Every year the All-Australian team is critiqued by both the media and the fans. At TAC Cup level, this is no different for the Victorian Under 18 squads. Unlike the 40-man All-Australian squad at AFL level, there are two squads representing Victoria: Vic Metro and Vic Country. Each squad is comprised of players from six of the clubs so a total of 80 players are selected between the Victorian sides. Despite this larger proportion of selected players, it appears that puzzling selections and omissions are not limited to the big league.
Vic Country’s squad had the largest amount of question marks surrounding the omissions which included Bendigo onballer Jacob Chisari, Dandenong ruckman Agape Patolo and Gippsland rover Nathaniel Paredes. Throw in Geelong’s Matthew Boag, Bendigo utility Jordan Mangan and Gippsland half back Tom Muir to that list of missing stars and you end up with a number of puzzled fans and coaches. It’s no doubt a tough job to be a selector, but when kids’ AFL careers are on the line, there is very little room for error.
Jacob Chisari is arguably the biggest omission of the Vic Country squad. Having helped drag Bendigo across the line against Oakleigh a few weeks ago, Chisari is your typical in-and-under mid who can also find space on the outside and pump the ball inside 50. He’s currently averaging 26.6 disposals a game putting him inside the top ten of all TAC Cup players. It’s not just his disposal count that leaves question marks regarding his non selection because he posts averages of 4.8 marks and 6.6 tackles (another top ten stat). For all those fantasy players out there, Chisari has averaged 109.2 Dream Team points throughout the season which places him ninth overall and sixth for all Vic Country players. Ironically, of the five above him, three are AIS players (Matt Crouch, Billy Hartung and James Tsitas) and two are over-agers who missed out on selection (Sam Heavyside and Lachlan Cassidy). It’s hard to fathom that someone of Chisari’s ilk missed out on competing in the most crucial tournament for TAC Cup players.
Dandenong’s Agape Patolo at the start of the TAC Cup season was rated as the top ruck prospect for the 2013 draft. He hasn’t disappointed this season, averaging 22 hitouts a game, the second most of any player. Only Eastern’s Dion De Pace is averaging more and ironically, he missed out on Vic Metro selection. Patolo is averaging just 8.33 disposals a match, but that lowly figure is the highest of the top eight rucks. It’s hard to believe that a player with Patolo’s vertical leap could miss out on the Championships. There’s no standout ruck this year like a Grundy or a Kreuzer, but Patolo is rated as high as anyone else around the league and heads were no doubt being scratched at the Stingrays during the week.
Everyone loves a gritty onballer who buries himself under the pack putting his body on the line. Well apparently everyone except the Vic Country selectors who chose not to pick Gippsland’s Nathaniel Paredes despite the nuggety midfielder averaging the third most disposals for the Power. While the Intra Trials showed Paredes was on the border of selection by being a late inclusion for the injured Matt Crouch, it has been puzzling to see the rover miss out despite being statistically superior to a number of his selected team mates. This isn’t to say they haven’t deserved selection themselves, but questionable that Paredes couldn’t be included given he has laid the most tackles of any player in the league while still maintaining a solid 17 disposals per game average. Unlike Chisari and Patolo, Paredes didn’t come with the preseason hype but has busted a gut to perform above expectations and is another worthy selection who missed out.
Geelong Falcons have had great success this season, dominating the competition with a number of players being very eligible draftees. Unfortunately the success may have pushed some of their talented players to the back of the queue given the amount of depth through the midfield. While James Tsitas and Lewis Taylor were away in Europe, Matthew Boag was tearing it up in the Falcons midfield. They returned and Boag moved onto a forward flank, immediately having an impact booting five goals. Despite the performance a fortnight ago, Boag was another omission from the Vic Country squad.
Jordan Mangan a talented key back and relief ruck for the Pioneers, was another one who missed out despite being highly rated around the league. Mangan’s versatility across the ground for Bendigo has been a highlight of his game this season. Another defender, Gippsland’s Tom Muir missed out despite impressive performances for the Power. At the Intra Trials, Muir was sent to full back to play on Geelong’s high leaping Pat McCartin. While Muir is one of the best readers of the play, his main weakness is strength and to be assigned to a key forward was once again, puzzling. It all but ended his chances of competing for Vic Country this year.
Vic Metro also had a couple of questionable exclusions. Northern Knights’ Jake Kalanj dominated at the Intra Trials but somehow the medium utility didn’t get a guernsey while Mitch Norton (Western), Dion De Pace and Andreas Roth (both Eastern) also missed the cut. Norton will have a chance next year as a bottom-ager this year, but the others could quite easily have been given the nod. Roth in particular is the leading small forward in the competition with Norton second.
State selection for Under 18s would be one of the hardest jobs to have given that players careers are on the line. It is expected that there will always be surprising omissions or additions that others couldn’t see coming, but this year there appears to be a number of omissions that has left some clubs puzzled. One can only hope that in missing out at Champs will not deteriorate the chances of Jacob Chisari, Agape Patolo, Nathaniel Paredes or Matthew Boag gaining a place on an AFL list for 2014.