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‘Sicily play golf?’ Fans erupt at ‘absolute howler’ All-Australian snub, left-field captain choice sparks controversy

AFL fans have taken to social media to voice their frustration at a number of controversial choices in the 2022 All-Australian team.

The team always generates controversy when named as the public reacts to their favourite players either missing out or making the 22, but the 2022 side has led to more than most.

Chief among those snubbed was Hawthorn defender James Sicily, who put together an outstanding campaign in his first season back from a long-term knee injury.

Sicily averaged nearly 24 disposals and led the AFL in marks (190), while finishing second for intercept possessions, and was the number one rated key defender according to the AFL’s own player ratings system.

Former Saint and two-time All-Australian Leigh Montagna led the support for Sicily following his snub, saying on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 the star Hawk was ‘extremely stiff’.

“I think that was a massive snub… when you look through his season,” he said.

“He clearly polled the most votes [of defenders] in the Coaches Association… he was the number one rated key defender, he had the most possessions as a key defender, third in the competition for intercepts, and he only had the same amount of goals kicked on him as guys like May and Taylor, the other players that made the side.

“I think James Sicily was extremely stiff to miss out.”

Montagna’s thoughts received widespread support on social media, with fans describing the decision as ‘pure nonsense’; AFL Record senior writer Ashley Browne argued Sicily was ‘absolutely hosed’.

Hawthorn teammate Jack Scrimshaw was quick to join the barrage.

However, other fans were quick to turn the snub into a positive, with Hawk Talk Podcast hoping the controversial omission will inspire the star defender to even greater heights in 2023.

Sicily’s exclusion was far from the only surprise on the night, with Geelong star Tom Hawkins a shock choice for team captain.

While his spot in the team wasn’t in question, kicking 59 goals (equal third in the AFL) and leading the league in score involvements, Hawkins’ choice as captain, having never held the same position at the Cats, was a point of consternation.

A recent trend in the All-Australian team has seen selectors name non-captains in charge of the team, with fellow Cat Patrick Dangerfield, Sydney champion Lance Franklin and former Richmond defender Alex Rance among those chosen without prior captaincy experience.

Hawkins’ choice quickly proved controversial, with even the 34-year old surprise by the gong.

“I don’t think I’ve actually ever been captain of a football side before, so to be standing alongside some of the best players of our generation is pretty cool,” Hawkins told Fox Footy during the presentation ceremony.

“Very unexpected, but very cool to be identified with.”

With club captains Max Gawn (Melbourne), Touk Miller (Gold Coast) and Patrick Cripps (Carlton) overlooked for the position despite being named in the All-Australian team as well, the decision to select Hawkins was quickly blasted on Twitter.

However, unlike Sicily’s snub, Hawkins’ captaincy choice wasn’t universally condemned, with some saying the decision was a fitting reward for the now five-time All-Australian’s outstanding career.

Among them was former North Melbourne player David King, who said on Fox Footy he was ‘rapt’ Hawkins was named captain.

“He has been such a good player for so long… maybe he hasn’t had the title of captain but to be at his level for so long, I love what the AFL are doing,” King said.

“I think we’re recognising our champions better than ever and this is just one special way.”

AFL 360 host Gerard Whateley described the choice as a ‘legacy piece’, with Hawkins now able to add the All-Australian captaincy to his already glittering resume.

Among the other controversial omissions from the squad were Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli, West Coast defender Tom Barrass and Melbourne premiership hero Angus Brayshaw, with King describing the former as ‘the hardest-judged player in the competition’.

“In terms of impact rather than accumulation, this year has been outstanding,” King said of Bontempelli.

“When you look at his season, he’s top five in the competition for score involvements, he’s kicked 22 goals as a midfielder, the most of any midfielder in the competition this year.

“The reason they’ve [the Bulldogs] made the eight, in my opinion, is Marcus Bontempelli. One man’s importance to a team, that’s still in the fight to win the flag, I think supersedes what a couple of others can do as a group.”

Among those seen as surprises to make the team were Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard and Port Adelaide rising star Connor Rozee.

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