IF THE red hair doesn't get you, the gaudy numbers must.

It's not quite as catchy as that famous Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson ditty, but Demon Clayton Oliver – for all his rough edges – put together a season to remember in 2017. 

Oliver, who turned 20 in July, had 71 disposals through round two, no fewer than 24 in any match and was a barometer for a Melbourne side that loomed as a finalist until the last game. 

But the second-year midfielder was unable to convince selectors to include him in the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian squad of 40. 

Crows dominate All Australian squad

His raw numbers stacked up: he led the League in handballs (21.9), was second in contested possessions (15.6), fifth in total disposals (659) and eighth in average disposals (30), 10th in clearances (6.6) and 11th in tackles (6.9). 

Oliver's handball rate helped, but his disposal efficiency of 77.1 per cent also ranked second among the top-10 ball-winners and fourth in the top 20.

Demons co-captain Nathan Jones was among those surprised at Oliver's omission. 

"It's obviously an opinion of the selectors, but from our perspective he's been a terrific addition to our team," Jones said. 

"He's taken a huge leap for a young player … and he's probably pretty stiff to miss out this year, but I'm tipping he won't be too far away."

Oliver perhaps needed to kick more than four goals and average more than 199.4 metres gained – the new buzz statistic in the AFL world. The pacesetters rack up 500-plus metres, while Hawk Tom Mitchell, for comparison's sake, amassed 313.4. 

Oliver's like-for-like competition was probably Matt Crouch, Rory Sloane, Joel Selwood, Dylan Shiel, Mitchell and Josh Kennedy. 

Kennedy played 19 games, Selwood 18, and Oliver is with the rest all on 22. 

Only Kennedy averaged more clearances than Oliver. Only Mitchell and Crouch averaged more disposals. None of that group won more contested possessions. Only Sloane out-tackled him.

Digging deeper, they all bettered Oliver's three inside 50s per match and, damningly, crushed him in average metres gained. 

The reasoning, valid or not, for Oliver's snub is suddenly clearer. His critics – and we're not talking about Damien Martyn – consistently stated he would be more impactful if he kicked more. 

The All Australian selectors clearly agree.

Essendon's Zach Merrett missed out in similar circumstances last year after a wonderful solo campaign. But the Bomber backed it up this year and not only finds himself in the squad, but with a good chance of being in the final 22.

And Oliver wasn't the only hard-luck story. 

Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin, Geelong defender Zach Tuohy, rival ruckmen Brodie Grundy and Ben McEvoy, and Essendon's Orazio Fantasia also had varying reason to be miffed.