Almanac Teams: Sensational Seventeens (1980-)


Hawthorn’s Michael Tuck [Source: Author]

This is a team of best players to wear the Number 17 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 Gavin Wanganeen Number 1 and 4.


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:           Hayden Crozier (Freo)     Steven May (GCS)                Tim McGrath (Geel)


CHB:       Brett Lovett (Melb)            Martin Leslie (Bris)              Guy McKenna (VC) (WCE)


C:             Adam Cooney (WB)          Maurice Rioli (Rich)             Tadhg Kennelly (Syd)


CHF:       Stuart Dew (PA)                 Scott Welsh (Adel)               Jake Melksham (Ess)


FF:           Peter Kiel (St.K)                 Josh Kennedy (WCE)          Mark Naley (Carl)


Ruck:      Mark Porter (NM)              Michael Tuck (C) (Haw)      Scott Burns (DVC) (Coll)


Interchange: Dayne Beams (Coll) Paul Broderick (Fitz/Rich), Nathan Brown (WB), Bernie Vince (Adel)


Emergencies Doug Barwick (Coll), Paul Hudson (Haw), Kym Hodgemann (NM), Adam Treloar (GWS)


Coach: Denis Pagan


No Fitzroy or GWS player in the starting 18, so I have made a captains pick and selected two Eagles players in Guy McKenna and Josh Kennedy.


Paul Broderick though did play at Fitzroy (he was more successful at Richmond) and is on the bench.



Games in Number 17 (Years Played)

Hayden Crozier 69 (2012-2017)

Steven May 106 (2013-2018)

Tim McGrath 219 (1992-2002)

Brett Lovett 227 (1987-1997)

Martin Leslie 96 (1990-1995)

Guy McKenna 267 (1988-2000)

Adam Cooney 219 (2004-2014)

Maurice Rioli 85 (1982-1985)

Tadhg Kennelly 189 (2002-2011)

Stuart Dew 141 (2000-2006)

Scott Welsh 129 (2000-2007)

Jake Melksham 114 (2010-2015)

Peter Kiel 80 (1982-1986)

Josh Kennedy 251 (2008- )

Mark Naley 65 (1987-1990)

Mark Porter 55 (2002-2004)

Michael Tuck 426 (1972-1991)

Scott Burns 264 (1995-2008)

Dayne Beams 119 (2009-2014)

Paul Broderick 93 at Fitzroy (1988-1993) 169 at Richmond (1994-2001)

Nathan Brown 137 (1997-2003)

Bernie Vince 119 (2008-2013)



The Number 17 team is a very good side on paper; it has strong depth in the midfield, has a great full forward and some mid-sized goal kicking options, underrated key defenders matched with very good rebound defenders. The weakness in the side is in the ruck and it’s perhaps missing a rover/small goal kicking forward.



Teams with multiple options that were hard to choose from were Adelaide with Scott Welsh (picked over Bernie Vince due to balance), Collingwood with Doug Barwick, Scott Burns and Dayne Beams, Hawthorn with Michael Tuck as the obvious pick, but Paul Hudson and Daniel Chick had good credentials, Richmond with Maurice Rioli, Paul Broderick, Kane Johnson and Chris Newman, West Coast with Guy McKenna and Josh Kennedy and the Western Bulldogs with Nathan Brown and Adam Cooney.



The defence is led by two underrated key defenders that played in Queensland. Steven May was a fine full back for Gold Coast before joining Melbourne and Martin Leslie won a Best & Fairest at CHB for Brisbane. The defence’s main strength is its attacking. led by Tim McGrath who would be a third tall defender who could also play FB/CHB, Guy McKenna (one of the best half backs since 1980) and Brett Lovett, who was consistent for Melbourne in a strong era and he also played several games for Victoria. Hayden Crozier rounds out the backline as a strong intercept mark. If anything it maybe lacks someone to play a shutdown role on opposition goal sneaks with one of McKenna, Lovett and Crozier able to perform that role if needed – even Scott Burns or Jake Melksham could help. Tadhg Kennelly named on the wing is also more of a rebounding defender and depending on match ups could swap with Lovett or Crozier. Other players that could play in defence are Stuart Dew, Michael Tuck and Bernie Vince.



The midfield is very strong with plenty of depth, running ability, silk, ball getters and a tagging option. Mark Porter was a handy tap ruck at North Melbourne after coming over from Carlton; he would need to be fit as he lacks support from a true second ruck. Tadhg Kennelly is named on the wing and either him or perhaps Lovett or Crozier could play wing in a defensive rebound role. Adam Cooney is named on the other wing and while he played there in his early days, he is better known as an onballer. Maurice Rioli at centre had the nickname Mr Magic and provides obvious class in the middle, while Michael Tuck was one the great ruck rovers in VFL/AFL history and could play a defensive role yet still get plenty of disposals and provide some run. Scott Burns is first rover who like Tuck could play a defensive role and get plenty of the pill but was generally seen more at the bottom of packs. Mark Naley and Peter Kiel could also step in as more true rover types. Other midfield options are Paul Broderick as an accumulating centre who was a great handballer with superb vision, Bernie Vince and Dayne Beams are probably better recognised as wingers than Cooney and Kennelly, Nathan Brown can play through midfield/forward line with a bit of class and Jake Melksham can play as a tagger.



Josh Kennedy has been probably the premier Full Forward of the competition in the last 10 years. Kennedy has kicked 675 goals, won two Coleman Medals and three All Australians. Kennedy may have to work up the ground a bit though, as Scott Welsh was probably better closer to goal than a true CHF; he kicked 270 goals though he was only 188cm tall. Naley’s AFL career only lasted four years but he was a very good player with a great career in the SANFL, he kicked 74 goals in 65 games including three bags of five. Peter Kiel was not a goal kicker at St Kilda, his best year yielded 13 goals from 22 games in 1982, the year he won a Best & Fairest.  His personal best was three majors but he could swap with Burns who kicked 142 goals in his 264 games. Jake Melksham (the Essendon version) was a tagging onballer and not really a goal kicker, the Melbourne version (who currently wears Number 18) is a defensive forward who averages a goal a game. Stuart Dew is a good mid-sized half forward, who while not a strong mark was a very good running half forward whose best year provided 51 goals; he kicked six goals in a match on five occasions. Other forward options are Nathan Brown who played as a smaller key forward at 181cm but couls also easily play as a small crumbing forward. His last two years at the Bulldogs resulted in 57 and 56 goals, including three bags of seven and four bags of six.



The interchange is made up of (I think) the best four players available, with each being a little different in what they can give to the side. Dayne Beams gets the nod as an onballer/forward, Bernie Vince onballer/half back, Paul Broderick in the centre and Nathan Brown goal kicking forward/midfielder. There were no real talls that were in contention with the most unlucky player probably Kym Hodgemann, a fine goal kicking rover at North Melbourne who won a Best & Fairest but missed out to Beams.



There were four club captains in the side with four time premiership captain Michael Tuck the obvious choice, I went with Guy McKenna as vice and Scott Burns as deputy. Steven May is the other club captain in the side.



The unlucky players were Mike Richardson (Coll), Stephen Carey (Ess), Scott McIvor (Fitz), Stephen Reynoldson (Geel), Shannon Byrne (Geel), Daniel Chick (Haw), Nathan Grima (NM), Tom Clurey (PA), Kane Johnson (Rich) Steven Powell (St.K).




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  1. Great AFL/VFL side. But any great #17 side without Lindsay Head is a bum. West Torrens triple Magarey Medallist SANFL. Kicked the winning goal for SA’s first MCG win in 1963 giving Kevin Murray the slip at half forward. No other footballer has trained an Inter Dominion heat winner and finalist.

  2. In Rodney’s defence PB, I don’t think he’s ever neglected players from other states on purpose – he’s picked sides based on the footy he’s watched since he was a kid around 1980. I’ve seen other comments ask why he didn’t pick a particular player from the late 1960s too…

    I like the idea of broadening the audience for our WAFL/SANFL/NTFL/QAFL etc greats of the past though. I wonder if anyone would be keen to do a ‘non-VFL/AFL best of’ like this series?

  3. Thanks Peter for your feedback/thoughts.
    I basically stick with what I know/saw hence the criteria from 1980 and VFL/AFL. My obscure side I have let players in pre 1980 if for something obscure/amazing they did or known for something in 1980s.
    Lindsay Head may have made this side just for training an inter dominion winner. Sounds like he was a great footballer, any relation to Travis.

    Thanks again Jarrod for all your help and polish. That sounds a great idea for experts of those league. I get the numbers from AFL TABLES, assume something similar for Sanfl or Wafl or maybe footy records at state library like Victoria state library website.

  4. I greatly enjoy your teams Rodney and appreciate the enormous amount of research that goes into them. I just can’t help myself having a tongue in cheek “dig” in principle (nothing personal) to remind people that Australian Rules football existed outside Victoria and pre-AFL. Your principles for selecting the teams is entirely logical.
    Lindsay Head was a boyhood hero. He also played 9 Sheffield Shield games for SA as an opening batsman, back when sportsman could have multiple simultaneous careers.

  5. Nothing personal taken Peter, I really appreciate your comments.
    I was just raised on VFL/AFL hence the teams.
    I have done some players like Ebert, Rick Davies, Antrobus in the obscure team, to recognise while only playing a season or two in the VFL, they have a great record in the Sanfl/Wafl.
    Cricket, footy, trots a bloody sportsman.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Scott Burns was a superb player for the Pies and retired when captain and still playing good footy, thought he had a bit more in him. Surprised Naley’s career was only four years and 65 games. Broderick one of the very best from South West Vic.

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