Optus WAFL Team of the Year

Friday, September 25, 2020 - 1:49 PM

EVERY week of the 2020 Optus WAFL Premiership Season saw a Team of the Round selected and now based on those nine line-ups, the WAFL Team of the Year has been put together and it was, as always, a challenge still to narrow it down to 22 with three emergencies.

It has now become an annual tradition for the WAFL to announce a Team of the Round each week during the home and away season including a Player of the Week. 

But then in turn, those Teams of the Round are compiled to put together a Team of the Year at the end of each WAFL season, and while it might have been a shortened campaign due to COVID-19, 2020 is no different.

Over the course of the nine rounds of the 2020 WAFL season, a total of 98 players from the competition were selected at least once in one of the Teams of the Round.

Minor premiers South Fremantle had 17 individual players selected and they took up 32 of the available 198 positions throughout the whole season.

Claremont finished second on the ladder and the Tigers had 11 players named at least once for a total of 28 positions while the third placed West Perth had nine players earn selection at least once to take up 26 spots all up.

Perth broke its finals hoodoo in 2020 and along the way 12 Demons players earned a spot in the Team of the Round at least once for a total of 24 of the available 198 positions across the nine rounds.

Subiaco narrowly missed finals and had 13 players nominated at least once for a total of 24 spots while East Perth had 11 players selected at least on one occasion for a total of 23 times.

Swan Districts had nine players selected at least once on a total of 20 times while East Fremantle had 10 players who took up 12 spots over the nine rounds with Peel Thunder having six players selected once at least to take up nine spots along the way.

Now onto the individuals who have earned selection in the Optus WAFL Team of the Year for 2020 based on the weekly Team of the Round selected.

Three players earned selection six times in the Teams of the Round making them automatic picks for the Team of the Year. They were West Perth captain Aaron Black in the centre, East Perth's Jackson Ramsay on the ball and Swan Districts' Corey Gault as the ruckman.

There were just the two players who were named five times during the season and South Fremantle's Jake Florenca takes up a spot on the ball as well with Black and Ramsay while West Perth's Shane Nelson slots onto the bench.

Another 11 players were selected four times and they were all automatic selections as well.

Five Claremont players were named four times with Alec Waterman named in a forward pocket, Bailey Rogers to a half-back flank, Callan England to half-forward, Jye Bolton in the midfield and Haydn Busher to full-back.

Perth captain Michael Sinclair took up a spot in the back-line as did emerging South Fremantle star Chad Pearson. 

Reigning Subiaco Sandover Medallist Lachlan Delahunty warmed into the season nicely but couldn’t quite take the ruck spot off Gault while Jesse Turner from Swan Districts slotted onto the wing. 

West Perth's Blake Wilhelm and Tyler Keitel then took up positions down back and up front respectively having also earned selection four times along the season.

The rest of the selections took some debating and relied on what positions in the team still needed to be filled with another 12 players being named at least three times and 20 players at least twice.

Of those in contention, East Perth's wingmen Rohan Kerr and Angus Scott split positions on the interchange and as an emergency in the final 25 selected.

Perth excitement machine Logan McDonald won a spot in the forward-line while Matthew Taylor won selection narrowly ahead of teammates Chris Masten and Andrew Fisher.

South Fremantle pair Haiden Schloithe and Mason Shaw got the nod as part of the forward set up while Swan Districts recruit Sam Fisher found a spot only marginally ahead of Subiaco's Kyal Horsley and Max Walters, and West Perth's Trent Manzone.

East Fremantle is then represented by Cameron Eardley and Peel Thunder by Jackson Merrett to make up the final 25 in the 2020 Optus WAFL Team of the Year.

BACK POCKET – BLAKE WILHELM (West Perth)
It's the remarkable to think that he has now racked up 97 WAFL games with the Falcons and that could become 100 in the Grand Final this year should West Perth make it, and he is still largely unheralded for how important he is to the Falcons. Initially had to make the decision to focus on the WAFL over basketball having been a fine player at the Joondalup Wolves, and has turned himself into one of the best attacking defenders in the competition averaging another 18.3 possessions a game in 2020.

FULL-BACK – HAYDN BUSHER (Claremont)
He has spent a lot of his WAFL career spanning 132 games now at both Perth and Claremont playing a variety of roles from ruck to forward to the wing, but it's always been as a key defender he has played his most consistent football. He took up that No. 1 tall back spot at Claremont with Anton Hamp moving forward and was brilliant all season long to be named in the Team of the Round four times out of eight games and averaged 11.4 disposals while being outstanding defensively.

BACK POCKET – MICHAEL SINCLAIR (Perth)
Ended up captaining Perth for the entire season following the ACL injury to Corey Yeo and the dual fairest and best winner will remember 2020 forever after leading the Demons into their first final since 1997. He played a key role in their success too showing all of his 121 games of WAFL experience down back to average 14.3 disposals and plenty of his trademark intercept marks a game.

HALF-BACK FLANK – BAILEY ROGERS (Claremont)
He did have a few stints in the midfield late in the season but it's off half-back with his run and creativity a highlight where he has made his name, and built his reputation over 76 games now. Put together another tremendous season with the Tigers averaging 20.3 disposals to be named four times in the Team of the Year and to be one of Claremont's most important attacking threats.

CENTRE HALF-BACK – CHAD PEARSON (South Fremantle)
Couldn’t be doing any more to bang down the door to get an AFL opportunity. Had the odd run even in the midfield this season but down back he is outstanding. Can play on some of the better key forwards, is an impressive intercept marker and then his kicking skills coming out of the back-line are really what sets him apart. Averaged another 17.6 possessions a game in 2020 and at just 22, already had 57 WAFL games to his name.

HALF-BACK FLANK – MATTHEW TAYLOR (Perth)
Whether playing at half-back or in the midfield, he was instrumental in everything that Perth achieved in 2020 becoming all the more important in the absence of Corey Yeo, Corey Byrne, Clint Jones and then when Chris Masten missed the last month as well. Stood tall in attacking and defensive roles wherever he was playing, and ended up averaging 19.8 possessions a game.

WING – JYE BOLTON (Claremont)
The dual Sandover and Simpson Medal winner could very well be about to add to his trophy cabinet in coming weeks whether it's more individual accolades or a premiership at Claremont with the Tigers having now qualified for the 2020 Grand Final. Another brilliant season racking up 26.9 disposals a game including a high of 37 and none fewer than 18 as his remarkably consistent 88-game WAFL career continued.

CENTRE – AARON BLACK (West Perth)
Ask the West Perth captain and he can't help but think his 2020 season might very well have been the most complete and consistent of his remarkable career that has now spanned 200 games with the Falcons. Finished the season averaging 26.4 possessions a game but it was the impact of those disposals, his consistency and his leadership that had him standout and named to the Team of the Round on six separate occasions.

WING – JESSE TURNER (Swan Districts)
Whether giving Swan Districts great run and drive off half-back, or providing enormous run off the wing in his customary spot, he produced an outstanding season with the black-and-whites. Continues to grow and improve season on season, and this was likely his best year averaging 23.1 possessions a game and his kicking skills both to find teammates and the goals was at the best of his career.

HALF-FORWARD FLANK – HAIDEN SCHLOITHE (South Fremantle)
Started off the 2020 season celebrating his 150th game to earn South Fremantle life membership, had a purple patch with a couple of best on ground displays in Rounds 4 and 5 this year. Was consistent all the way through whether playing forward or in the middle and ended up averaging 17.4 possessions a game and kicking nine goals.

CENTRE HALF-FORWARD – TYLER KEITEL (West Perth)
It was a bit of a feast or famine season from him in 2020 but his impact for West Perth when on song couldn’t be denied, and even when not taking marks or kicking goals, the target he provides the Falcons is invaluable. He kicked a bag of six and two hauls of five in 2020 on the way to 21 goals for the season, and he was a lock to again be in the Team of the Year in the same season he celebrated his 100th game at West Perth.

HALF-FORWARD FLANK – CALLAN ENGLAND (Claremont)
The lively half-forward got back to his best football in 2020 with Claremont and as a result it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him earn another crack at AFL level. Is clever around goals and kicked eight goals to go with 18.5 disposals a game, but it's the pressure he applies that might be the most impressive aspect of his game and his hounding of the opposition and tackling was outstanding.
 
FORWARD POCKET – ALEC WATERMAN (Claremont)
What a season it's been from the former Eagle father-son selection. The son of Chris and older brother of Jake was brilliant in 2020 with his body finally allowing to shine. Glandular fever cost him his AFL career and almost his career completely, but he has shaken it off and with his powerful left foot, strong frame and poise and presence, he proved a cut above week after week. Ended up kicking 19 goals and averaged 13.8 disposals a game.

FULL-FORWARD – MASON SHAW (South Fremantle)
Claimed his first Bernie Naylor Medal in 2020 as the league leading goalkicker finishing up with 23 goals from his eight matches. That included kicking 13 of them in the space of three games between Round 5 and 8. His consistency now, though, ever since returning from Port Adelaide has been remarkable and he has kicked 220 goals for the Bulldogs from 97 matches. His 100th game could now be in the Grand Final should South Fremantle make it.

FORWARD POCKET – LOGAN MCDONALD (Perth)
He burst onto the scene at the start of the 2020 WAFL season kicking seven goals over the opening two games to capture everyone's imagination. He went on to finish the season to kick 21 goals and to fall just two goals short of the Bernie Naylor Medal as the league's leading goal scorer. He's now sees as a top three AFL draft pick later this year and there's no doubt proving he can play so well at league level as an 18-year-old is a significant reason for that.

RUCK – COREY GAULT (Swan Districts)
The former Collingwood big man had a brilliant 2017 with Swan Districts in the ruck which saw him also named ruckman in the WAFL Team of the Year and to win the Swan Medal. It also ignited talks of him returning to the AFL, but that might not happen this time given the years have rolled on, but after two years splitting his time as a key position player, he returned to the ruck in 2020 and was simply brilliant. Even his numbers of 19.0 possessions and 31.1 hit outs only go part to the way of telling the story of his full influence.

RUCK ROVER – JACKSON RAMSAY (East Perth)
Has to be considered right up there as a Sandover Medal fancy after a second straight brilliant season in the midfield for East Perth. Missed virtually all of 2018 when he returned to the Royals from Collingwood after rupturing his ACL, but his last two years have been outstanding and again in 2020 across the eight matches he averaged 28.8 possessions a game including going at 28 or above in seven of them.

ROVER – JAKE FLORENCA (South Fremantle)
After having to patiently wait his time for a regular league spot, that eventually came his way in 2019 and he had a tremendous season in the South Fremantle midfield. But he has gone to another level again in 2020 to become one of the truly elite on-ballers in the WAFL. Racked up a team-high 24.1 possessions a game this season and perhaps the best sign of how important he is, is how much his team struggled without him in the second semi-final due to a knee complaint.

INTERCHANGE – SHANE NELSON (West Perth)
The remarkable consistency of him in the West Perth is impossible to not be marvelled at. Even with 16 minutes less playing time per game in 2020, the prolific ball winner still racked up 25.4 possessions a game having averaged over 30 for the rest of his remarkable 166-game career. Already a triple fairest and best winner and premiership player, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

INTERCHANGE – LACHLAN DELAHUNTY (Subiaco)
The reigning Sandover Medallist was undisputedly the No. 1 player in the game in 2019 as he stepped up to carry Subiaco in the ruck with his athleticism and versatility a big part in the Lions' dominance. He was again forced to be the main ruckman for the Lions in 2020 and didn’t always have the same calibre of experienced players around him and for the first time in 112-game WAFL career won't play finals. But he still had a strong season with 19.1 possessions and 23.5 hit outs a game.

INTERCHANGE – ROHAN KERR (East Perth)
Continues to be the hardest running player in the competition just like he was back when he first arrived to play in the WAFL at West Perth from Carlton. Was a premiership star in 2013 but looked like he was lost to the system by the end of 2016. However, returned through East Perth after two years and hasn’t lost a step producing two outstanding seasons now with East Perth and again averaged 23.8 possessions a game in 2020 with his consistency a standout.

INTERCHANGE – SAM FISHER (Swan Districts)
Was heralded as a prized recruit to Swan Districts from the VFL and he had to wait until July what he was capable of, but it was worth the wait and immediately he cemented himself as one of the best midfielders in the WAFL. Had a tremendously consistent and outstanding season finishing up averaging 26.5 possessions a game to become the leader already in the midfield for the black-and-whites.

EMERGENCY – ANGUS SCOTT (East Perth)
Has been an outstanding recruit from the VFL the last two years now for East Perth and he settled into the opposite wing of Rohan Kerr in 2020, and they became the most prolific duo in the business. He had a brilliant season made up of 24.3 possessions a game to go with kicking four goals and averaging six marks.

EMERGENCY – CAMERON EARDLEY (East Fremantle)
It might have been another tough season for East Fremantle even though you would have to concede they improved even if the wins and losses didn’t show it. You wouldn’t find a harder and more competitive consistent fighter out on the field in Sharks colours every week. After 114 WAFL games, he continues to battle manfully and averaged a team-high 20.6 disposals a game in his seven appearances in 2020.

EMERGENCY – JACKSON MERRETT (Peel Thunder)
The reigning Peel fairest and best winner and Essendon AFL player of 65 games fought valiantly against the odds once again for the Thunder in 2020. It was a challenging winless season but he still performed tremendously on the wing and ended the season averaging another 22.5 possessions a game with his consistency impressive with having no games under 16 touches.

PLAYERS OF THE ROUND
Round 1 – Chris Masten (Perth)
Round 2 – Logan McDonald (Perth)
Round 3 – Tyler Keitel (West Perth)
Round 4 – Noah Strom (South Fremantle)
Round 5 – Leigh Kitchin (Subiaco)
Round 6 – Nathan Blee (East Perth)
Round 7 – Jye Bolton (Claremont)
Round 8 – Mason Shaw (South Fremantle)
Round 9 – Matthew Rogers (Perth)