AFL minor premiers Sydney have dominated a new-look All Australian team, supplying almost a quarter of the players.
Lance Franklin, Dan Hannebery, Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Dane Rampe were all part of the side unveiled on Thursday night.
Geelong skipper Joel Selwood was appointed captain of the team for the third time, having also earned the title in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s a very special honour and hard to put into words. It’s one I’ll cherish now but later in life as well,” Selwood said on stage.
Parker, Rampe and seven other stars earned All-Australian honours for the first time, including vice-captain Rory Sloane.
Dustin Martin, tipped to be Patrick Dangerfield’s biggest challenger on Brownlow medal night, was included on the bench alongside fellow debutant Marcus Bontempelli.
Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn, West Coast defender Jeremy McGovern, Gold Coast forward Tom Lynch and Greater Western Sydney’s Toby Greene were also recognised by selectors for the first time.
“I’ve been doing this three years and it was the most-aggressive discussion there’s been,” AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said of the selection debate.
McLachlan chairs a selection panel that also features Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Mark Evans, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Cameron Ling, Matthew Richardson and Warren Tredrea.
“It got a bit heated at times. The last three slots took three hours,” McLachlan said during the ceremony.
“Some blokes wedged themselves in corners and wouldn’t move. We had to waterboard them out.”
The Cats and Crows supplied three players each.
Selwood and Dangerfield were joined by teammate Corey Enright who, like Franklin, made the cut for a sixth time.
Enright, who turns 35 later this month, became the third-oldest player to be picked for an official All Australian side.
Michael Tuck, who was 37 when selected in 1990, and Malcolm Blight, who was 35 when chosen in 1985, are the only men to have earned the honour at an older age.
The Crows’ representatives were Sloane, defender Daniel Talia and small forward Eddie Betts.
North Melbourne were the only finalists who failed to earn a selection.
Melbourne, Gold Coast and Richmond were the clubs outside the top eight to supply players – Gawn, Lynch, Martin and Alex Rance.
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury, Fremantle midfielder Lachie Neale, Hawthorn veteran Sam Mitchell and North Melbourne defender Robbie Tarrant were among the notable names in the preliminary 40-man squad who were overlooked.
Ling admitted Neale was “extremely unlucky”.
2016 ALL AUSTRALIAN TEAM:
* B: Dane Rampe (Sydney), Alex Rance (Richmond), Jeremy McGovern (West Coast)
* HB: Heath Shaw (GWS), Daniel Talia (Adelaide), Corey Enright (Geelong)
* W: Dan Hannebery (Sydney), Josh Kennedy (Sydney), Rory Sloane (Adelaide)
* HF: Toby Greene (GWS), Lance Franklin (Sydney), Cyril Rioli (Hawthorn)
* F: Eddie Betts (Adelaide), Josh Kennedy (West Coast), Tom Lynch (Gold Coast)
* R: Max Gawn (Melbourne), Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong), Joel Selwood (Geelong)
* I: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs), Matthew Boyd (Bulldogs), Dustin Martin (Richmond), Luke Parker (Sydney)