2023 William Buck Premier Men’s Team of the Year

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On the back of the 50-man squad announced on the eve of the finals series, VAFA Media is pleased to announce the final 2023 William Buck Premier Men’s team.

After one of the most dominant home and away seasons in recent history, Collegians are top of the class with seven representatives in the final team. Defenders Matt Warren, Sam Sofronidis and Luke McCleary cap off wonderful individual years by earning selection. 

Sofronidis sits on the podium as one of the stories of 2023, throughout pre-season and the early part of the year he was nowhere to be seen. Deciding to have a break from the game before words of wisdom saw him resurrect in Round 4 and not look back. 

Will we see Sof in purple next year? Keep your eyes and ears open. 

Midfield machines ‘King’ Kenny Ong, and ‘Gentleman’ Jim Bazzani were pivotal in driving the Lions forward from every contest with Premier Data reporting Bazzani as having a personal best season. 

Arguably the biggest out of the box story this year came from the forward line of Collegians with Will Pocknee kicking 40 goals from 17 games. Prior to 2023, he had played 35 senior games and kicked 15 goals between 2014 – 2022. 

Dave Mirra is the headline act when it comes to Collegians, he was the competition sharpshooter in his final season of football. And, went out on top with five goals in the grand final. He bleeds purple, loves his teammates and therefore has been named the captain of the 2023 William Buck Premier team of the year. 

Grand Final combatants St Kevin’s have a system based 18-man press that rival clubs have struggled to beat over a number of years. In 2023, Luke Winter excelled beyond his rising star winning year of 2022 to put his name amongst the top echelon of midfielders in the competition. 

Winter’s teammate Mitch Wallis worked his way into his inaugural year with SKOB. A majority of the time across the half-forward line, and was able to find plenty of the ball himself, but also bring others into the game, being ranked in the top five for goal assists, and overall score involvements. 

Old Scotch boasts four representatives, James Tarrant, Brodie Easton, Henry Brown and Aidan Franetic. 

Franetic along with Luke Winter and fellow midfielder Ben Harding (Old Melburnians) share the podium for contested possessions, disposals, gathers, ground ball gets, hard ball gets, and centre clearances. 

Tarrant and Henry Brown have worked in tandem throughout 2023. The pair were pivotal not only in the Cardinals reaching September, but in the Big V saluting over the Perth Football League in July. 

Easton provided plenty of run, dash, and dare across the backline, he too showed his wears in the Big V earlier this year. 

The University sides have two representatives from each. From University Blacks, the co-captains, Campbell Moorfield and Josh Steadman. 

Almost nothing got past Moorfield in 2023, contested marks, intercept marks, intercept possessions and kicks. His performance in the Blacks defence grew as the year went on and was a key reason why Blacks turned the back half of the year into such a positive one. 

Moorfield earned a VFL debut with Coburg in the final game of the season on the back of his showing at the Uni Main. 

Moorfields teammate, and outgoing Uni Blacks ruckman Josh Steadman takes up his spot in the starting ruck. Steadman is the heart and soul of the Blacks, and widely respected in the competition. No opposition club took matching up on him lightly as his ability to provide first use to the Blacks midfield was on show most weeks. 

Tom Cutler was used in a variety of roles by Guy Martyn throughout his debut season at University Blues, his best work was done across the wing and half-back flank supporting his former Bombers teammate Marty Gleeson, and getting it inside 50 to Tom Young and Sam Grimley. 

Cutler was ranked in the elite category for disposals, ground ball gets, and score involvements. 

The 2023 Woodrow Medallist takes his rightful place at full-back, Marty Gleeson played through injury, played on the competitions best forwards, and never complained or shirked the issue once. Gleeson’s professionalism for the cause has been on display since he walked into Melbourne Uni last year.

The only player ranked higher than Moorfield in defensive components is Gleeson. He was able to marshall his defensive unit, and bring the next wave of Uni Blues defenders along for the journey in a succinct manner. 

Old Xaverians have had a year they’ll want to forget in a hurry. Marcus Stavrou and Charlie MacIsaac, the two mainstays can hold their heads high from an otherwise bleak return in 2023. 

MacIsaac the hero on representative day with a bag of six goals was pulled out of Xav’s duties in the back half of the season as he worked in and out of Footscray’s VFL campaign. Stavrou claimed the Old Xaverians best and fairest award for the third straight year, and has earned his fourth straight team of the year selection after averaging 27 disposals, 13 contested touches, 8 clearances and 5 score involvements every time he played. 

Brodie Steele (Old Haileybury), Tom Fisher (Old Brighton) and Ben Harding (Old Melburnians) make up the final three spots on the team.  

All had outstanding individual seasons. Fisher, the only player at the Tonners to play every game. Claiming the Old Brighton best and fairest, he also finished third in this year’s Woodrow Medal behind Mirra and Gleeson. 

Steele was a member of the Big V side in the middle of the year, and a key pillar in Daniel Ward’s team, averaging 26 disposals and often giving the Bloods plenty of drive across half back. 

Harding’s debut season in the competition quickly caught the attention of opposition clubs with the ease at which he would win the footy. The #1 ranked disposal winner on the ground averaged 33 touches a game, 17 contested possessions, 11 clearances, 6 tackles, 6 inside 50’s and 6 score involvements. 

It’s an exceptional year playing with Old Melburnians, and deserves every plaudit he gets. Harding played 18 games this year, kicking seven goals. His finest goal coming in the Big V jumper, during the final quarter against his old competition. 

Finally, Jared Rivers is given the honour of coaching this team. He has access to 16 players who wore the Big V in 2023. Three club captains. And seven of his own Lions. Rivers has had a brilliant season in the coaches box, everything he touched has turned to gold. 

2023 William Buck Premier Team of the Year: by the Premier Data numbers

Jim Bazzani; Collegians 
Never previously selected
20 matches this season, 4 goals
Averages 24.3 disposals, 9.9 contested possessions, 5.9 clearances, 5.8 score involvements, 5.8 tackles and 4 inside 50s

Henry Brown; Old Scotch
Never previously selected
19 matches this season, 21 goals
Averages 17.5 disposals, 10.3 contested possessions, 4.3 clearances, 7.6 ground ball gets, 5.4 score involvements and 4 tackles 

Tom Cutler; University Blues
Never previously selected
16 matches this season, 11 goals
Averages 28.2 disposals, 20.7 kicks, 8.4 contested possessions, 6.9 ground ball gets, 5.4 marks and 5.1 score involvements

Brodie Easton; Old Scotch
2021 Team of the Year
19 matches this season, 4 goals
Averages 22.5 disposals, 10.6 handballs, 5.2 ground ball gets, 5.3 tackles and 3.8 score involvements

Tom Fisher; Old Brighton
2022 team of the year selection
18 matches this season, 6 goals
Averages 25.8 disposals, 13.4 contested possessions, 7.4 clearances, 7.8 ground ball gets, 8.7 tackles and 4.4 inside 50s

Aiden Franetic; Old Scotch
Never previously selected
19 matches this season, 6 goals
Averages 28.4 disposals, 15 contested possessions, 8.5 clearances, 8.6 ground ball gets, 5.9 tackles and 5.7 inside 50s

Marty Gleeson; University Blues
2022 team of the year 
17 matches this season, 0 goals
Averages 25.1 disposals, 20.4 kicks, 8.8 marks, 5.1 intercept marks, 9.6 intercept possessions and 7.1 rebound 50’s

Ben Harding; Old Melburnians
Never previously selected
18 matches this season, 8 goals
Averages 32.8 disposals, 17 contested possessions, 10.5 clearances, 10.3 ground ball gets, 5.6 tackles and 5.8 inside 50s

Charlie MacIsaac; Old Xaverians
2022 team of the year
13 matches this season, 28 goals
Averages 11.8 disposals, 3.9 marks, 2.5 marks inside 50, 2.1 goals, 4.6 tackles and 5.7 score involvements

Luke McCleary; Collegians
Never previously selected
19 matches this season, 4 goals 
Averages 25.6 disposals, 19.2 kicks, 5.9 clearances, 5.1 rebound 50’s, 5.4 score involvements and 5.1 intercept marks

Dave Mirra; Collegians
2022 team of the year
13 matches this season, 48 goals
Averages 17.9 disposals, 7.6 marks, 4.4 marks inside 50, 3.7 goals, and 9.1 score involvements 

Campbell Moorfield; University Blacks
Never previously selected
18 matches this season, 0 goals
Averages 25.8 disposals, 22.4 kicks, 7.3 marks, 4.3 intercept marks, 7.2 intercept possessions and 6 rebound 50’s

Kenny Ong; Collegians
2022 team of the year
19 matches this season, 12 goals
Averages 21.4 disposals, 10.2 contested possessions, 6.3 clearances, 7.6 ground ball gets, 5.7 score involvements and 4.4 inside 50s

Will Pocknee; Collegians
Never previously selected
17 matches this season, 40 goals
Averages 10.9 disposals, 5.1 marks, 5.6 score involvements, 2.3 goals and 70% disposal efficiency

Sam Sofronidis; Collegians
2022 team of the year
17 matches this season, 0 goals
Averages 21.5 disposals, 14.6 kicks, 3.6 spoils, 3.7 rebound 50’s, 7.8 intercept possessions and 6.4 intercept marks

Marcus Stavrou; Old Xaverians
2019, 2021 (C), 2022, and 2023 team of the year selection
9 matches this season, 8 goals
Averages 27.1 disposals, 12.8 contested possessions, 7.6 clearances, 8.3 ground ball gets, 4.6 tackles and 5.3 score involvements

Josh Steadman; University Blacks
Never previously selected
17 matches this season, 6 goals
Averages 17.8 disposals, 48.3 hitouts, 10.6 clearances, 13.9 contested possessions, 3.5 inside 50’s, 3.1 intercept possessions and 3.2 score involvements 

Brodie Steele; Old Haileybury
Never previously selected
18 matches this season, 4 goals 
Averages 25.8 disposals, 15.9 kicks, 6.2 intercept possessions, 6.9 ground ball gets, 3.9 tackles and 3.9 rebound 50s

James Tarrant; Old Scotch
Never previously selected
19 matches this season, 39 goals
Averages 12.9 disposals, 3.7 marks inside 50, 2.1 goals, 6.5 contested possessions, and 6.3 score involvements 

Mitch Wallis; St Kevin’s
Never previously selected
19 matches this season, 25 goals
Averages 23.7 disposals, 12.4 contested possessions, 8.1 ground ball gets, 8.1 score involvements and 4.1 clearances

Matt Warren; Collegians
2022 team of the year
20 matches this season, 0 goals
Averages 9.4 disposals, 84% disposal efficiency, 3.7 intercept marks, 3.1 spoils, 79% kicking efficiency and 3.1 spoils

Luke Winter; St Kevin’s
2022 team of the year
20 matches this season, 4 goals
Averages 21.8 disposals, 16.1 contested possessions, 9.2 clearances, 6.2 tackles and 9.9 ground ball gets