AFL Sydney Team of the Year - Defenders Analysis
Back Pocket - Harrison Koch (Manly Warringah) - This is Koch's second straight appreance in the Team of the Year. He played 11 games throughout the season, providing good run in defence while also helping out his teammates in marking contests whenever possible. As tough as they come, Koch was also a part of the AFL Sydney Representative side for the first time in 2014 after being in the Development Squad last year. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, with an AC joint injury to his shoulder has kept him sidelined since Round 12.
Full Back - Lloyd Shepherd (Pennant Hills (c)) – Arguably the best key defender in the AFL Sydney competition, Shepherd is one who rarely gets beaten. While regularly lining up at centre half back, he always matches up on the oppositions best forward and it could be argued has not lost a battle this year. He is making his first appearance in the AFL Sydney Team of the Year which is surprising given that he represented NSW Country at the Australian Country Championships in 2010. He was a key member of the Representative side that travelled down to Canberra and has played 18 games in 2014. Leading by example, the ‘more mature’ Shepherd has been rewarded by being named captain of the team.
Back Pocket - Gareth Benbow (Manly-Warringah) - A versatile player, Benbow is making his first Team of the Year appearance. The small defender has performed well rebounding the ball out of the defensive 50 while also pushing into the midfield when needed. He no doubt slips under the guard of opposition coaches thanks to the abundance of talent on offer in the team and was named in the best ten times out of 19 games with his performance in Round 10 against Sydney University being his best for the year.
Half-Back Flank - Ryan Plant (UNSW/ES) - This is Plant's second showing in the Team of the Year with his 2014 selection joining his 2013 one. One of the best ball users across the back half of the ground, he often sets up the Bulldogs attacking raids. Although unavailable for the Representative side this year, Plant has been a consistent performer in the side in both 2012 and 2013. He will also be one of the contenders for the Phelan Medal after his good form at the start of the year.
Centre Half-Back - Jack Lynch (Manly-Warringah) - Lynch is making his first appearance in the Team of the Year. With an abundance of high level experience, Lynch is a player who reads the play, always looking to intercept anything coming into the opposition’s forward 50. Lynch isn't afraid of pushing forward either kicking a goal in four out of the nine games he played in 2014.
Half-Back Flank - Kieran Wright (Pennant Hills) - What hasn't Kieran Wright won in AFL Sydney?! He is making his sixth straight appearance in the Team of the Year after making his debut in the side in 2009. Wright’s ability to read the play is outstanding and he uses his racking right foot to put his teammates out into space. He was a part of the NSW Country side in 2010 and won AFL Sydney's most prestigious award, the Phelan Medal in 2011.