Five Bulldogs named to WAFL Team of the Year

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 11:12 AM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle has had another tremendous 2019 season and that has resulted in Chad Pearson, Haiden Schloithe, Mason Shaw, Jacob Dragovich and Brock Higgins all named in the final 25 players selected as part of the WAFL Team of the Year.

The Team of the Year was selected based on positions players earned during the Team of the Week named after each round of the 2019 season, and the Bulldogs representatives highlight another standout season that saw South Fremantle finish the home and away season in second position.

Five of the final 25 players selected came from South Fremantle with Brock Higgins named in the ruck, Mason Shaw at full-forward, Haiden Schloithe to a half-forward flank, Chad Pearson on the interchange and Jacob Dragovich as an emergency.

Schloithe got hurt a couple of times through the season including a knee scare on WA Day, but played 17 of the 18 games and was right back to his brilliant best with his prolific ball winning ability while being able to win the ball on the inside and outside. 

His kicking skills remain elite and it was every bit the equal of his Sandover Medal season of 2017 ending up averaging 24.6 possessions and kicking 20 goals while named to the Team of the Round 10 times.

Shaw appeared likely to be the Bernie Naylor Medallist most of the season until being overtaken by ex-teammate Ben Sokol. 

But with South Fremantle's forward-line now his to become the No. 1 option, he stood tall to end up kicking 49 goals including two hauls of six along the way while kicking five in Round 7 against East Perth and then four on another couple of occasions.

Higgins confirmed himself as the best pure ruckmen in the WAFL in 2019 during a season that saw him play 100 games with South Fremantle and now be on the verge of 150 in total in the competition. 

Higgins dominated to start the season named ruckman for the first seven weeks on the way to 10 nominations for the season where his ability to ruck all day and get better the long games went a standout. Finished up averaging 17.0 possessions and 37.6 hit outs.

Pearson made his debut down back for South Fremantle in 2017 and showed good signs for the future. 

Pearson booked a permanent spot in the back-line in 2018. And now in 2019, confirmed himself as one of the best backmen in the WAFL capable of playing on tall and small opponents, and in producing lockdown and attacking roles. 

He went on to average 18 disposals and it wouldn’t surprise to see him on an AFL list in 2020.

Dragovich could consider himself decidedly unlucky not to feature on the ground in the starting Team of the Year, but that's quite a talented midfield to try and break into. 

But following the departures at South Fremantle coming into 2019, for the first time he became a permanent on-baller and more than fully grasped his opportunities ending up averaging 27.4 possession and earning a spot in six Teams of the Round. 

The Team of the Year has been selected based upon the WAFL Teams of the Week named after each round of the 2019 season so quite simply, the more weeks you were named throughout the season the better your chance of making the side.

Throughout the course of the season, 147 separate players were named to a Team of the Round on at least one occasion which meant in theory, 147 players were eligible to be named to the Team of the Year at the conclusion of the season.

With each team playing 18 games during the 2019 season, the player who was named to the Team of the Rounds the most was Subiaco's versatile big man Lachlan Delahunty. 

He was named 13 times out of 18 games and while for much of the first half of the season, his role was to play at centre half-forward and help out Tim Sutherland in the ruck. The second half of the season has seen him dominate in the ruck and he is deservedly the Sandover Medal favourite. 

He could have comfortably fit either in the ruck or centre half-forward but has been named to the latter position in the Team of the Year due to the fact there was another dominant ruck choice too for the side.

South Fremantle's Brock Higgins was superb in the ruck in his 16 games for the season and was named to Teams of the Round 10 times so he fittingly takes that spot in the Team of the Year.

Claremont's Kane Mitchell had a brilliant year too and he takes a spot on the wing having been named 11 times throughout the season. 

The other players to reach double-figure nominations were South Fremantle's Haiden Schloithe and Subiaco's Kyal Horsley, and the former takes his spot at half-forward and the latter in the centre position.

Three players were named nine times throughout the season and they were Perth's Michael Sinclair, Subiaco's Ben Sokol and West Perth's Andrew Strijk. Sinclair takes his spot in the back pocket while Sokol and Strijk are both in the forward pockets.

There were another three players named eight times during 2019 and they were Claremont's Jye Bolton and East Perth pair Rohan Kerr and Jackson Ramsay. The Tigers superstar was named ruck rover, Kerr to the wing and Ramsay to the half-back flank.

Another four players were named seven times and three of those were key defenders in Claremont's Anton Hamp, Subiaco's Jordan Lockyer and Swan Districts' Tony Notte so they all take spots in the defence. West Perth captain Aaron Black was the other and he was named rover.

All those 15 players who received at least seven nominations in Teams of the Round were automatic selections, but from there it required some judgement calls.

Of the players who were named six times, Claremont's Bailey Rogers was named to the half-back flank and his teammate Declan Mountford found a spot on the interchange. 

Perth's Clint Jones also was named to the bench while South Fremantle's Jacob Dragovich is an emergency and his teammate Chad Pearson was named to the interchange. 

Subiaco's Ryan Borchet is also an emergency while first year Swan Districts star George Hampson was rewarded with a spot at half-forward while West Perth's Shane Nelson was the fourth player on the interchange.

There were six players named to the Teams of the Round on five occasions but spots in the Team of the Year were running out. South Fremantle's Mason Shaw was named at full-forward given he was the best tall forward all season and Peel Thunder defender Tobe Watson was named an emergency.

But Claremont's Haydn Busher, Peel Thunder's Bailey Banfield, Subiaco's Greg Clark and Josh Rotham of the West Coast Eagles were the hard luck stories.

Given Subiaco's dominance once again this season, they had 17 players named at least once to a Team of the Round and of the 440 slots across the 20 rounds, their players were featured on 74 occasions. Then from there, they had five players named in the final 25.

South Fremantle finished second for a fourth successive season and the Bulldogs had 16 players named at least once for 66 total nominations. From that, five Bulldogs players were also acknowledged in the final 25.

Claremont finished third with 14 of the players named at least once and the Tigers making up 61 spots from the 440 throughout the season. Claremont finished with five players in the last 25 as well.

Subiaco, South Fremantle and Claremont made up the top three spots and are the last three teams left in the competition now heading into the preliminary final weekend. As a result, they have 15 players out of the final 25 given their players took up 201 of the 440 spots in the Teams of the Round.

West Perth finished fifth and had 16 players recognised at least once for 48 total nominations with the Falcons featuring three players in the Team of the Year.

Peel Thunder had 16 players recognised at least once for 37 in total with Tobe Watson their lone representative in the final 25 for his season down back that earned him a second year at the Fremantle Dockers.

Perth fell heartbreakingly short of playing finals for the first since 1997 and had 12 players named at least once in a Team of the Round for 34 in total. The Demons had two players reach the Team of the Year.

East Perth had two standout players through the season with Rohan Kerr and Jackson Ramsay making up 16 of their 34 total appearances in Teams of the Round. But the Royals did have 12 other players nominated along the way for 18 other slots.

Swan Districts might have claimed the wooden spoon but had two players in the Team of the Year from 13 players appearing at least once for 29 appearances in total.

East Fremantle didn’t quite feature a player in the final team but had 15 players appear at least once during the season for 31 total nominations. Blaine Boekhorst and Nick Kommer were named four times apiece.

The West Coast Eagles finished with 14 players named in the Team of the Round at least once for 26 appearances over 2019.

TABtouch TEAM OF THE YEAR 
BACK: Michael Sinclair (P), Jordan Lockyer (S), Anton Hamp (C)
HALF-BACK: Jackson Ramsay (EP), Tony Notte (SD), Bailey Rogers (C) 
CENTRE: Kane Mitchell (C), Kyal Horsley (S), Rohan Kerr (EP)
HALF-FORWARD: Haiden Schloithe (SF), Lachlan Delahunty (S), George Hampson (SD)
FORWARD: Andrew Strijk (WP), Mason Shaw (SF), Ben Sokol (S)
RUCK: Brock Higgins (SF), Jye Bolton (C), Aaron Black (WP)
INTERCHANGE: Chad Pearson (SF), Clint Jones (P), Shane Nelson (WP), Declan Mountford (C) 
EMERGENCIES: Tobe Watson (PT), Jacob Dragovich (SF), Ryan Borchet (S)