If Chris Fagan needs any more ammunition to throw at his team ahead of Friday night’s huge Gabba clash with Melbourne he has been handed it by the AFL’s official statistics partner Champion Data.

In his weekly spot on radio SEN in Melbourne last night (Tuesday), Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne nominated his Mid-Season All-Australian side based purely on statistical performance.

He identified the best 28 players in the competition and shunned completely the Lions despite five wins and a draw in their last seven games.

Players were required to have spent a minimum 70% of possible game time in their preferred part of the ground – defence, midfield, field or ruck - to be considered. The side was:

B: Dan Houston (Port), Sam Collins (GC), Nick Blakey (Syd)
HB: Max Holmes (Geel), Jeremy McGovern (WC), Bailey Dale (WB)
C: Errol Gulden (Syd), Nick Daicos (Coll), Josh Kelly (GWS)
HF: Chad Warner (Syd), Aaron Naughton (WB), Harry Sheezel (NM)
F: Tyson Stengle (Geel), Jake Waterman (WC), Izak Rankine (Adel)
R: Max Gawn (Melb), Isaac Heeney (Syd), Marcus Bontempelli (WB)
INT: Jess Sinclair (StK), Matt Rowell (GC), Caleb Serong (Frem), Zak Butters (Port), Patrick Cripps (Carl).

Ladder leaders Sydney (4) had most representatives from the Western Bulldogs (3), Geelong (2), Gold Coast (2), West Coast (2), Port Adelaide (2), Adelaide (1), Carlton (1), Collingwood (1), GWS (1), Melbourne (1), Fremantle (1) and North Melbourne (1).

Like Brisbane, Essendon, Hawthorn, Richmond  and StKilda were not represented.

Hoyne explained that injured Melbourne star Christian Petracca had been excluded because his season had ended through injury in Round 13, but on his statistics prior to that he would have won a spot.

He said the next four players rated positionally – nominal emergencies for his All-Australian side - were Hawthorn’s James Sicily (defence), Western Bulldogs’ Ed Richards (midfield), and Carlton’s Charlie Curnow (forward) and Tom DeKoning (ruck).

In response to a listener’s question about the Lions trio of Dayne Zorko, Harris Andrews and Lachie Neale, Hoyne said Zorko was rated top 40 in the competition, Andrews was top 60 and Neale was “a fair way away”.

Interestingly, Hoyne is the person who at Round 5 this year, when the Lions were really struggling, went against public opinion to suggest that if they continued to play as they had and improved their goal-kicking conversion he would be “very surprised if they are not playing preliminary final weekend”.

He also told how in the last six weeks the Lions’ ability to convert one in every three opposition turnovers into scores was the best six-week period in the last eight years, suggesting their “lethal” ball movement from the defensive 50m zone was the best in the competition.

He also offered some promising data on the soon-to-return Will Ashcroft based on numbers in his debut 2023 season prior to his season-ending knee injury in Round 18.

Noting that the Lions this year ranked fourth-worst in the competition in generating an effective clearance, Hoyne revealed that Ashcroft last year the No.2 ranked player in the competition in this category,

Without wanting to overload the 20-year-old with undue pressure, he said, he was optimistic about Ashcroft’s likely impact in an area of the ground in which the Lions had struggled this year.