EVEN though it’s been 20 years since the last official State of Origin game was played, picking your state’s team remains one of footy’s great debates.
Who makes Victoria’s midfield? How many talls can you fit into Western Australia’s stacked forward line? Will Adelaide’s entire backline make up South Australia’s defensive six? And how many of the traditional footy states could a talented Allies teams knock off?
Our reporters look at every club’s contenders for the four representative teams ahead of the release of AFL.com.au‘s state sides later on Wednesday, when you’ll be able to have your say on which powerhouse squad would emerge victorious from a hypothetical State of Origin carnival.
Allies: Crows co-captain Taylor Walker (NSW) is a certain selection, while big-bodied midfielder Hugh Greenwood (Tasmania) would be unlucky to miss out.
South Australia: Defenders Rory Laird, Brodie Smith and Luke Brown would all be in the mix. Cam Ellis-Yolmen could get a spot in the midfield while Bryce Gibbs might also be considered despite an inconsistent season. Wayne Milera would’ve been there, but he’s sidelined with an AC joint injury.
Victoria: It’s a tough side to crack, so will be hard for the Crows to feature. Midfield roles are especially hot, with Rory Sloane, Matt Crouch and Brad Crouch potentially missing out. Tom Lynch has started the season off strong up forward for the Crows, but again, there’s plenty of competition.
Western Australia: The Crows don’t have any players who qualify for WA.
In a nutshell: The Crows have a strong representation in the SA team while Walker is rewarded for his resurgence this year to get a spot with the Allies. – Lee Gaskin
Allies: Plenty of talent to help this team. Captain Dayne Zorko is a walk-up start on-ball, as is vice-captain Harris Andrews as a key defender. Charlie Cameron, who was first introduced to the game at Brisbane’s Marist College, is a small forward certainty as is Tasmanian Mitch Robinson, who brings plenty of versatility.
South Australia: After crossing east from Fremantle, Lachie Neale has solidified himself as one of the game’s top midfielders with an explosive first eight rounds and would walk into any state’s team. An injury-free Lincoln McCarthy has also excelled at half-forward at his new club.
Victoria: Not many options here, although versatile defender Darcy Gardiner is under-rated outside Brisbane and could be considered in an extended squad.
Western Australia: Daniel Rich is probably having the best start to a season in his career and should be in strong consideration at half-back.
In a nutshell: Not surprisingly most of the Lions’ contributions would be to the Allies, although this could change in the near future as some of their young talent matures. – Michael Whiting
Charlie Cameron’s fine start to the season puts him firmly in the Allies’ mix. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: Given his vast improvement, Liam Jones would be in the mix for a spot in the Allies’ backline. The Tasmanian has become one of the game’s best interceptors.
South Australia: It’s hard to find any Carlton players who would find a spot in this team.
Victoria: The Vics would be flush for talent, so you wouldn’t think many Carlton players would be considered. Perhaps young forwards Charlie Curnow or Harry McKay might get into an extended team, should it be lacking in tall forward options. Sam Docherty would be a chance had he not missed the last 18 months with a series of knee injuries.
Western Australia: Co-captain Patrick Cripps would be guaranteed a spot in the midfield, given his standing in the game. Mitch McGovern might be a forward option, though he would be on the fringes of the West Australian team.
In a nutshell: There would only really be one lock, and that’s Cripps. – Riley Beveridge
Allies: Gun midfielder Dayne Beams and high-flying defender Jeremy Howe would walk into this side, while small forward Josh Thomas might also come into calculations.
South Australia: The AFL’s premier ruckman Brodie Grundy would be a key member of the Croweaters’ line-up, and if a tagger was required, Levi Greenwood might also enter the selection frame.
Victoria: The locks would be skipper Scott Pendlebury, fellow midfielders Steele Sidebottom and Adam Treloar, forward/onballer Jordan de Goey and key defender Darcy Moore, while other options would include dashing backman Jack Crisp, wingman Tom Phillips and perhaps even speedy goalsneak Jaidyn Stephenson.
Western Australia: Former Dockers forward Chris Mayne might enter the mix as a defensive role player.
In a nutshell: Eight apparent certain starters and a further six potential contenders would ensure the Pies made one of the strongest contributions to the concept. – Ben Collins
Brodie Grundy is a lock for SA’s No.1 ruck spot. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has lit up Essendon’s forward line since being selected in the rookie draft at the end of 2015. He’s originally from the Tiwi Islands and played with the Tiwi Bombers, so would fall under Northern Territory eligibility.
South Australia: If not for another injury setback with his quad, Orazio Fantasia would be in the South Australian forward line. He’s Essendon’s standout SA product.
Victoria: Essendon’s list is largely Victorian, so they would have some contenders for that team. Michael Hurley could slot in across half-back, while midfielders Dyson Heppell, Zach Merrett, Devon Smith and Dylan Shiel may also be in the mix. Half-back Adam Saad would provide zip off half-back, while Jake Stringer could provide star factor close to goal.
Western Australia: Key defender Cale Hooker would be in line for a call-up. The All Australian backman has performed well since coming back into Essendon’s side from a calf injury.
In a nutshell: Not many of the Bombers would be certainties for their sides given Essendon’s average start to this season. But you’d expect McDonald-Tipungwuti, Hooker and a handful of the Victorians to win selection. Joe Daniher if fit would be a near certainty for the Vics. – Callum Twomey
FULL INJURY LIST Who’s ruled out and who’s a test?
Allies: Alex Pearce would be in All Australian contention for a key defensive post and a certainty for the Allies.
South Australia: Not many options here. Swingman Brennan Cox would be an outside chance.
Victoria: Matt Taberner is AFL No.4 for contested marks and has kicked 13 goals. Defender Luke Ryan has gone to another level, David Mundy is in vintage form and hard-running wingman Ed Langdon should also be in the mix for the squad.
Western Australia: Nat Fyfe, Joel Hamling and Michael Walters are walk-up starts, and you can pencil in Bradley Hill, Rory Lobb and Brandon Matera. Nathan Wilson and Jesse Hogan would be close.
In a nutshell: Dockers would make up about a third of the WA side and Pearce would play for the Allies. – Travis King
Nat Fyfe would be just about the first player picked in a WA team. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: Tom Hawkins’ start to 2019 suggests he would be hard to shake from a starting spot deep in attack. Zach Tuohy has played two matches this season but could be an option in defence with smokey Jake Kolodjashnij.
South Australia: Behind Brodie Grundy, Rhys Stanley is jostling with Port Adelaide’s Scott Lycett for the No.2 ruck role.
Victoria: Stars on every line. All Australian Tom Stewart will saddle up next to Mark Blicavs in defence with Patrick Dangerfield in the centre square. Gary Ablett’s form has him in the forward 50, with Gary Rohan and Luke Dahlhaus not out of the conversation. Don’t discount Joel Selwood, either.
Western Australia: Former WAFL star Tim Kelly is a lock for the first centre bounce. Mitch Duncan has a good case on the wing, while Harry Taylor could be an option in a key post in defence.
In a nutshell: Seven locks, with up to seven others to be considered. Is Chris Scott the Victorian coach? – Mitch Cleary
Allies: Much like Brisbane, this is the team the Suns can help with most. Jarrod Witts is having another terrific season in the ruck, and reigning best and fairest Jarrod Harbrow is the other lock at half-back. Goalsneak Alex Sexton and much-improved young midfielder Jack Bowes also deserve spots in the 22.
South Australia: Not many options here, although teenagers Charlie Ballard, Izak Rankine and Jack Lukosius might change that in a few years.
Victoria: Much like South Australia, not a lot of choices here. Ben Ainsworth is the one to keep an eye on in the future.
Western Australia: Co-captain David Swallow is having a magnificent season, and although competing for a spot in possibly the hottest State of Origin midfield around, should be considered for a bench position. Versatile Jack Martin would also be in contention for a bench position.
In a nutshell: Most of Gold Coast’s top-end talent is still under the age of 21 so it’s not surprising they wouldn’t contribute much outside the Allies. – Michael Whiting
Alex Sexton would add firepower and skill to the Allies’ forward line. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: New South Wales boys Jacob Hopper and Zac Williams have been superb for the Giants this year and deserve a spot, while surprise forward Jeremy Finlayson (16 goals) could be a bolter.
South Australia: Despite missing two games with an ankle issue, Phil Davis is the anchor of the GWS backline and should fill the same role for the Croweaters. Potential captain.
Victoria: Coleman Medal leader Jeremy Cameron and star runner Lachie Whitfield should be automatic selections, while Nick Haynes must be strongly considered in defence. Josh Kelly and Tim Taranto might get squeezed out but should make the extended squad.
Western Australia: Gun midfielder Stephen Coniglio will start in the WA midfield and should be considered for the captaincy after his blistering start to the season. Underrated youngster Sam Taylor could fill a role in defence, while tagger Matt de Boer could be considered for the extended squad as reward for his fantastic year.
In a nutshell: The top-four Giants should have at least 6-8 representatives but could have as many as 10, which shows how well the team has started the season. – Adam Curley
Allies: A couple of Hawks would feature. Luke Breust would be guaranteed a spot in the forward line, while Isaac Smith would take his place on the wing for the Allies. Grant Birchall might have been considered had it not been for his injury problems.
South Australia: New recruit Chad Wingard is returning to his best following an off-season injury and would have to be considered for a spot in the South Australian forward line.
Victoria: A few names would be in the mix. James Sicily would have to be considered in the backline, while Ben McEvoy has become one of the game’s most influential rucks and would push for a place. Jack Gunston is a reigning All Australian and would fit nicely into the forward line. Tom Mitchell would be a lock if not for a season-ending injury.
Western Australia: Hawks captain Ben Stratton would be in the frame for a place in the Western Australian backline, while you would expect Jaeger O’Meara to be part of a star-studded midfield group
In a nutshell: At least seven – Breust, Smith, Wingard, Sicily, Gunston, Stratton and O’Meara – would be virtual certainties. – Riley Beveridge
Ben Stratton and James Sicily both have strong claims on State of Origin berths. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: Northern Territorian Steven May is sidelined by injury at the moment, but would certainly be considered if he was fully fit. Queenslander Braydon Preuss could be considered in the future if he is able to establish himself as Max Gawn’s understudy. Tasmanian Kade Kolodjashnij has been limited by injury this season, but the Dees will be hoping he can recapture the promise he showed in his first few seasons.
South Australia: The Demons’ most experienced South Australians are Alex Neal-Bullen and Billy Stretch but neither would be in contention for selection this season. Youngster Tom Sparrow has great potential and may be in contention in five years time.
Victoria: Clayton Oliver is one of two Demons likely to be picked across the four teams and the All Australian deserves his place in a stacked Victorian midfield. Dual All Australian Max Gawn is arguably the best big man in the AFL and is a lock as the ruckman. Tom McDonald would not be selected based on current form, but he is one of the top marking forwards in the AFL when up and going.
Western Australia: Neville Jetta would be a likely inclusion if available, but he is sidelined by injury. Jeff Garlett is the other West Australian on Melbourne’s list.
Nutshell: Just two representatives from Melbourne reflects where the team is positioned in the first half of the season. – Ben Guthrie
Allies: Taswegian Ben Brown is a must for the Allies. The 200cm spearhead finished runner-up in the Coleman Medal last year and charged into second place in the 2019 goalkicking with nine in the past fortnight. A midfield option is Jed Anderson, who hails from the Northern Territory.
South Australia: Lock in Jared Polec and Trent Dumont for the Croweaters, possibly even as the starting wingmen. Dumont’s impressive past 12 months lifted him into the conversation, while Polec’s long been in this company.
Victoria: Reigning All Australian Shaun Higgins and contested-ball king Ben Cunnington are the leading contenders here, but it is a tough onball brigade to break into. Robbie Tarrant would be in the defensive mix.
Western Australia: Small defender Marley Williams is the only Roo from the west who would be in contention.
In a nutshell: Brown, Polec and Dumont are probably the only walk-up starters for their respective state sides, while Higgins and Cunnington are fringe Victorian players, which is a feat in itself. – Marc McGowan
Jared Polec is a likely starter on the wing for South Australia. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: Dougal Howard‘s ability to play at either end of the ground in key positions is handy, but he’s behind a couple of others for those roles. Key forward Charlie Dixon would’ve been in the mix, but he’s a number of weeks away from returning from a broken leg.
South Australia: Co-captain Tom Jonas would be a walk-up start if it wasn’t for a calf injury. The same goes for vice-captain Hamish Hartlett (hamstring), while young defender Ryan Burton also has a hamstring injury. Scott Lycett and Justin Westhoff are strong chances, Connor Rozee‘s made an impressive start to his AFL career and Sam Gray is around the mark as a small forward.
Victoria: Former skipper Travis Boak is in career-best form and demands a spot in the midfield or half-forward. Robbie Gray would’ve been considered, but he has been battling a hand injury.
Western Australia: Ruck/forward Paddy Ryder would be in the WA side, while midfield bull Sam Powell-Pepper probably just misses out.
In a nutshell: A strong presence in the SA team, as expected, with a representative in the Victorian and WA sides as well. – Lee Gaskin
Allies: Speedy small Daniel Rioli – if he passes a fitness test after missing last week – would most likely get a guernsey for the Allies. Jack Riewoldt (PCL) would be straight in if not injured, while Toby Nankervis (adductor) may make an extended squad if fit.
South Australia: Acting skipper Shane Edwards is in strong form off half-back and should get a gig, while Jack Graham (hamstring) would come into an extended squad if needed and fit.
Victoria: Superstar mid Dustin Martin and forward Tom Lynch are locks, while captain Trent Cotchin (hamstring) can’t be considered. Defenders Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin are definitely in the conversation for the starting 22, while David Astbury and Bachar Houli probably make an extended team.
Western Australia: Alex Rance (ACL) would have been a lock if fit. Fellow backmen Nathan Broad and Sydney Stack and winger Kamdyn McIntosh are in the extended squad to pick a team from but miss out on the final 22.
In a nutshell: Richmond do very well in the Victorian stakes, but the Tigers’ large injury list affects the number of players available for selection in other teams – Sarah Black
Tom Lynch would be a powerful addition to Victoria’s forward line. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: Tough onballer Jack Steele can win the footy and has developed into one of the competition’s better stoppers. Up forward, Josh Bruce is having a fine season and is ranked No.5 in the competition for total contested marks.
South Australia: There are too many ahead of him but Callum Wilkie has impressed in his debut season as a smooth-kicking intercept backman who has plenty of courage.
Victoria: On a wing, Jack Billings would be a decent chance. He has collected at least 25 disposals and two goals in three of his eight games.
Western Australia: No serious contenders here. Matt Parker has flashed with exciting moments but has had some quiet games.
In a nutshell: The Allies have a formidable side, so Bruce misses out. Steele and Billings could be sitting in the top three of the club’s best and fairest. – Dinny Navaratnam
Allies: All Australian Dane Rampe is having an outstanding season and should be a lock in defence with his ability to play tall or small. Young guns Isaac Heeney and Callum Mills could be an outside chance to make the squad.
South Australia: Midfield/tagger George Hewett could be rewarded for a strong start to the year and might sneak into the team if a role player is needed.
Victoria: After winning the best and fairest last year, attacking defender Jake Lloyd is another likely walk-up start for the Vics after averaging a career-high 30.8 possessions per game. Midfielder Josh Kennedy should be considered for the initial squad.
Western Australia: Superstar Lance Franklin is the man to build WA’s forward line around despite some issues with his body this year.
In a nutshell: The Swans’ lean season so far is reflective of the selection options here. – Adam Curley
Lance Franklin will go down as one of WA’s greatest footballers. Picture: AFL Photos
Allies: He hasn’t played this year so wouldn’t be picked, but fit-again Willie Rioli would be a chance for the squad on talent alone.
South Australia: Eagles skipper Shannon Hurn would be a lock down back for the Croweaters. Jack Redden hasn’t hit the heights of last season but would more than likely get a game in the midfield.
Victoria: Breaking into the Big V midfield is a tough gig but prime movers Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey would both be thereabouts after averaging 32.7 and 26 disposals respectively.
Western Australia: Star bookends Josh Kennedy and Jeremy McGovern are in the 18, while Dom Sheed, Brad Sheppard and Elliot Yeo also get a game. Jamie Cripps, Jack Darling, Lewis Jetta and Liam Ryan probably miss out.
In a nutshell: The reigning premiers would supply five certainties for WA, a couple of starters for SA and two guns in the mix for the Vics. – Travis King
Allies: Sam Lloyd and Matthew Suckling are the only two Bulldogs players available in this category. Lloyd has provided another goalkicking option since being recruited from Richmond and Suckling a reliable distributor at half-back, but he missed a month through injury.
South Australia: Back pocket is working for Caleb Daniel. The Dogs’ creative ball-user boasts five 30-plus possession games in 2019 and manages to compete strongly in marking contests despite often being undersized.
Victoria: Marcus Bontempelli has eight votes in the AFL.com.au Brownlow Predictor and is an inspirational force in midfield. Consistency and ball-winning ability makes Jack Macrae a name worth consideration. The influence of defender Easton Wood after a slow start has been underrated.
Western Australia: Aaron Naughton has been a dynamic addition to the forward line. His best is spectacular, as shown against Richmond and in the second half of his clash with Harris Andrews and Brisbane. Jason Johannisen hasn’t hit the heights of previous years but still offers run and elite disposal.
In a nutshell: The Bont is a lock, Naughton’s past fortnight demands attention and Johannisen’s dash is more than useful. – Paul Bastin
Aaron Naughton’s incredible recent feats make him hard to go past for WA. Picture: AFL Photos