By Nick Armistead
At the half way stage of the William Buck Premier season, the only thing more difficult than predicting the outcome of one of the closest seasons in recent years is deciding who has performed best out of 10 lists full of talent.
However, as William Buck Premier scribe, I have put pen to paper and decided upon my mid-season team of the year.
While it is difficult to leave players out of any position, the forward line proved most challenging, with a number of goal kickers missing out due to the high calibre throughout the competition.
Reasons for each player and their inclusion are written below.
|FB||Will Johnson (Coll)||Hugh Vickers-Willis (Blues)||Luke Pacconi (OT) – VC|
|HB||Nick Wynne (OX)||Tom Humphrey (DLS)||Sam Williams (DLS)|
|C||Hugh Curnow (Blacks)||Bede Mahon (Blacks) – C||Jake Williams (DLS)|
|HF||Sam Cust (OC)||Tom Penberthy (Coll)||Al Armstrong (OM)|
|FF||Lochie Dornauf (Blacks)||Matt Handley (OX)||Sam Pickett (DLS)|
|FOLL||Nick De Steiger (OM)||Andrew Kyriacopoulos (OT)||Tom Sullivan (StB)|
|I/C||Will Coates (SKOB)||Jeremy Mugavin (Blues)||Jack Osborn (OT)|
|Adam Pitt (Blacks)|
|Emer||Marshall Rippon (Blues)||Steven Salopek (SKOB)||Will Cuningham (Blues)|
|Coach||Paul Satterley (DLS)|
Will Johnson (Coll) – Johnson is the number one defender in the team whose defence is the stingiest in the competition, with the Lions averaging just 59.8 points against.
Hugh Vickers-Willis (Blues) – The Big V full back has lined up against the opposition’s key forward in each of the nine games this season, using his combined height and pace to either win the battle or draw level. He’s the general in the second-stingiest defence in William Buck Premier, averaging just 60.9 points against.
Luke Pacconi (OT) – The vice-captain and stand-in skipper has taken the opposition’s best small forward each week, using his attack on the ball and ability to read the play to help the T’s to six wins from the first six games of the season. Unassuming and often underrated.
Nick Wynne (OX) – Arguably the most skilled player in William Buck Premier, Wynne commands the Xavs’ back 50 with poise encompassed by very few. Has appeared in the best on five occasions.
Tom Humphrey (DLS) – The 2015 Team of the Year full back has continued his dominance in the first half of this year, with his ability to read the ball through the air allowing him to play off his opponent when appropriate and clunk mark after mark. One of many reasons De La find themselves at the top of the ladder.
Sam Williams (DLS) – The Big V representative is as quick and creative as any player in the competition and owns one of the silkiest left boots going around. Played all nine games and has been named in the best five times. Elite endurance and exudes leadership.
Hugh Curnow (Blacks) – Curnow started the season down back and spent a few weeks up forward before settling on the wing over the past six rounds. The Blacks’ strongest performer during their five-game unbeaten run and has kicked eight goals and appeared in the best on four occasions.
Bede Mahon (Blacks) – The engine room of the Blacks has no off switch and Mahon is a prime example of that. Has a proclivity for hitting up the first-class Blacks attack – three of which (Dornauf, Robbins and Sharp) have kicked 14 goals or more. A genuine leader, tough as nails and has appeared in the best on six occasions.
Jake Williams (DLS) – Owns arguably the strongest skillset of any player in the competition, with the former Woodrow medallist and VFL midfielder using his agility, pace and classy left boot to lead De La to seven wins. The best performing player in the best performing side. Will be among the Woodrow Medal leaders at this point in the season.
Sam Cust (OC) – Despite having not won a game, Cust has been a shining light for the Panthers in 2016, appearing in their best on seven occasions and helping himself to 14 goals. Made his Big V debut against the SAAFL and alongside Tom Paule (OM) and Matt Handley (OX) loomed as the likely match-winner when the fourth-quarter comeback commenced.
Tom Penberthy (Coll) – Penberthy has the stood out above most big men in William Buck Premier, with another selection in the Big V side just reward for his effort. Has led from the front for the sixth-placed Lions and appeared in the best seven times. His skillset below his knees is unrivalled amongst players his size.
Al Armstrong (OM) – The golden boot from Old Melburnians has kicked a haul of five and four bags of three from eight games this season. Arguably the clutch player of William Buck Premier, kicking the tying goal with 10 seconds remaining against Old Trinity and putting one through late in OM’s two-point win against Old Xaverians.
Lochie Dornauf (Blacks) – After kicking four goals from his first three games for the season, Dornauf has since exploded up forward for the Blacks and booted 17 in his last five. Provides two-three highlights per game.
Matt Handley (OX) – The 2015 William Buck Premier leading goal-kicker has picked up where he left off last year, kicking 30 from the first nine games and seven more than his closest opponent. The premiere key forward of the competition, Handley combines with Brendan Goss (20 goals) to form the strongest one-two punch in William Buck Premier.
Sam Pickett (DLS) – Pickett has kicked the second-most goals of any player in the competition with 23, including a bag of five, four and two bags of three. Leads the De La goal kicking by nine for the top-of-the-table side.
Nick De Steiger (OM) – De Steiger’s incredible season was rewarded with the starting ruck position for the Big V over the weekend. Has appeared in the best on four occasions and arguably the most important player at Old Melburnians. Uses his elite tank to float back and fill a hole in defence, often resulting in a high number of intercept marks.
Andrew Kyriacopoulos (OT) – After Round 3, expect Kyriacopoulos to be leading the Woodrow Medal count. The big-bodied midfielder exploded in the first half of the year and played a pivotal role in the T’s first six wins as he used his elite tank to garner possessions at will and lace out teammates with his trustworthy left boot. One of five T’s midfielders who could have easily made the side.
Tom Sullivan (StB) – Sullivan is a star onballer and has taken his game to new level since playing a key role in the Snow Dogs’ 2015 premiership. The premiere rover of the competition has appeared in the best six times and often gets over the back of packs, resulting in 10 goals for the year.
Will Coates (SKOB) – Coates has been the standout performer for SKOB thus far in 2016, commanding the back six with strength, skill and assurance.
Jeremy Mugavin (Blues) – Like Sullivan, Mugavin has taken his game to a new level in 2016 and is showcasing his most consistent season to date in the VAFA. Bullish inside midfielder and key cog of the Blues’ dominant on-ball brigade. Finished equal-fifth in the 2015 Woodrow Medal and is on track to out-perform that feat.
Jack Osborn (OT) – Has increased his engine over the pre-season, resulting in 10 goals in six games (a lot through the midfield) as well as four times in the T’s best. The T’s have not won a game since his departure after Round 6.
Adam Pitt (Blacks) – Arguably the best performing Black over the course of the season, Pitt has owned the half back line like few others. Pulls down double figure marks most weeks and has appeared in the best six times.
Marshall Rippon (Blues) – Rippon is another cog of the star-studded Blues midfield and has the ability to turn the game on its head in the space of half a quarter. Has played through a multitude of injuries this year, including a three-goal effort against De La after hyperextending his knee the previous week.
Steven Salopek (SKOB) – Salopek – alongside brother Jason, Rohan Bail, James Strauss, Nick Wood and Gerard Gleeson – forms one of the strongest midfield line-ups in the competition. Has stood out this season with his elite endurance, ball use and decision-making resulting in nine goals from seven outings.
Will Cuningham (Blues) – Another star Blues defender who has contributed significantly to their average of 60.9 points against. Has appeared in the best five times, including two BOGs over the past three rounds.
Paul Satterley (DLS) – On top of the ladder with seven wins from nine games gives Paul Satterley the mid-season coach of the year position. While De La has added Jake Williams, former Woodrow medallist Matt Fieldsend went down with a torn pectoral in Round 2 and Antony Forato has played just five and a half games.
*Feature photo: Ari Hatzis