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TABtouch Team of the YearTuesday, September 10, 2019 - 3:51 PM - by Chris Pike

THE TABtouch Team of the Year for the 2019 Optus WAFL Premiership Season highlights the strength of Subiaco, South Fremantle and Claremont while featuring a good blend of recognised superstars and those emerging onto the scene.

The Team of the Year has been selected based upon the WAFL Teams of the Week named after each round of the 2019 season so quite simply, the more weeks you were named throughout the season the better your chance of making the side.

While arguments could be made for different players under another selection criteria, the Team of the Year is based on those 20 Teams of the Round named throughout the season rewarding the players who have performed consistently throughout 2019.

Throughout the course of the season, 147 separate players were named to a Team of the Round on at least one occasion which meant in theory, 147 players were eligible to be named to the Team of the Year at the conclusion of the season.

With each team playing 18 games during the 2019 season, the player who was named to the Team of the Rounds the most was Subiaco's versatile big man Lachlan Delahunty. 

He was named 13 times out of 18 games and while for much of the first half of the season, his role was to play at centre half-forward and help out Tim Sutherland in the ruck. The second half of the season has seen him dominate in the ruck and he is deservedly the Sandover Medal favourite. 

He could have comfortably fit either in the ruck or centre half-forward but has been named to the latter position in the Team of the Year due to the fact there was another dominant ruck choice too for the side.

South Fremantle's Brock Higgins was superb in the ruck in his 16 games for the season and was named to Teams of the Round 10 times so he fittingly takes that spot in the Team of the Year.

Claremont's Kane Mitchell had a brilliant year too and he takes a spot on the wing having been named 11 times throughout the season. 

The other players to reach double-figure nominations were South Fremantle's Haiden Schloithe and Subiaco's Kyal Horsley, and the former takes his spot at half-forward and the latter in the centre position.

Three players were named nine times throughout the season and they were Perth's Michael Sinclair, Subiaco's Ben Sokol and West Perth's Andrew Strijk. Sinclair takes his spot in the back pocket while Sokol and Strijk are both in the forward pockets.

There were another three players named eight times during 2019 and they were Claremont's Jye Bolton and East Perth pair Rohan Kerr and Jackson Ramsay. The Tigers superstar was named ruck rover, Kerr to the wing and Ramsay to the half-back flank.

Another four players were named seven times and three of those were key defenders in Claremont's Anton Hamp, Subiaco's Jordan Lockyer and Swan Districts' Tony Notte so they all take spots in the defence. West Perth captain Aaron Black was the other and he was named rover.

All those 15 players who received at least seven nominations in Teams of the Round were automatic selections, but from there it required some judgement calls.

Of the players who were named six times, Claremont's Bailey Rogers was named to the half-back flank and his teammate Declan Mountford found a spot on the interchange. 

Perth's Clint Jones also was named to the bench while South Fremantle's Jacob Dragovich is an emergency and his teammate Chad Pearson was named to the interchange. 

Subiaco's Ryan Borchet is also an emergency while first year Swan Districts star George Hampson was rewarded with a spot at half-forward while West Perth's Shane Nelson was the fourth player on the interchange.

There were six players named to the Teams of the Round on five occasions but spots in the Team of the Year were running out. South Fremantle's Mason Shaw was named at full-forward given he was the best tall forward all season and Peel Thunder defender Tobe Watson was named an emergency.

But Claremont's Haydn Busher, Peel Thunder's Bailey Banfield, Subiaco's Greg Clark and Josh Rotham of the West Coast Eagles were the hard luck stories.

Given Subiaco's dominance once again this season, they had 17 players named at least once to a Team of the Round and of the 440 slots across the 20 rounds, their players were featured on 74 occasions. Then from there, they had five players named in the final 25.

South Fremantle finished second for a fourth successive season and the Bulldogs had 16 players named at least once for 66 total nominations. From that, five Bulldogs players were also acknowledged in the final 25.

Claremont finished third with 14 of the players named at least once and the Tigers making up 61 spots from the 440 throughout the season. Claremont finished with five players in the last 25 as well.

Subiaco, South Fremantle and Claremont made up the top three spots and are the last three teams left in the competition now heading into the preliminary final weekend. As a result, they have 15 players out of the final 25 given their players took up 201 of the 440 spots in the Teams of the Round.

West Perth finished fifth and had 16 players recognised at least once for 48 total nominations with the Falcons featuring three players in the Team of the Year.

Peel Thunder had 16 players recognised at least once for 37 in total with Tobe Watson their lone representative in the final 25 for his season down back that earned him a second year at the Fremantle Dockers.

Perth fell heartbreakingly short of playing finals for the first since 1997 and had 12 players named at least once in a Team of the Round for 34 in total. The Demons had two players reach the Team of the Year.

East Perth had two standout players through the season with Rohan Kerr and Jackson Ramsay making up 16 of their 34 total appearances in Teams of the Round. But the Royals did have 12 other players nominated along the way for 18 other slots.

Swan Districts might have claimed the wooden spoon but had two players in the Team of the Year from 13 players appearing at least once for 29 appearances in total.

East Fremantle didn’t quite feature a player in the final team but had 15 players appear at least once during the season for 31 total nominations. Blaine Boekhorst and Nick Kommer were named four times apiece.

The West Coast Eagles finished with 14 players named in the Team of the Round at least once for 26 appearances over 2019.

He had already been a dual fairest and best winner for Perth but his 2019 season finally saw him recognised for what an outstanding player he was. He played in the WAFL State Team, reached 100 games with the Demons and remained the best intercept defender in the competition with his overhead marking of opposition forays forward outstanding. Ended up averaging 22.4 possessions as a defender setting up play and was named to WAFL Teams of the Round nine times, including eight of the first 13 rounds.

It's a back-line full of quality and Angus Litherland, Hayden Kennedy, Michael Braut, Harry Marsh, Drew Rohde and Aaron Heal make up quite the impressive defensive unit, but he is the leader of the pack and produced a standout 2019 season. Whether locking down the best big forwards, intercept marking or providing the cool head, he proved the ideal key defender and was named to the Team of the Round seven times.

His second half of the season might have been a little interrupted, but up until Round 14, he deserved to be considered the best key defender in the competition in 2019. That's quite a transition from a man drafted as a forward and he battled early in his career to break into a star-studded forward-line. But he is now an outstanding defender in terms of stopping his opponent, taking intercept marks and setting up play going the other way with 144 games under his belt.

His return to East Perth from Collingwood in the AFL might have made a horror start when he ruptured his ACL to start 2018, but he more than made up for it in 2019. Playing most of the season in the midfield but due to the depth of on-ballers settles at half-back in the Team of the Year, he was brilliant for the Royals with his ability to rack up plenty of the ball and help a young group be competitive. Ended up averaging 30 possessions a game with eight games of 30 or more to be named to Team of the Round eight times.

What a remarkable stalwart he continues to be for Swan Districts and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. Has now played 237 games for Swans including the last 161 of those consecutively having not missed a game since the final three of 2011. While most of his season was again as a terrific servant at centre half-back, was thrown around a little late in the piece by coach Adam Pickering to good effect. In the end was named to Team of the Round seven times with his career having plenty of life left as he approaches 250 games.

Having attacking and creative defenders has become as important a part in the modern game as any and Claremont were fortunate enough to have a couple of them have standout seasons. With Lachlan Martinis tremendous as well, he produced the best season of his career which included a spot in the WAFL State Team and named to the Teams of the Round six times having averaged 22.2 possessions providing great run and driving off half-back.

The dual premiership star and 2012 Sandover Medallist returned to Claremont in 2018 and had a tremendous season and racked up 100 games along the way, but he went up another gear in 2019. It was at least as good, if not better, than that 2012 season that led to his AFL career and the remarkably hard-running Tigers co-captain ended up averaging 31.1 disposals across the season with 10 matches over 30 touches including each of the last four when he averaged 35.3.

Handing over the captaincy in 2019 certainly didn’t impact his football as he remained in outstanding form in the WAFL's dominant team once again. Along the way, he reached 200 WAFL games and again captained the WAFL State Team while averaging 26.9 possessions including going over 30 on three occasions and never collecting fewer than 20 showing remarkable consistency. Was named to the Team of the Round 10 times.

WING – ROHAN KERR (East Perth)
Had a brilliant four seasons with West Perth after his AFL stint with Carlton but work took him well away from Joondalup and it appeared he was lost to the WAFL sitting out 2017 and 2018. But he returned in 2019 and it was with arch-rivals East Perth and he slotted onto the wing and showed he has lost nothing in his time away. Racked up 26.5 possessions a game and reached his 100th game in the process in the final round.

He got hurt a couple of times through the season including a knee scare on WA Day, but played 17 of the 18 games and was right back to his brilliant best with his prolific ball winning ability while being able to win the ball on the inside and outside. His kicking skills remain elite and it was every bit the equal of his Sandover Medal season of 2017 ending up averaging 24.6 possessions and kicking 20 goals while named to the Team of the Round 10 times.

Remains the league's best and most versatile big man, and might have turned himself into the best overall player now in 2019 after an incredible individual season. Spent the first eight games largely at centre half-forward while helping Tim Sutherland in the ruck, averaging 23.6 possessions, 9.4 hit outs and kicking four goals. Then once he settled into carrying the ruck over the last 10 games, he was remarkable putting up 29.9 disposals, 19.9 hit outs and kicking nine goals.

Without question he didn’t join Swan Districts in 2019 with plans of finishing a season with a second straight wooden spoon having done so at East Fremantle in 2018. But he certainly couldn’t have done any more in his first season with Swans and would have to be favourite to claim the Swan Medal which would put him in remarkably rare company winning three fairest and best awards at three different clubs. Worked hard all season in black-and-white for 23.6 possessions a game and 19 goals.

The West Perth star has now moved into retirement but he certainly got his wish to go out on a high note while still being close to his very best. Over the past 18 months, has settled into a role up forward out of the goal square and proved himself quite the effective goalkicker and tough to beat one-on-one player. Won the Bernie Naylor Medal in 2018 and backed it up in 2019 kicking another 38 goals including 12 in the last four rounds. Finishes his career with 245 games, 294 goals along with a premiership and Breckler Medal on top of seven appearances for WA and 13 for the West Coast Eagles.

Appeared likely to be the Bernie Naylor Medallist most of the season until being overtaken by ex-teammate Ben Sokol. But with South Fremantle's forward-line now his to become the No. 1 option, he stood tall to end up kicking 49 goals including two hauls of six along the way while kicking five in Round 7 against East Perth and then four on another couple of occasions.

Continued to prove himself a big game player in 2019 kicking four goals in the State Game against South Australia on the back of having already kicked nine across the last two Grand Finals. After five goals in Round 1, might have been slightly quiet in the first half of the year but finished off in a remarkably dominant run of 25 goals in his last four games and 34 in the final seven to end up kicking 51 for the season and claim the Bernie Naylor Medal.

RUCK – BROCK HIGGINS (South Fremantle)
Confirmed himself as the best pure ruckman in the WAFL in 2019 during a season that saw him play 100 games with South Fremantle and now be on the verge of 150 in total in the competition. Dominated to start the season named ruckman for the first seven weeks on the way to 10 nominations for the season where his ability to ruck all day and get better the long games went a standout. Finished up averaging 17.0 possessions and 37.6 hit outs.

Having already won two Simpson and two Sandover Medals in his first three seasons at Claremont, he had no trouble keeping up that standard in 2019 and might have even improved as a team player. Had another brilliant season in the midfield for the Tigers ending up averaging 28.9 disposals. He might have been tagged tight a couple of times and copped heavy hits two consecutive weeks, but the rest of his season was brilliant with 10 games of more than 30 disposals including 46 in Round 20 while also kicking 10 goals.

The West Perth captain continued to be a remarkably consistent and brilliant player in the midfield for the Falcons with his season in 2019 stacking up tremendously well with the rest of his career that has already seen him win two fairest and best awards and a Sandover Medal. Averaged another 27.2 possessions a game playing both as an inside and outside midfielder and now he's just nine games short of 200 games entering 2020.

He made his debut down back for South Fremantle in 2017 and showed good signs for the future. He booked a permanent spot in the back-line in 2018. And now in 2019, confirmed himself as one of the best backmen in the WAFL capable of playing on tall and small opponents, and in producing lockdown and attacking roles. Went on to averaging 18 disposals and it wouldn’t surprise to see him on an AFL list in 2020.

The triple West Perth fairest and best winner earned his life membership in 2019 by playing 150 games with the Falcons and he remained one of the very best ball winners in the competition. Ended up the season averaging 28.6 possessions including going over 30 on nine times and being named to the Team of the Round on six occasions.

Returned to Claremont after a stint in the AFL with North Melbourne and certainly did his chances no harm of a return to the big time with a strong season in a midfield alongside Kane Mitchell and Jye Bolton. Did a lot of the grunt work while his brilliant teammates went to work as a tackling machine and inside ball winner, but ended up averaging 22.7 possessions a game to be named to the Teams of the Round six times.

It's remarkable to think that for someone who has now played 159 WAFL games with 149 matches in the AFL in between his South Fremantle and Perth stints on top of games in the VFL, and despite all that he remains one of the very best and most consistent ball winners in the competition. Handed on the captaincy in 2019 but his form remained top notch averaging 28.7 possessions a game with six games above 30 and a best of 42 against Swan Districts in Round 8.

Could consider himself decidedly unlucky not to feature on the ground in the starting Team of the Year, but that's quite a talented midfield to try and break into. But following the departures at South Fremantle coming into 2019, for the first time he became a permanent on-baller and more than fully grasped his opportunities ending up averaging 27.4 possession and earning a spot in six Teams of the Round.

Having established himself in 2018 as a quality versatile player at Swan Districts, Fremantle took notice by adding him to the rookie-list and he must have come close to an AFL debut given his strong form down back in the WAFL for Peel Thunder right throughout 2019. While also doing well defensively despite his light frame, he averaged 16.9 disposals and was named to the Teams of the Round on five occasions while earning another year on the Dockers list.

Going back 12 months he looked like a promising key forward who could develop into a pretty handy option for Subiaco in attack. That fully came to fruition in 2019 as he enjoyed the extra responsibility as the main tall target and delivered in kind kicking 42 goals on the season including a stunning purple patch to close the campaign kicking 11 over the final three rounds with a best of five in Round 20 against East Perth.

Round 1 – Kyal Horsley (Subiaco)
Round 2 –  Anton Hamp (Claremont)
Round 3 – Haiden Schloithe (South Fremantle)
Round 4 – Brant Colledge (Perth)
Round 5 – Tony Notte (Swan Districts)
Round 6 – Rohan Kerr (East Perth)
Round 7 – Mitch Peirce (West Perth)
Round 8 – Clint Jones (Perth)
Round 9 – Lachlan Delahunty (Subiaco)
Round 10 – Nick Suban (South Fremantle)
Round 11 – Tyler Keitel (West Perth)
Round 12 – Josh Smith (West Coast Eagles)
Round 13 – Jackson Ramsay (East Perth)
Round 14 – Kane Mitchell (Claremont)
Round 15 – Bailey Banfield (Peel Thunder)
Round 16 – Jye Bolton (Claremont)
Round 17 – Ben Sokol (Subiaco)
Round 18 – Jonathon Griffin (East Fremantle)
Round 19 – Jesse Turner (Swan Districts)
Round 20 – Ian Richardson (Claremont)