Jude Bolton's mid-year All-Australian team

Now that every team has played 13 games, it's time to take pause and assess which players really have dominated through the first half of season 2018.

In choosing a mid-year All Australian team, there are always several absolutely stiff omissions, so my apologies to Patrick Cripps, Shaun Higgins, Brodie Grundy, Jake Lloyd and Tom McDonald in particular who I was desperate to squeeze in. But, 27 does not fit into 22.

Balance was a key selection criteria for me, meaning I have selected a 22 that closely resembles a genuine team, with negating defenders, dangerous small and key forwards and a mix of inside and outside midfielders.

It also features a blend of legitimate stars who have been named AA before, with some rising talent who have taken their games to elite levels this season.

So without further ado, here's my mid-year All-Australian team.

Back line

Rory Laird (Adelaide): A prolific ball-winner who provides so much drive from half-back. In what has proven to be a disappointing year thus far for the Crows, Laird has been a model of consistency and is averaging 33 disposals a game, second in the competition to Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell.

Harris Andrews (Brisbane): Such is the rise of this talented defender that he is a lock in my mid-year All-Australian side. Takes the toughest opponents week in, week out and simply performs. His courage in the air to intercept mark or spoil is constantly on display -- witness his sickening collision with Jeremy Cameron last weekend -- and is without doubt one of the game's best youngsters.

Neville Jetta (Melbourne): My side needs a brilliant lock-down small defender. Sydney's Nick Smith and Jetta are the obvious candidates but the Melbourne man has to get the nod as he continues to step up. I feel his start to the season has warranted his selection.

Half-back line

Lachie Whitfield (GWS): One of the biggest question marks entering the season for the Giants was filling the void at half-back. Whitfield not only slotted back there seamlessly but can also move into the midfield for additional run-and-carry. In 2018, Whitfield has been arguably Leon Cameron's most consistent player and will play a huge role in helping them back into top eight contention.

Alex Rance (Richmond): Has been a controversial figure in 2018, but despite distractions and criticism, Rance still remains the best defender in the game. His influence in supporting his teammates and reading of the play would come into every opposition planning meeting against the Tigers.

James Sicily (Hawthorn): The swagger and the love of the big stage have aided Sicily's rise as an A-grade defender. He has been a revelation for the Hawks with his ability to win one-on-ones and set up from the back half. Under Alastair Clarkson's tutelage, the Hawks have produced yet another star.

Centre

Jack Macrae (Western Bulldogs): A lock in any All-Australian conversation to this point. Macrae has single-handedly dragged the Bulldogs over the line in several games this season and his consistency has been incredible. Expect him to be up at the top of the leaderboard at the midpoint of Brownlow Medal night.

Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn): Once again the Hawk ball-magnet and reigning best and fairest winner has had an outstanding 2018. Mitchell has built more outside run and overlap, coupled with his sheer weight of possession to be No. 1 in the league for disposals and clearances thus far, enough to give any opponent nightmares.

Nat Fyfe (Fremantle): 2018 has been a strong reminder that at his best, Fyfe is virtually peerless. The Dockers skipper has put in some commanding performances already this season and his versatility has seen him apply his trades in multiple positions with aplomb. Almost certain to be the Brownlow Medal leader at the halfway mark, even if he can't take Charlie home.

Half-forward line

Josh Caddy (Richmond): With a small forward line built on creating pressure and quick ball movement, Caddy has provided a consistent focal point for Richmond. His strong physique allows him to win critical contests and bring his teammates into the game. Caddy's return in front of goal has been most impressive, including a bag of six against the Saints in Round 10.

Lance Franklin (Sydney): At his best he is still the most exciting player in the game. Opening the season with an eight goal haul against West Coast in the christening of the new Optus Stadium was just one of a number of highlights for Franklin. His field kicking into a now dynamic Swans forward line has also been mighty impressive.

Jack Darling (West Coast): A lot of the credit for the Eagles' 10-game winning streak should be given to Darling, who stepped up to lead the forward line. His contested marking made life for opposition defenders extremely difficult, particularly coupled with his agility and willingness to put pressure on at ground level. It's a huge shame he got injured.

Forward line

Luke Breust (Hawthorn): Arguably one of the most underrated players in the competition. Opposition teams find it hard to limit Breust's influence in any game because he only ever needs a couple of opportunities to hurt you through his clinical finishing. Whether it be a lead up mark, a chase-down tackle or a crumb and goal, the Hawkthorn goalsneak takes his spot in my mid-year All Australian side comfortably.

Ben Brown (North Melbourne): The beacon inside forward 50 for the high-flying Kangaroos takes the full forward position in this side. Double teamed on occasions, the Coleman Medal leader already has 40 goals to his name and is finally receiving his just plaudits. His clinical finishes in front of goal is a huge bonus.

Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide): Ken Hinkley has one of the most talented lists at his disposal, but it's Gray who is perhaps the most talented. Capable of winning a game off his own boot, this was shown in his incredible five-goal third term in possibly the best Showdown. Gray lit up Adelaide Oval and emphasised why he will go down as one of the AFL's greatest players.

Ruck

Max Gawn (Melbourne): The battle for the ruck role has been of great interest and debate with the elevation of Brodie Grundy. While Grundy won the clash between the two dominant big men on Queen's Birthday at the MCG, Gawn's influence and consistency for the Dees means he just gets my nod.

Clayton Oliver (Melbourne): The Demons have created a formidable combination of hard nuts through the midfield and Oliver has been outstanding. In his short career he has repaid the Dees' high draft selection and shown a love of putting his nose over the football with his combative style.

Trent Cotchin (Richmond): Such is the evenness of this Tigers team that they only have three players in this team. But Cotchin has led from the front and maintained the high standards required for his side to stay at the top of the table. No longer does he need a huge volume of possessions to have strong influence, instead he works both sides of the footy which is far more valuable and delivering results.

Interchange

Adam Treloar (Collingwood): Breakaway speed, improved skill execution and high output, Treloar continues to shine. Since a return to his home state, Treloar has relished the bigger Collingwood crowds and they absolutely adore him. This year has seen a vastly improved Collingwood side under Nathan Buckley and Treloar allows his teammates to be better due to the quality of football he delivers. It'll be a huge loss if he doesn't play again in 2018 due to his hamstring injury.

Tom Stewart (Geelong): The local product has entered into this Geelong outfit and looks like a certain 200-game player. Hardly gets beaten and yet has the confidence to link up and burst off half-back. Stewart would be close to leading Geelong's best and fairest in what has been an outstanding 2018.

Andrew Gaff (West Coast): The Eagles' running machine works extremely hard to drive his side forward but it also staggers me that teams afford Gaff the time and space to cut them apart. His 267 uncontested possessions (which ranks No. 1 in the AFL) is accumulated through smart position and effort. What's more? Gaff rarely wastes a disposal on his piercing left foot.

Ben Cunnington (North Melbourne): Pundits had tipped North Melbourne to be cellar dwellars this season but the form of Shaun Higgins, Ben Brown and midfield maestro Cunnington has meant that the Kangaroos are in the hunt for finals. The Roos have benefited from Cunnington's elite contested ball-winning ability which continues to stagger on a weekly basis.