Old hands, new names make WAFL Team of the Season
Ruckman Ollie Eastland had no doubts whose hands he wanted the ball in when Claremont attempted to produce a miraculous comeback win over Peel midway through the season.
“I was saying out in the middle that Talon Delacey was probably the guy you wanted to have the ball,” Eastland said at the time.
“He’s a really good kick.”
So it proved when Delacey’s cool-headed strike from 40m gave Claremont the lead with only a few moments left in the match.
Eastland’s remarkable season, which saw him lead the WA ruck against South Australia, and become favourite to win the Claremont fairest and best medal ahead of two Sandover medallists, was enough to ensure he was named in SportFM’s best WAFL team of the season.
Delacey is the most contentious inclusion in a team jampacked with state players and the league’s most prominent names.
Yet the Albany product’s breakthrough season made him the most effective small forward in the league during a season when his strong aerial skills, hard-running and excellent game sense made him an increasingly difficult challenge for opposition coaches and defenders.
Delacey kicked multiple goals 10 times in his 30-goal season while his 52 tackles were only surpassed by four of the league’s 35 highest goal-kickers.
There were few surprises over the make-up of the team’s midfield.
East Perth’s three leading Sandover vote getters – runaway winner Hamish Brayshaw and his WA colleagues Angus Schumacher and Mitch Crowden – were joined by influential West Perth pair Luke Meadows and Shane Nelson, and East Fremantle goer Milan Murdock whose ball-getting ability will be a key to his team’s grand final prospects on Sunday.
And dual Sandover winner Jye Bolton was also recognised after his 567 disposals made him the most prolific player in the season while Liam Hickmott, who finished his remarkable season only 22 touches short of the Claremont star, rounded off the team’s on-ballers.
Fellow Lion Zac Clarke was a straightforward choice as the No.1 ruckman after a season in which he had more hit outs (867), marks (84) and goals (10) than any other specialist big man.
East Fremantle captain Matthew Jupp has marshalled his team’s defences superbly this season and will do so again in this team, while stingy Peel defender Joel Hamling is the only AFL-listed player to force his way into the team.
That duo will hold down the key defensive posts while WA regulars Cam Eardley, Zac Guadagnin and Noah Pegoraro will be joined by Claremont’s rebounding revelation Anthony Davis.
The key forwards also virtually picked themselves with Tyler Keitel (57 goals), Ben Sokol (53) and Cody Leggett (35) the only regulars to average at least 2.5 goals a game.
The specialist wing positions were filled by two Turners with Swan Districts running machine Jesse being complemented by East Fremantle dynamo Fraser whose first WAFL season has been instrumental in his team reaching the grand final.
Bill Monaghan, who will attempt to win a premiership with East Fremantle on Sunday a decade after his victory with West Perth is the logical selection to coach the team.
And Jupp, already the Sharks and Black Swans skipper this year, will lead the team.
SportFM team of the season
B: Zac Guadagnin WP Matthew Jupp EF Cam Eardley EF
HB: Anthony Davis C Joel Hamling PT Noah Pegoraro WP
C: Jesse Turner SD Luke Meadows WP Fraser Turner EF
HF: Mitch Crowden EP Tyler Keitel WP Hamish Brayshaw EP
F: Cody Leggett EF Ben Sokol S Talon Delacey C
R: Zac Clarke S Liam Hickmott S Milan Murdock EF
I/C: Jye Bolton C Oliver Eastland C Shane Nelson WP Angus Schumacher EP
IMAGE: WA FOOTBALL