Selecting a Bendigo Football Netball League Team of the Year for season 2021 was not an easy task.
A shortened season, an uneven fixture and little between the top five teams on the table made the selection process tougher than a $2 steak.
To make selection even harder, the BFNL had a plethora of inside midfielders dominate the competition this year.
While the league struggles for depth in key position players, the talent pool around the ball is deep and, more importantly, it's young midfielders that are making their mark on the competition.
No doubt, some BFNL fans will read this team and have questions.
"How did they pick him?" and "how could you leave him out?". That's great. This process is designed to create healthy debate and we welcome feedback.
Yes, there were several players unlucky not to make the final 22, but you can't fit everyone in.
Here's the Bendigo Addy's BFNL Team of the Year. Congratulations to those players selected.
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Shannon Geary (Strathfieldsaye) - Age shall not wear the Storm co-coach, who was arguably as good this year as he was in a premiership team four years ago. Played as a small defender, through the middle and forward in a wonderful season.
Jack Reaper (Gisborne) - After a long layoff through injury, Reaper returned in fine fashion with a strong season for the Dogs. Week-in, week-out, he got the job done and led the Dogs' defence superbly.
Zack Shelton (Golden Square) - One of the most improved young players in the competition. Square coach Christian Carter gave him some big jobs this year and he passed with flying colours. According to the Bulldogs' stats, Shelton didn't have more than one goal kicked on him in a match this season.
Jack Geary (Golden Square) - The Square skipper played a mix of midfield and half-back in 2021 and was his usual damaging self with his hard running and creativity.
Jordan Mangan (Kyneton) - Started the season in defence and was the Tigers' best player through the opening six weeks. Spent more time in the ruck as the season wore on and showed why he's one of the most talented big men in the league.
Lachlan Ross (Sandhurst) - Sandhurst best and fairest winner after his career-best season across half-back. Arguably the best intercept marking defender in the competition.
Jake Moorhead (Strathfieldsaye) - Best and fairest winner in the competition's top team - says it all about the midfielder's fine season. Seems like he's been playing senior footy for a decade, but at 24 his best footy might be still in front of him.
Billy Evans (Eaglehawk) - The former Brisbane Lion was widely-regarded as a leading contender for the Michelsen Medal after stringing together 10 standout games for Eaglehawk. One of the best clearance players in the league.
Bailey Edwards (Maryborough) - The Magpie ball magnet just knows how to get the footy and his explosive turn of foot out of a pack made him a hard man to stop. Some Bendigo-based BFNL fans probably don't regard Edwards as high as they should. He's a genuine star of the competition.
Joel Brett (Golden Square) - Couldn't have been more impressive in his first season at Wade Street. 47 goals in 10 games, with five hauls of five goals or more. All class.
Jayden Burke (Golden Square) - Splits packs, takes contested marks and has the running tank of a midfielder. If only he could kick straight. Burke kicked 45 goals for the season, but it could have been 75.
Brad Bernacki (Gisborne) - Racked up the footy through the middle of the ground and rolled forward to average two goals per game. Could quite easily have had a Michelsen Medal around his neck had the vote count gone ahead.
Kaiden Antonowicz (South Bendigo) - Antonowicz made the most of the Bloods' stronger form, kicking 63 goals in 12 games, including two double-figure hauls. One of the highlights of the year was his after the siren point to win the game for the Bloods against Eaglehawk.
Pat McKenna (Gisborne) - For many, McKenna remains the most valuable player in the competition. 53 goals in 10 games and a hand in many others, McKenna was the Gisborne player who gave opposition coaches plenty of headaches.
Lachlan Sharp (Strathfieldsaye) - A Team of the Year regular for the best part of a decade. Not once held goalless in 12 games, a league-best 68 majors, including two hauls of 12.
Chris Down (Sandhurst) - The ruckman gave the Dragons' midfield first use of the ball with some outstanding centre bounce work. He was tireless around the ground and clearly the number one ruckman in the league.
Cooper Leon (South Bendigo) - Turned heads with a brilliant first season in the BFNL. Added an extra dimension to the Bloods' midfield with his high-class clearance and stoppage work.
Cal McCarty (Strathfieldsaye) - Relished the responsibility of playing in the midfield for the Storm and showed his class and toughness through his ball-winning ability. Runner-up in the Storm's best and fairest.
Lee Coghlan (Sandhurst) - In the first half of the season when the Dragons roared to the top of the table, it was Coghlan who was the most damaging Dragon. Still one of the classiest players in the competition.
Daniel Clohesy (Strathfieldsaye) - Another one of Storm's young brigade who took a giant step forward with a superb season in the middle of the ground.
Ryan Hartley (Golden Square) - Hot tip to win the Golden Square best and fairest. Big-bodied midfielder who dominated clearances for the Bulldogs.
Noah Wheeler (Eaglehawk) - The former Pioneer had a scintillating opening month in his first season with the Borough and was a consistent ball winner in his 10 matches.
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