• New faces aplenty in official 40-man shortlist
SELECTING an All Australian team is always going to stir great debate, so here's our two cents worth.
Over the next three days AFL.com.au will roll out the 22 players we believe should be announced next Tuesday night when the official Virgin Australia 2014 AFL All Australian team is named.
On Wednesday you'll learn our defenders, on Thursday our midfielders, and on Friday our forwards.
As with any such team, there was hot debate.
We've tried to select a 'true' 22, putting players in the positions they played for most of the season.
Our bench reflects the modern-day game, and features four midfielders rather than trying to squeeze in an unlucky key position player who wouldn't provide much value if the team were to play.
Eleven clubs are represented, and not surprisingly the top two teams, the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn, are best represented with three and five players respectively.
Look out for the selection of a number of first-timers and players who have knocked on the door for years and finally bashed it down with a stellar 2014.
Let's start with the back six.
Back pocket: Alex Rance (Richmond)
One of the most contentious positions in the team was that of our third tall defender. Despite missing five games early in the season, Rance just got the nod in front of Adelaide best and fairest winner Daniel Talia. It was no coincidence that once Rance returned from a foot injury – and regained his match fitness – the Tigers started winning. He is versatile, rugged, and showed his elite qualities in the round 23 win over the Swans.
Full-back: Cale Hooker (Essendon)
Hooker was a standout selection among our scribes to win the coveted full-back position. Not only has he locked down opponents as well as anyone this season, but the 25-year-old also managed to create offence for Essendon with his peerless intercept marking (almost eight a game) and prolific ball use (18 disposals). A no-brainer.
Back pocket: Shaun Burgoyne (Hawthorn)
The former Port Adelaide midfielder just keeps on keeping on and has had another brilliant year. Burgoyne is at home in the back half and found a way to mix his exquisite ball use (22 touches a game at 76 per cent efficiency) with an improved ability to keep an eye on his direct opponent. Swan Nick Smith was a touch unlucky, but we just couldn't go past Burgoyne's all-around game.
Half-back flank: Brodie Smith (Adelaide)
A huge season for the Crow gets him a well-earned selection. While he tapered off a fraction in the second half of the season, Smith's run-and-carry was a big reason Adelaide was in the finals mix until the final week. He very quickly became the target of opposition defensive small forwards, but still found a way to get the ball on average 23 times a game.
Centre half-back: Eric Mackenzie (West Coast)
After years of going unnoticed, the big Eagle gets his call-up. He was clearly our second preferred defender behind Hooker after continuing to lock down the opposition's best forward. Despite a midfield that was getting beaten for much of the opening 11 weeks, Mackenzie held back the tide with his no-frills attitude.
Half-back flank: Nick Malceski (Sydney Swans)
Malceski was an almost unanimous vote after another stellar campaign. Despite recently turning 30, he is in career-best form, and his 23 disposals a game are usually of the highest quality with his line-breaking left boot.