The AFL season is coming to an end and a number of first year players and beginning to tire, while others are resting in preparation for a finals campaign. We pick the best 18 and put them into a team.
ANTHONY MCDONALD-TIPUNGWUTI (ESSENDON)
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, or better known as "Tippa" or "Walla" has become a cult hero down at Tullamarine fairly quickly and there's plenty of reasons why. Walla raises the noise level of the crowd every time he gets the ball by at least 10-15% because of the way he plays his football. He takes the game on, and sometimes gets caught and sometimes breaks the line, but he's damn exciting to watch. A player that has lifted the spirits of many Bomber fans throughout the year.
JACOB WEITERING (CARLTON)
At the start of the year, Weitering was touted as the NAB Rising Star to beat, but that hasn't been the case this year, however he's still had a fairly productive season. He's learning the caper of defence and at times been thrown forward. He'll no doubt be a terrific footballer as he matures throughout his career and be a force in years to come.
SAM COLLINS (FREMANTLE)
The mature age recruit from the Box Hill Hawks has fitted nicely in the Fremantle defence, despite the barrage of ball that has come down in that area this season. In the absence of Luke McPharlin, Collins has stepped up to the plate since earning his debut midway through the season, and hasn't looked back, making that spot his own. Has a long career ahead of him.
HALF BACK LINE:
CALLUM MILLS (SYDNEY SWANS)
It took a while for him to receive his thoroughly deserved NAB Rising Star, and there's every chance he could win the thing at the end of the year given his incredible consistency and his ability to find the football, He's also a member of the most successful backline this season so he's playing his role and playing it extremely well. Not bad for a guy that had NEVER played as a defender before this season.
MARCUS ADAMS (WESTERN BULLDOGS)
Adams had a sensational start to the year, so much so, that he featured in our Rolling All-Australian for the first eight weeks of the season, however has tailed away a little bit due to a few injuries. But let's not take anything away from the 22 year old that looks 40, as he has had a terrific start to his AFL career.
JOSH WAGNER (MELBOURNE)
Wagner made his debut for the Demons in round three against the Kangaroos down in Hobart and hasn't looked out of sorts since. Apart from a knee injury that kept him out for four weeks, Wagner is averaging 17 disposals this season and looks settled in a wing/half back role at Melbourne, pairing up well with team-mate Jayden Hunt out of defence.
JOSH SMITH (COLLINGWOOD)
Collingwood rookie Josh Smith has been one of the finds of the season after he was drafted with pick 25 in the 2016 Rookie Draft. Smith is averaging 21 disposals in his first season under Nathan Buckley at the Pies and has flown under the radar of captain Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams and Adam Treloar as a midfielder. Having a terrific first year.
JACOB HOPPER (GWS GIANTS)
Unfortunately for the young Giant midfielder, injury has plagued the second half of his season, but I saw enough to know that this young man will be a star of the future and would be one of the first picked in my side every day of the week. He had an outstanding debut, picking up 32 disposals and continued to pull similar numbers until a back injury ruled him out for majority of the second half of the season. He's slowly starting to come back through the NEAFL now.
JOSH DUNKLEY (WESTERN BULLDOGS)
Probably a little unlucky to not receive a NAB Rising Star nomination just yet, but he has had some stiff competition this season. However, he has forced his way into a very potent Western Bulldogs side and managed to play nine games in his first year, averaging 16 disposals a game and kicking five goals. One that is flying under the radar just a little bit, much like his side.
HALF FORWARD LINE:
JADE GRESHAM (ST KILDA)
The small forward is having an outstanding season and probably should be considered more for the NAB Rising Star at the end of the year than what he is currently. Gresham played a crucial part in St Kilda's upset win over the Cats earlier this season and has shown some great signs throughout the year that he has a lot of football ahead of him. Reminds me of a certain former St Kilda small forward. If he can be half as good, the Saints will be laughing!
ERIC HIPWOOD (BRISBANE LIONS)
Ooooh I like this kid a lot. He has all the attributes to be THE forward of the competition. He has height, he has athletic ability, he has endurance, he has sticky mitts and he has a great goal sense, something the Brisbane Lions desperately need. Give him two to three years to add a bit of muscle, and I expect this guy to be the number one forward at the club, next to team-mate Josh Schache.
CALLUM AH CHEE (GOLD COAST SUNS)
To me, Callum Ah Chee reminds me a little bit of Cyril Rioli. He doesn't need much of the ball to impact a match. He has that touch that one kick or one act of desperation can change the momentum of a match. He will take time to fully develop, but has showed some great signs so far this season in a difficult year for the Suns.
TOM PAPLEY (SYDNEY SWANS)
The impact that Tom Papley has had at the Sydney Swans this season has been extraordinary and has effectively forced veteran Ben McGlynn out of the side. He made Luke Hodge look silly a few weeks ago in a crucial stage of the match and at times this season has caused havoc for his opposition. He has a terrific goal sense and his pace is something to behold.
CHARLIE CURNOW (CARLTON)
Probably a little lucky to squeeze into the side, but we're a bit short in the ruck department, which is where you'll find Josh Schache, mainly because he's the tallest player available in the list of first-year players. Anyhow, Curnow has managed to play just the six games as he has struggled with injury and glandular fever this season, not allowing him to play any great deal of football consistently. However, the talent is there and certainly one to keep an eye on in years to come.
DANIEL RIOLI (RICHMOND)
There's just something about him that I quite enjoy. It must be the Rioli name. While he has floated in and out of his 14 matches this season, there will be one or two things he'll do during a match that you just know that he'll be a player to watch over the next five to ten years.
JOSH SCHACHE (BRISBANE LIONS)
Well aware that he hasn't played in this position all year, but throughout a player's AFL career, they learn to adapt, so after being the tallest player in the list of first year players, he's in the ruck and he will adapt! Schache has had a trying year as the Brisbane Lions number one forward, which would not be easy in a side that has struggled for much of the season. He has still managed to kick a goal a game, which is a nice return for a first year player.
DARCY PARISH (ESSENDON)
Darcy Parish, for me is easily the best player of first year players this season. In a tough year for the Bombers, Darcy Parish is well on track to finish in the top five of Essendon's best and fairest at the end of the year. Parish has averaged 21 disposals this season and could add the NAB Rising Star to his name by the end of the season, but does have tough competition from Caleb Daniel, Callum Mills and Christian Petracca. Get some support around this kid next season, and he'll thrive even further.
RHYS MATHEISON (BRISBANE LIONS)
Parish's great mate Rhys Matheison is making a name for himself up north and he's doing it with incredible pace. Matheison is a player that does not care who is in his way and is a "see ball, get ball" type of player, which every coach loves. He burrows in and wins the tough football. An unusual character to say the least, but a character that will be one heck of a footballer in the years to come.
Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
Darcy Tucker (Fremantle)
Tom Ruggles (Geelong)
Jack Silvagni (Carlton)
Ben Crocker (Collingwood)
Ryan Clarke (North Melbourne)