Almanac Teams: First Eighteen (1980- )


Essendon’s Paul Vander Haar [Source: Author]


This is a team of best players to wear the Number 18 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 John Blakey Number 12 and 18.



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:            Paul Licuria (Coll)                    Alex Rance (Rich)                       Murray Witcombe (Geel)


CHB:        John Blakey (Fitz)                    Luke McPharlin (Freo)              Brendon Goddard (St.K)


C:              Leon Cameron (WB)                Tony Evans (WCE)                     Darrin Pritchard (Haw)


CHF:        Brad Green (DVC) (Melb)       Wayne Carey (C) (NM)             Sam Walsh (Carl)


FF:           Eddie Betts (Adel)                     Matthew Lloyd (VC) (Ess)        Jeremy Cameron (GWS)


Ruck:       Callum Sinclair (Syd)               Kane Cornes (PA)                       Craig Lambert (Bris)


Interchange: Simon Beasley (Foots), Brent Guerra (Haw), Merv Keane (Rich), Paul Van Der Haar (Ess)


Emergencies: Michael Hurley (Ess), Darren Jolly (Coll), Graham Johncock (Adel), Steven Stretch (Melb)


Coach: Tommy Hafey


No Gold Coast player in the side.



Games in Number 18 (Years Played)

Paul Licuria 182 (2000-2007)

Alex Rance 200 (2009-2019)

Murray Witcombe 121 (1976-1986)

John Blakey 131 (1986-1992)

Luke McPharlin 233 (2003-2015)

Brendon Goddard 205 (2003-2012)

Leon Cameron 172 (1990-1999)

Tony Evans 106 (1992-1998)

Darrin Pritchard 195 (1988-1997)

Brad Green 254 (2000-2012)

Wayne Carey 240 (1990-2001)

Sam Walsh 52 (2019- )

Eddie Betts 132 (2014-2019)

Matthew Lloyd 270 (1995-2009)

Jeremy Cameron 171 (2012-2020)

Callum Sinclair 89 (2016- )

Kane Cornes 293 (2002-2015)

Craig Lambert 96 (1994-2000)

Simon Beasley 154 (1982-1989)

Brent Guerra 159 (2006-2013)

Merv Keane 152 (1978-1984)

Steven Stretch 164 (1986-1993)

Paul Vander Haar 201 (1977-1990)



How good is the Number 18 forward line? The backline is pretty good as well. The side also features also a captain who was an all-time great and remarkable depth in key position posts. Plenty of options to kick goals. While the midfield is probably solid at best and lacks a couple of accumulators in the starters, it does have great run, carry and efficient wings and half backs.



Several teams which had tough decisions for their player. Adelaide had options with Rodney Maynard, Graham Johncock and Eddie Betts, Essendon had Paul Vander Haar, Matthew Lloyd and Michael Hurley, Hawthorn had Darrin Pritchard and Brent Guerra, Melbourne had Steven Stretch and Brad Green, and the Western Bulldogs had Simon Beasley and Leon Cameron.



The backline is led by two great key defenders in Alex Rance and Luke McPharlin, both can play FB or CHB, both can play tight or as zone off intercept defenders and both are extremely athletic, mobile defenders who can provide attack. The half backs are John Blakey (the Fitzroy version) and Brendon Goddard. Blakey can play a lock down role, while Goddard can lead the run from defence with 30 or so touches and provide a great link-up point. Paul Licuria named in the back pocket would play a lock down role on a small forward/midfielder swapping with Guerra, Evans or Cornes. From memory Witcombe was a running wing/half back so could swap with Blakey/Keane or Cameron. Defence has a good balance of talls, intercept markers, lock down defenders and running players. Other options that can play down back are Brent Guerra, Merv Keane, Paul Vander Haar, Tony Evans, Leon Cameron and Kane Cornes.



The midfield group is honest with Craig Lambert the major ball winner named to start; Lambert was an elite handballer, but not as great by foot, hopefully the wings in Pritchard and Cameron would be nearby as both are elite kicks into the forward 50 and that forward line would love Cameron and Pritchard kicking in to them. Leon Cameron was a ruck rover and could swap with either Evans or Cornes depending on match ups. Tony Evans and Kane Cornes are more defensive midfielders who would play a run-with role liked they did in their premiership years with Paul Licuria also able to help in this role. Callum Sinclair is not the best ruck but is competitive and agile. Darren Jolly could have being named on the bench (Licuria gets starting 18 spot for Collingwood) but Beasley and Van Derhaar are too hard to leave out. Back up ruck options may be Jeremy Cameron or McPharlin.



Other options in the midfield would be Sam Walsh, Brendon Goddard, Paul Licuria, Murray Witcombe and John Blakey.



The forward line I love. Wayne Carey at CHF is maybe the best ever, Matthew Lloyd at FF maybe the best in the past 25 years and Eddie Betts (the Adelaide version) is one of the best small forwards ever. Then there is Jeremy Cameron who is very mobile and a great long kick who has proved at Geelong that he can be the second tall forward. Brad Green is a very good mark and one of the better set shots at goal who was also capable of playing FF. Sam Walsh is more of a midfielder who is going to be a champion, he would rotate maybe with either Cornes or Evans if there is need for a better midfielder in the centre. If the side was struggling for goals (!), Simon Beasley on the bench won a Coleman Medal and was very accurate. Other options up forward could be Paul Vander Haar, Brent Guerra and maybe Tony Evans.



There were plenty of options for the bench and the side looks perhaps unbalanced; Darren Jolly might make a better claim than Simon Beasley considering the team has Carey, Lloyd and Cameron.



Despite this, I went for the best four and Beasley deserved to here; 154 games for 575 goals, Coleman in 1985 with 105 and over 80 goals in three seasons. Vander Haar had to go in and the fact he can play either end helps the team especially without a second ruck. I would have liked another midfielder in the side, perhaps Matthew Rowell in a couple of years but the last two spots really came from Merv Keane, Steven Stretch, Brent Guerra and Graham Johncock. Maybe I am biased but I chose Merv Keane over Stretch, despite Stretch winning a Best & Fairest in Preliminary Finalist team. Keane was a very reliable half back who could play ruck rover like he did in the 1980 Grand Final; he could also swap with Goddard. Guerra and Johncock competed for the last spot, both very similar small defenders, both were good users of the ball and both (if needed) can play forward. I went for Guerra just as thought he was better back pocket.



Wayne Carey was the obvious choice for captain with other options being Brendon Goddard, Brad Green, and Matthew Lloyd who all captained their club. I went for Lloyd as VC and Green as Deputy Vice.



The unlucky players were Rodney Maynard (Adel), Phillip Walsh (Bris), Justin Murphy (Carl), Travis Varcoe (Coll), Paul Lynch (Geel), Shaun Atley (NM), Rowan Jones (WCE), Leigh Carlson (Fitz), Trent McKenzie and Matthew Rowell (GCS)




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  1. Matt Zurbo says

    Mate, I absolutely love these!! Ducks guts!

    (Even if I don’t always agree.)

    Beasley has done more than Cameron ever will. Though I get the one from each team juggle.

    Carey was an out and out champion, but far from the best ever. Did not play well in a single Grand Final. Royce Hart dominated four.

  2. Thanks Matt, really appreciate it and chuffed that a writer of your talent like them.

    Beasley career probably overshadowed by emergence of Lockett, Dunstall, Capper & Ablett kicking 100 goals the next few years. Won a Coleman in a side that came 3rd like the full forwards of that era was a great kick for goal.

    Carey was not too bad in 96 was well beaten in 99 Grand Final by Silvagni,. As Richmond supporter wish I had seen Royce play

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