2017 AFL All-Australian team: Alex Rance leader of the AFL’s finest

Alex Rance has been named captain of the AFL team of the year in his fourth successive nomination as an All-Australian.

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The champion Tiger defender’s claim on being not only the best defender of the modern era but one of the best of all time has been enhanced by being recognised as captain of the all-star AFL team.

Top duo: Richmond star Dustin Martin and new All-Australian captain Alex Rance. Photo: AAP

Rance leads an All-Australian defence of debutants, with running Demons defender Michael Hibberd, Carlton rebound runner Sam Docherty and Crows backman Rory Laird all making All-Australian for the first time.

The decline of the defending premiers was underscored, with none of the Western Bulldogs making the team and Marcus Bontempelli the only Bulldog in the squad of 40 from which the team was selected.

Controversial Greater Western Sydney small forward and midfielder Toby Greene did not make the final team, perhaps not helped by missing games towards the end of the year. Greene and teammate Tom Scully missed out despite arguably having better years than teammate Dylan Shiel, who was named on the bench in his first nomination as All-Australian.

Adelaide’s Eddie Betts, with 49 goals for the season – equal sixth in the AFL – from a forward pocket and Port’s Robbie Gray, with 47 goals, were named as the small forwards.

All-Australian full-forward Josh Kennedy. Photo: AAP

While Brisbane is off Broadway and off the radar, the work of the Lions’ champion midfielder Dayne Zorko was recognised with his first All-Australian selection.

Versatile Eagles running player Elliott Yeo, who had also never previously been an All-Australian, was named on the bench.

Minor premiers Adelaide had eight players in the shortlist of 40 in the All-Australian squad, but only three players made the final team – Betts, Rory Laird and Matt Crouch. Tex Walker, Rory Sloane, Sam Jacobs, Jake Lever and Tom Lynch were all trimmed from the squad of 40.

Port’s Paddy Ryder was no surprise to be named in the ruck, while Matthew Kreuzer missed out, with the selectors preferring to include Joe Daniher as a third tall forward who would, in the structure of the theoretical team, be the second ruckman.

Eagles forward Josh Kennedy and Coleman medallist Buddy Franklin were the other key forwards. Franklin was named All-Australian for the seventh time – the most of any players in the side. Brownlow medallist Patty Dangerfield was rightly rubber stamped into the team for his fifth selection in six years.

Hot out-of-contract pair Josh Kelly won his first All-Australian nod and Dustin Martin won his second successive selection.

Joel Selwood, who has been named captain of the team three times, was named on the bench this year in his sixth All-Australian selection.

Collingwood’s high-leaping intercept marker Jeremy Howe was unlucky to miss out while teammate Adam Treloar also did not make the final cut.

Eight players kept their spots from the 2016 team– Betts, Dangerfield, Franklin, Kennedy, McGovern, Martin, Rance and Selwood.

Adelaide, Essendon and West Coast each had three players named in the team.

The All-Australian selection panel is Gillon McLachlan (chairman), Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Andrew Dillon, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Chris Johnson, Cameron Ling, Matthew Richardson and Warren Tredrea.

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