RICHMOND spearhead Jack Riewoldt has become just the second Coleman medallist in 13 seasons to miss out on All-Australian selection.
Selectors decided that Riewoldt’s 65 goals – the lowest tally to win the goalkicking medal for 50 years – was not enough to earn a spot in the 2012 team of the year, with Hawthorn’s Lance Franklin (centre half-forward) and Geelong big man Tom Hawkins (full-forward) named in the two key forward posts.
The Riewoldt snub – the first of its kind since St Kilda’s Fraser Gehrig was overlooked in 2005 despite being that year’s Coleman medallist – was one of several surprise selections in the forward line.
Fremantle superstar Matthew Pavlich was also denied his seventh All-Australian honour, with the selection panel instead choosing to name a resting ruckman, West Coast’s Dean Cox; a resting midfielder, Adelaide’s Brownlow Medal fancy Patrick Dangerfield, and two small forwards, Hawthorn’s Cyril Rioli and St Kilda’s Stephen Milne, instead of three genuine key forwards, as has been the case in previous years.
That Cox was not the first-choice ruckman, and was upstaged by his own tag team partner Nic Naitanui, was another selection that has sparked debate.
Most media commentators had predicted Cox was a lock for the No. 1 ruck spot, believing it would then be a close call between Richmond’s boom recruit Ivan Maric and Adelaide big man Sam Jacobs for the No. 2 position.
Naitanui, who ranked fifth in the AFL for hitouts and averaged below Cox in almost every key category, was barely in the conversation.
Pavlich’s elevation to the group of seven-time stars – such as Wayne Carey, Nathan Buckley, Stephen Silvagni and Terry Daniher – was considered by some to be near automatic after the Dockers captain grabbed the competition by storm for an extended stretch mid-season.
The 30-year-old was the hottest player in the AFL between rounds 10 and 19 when he produced 44 goals in nine games, including match-winning bags of eight, seven and another two of six.
Several senior commentators even predicted Pavlich could be named All-Australian captain after leading the Dockers to the finals with a home-and-away season tally of 62 goals, which put him equal runner-up with Hawkins behind Riewoldt.
The honour of All-Australian captain instead went to West Coast key defender Darren Glass, who was named in the back pocket, while Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett was voted vice-captain.
News of Pavlich’s non-selection leaked out early today after he revealed to media he had not been invited to the ceremony.
Pavlich, who will fly to Melbourne later in the week for hip surgery that will require 6-8 weeks’ recovery, said he was unconcerned by the eyebrow-raising selection, delivered by a panel made up of Kevin Bartlett, Gerard Healy, Leigh Matthews, Luke Darcy, Glen Jakovich, Mark Ricciuto, Danny Frawley and AFL officials Adrian Anderson and Andrew Demetriou, the non-voting chairman.
”Individual awards aren’t what you play footy for, it’s team success,” he said prior to the ceremony.
”I didn’t have the greatest start to the year but certainly felt like I really contributed towards the end of the year and impacted and influenced the games really strongly.”
However it wasn’t all bad news for Fremantle, with defender Luke McPharlin earning his first All-Australian jumper – one of 15 first-timers – which is the most in history since the then-VFL began picking a team of the year from 1982.
The other debutants included St Kilda defender Sean Dempster, Hawthorn pair Grant Birchall and Rioli, West Coast defender Beau Waters, Sydney duo Ted Richards and Josh Kennedy, Richmond midfield partners Trent Cotchin and Brett Deledio, Essendon captain Jobe Watson, Collingwood’s Dayne Beams, Adelaide tag team Scott Thompson and Dangerfield, as well as Hawkins and Naitanui.
The ruck pairing of Naitanui and Cox ensured the Eagles, which finished the season in fifth, provided the most players from one club with four, while Hawthorn and Collingwood each had three representatives, with the Pies’ star midfielders Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury named on the bench.
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