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5 Australians to watch in Saturday's international rules test

Plenty to choose from in what is an extremely strong squad.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

SINCE THEY CHANGED their selection policy last year to only include past and present All-Australian players, their Allstar equivalent, the Aussies are clearly taking the compromised code seriously.

And it paid off in Perth last November when the Australians won the test match by 10 points to make it nine test series apiece.

Ahead of Saturday night’s one-off test in Croke Park, we take a look at five of their key men.

1. Luke Hodge (Hawthorn)

Hodge won the Jim Stynes Medal last year as Australia’s best player in Perth. The Hawks’ captain is a four-time premiership winner, three-time premiership captain and two-time Norm Smith medallist, the award for the best player in the AFL grand final.

He has already proved his pedigree in this code, has been one of the most dominant footballers in the AFL over the past 10 years and has been rewarded for his efforts with four All-Australian selections.

He is an intelligent footballer with an excellent left foot, expect to see Hodge in the thick of the action and racking up plenty of possessions.

Luke Hodge and Michael Murphy Luke Hodge battles for possession with Ireland's Michael Murphy in last year's test match. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

 

2. Dyson Heppell (Essendon)

Heppell has become one of the AFL’s biggest young stars over the past five years. Don’t be fooled by the 23-year-old’s, at-times, outrageous hairstyles, this guy is a serious footballer.

A classy midfielder with soft feet, he is an excellent passer who gets on the ball a lot, and generally uses it very well. While he is a bit lighter than your standard AFL midfielder, his ability on the ball and his incredible stamina make him a valuable addition to Alastair Clarkson’s Australia squad. This is his first international rules series.

 

3. Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)

Dangerfield has been one of the biggest off-season AFL stories this year. Voted Adelaide’s best and fairest for 2015, he was the Crows’ biggest star. However, he has since completed a big-money move to Geelong, the team he grew up supporting, after eight years in South Australia.

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The 25-year-old is a dynamic match-winner. One of the AFL’s most exciting players for the past five years, he can change a game with his electric pace (he can run 100m in under 11 seconds), has the ability to kick goals off both feet and possesses a fierce hand-off.

Source: Ryan B/YouTube

 

4. Eddie Betts (Adelaide)

One of the game’s best small forwards, Betts, a long-time Carlton player until his move to the Crows in 2014, was selected in the All-Australian side for the first time this year.

The 28-year-old is a livewire and a long-time fan favourite as he is a clinical finisher capable of the sublime. After years of promise, one of the game’s best-known indigenous stars is now reaching his potential. His speed will cause Ireland’s defenders plenty of problems.

 5. Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn)

Mitchell, like Hawks team-mate Hodge, has won nearly everything there is to win in the AFL. A midfielder/half-back who accumulates possessions for fun, he gets around the park well and is an excellent reader of the game.

One of the Australian side’s elder statesman, at 33 years old, Mitchell is showing no signs of slowing down after an superb finish to the Hawks’ premiership-winning campaign, his fourth, earlier this year.

A four-time club best and fairest and a three-time All-Australian, Mitchell is likely to win plenty of dirty ball in Croke Park on Saturday.

 

Sam Mitchell and Kevin McLoughlinSam Mitchell gets rid of the ball despite Kevin McLoughlin's best efforts.Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Full Australia squad: Hayden Ballantyne (Fremantle), Eddie Betts (Adelaide), Grant Birchall (Hawthorn), Luke Bruest (Hawthorn), Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong), Dustin Fletcher (Essendon), Andrew Gaff (West Coast), Brendon Goddard (Essendon), Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Dyson Heppell (Essendon), Luke Hodge (Hawthorn), Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn), Leigh Montagna (St Kilda), David Mundy (Fremantle), Robert Murphy (Western Bulldogs), Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda), Tom Rockliff (Brisbane Lions), Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn), Nick Smith (Sydney Swans), Jake Stringer (Western Bulldogs), Harry Taylor (Geelong Cats), Easton Wood (Western Bulldogs).

About the author:

Alan Waldron

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