O&M Top 40: Where does Aker belong?

WELL, it’s my second year in the hot seat and one thing is clear.

Picking the best 40 players in the competition definitely hasn’t got any easier.

Particularly when there’s almost twice that amount sticking their hand up to get in there. You can come up with all sorts of theories and formulas to squeeze guys in but I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Who do I want in my team? Plenty will agree, I’m sure even more won’t, but here’s the first half of my top 40.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Comment below.

21

Jamie Sheahan

(Wangaratta Rovers)

EXPECT even more out of the talented midfielder this year.

Sheahan has always been in the elite group of players for his age, statewide, let alone in the North East and it’s hard to think of many recent Murray Bush­rangers’ more hard-done-by to miss being drafted.

Is explosive in tight situations and a thumping kick for goal.

Sheahan has helped bring a winning mindset back to W.J. Findlay Oval.

22 

Matt PENDERGAST

(Lavington)

THE interleague coach, pictured left, just keeps on keeping on.

As reliable and tough as a pair of old boots but has the polish of a fresh pair of Julius Marlows.

A clearance machine and there aren’t many players in the league harder to push off the footy.

Always a step ahead of most others on the field and when he gets involved in a passage of play, things happen.

Jumps at any chance to represent his team, league, state or country.

23

Drew BARNES

(Yarrawonga)

THE Yarrawonga ­playing coach is the most versatile player

in the league.

Has played forward, back, on the ball and in the ruck at different stages and excelled in all those roles.

Lethal by foot, hard over the footy and runs equally hard in both directions.

Wouldn’t expect his troops to do ­anything he wouldn’t himself.

24

Kristan HEIGHT

(Myrtleford)

CAN seriously play.

The robustly built midfielder looks an unlikely type but his arrival should not be underestimated.

Make no mistake, Myrtleford has struck gold.

Has been on Hawthorn’s list and ­captained its VFL team.

His country footy credentials are ­second to none.

25

Kade STEVENS

(Lavington)

NOT getting any younger but his class is undeniable.

On talent, perhaps should be higher, but continues to constantly battle with niggling injuries.

Stevens has struggled to string consecutive games together for the past few years now and it has become a real concern.

Still vital to Lavington’s prospects when on the park.

Excels under pressure which is something few players do.

26

James WONG

(Wangaratta)

THE small-forward was by far last season’s most inspired recruit.

Wong arrived at Norm Minns Oval with next to no fuss but went on to boot 60 goals and represent the league.

Has plenty to say but backs it up on the field.

Has close to the cleanest set of hands in the competition and can slot them home from anywhere.

Could be even better this year with superstar cousin Ben Davies kicking it to him.

27

Dean LIMBACH

(Wodonga Raiders)

SHAPES as a bit of an unknown but those in the know reckon this bloke has what it takes.

Arrives at Birallee Park as Patty Rose’s replacement, of sorts, but won’t get anywhere near as much supply as last year’s Strang medallist did.

If Limbach can kick more than 

50 goals for the year he’ll have done extremely well, all things considered.

Extremely strong overhead.

28

Daniel MAHER

(Albury)

WILL be out to bounce back after a knee injury cost him his season last year but you’d be foolish to leave the Tigers co-coach out of the competition’s best players on that alone.

Silky skilled by foot and is the Tigers’ general down back.

Has become a vocal on-field presence and seems to be relishing the coaching role.

Maher’s absence last year was a huge blow to Albury’s premiership hopes and it won’t take him too many games to remind us how good he is.

29

Tyler BONAT

(Yarrawonga)

UP there with the competition’s fittest players.

Bonat can run all day and is tough over the footy.

The star midfielder was in Morris Medal contention for much of last year.

Has matured into one of Yarrawonga’s leaders.

Can get even better.

30

Andy HILL

(Wangaratta Rovers)

A NECK injury not only threatens to derail his season, but the Hawks, too.

The veteran utility, who has won five best and fairest awards, is nothing short of vital to Rovers’ premiership prospects this year.

If, and or when he gets back on the park could well define where the Hawks finish.

Tough, rugged, skilled and versatile.

You name it, Hill has it.

31

Luke PACKER

(Albury)

THE Tigers co-captain missed a serious chunk of football last season but came back with a vengeance late.

Packer is the best small defender in the competition when at his best and is damaging both ways.

Was a standout in the finals and charged home to finish second in the Tigers’ best and fairest, despite playing just 13 games.

Tough and talented and has made a habit of rising to the occasion.

32

Nick LAWLESS

(Yarrawonga)

THE fastest player in the competition when on the run.

Lawless is nothing short of explosive when he comes bounding off the half-back flank and breaks the lines which is crucial in modern footy.

He has a habit of trying to do too much and often runs himself into trouble but when it comes off it is sensational to watch.

One of the most damaging players in the league when on song.

33

Matt McDONALD

(North Albury)

DIDN’T get much help on the field at 

Hopperland last season and was their standout player in a terrible season.

Rarely plays a bad one and should go even better with more help arriving over the summer.

Has the footy on a string when up and going and with Brandon Ryan will play a crucial role in feeding the ball to star recruit Jason Gram.

Is Aker’s right-hand man in the coaching box.

34

Brant DICKSON

(Lavington)

THE former VFL big man is probably the Panthers most valuable player.

Fills voids in the ruck, forward and centre-half-back and has little trouble adjusting to any of those positions when thrown there.

Should improve in his second year in the competition and needs to if Lavington is to be any chance of contending for the premiership.

Arrived with plenty of fanfare and is slowly, but surely, starting to deliver on that hype.

35

Jason AKERMANIS

(North Albury)

HE might be older and slower than his AFL days but class is permanent.

Looks in good shape, fitness-wise, and has been impressive for the Hoppers in their pre-season hitouts.

Akermanis obviously won’t be as blistering or explosive as he was at the highest level but his skills are still elite.

What he’ll contribute, playing wise, for the Hoppers seems to have been underestimated.

36

Judd PORTER

(Wangaratta)

STARRED in last year’s interleague victory and is one of the competition’s most popular players.

Porter is up there with the smartest backmen in the league and is brilliant at reading the play.

Rarely makes a bad decision with the footy in hand and should benefit greatly from losing the coaching burden over the summer.

As courageous as they come.

37

Josh DICKETTS

(Albury)

THE absence of the Tigers’ key big man in last year’s grand final cannot be understated.

The lanky ruckman was a stellar addition for Albury last year and he quickly became one of the league’s premier talls.

His tap work is top notch and he can take a pack mark and kicks goals.

You can’t ask for much more.

The scary part is he could become even more formidable this year with the arrival of All-Australian Luke Wells at the Sportsground.

38

Brad O’CONNOR

(Yarrawonga)

HASN’T put a foot wrong since joining the Pigeons two seasons ago.

Joined the competition as a century goalkicker at Robinvale but has become an even better, fitter and stronger player here.

Opposition sides hate seeing him get off the leash each week but most just don’t have a choice with Fevola, Ednie, McMillan and now Kayne Pettifer needing attention, too.

Give him the slightest bit of space to lead into and he’ll cut you up.

39

Josh MAHER

(Albury)

THE tenacious Tiger was named All-Australian last year and not only held his own against the nation’s best country footballers — he excelled.

You can’t knock that effort.

The hard-nosed forward no doubt 

benefits from playing in a successful side but his teammates feed off his 

aggression and appetite for the contest.

Always has the opposition on edge and has made a habit of kicking crunch goals.

40

Daniel McCULLOUGH 

(Wangaratta Rovers)

COULD almost flip a coin between 

McCullough and teammate Ryan Stone but the former appears to be the more damaging.

Kicked just two fewer goals than Stone did in seven less games last year.

McCullough was one of the league’s leading goalkickers early but missed the middle chunk of last year with a shoulder injury.

But he bounced back hard on his return, was out of the Hawks’ best just once from then and led the fightback against Albury in the preliminary final.

Spent only one year at the club but has already established himself as one of the Hawks’ stars.

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