Almanac Teams: Absolutely 23 (1980- )

West Coast’s Darren Glass [Source: Author]


This is a team of best players to wear the Number 23 jumper since 1980.


  • Starting 18 will be one player from each club. I have tweaked it after the Number 3 team. Brisbane Bears and Brisbane Lions will be one club, with Fitzroy, Gold Coast and GWS competing for the last two spots in the starting 18.
  • Teams will try to be as balanced as possible but if a number has several rucks as its best player an alternative will be picked. I will explain my selections below the team.
  • Players may appear under multiple numbers, for example Eddie Betts number 18 and 19.



Stats are based on their time in that number.



I also have two teams per number, one is a best of and the other is based on players picked for different obscure/unusual reasons like cameos, unknown brothers, fathers, known for other reasons.




FB:           David Dench (NM)                          Darren Glass (C) (WCE)               Heath Shaw (GWS)


CHB:       James McDonald (DVC) (Melb)    Justin Leppitsch (Bris)                Shane Parker (Freo)


C:             Paul Meldrum (Carl)                        Simon Atkins (Foots)                   David Myers (Ess)


CHF:       Lance Franklin (Haw/Syd)             Stewart Loewe (VC) (St.K)          Kane Lambert (Rich)


FF:           Dermott Brereton (Haw)                Anthony Rocca (Coll)                   Sean Lemmens (GCS)


Ruck:       Matthew Lobbe (PA)                       Liam Pickering (Geel)                  Andrew McLeod (Adel)


Interchange: Charlie Cameron (Bris), Matthew Nicks (Syd), Nathan Thompson (Haw/NM), Bernie Vince (Melb)


Medical Substitute: James Jordan (Melb)


Emergencies: Daniel Jackson (Rich), Craig Kelly (Coll), Chris Mayne (Freo), Jacob Weitering (Carl)


Coach: Alistair Clarkson


No player from Fitzroy.



Games in Number 23 (Years Played)

David Dench 269 (1970-1984)

Darren Glass 270 (2000-2014)

Heath Shaw 152 (2014-2020)

James McDonald 247 (1998-2010)

Justin Leppitsch 227 (1993-2006)

Shane Parker 238 (1995-2007)

Paul Meldrum 158 (1982-1992)

Simon Atkins 127 (1987-1994)

David Myers 123 (2008-2019)

Lance Franklin 162 at Hawthorn (2006-2013) 136 at Sydney (2014- )

Stewart Loewe 313 (1987-2002)

Kane Lambert 115 (2016- )

Dermott Brereton 187 (1983-1992)

Anthony Rocca 220 (1997-2009)

Sean Lemmens 78 (2016- )

Matthew Lobbe 92 (2010-2016)

Liam Pickering 102 (1993-1999)

Andrew McLeod 340 (1995-2010)

Charlie Cameron 78 (2018- )

Matthew Nicks 169 (1997-2005)

Nathan Thompson 77 at Hawthorn (2001-2004) 60 at North Melbourne (2005-2008)

Bernie Vince 100 (2014-2018)



The Number 23 is a reasonably balanced side and like Number 18 has some great options up forward. While it looks top heavy Franklin is very mobile and would be allowed to run where he likes. The defence is highlighted by key position All Australians. The midfield has depth with some players able to play dual midfield and forward/defence. It also has the best coach in last 20 years in Alistair Clarkson. The main weakness in the side is the ruck, I could have gone for Don Scott but he missed out to Brereton as an automatic spot and also had Thompson and Franklin that played for Hawthorn and Scott retired in 1981. While David Dench’s best football was in the 1970s, Nathan Thompson was the only other North Melbourne option and him being in the starting 18 would unbalance the team.



Brisbane had multiple options with Justin Leppitsch, Matthew Leunberger and Charlie Cameron, Carlton with Paul Meldrum, Dean Rice and Jacob Weitering, Collingwood with Ray Shaw, Craig Kelly and Anthony Rocca, Fremantle with Shane Parker and Chris Mayne, Hawthorn Don Scott, Dermott Brereton, Nathan Thompson and Lance Franklin, Melbourne with James McDonald and Bernie Vince, Richmond with Trevor Poole, Daniel Jackson and Kane Lambert, St.Kilda with Stewart Loewe and Justin Koschitzke, Sydney with Matthew Nicks and Lance Franklin and Western Bulldogs with Simon Atkins, Jordan McMahon and Jordan Roughead.



The defence is very strongly led by Glass and Leppitsch (both All Australians) and David Dench, who would have been if the official side existed in the 1970s. Justin Leppitsch was the obvious pick at CHB, he was recognised as one of the best of his era when Brisbane won three premierships. Leppitsch was drafted as a forward but was enigmatic in attack and when Leigh Matthew took over as coach, Leppitsch was moved to CHB. He still kept his attacking flair and was rarely beaten by his opponent. One famous match in 2000 Leppitsch kicked four goals from CHB, the problem was Wayne Carey kicked five from CHF and North won by four points. I have chosen Darren Glass at FB as he is captain and also not as attacking as Dench. Dench was one of the best FBs of the 1970s, I have put him in the pocket as he was known as an attacking defender who liked to run, while Glass is more of a stay at home FB. Heath Shaw is in the other pocket. Shaw was a two time All Australian at GWS and could play on a small forward and yet still attack and provide rebound/run from defence. Shane Parker is on one half back flank, he is capable of being an intercept marker and also could play a tight defensive role on opposition key position players if we wanted Leppitsch to have a more attacking role. James McDonald started as small defender before playing in the midfield as a tagger that was also allowed to get his own ball. McDonald if needed could play on dangerous small forwards and allow Shaw to be more attacking. Other options in defence are Matthew Nicks, Paul Meldrum, Andrew McLeod, David Myers, Sean Lemmens and Bernie Vince. All are running defenders with Nicks possibly able to play tall, but the side has depth in tall defenders.



Matthew Lobbe is picked as first ruck as Don Scott as discussed earlier missed out to other Hawthorn options. Lobbe was Port Adelaide’s main ruck after Dean Brogan retired and before arrival of Paddy Ryder and in Port Adelaide 2014 Preliminary Final campaign, Lobbe played 24 games out of 25 and finished fifth in the Best & Fairest. He will have support in another Hawthorn player in Nathan Thompson as second ruck. Simon Atkins and Liam Pickering are starting midfielders who while not endured with pace, at their peak were great inside ball winners. However there is depth in running players on the wing and through the midfield. Andrew McLeod is the other starting midfielder, he is capable of playing on ball, half back or kicking goals in the forward line. With the inside ball getting ability of Atkins and Pickering, McLeod compliments them as one of the classiest players ever in the AFL. On the wings I have Paul Meldrum who was good running player for Carlton who almost stole a Brownlow Medal in 1987, finishing third when he was not invited. Meldrum could play wing, half back or on ball. The other wing is David Myers who at 191cm was a tall running onballer who could play wing or half back. Other options to play midfield are Bernie Vince, Kane Lambert and James McDonald with Nathan Thompson and Anthony Rocca having played second ruck previously.



The problem with the forward line is who to start at CHF and FF as there several options for each role. Franklin, Brereton, Loewe and Rocca could all play CHF or FF. At FF I went Rocca, though his brother was full forward when Anthony arrived, once Saverio left Anthony played closer to goal. Rocca also does not have the tank that the other players have and can rely on his strength in a marking contest closer to goal, although he could kick goals from 70m for fun. Loewe takes CHF; with nickname of Buckets, Loewe was one of best marks in the AFL in the 1990s. Loewe could play from 50 to centre and also took marks from defence and though he started as an unreliable kick, he kicked 90 goals in 1996 when FF for the season. Dermott Brereton is a better CHF than Loewe and was a great finals player, playing the role to perfection in five premierships but he also had couple memorable games as a FF including kicking eight in a losing Grand Final in 1985. Brereton gets a forward pocket call up as at 186cm he is 8cm smaller than Loewe and I think he would more dangerous closer to goal inside 50 than Loewe. He would also provide some protection for Franklin, Cameron and McLeod if he was resting there.



Lance Franklin has kicked 100 goals in a year, is an eight-time All Australian forward at 199cm and is a super mobile athlete who can kick goals from 60m. He would play on a flank and just be allowed to roam where he wants. Lambert has being very good half forward changing with Dustin Martin at Richmond, in this side he can change with Andrew McLeod. Sean Lemmens is not a noted goal kicker and is a utility who can play forward or back. He is in this side as a small pressure forward. Charlie Cameron is named on the bench but would have fun in this side as a small forward around Franklin, Loewe, Rocca and Brereton. Andrew McLeod can play as a small forward as well which would be exciting alongside Franklin and Cameron. Other forward options are Nathan Thompson who is more of tall forward who can ruck but may not get much time up forward. Justin Leppitsch started his career as a forward and kicked 50 goals in 1996 before being moved to CHB.



The interchange I picked fills some holes; Charlie Cameron is picked as a crumbing goal kicking small forward while Lambert and Lemmens are more forward/utilities. Nathan Thompson is the second ruck who can also play up forward. Matthew Nicks is the spare defender who can running off half back, while Bernie Vince is running onballer rather than another insider mid. Don Scott as said earlier I ruled out because he retired in 1981 and I just thought Thompson gives more flexibility as a second ruck than Scott. Weitering and Kelly were considered but I ruled them out in favour of Matthew Nicks as I had enough depth in tall defenders and they would have unbalanced the side. Weitering is possibly a better footballer than Meldrum as of 2021, but he will definitely be in the next few years and is not far away from being All Australian. Jackson was a tagging onballer which McDonald can provide that role and Mayne’s position as a midsize mobile marking forward is taken by Franklin and possibly even Brereton.



The team does have James Jordan the premiership medical sub from Melbourne who did not get a run in the 2021 Grand Final.



The side has three captains from 1980 on in Darren Glass, Stewart Loewe and James McDonald. I didn’t count David Dench as he captained North Melbourne in 1970s. In a tough decision I went Glass as captain, Loewe as vice-captain and James McDonald as deputy.



The unlucky players were Matthew Leunberger (Bris), Dean Rice (Carl), Ray Shaw (Coll), Mark Bolton (Ess), Don Scott (Haw) Trevor Poole (Rich) Justin Kostchitzke (St.K) Jordan McMahon & Jordan Roughead (WB)




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  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Fair forward line that! Would any of the backlines you have selected be able to contain them?

    Nice touch with the medical sub.

  2. Probably not too bad Luke
    Suspect one of the forwards to get loose

    Glass stays at full back so on Rocca
    Leppitsch on Loewe
    Dench – Brereton
    Parker – Franklin

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