dan Houston (Port Adelaide), Sydney Stack (Richmond), Jordan Dawson (Sydney Swans), Callum Mills (Sydney Swans)
Midfielders: Jarrod Berry (Brisbane Lions), Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane Lions), Zac Fisher (Carlton), Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton), Sam Walsh (Carlton), Andrew McGrath (Essendon), Darcy Parish (Essendon), Darcy Tucker (Fremantle), Jordan Clark (Geelong), Brayden Fiorini (Gold Coast Suns), Jacob Hopper (GWS Giants), Tim Taranto (GWS Giants), James Worpel (Hawthorn), Clayton Oliver (Melbourne), Oliver Florent (Sydney Swans), Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs), Bailey Smith (Western Bulldogs)
Forwards: Eric Hipwood (Brisbane Lions), Harry McKay (Carlton), Gryan Miers (Geelong), Brent Daniels (GWS Giants), Jy Simpkin (North Melbourne), Cameron Zurhaar (North Melbourne), Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide), Shai Bolton (Richmond), Jade Gresham (St Kilda), Liam Ryan (West Coast Eagles), Aaron Naughton (Western Bulldogs)
Rucks: Tim English (Western Bulldogs), Harry McKay (Carlton)
*Harry McKay (Carlton) has been nominated as a ruck or a forward*
So, who are the ‘locks’ for the team of 22?
As it is a popular vote, fan favourites such as Sydney Stack and first year stars Sam Walsh and Connor Rozee are likely inclusions.
Brisbane could be represented at both ends of the ground once again, with Eric Hipwood and Harris Andrews probable picks for the third year in a row.
Clayton Oliver is the equal-leader in the contested possession count at present, with Jacob Hopper and Josh Dunkley ranked seventh and ninth in this category, respectively. All three 22-year-olds have had huge years in the engine room.
Eric Hipwood’s 29 goals is the best of the young players so far, while Aaron Naughton has been a revelation up forward for the Bulldogs, kicking 25 goals to date.
Tim Taranto has averaged 28 disposals this year, James Worpel is close behind with an average of 26 disposals and six clearances.
Dan Houston, who started the year as an efficient rebound defender, has moved into the midfield of late and averages 21 disposals per game, the highest of any defender in the 22under22 squad.
I’ve selected my 22under22 team and it wasn’t easy, particularly in the midfield. Emerging leader Harris Andrews would be my pick for captain, with Andrew McGrath as his vice.
Fans can visit 22under22.com.au to cast their vote. Voting closes on Wednesday, August 21, 2019.
The 22under22 squad will be announced at the AFL Players’ MVP Awards to be held on Thursday, August 29.