AFL 1 year ago

Should Robbie Gray be in the All-Australian mix?

  • Should Robbie Gray be in the All-Australian mix?

    ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Robbie Gray of the Power celebrates after kicking a goal during the round two AFL match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval on March 29, 2014 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

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It is baffling to think that Robbie Gray still appears somewhat underrated within the AFL community. As we approach the end of the 2016 Home & Away season many of the so called experts begin to put together mock All-Australian teams and Robbie Gray appears to be absent in almost all of them. Has Robbie Gray had a good enough season to warrant All-Australian selection?  Will Gray's chances be hurt by Port Adelaide having an underwhelming season?

Most would agree that 2014 was the best season Robbie Gray has had at AFL level.  Gray was named AFL Coaches' Association Champion Player of the Year, an award that is highly respected within AFL circles as it is voted on by the AFL coaches. Gray finished the year leading the AFL for goal assists, averaging 25 disposals a game and also kicked 32 goals. Obviously this does not take into account the brilliant 2014 finals series Gray had as Port Adelaide went within a whisker of playing in the 2014 Grand Final.

2014 was the season Robbie Gray earned his first All-Australian selection. Despite being one of the favourites for the Brownlow medal Gray only polled a disappointing 14 votes.  But when umpires are unable to correctly adjudicate and interpret decisions on game day it is understandable they would not realise Robbie Gray was consistently a top level performer in 2014.

Robbie Gray backed up 2014 with an impressive 2015 season making the All-Australian team for a second time, albeit only on the bench.  The numbers for Robbie Gray were still impressive last season. He averaged 26.3 disposals per match, ranked 3rd in total goal assists, and 7th in total contested possessions. Gray also hit the scoreboard again kicking 25 goals. While it was a disappointing year from a team perspective Gray did win his second John Cahill Medal to become a two-time Port Adelaide Best& Fairest winner.    

With this in mind it is interesting to statistically analyse the 2016 performances for Robbie Gray. So far in 2016 from 15 matches Gray is averaging 27 disposals which is the highest average of his career. Gray is still a master around stoppages ranked 7th in the league for clearances and also 7th for average contested possessions.  Does Robbie Gray still like to kick a goal? Well the answer is yes with 18 goals to his name and no doubt a few more to come before year end.

If Port Adelaide were told before the season Paddy Ryder will be suspended for the season, Matt Lobbe will be injured, backup ruckman Dougal Howard will do an ACL and the midfield will be working with Jackson Trengove primarily for the year in ruck then the coaching staff would have been delighted with the numbers from Robbie Gray in extremely difficult circumstances.

Based on statistics alone Gray should not be ruled out for a third consecutive All-Australian selection. Probably the best judge of performance at AFL level still remains a senior coach who analyses the game more closely than any so called football expert.  While Ken Hinkley could be accused of bias towards Gray every other AFL coach surely cannot? The AFLCA leader board for 2016 thus far has Robbie Gray currently sitting in 8th position as the most valuable player in the competition.

Season 2016 is most likely to see Port Adelaide miss out on finals qualification but it has been another quality season for Robbie Gray.  It is unlikely Gray will get an All-Australian selection according to most scribes but at the very least Robbie Gray might just add a third John Cahill medal to his collection.

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