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Half a season produces team full of talent

There's little doubt the strongest suit of defending premier Sydney is the evenness of talent spread across its best 22. So there's some irony in the fact that a mid-year All-Australian team would contain more individuals from the Swans than any other club.

I've gone for four Sydney stars in my AFL team of the half-season (based on the first 10 rounds before the byes began), though I don’t think any of them are contentious calls.

Dan Hannebery, as good as he already was, has clearly gone to another level again 2013, behind only the peerless Gary Ablett in most media awards, and importantly, the coaches’ own MVP. He’s accompanied in my best 22 by outstanding running half-back Nick Malceski and co-captains Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack (pictured above), the latter pair on the interchange bench.

There’s three Essendon players in this team, Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson, and another pair who have become the foundations of a vastly-improved Bomber defence, key defender Jake Carlisle and running defender Michael Hibberd.

There’s a pair of players from Geelong, Collingwood, Carlton and, perhaps surprisingly to some, North Melbourne, and one each from another seven clubs, with five failing to get a guernsey, among them a genuine finals aspirant in Richmond, for whom skipper Trent Cotchin and Brett Deledio have been good, but not quite to the same levels they reached last year.

There’s plenty of names in this line-up you wouldn’t have counted upon winning a spot as recently as March.

Take, for example, Western Bulldogs’ ruckman Will Minson, who’d had a fair 2012 but still couldn’t crack a spot in his club’s best and fairest top 10. Big Will has had some sort of 2013, beating all peers for hit-outs, taps to advantage, clearances and tackles.

Or Lindsay Thomas, who only two seasons ago had the goalkicking yips so badly he was dropped, but even after a steadier year last year, has in half of 2013 already nearly surpassed his goal tally of 2012 and is leading the Coleman Medal.

And even Malceski, who will forever be remembered for kicking the premiership-clinching goal in last year’s grand final, but had been dropped from the Swans’ senior line-up earlier in the season. No chance of that in 2013, Malceski winning an average 23.6 disposals, the third-highest tally of any defender, but leagues ahead of any of them in terms of rebound 50s, his primary role.

Carlisle’s selection might surprise some, though the Essendon key defender emerged last year, winning a Rising Star nomination. But to say that promise has spilled over into much bigger things in 2013 would be an understatement, his problems against Carlton’s Jarrad Waite in the first half last Friday night perhaps his first lowering of colours in a duel all season. Even then, he was able to help change the course of the game after being swung forward, then return to defence at the death knell to take the game-saving mark

Carlisle takes up the full-back post alongside two more interesting selections in Carlton’s Andrew Walker, who after a superb 2011 as a forward, spent more time in midfield last year, and is now playing tremendous football as a small defender, and the consistently underrated Kangaroo Scott Thompson.

Thompson was in my All-Australian side last year, too. I’m still staggered he wasn’t even considered in the initial squad of 40 for the official version.

This season, he’s just doing more of the same, the competition’s leading spoiler, and ranked second for intercept marks and intercept possessions. Maybe the selectors will catch on a year later, as often seems the case these days.

Arguably the biggest "bolter" in this team, though, is Carlisle’s Bomber teammate Michael Hibberd.

The former Frankston mature-age recruit had been held back only by injury in his first two seasons with the Dons. But after a full pre-season, he has blossomed, turning into one of the competition’s most damaging rebound defenders with his judgement and damaging and precise kicking.

He’s been so good he’s managed to squeeze out another All-Australian from last year in a similar role in Hawthorn’s Grant Birchall. As good as the Hawk defender has undoubtedly been, Hibberd has had the superior defensive side to his game, with more intercept possessions, intercept marks and spoils than his opposite number.

Birchall isn’t the only Hawk a touch stiff to miss out, either. Veteran Sam Mitchell has had another wonderful season, averaging 30.2 disposals sweeping across the back of the square as a defensive midfielder. It’s a job McVeigh has performed similarly for Sydney, practically the only difference the Swan’s capacity to creep forward and kick a goal, of which he had a dozen after 10 games compared to Mitchell’s three.

Hawthorn does get an obvious guernsey, though, in Jarryd Roughead, superb all season as a key forward and relief ruckman, and even occasional on-baller. In an All-Australian 22 picked to play a game, he shapes as an obvious second ruckman to Minson, and can also do plenty of damage near the goal face.

Another who nearly scraped into this team is exciting Greater Western Sydney forward Jeremy Cameron, currently equal third on the goalkicking table. In the end, though, I couldn’t select him at the expense of Collingwood’s Travis Cloke, who’s kicked almost as many goals, and has racked up far more marks and disposals.

With the modern glut of on-ballers, we’ve come to expect flanks and even pockets to be filled by men often more readily identified with their work in the centre square. My two forward flankers, however, have already proved their worth as dangerous smaller forwards.

One is Geelong veteran Steve Johnson, who stands fifth in the average possession count with nearly 29 per game and has a long and proud history of kicking goals and giving as many off. Ditto Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe, who’s already been an All-Australian squad nominee and would fit in snugly indeed on a flank.

My small forward is Carlton’s Jeff Garlett, who just squeezed out yet another Hawk in Luke Breust, the pair the leading forward line tacklers in the competition, but Garlett just gaining an edge in scoreboard impact (scores kicked and assisted) of which he’s averaging more than four goals worth per game.

Veteran Saint Nick Riewoldt was a shoo-in at centre half-forward, where he at times this season he has appeared to carry a whole team on his shoulders. And my full-forward is the man with the Fred Flinstone run-up, West Coast’s Josh Kennedy.

As comical as his approach to goal looks, the big Eagle key forward is highly effective, averaging 3.4 goals per game, is a prolific tackler for a big man, and his scoreboard impact is the best in the competition.

This half-season All-Australian side is flexible, full of run, defensively strong and with goalkicking power to spare. Even at this stage, you’d think it would still be faring pretty well come September, too.

VOTE: Your pick for the starting ruck position


  • Rohan, I think you have nailed it. I feel Garlett is a bit lucky given how many excellent small forwards are around - I'd have Milne in there. Dane Swan is a bit stiff too but the midfielders you have chosen are all having excellent years too. I'm not sure how stiff Birchall is - Hibberd has been very good and Birchall a bit disappointing especially given the Hawks have lost all of his peers - Young, Murphy, Suckling, Schoenmakers etc - maybe he is the focus of the defending forwards and is not handling that. Handy bench.

    Date and time
    June 13, 2013, 9:57AM
    • Rohan Connolly Garlett and Breust fair bit ahead of Milne for mine. Just sneaks in ahead of the Hawks for goals plus score assists, and perhaps just a little more "x-factor" as well.

      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 11:19AM
    • Why is Sydney having four players in the list 'ironic'? It's notable, worthy, interesting, etc. but not ironic.

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 5:43PM
    • Luke McPharlin....AA no question

      Mark E
      West of the East
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 6:24PM
  • How much consideration has been given to Todd Goldstein this year. He has beaten every opponent this year, including Minson, who seems to be the fancy this year. I wonder, if a bench spot was kept for a resting ruckman, if it would be given to Goldstein, who has dominated this year.

    Date and time
    June 13, 2013, 10:10AM
    • Rohan Connolly Plenty. He was second cab off ruck as pure ruckman, but Minson's numbers better than Goldy's in every department, and preferred Roughead as more flexible second ruck option.

      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 11:21AM
    • You could of had Goldstien or Minson in there...arguments for both...West Coasts Natiu is having a good year too.

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 12:36PM
    • Rohan, I just checked the AFL website. Minson leads Goldstein in some categories, that is true. Dsp +1.5 per game, HO's +1.4pg, Tackles +0.3pg, BUT Goldy is well clear in all other categories marks +1.8pg (more than double), goals +0.3pg, and the Frees against are severely against Minson.
      Dont get me wrong, I think Minson is having a great year, but Goldy beat him comfortably, outpointing him in nearly every statistic.
      I think NicNat is far from the same level as last year, and is well behind these two guys, who must clearly be competing with themselves for a spot in the AA team.

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 3:40PM
  • Hard to argue with any of these selections. Although, I'd take out Cloke for another mid sized player, maybe the other Josh Kennedy, or Rory Sloane.

    The Real World
    Date and time
    June 13, 2013, 10:33AM
    • Rohan Connolly Fair call, there's certainly plenty of height, think if I'd gone for another mid, Mitchell or Kennedy would have been next in line.

      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 11:27AM

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AFL 2015

Round 1
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CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
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MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
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STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
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RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
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Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
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Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
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CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
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Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
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HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
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CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
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ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
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Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
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GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
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PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
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COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
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MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
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RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 103vs GWS 77 Report Stats
COL 92vs ESS 95 Report Stats
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Round 24
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 96vs HAW 64 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 69vs SYD 60 Report Stats
WBU 102vs ADE 109 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 88vs NTH 105 Report Stats
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Round 25
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 135vs ADE 61 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 51vs NTH 77 Report Report Stats
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Round 26
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 67vs HAW 94 Report Stats
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WCE 80vs NTH 55 Report Stats
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Round 27
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
HAW 107vs WCE 61 Report Stats
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West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
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