Mongrel of the Year 2019 – Round 12


We’re halfway through the season now, and into the first of the bye rounds. As six of the eighteen clubs have the week off, it’s going to be a shorter wrap up this week, and the leaderboard will potentially look a little skewed with the imbalance of games played. In any event, there was still football played this weekend, and votes to be given out by the Mongrel contributor who writes up the respective report for each game on a 3-2-1 basis.

We tend to base these votes more on influence than on statistical impact, and we feel that big men should be just as capable of polling votes as midfielders, for instance. In that way, the award differs from the Brownlow, although the leaderboard for both awards probably looks quite similar. Without any further rambling, here are the Mongrel votes from Round 12:

Richmond v Geelong

3 Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)

2 Gryan Miers (Geelong)

1 Esava Ratugolea (Geelong)

It’s easy to forget how good a footballer Patrick Dangerfield is. He started off the season exceptionally well, being best on ground in Rounds 2 and 3, but since then has been overshadowed a little bit by Tim Kelly and Gary Ablett, as well as being slightly down on form. On Friday night against the Tigers though, in a big test for Geelong, Danger was the most important player on the park in a huge win. 17 of his 38 touches came in the contest, while he also had a goal and two goal assists in amongst six score involvements, alongside three clearances and eight inside 50’s. One of the biggest aspects of his game at the MCG, however, was his defensive workrate, with a team-high nine tackles and seven intercept possessions. If Geelong are to go the distance, then a fit and firing Dangerfield will be a big factor.

While Dangerfield is one of the most influential players in the game, and is arguably Geelong’s biggest name, the other two players in the votes are much younger and considerably less well known, though that should not diminish their efforts. Gryan Miers was in just his twelfth game of senior AFL football, on the biggest stage, against one of the premier teams in the competition, and yet looked not a single bit overawed. He was probably the Cats’ best player in their lacklustre first term, with seven touches, before really stamping his authority on the game in the second term, with back to back goals to get his side well clear of the opposition. He finished the night with three goals amid five score involvements, with eight of his 21 touches contested, in a display that will see him likely compete for second with Connor Rozee for the Ron Evans Medal.

It’s hard to believe that a player who played little more than 50% of game time could be considered one of the most influential players on the ground, but such was Esava Ratugolea’s aerial dominance when the game was on the line that it became close to irrelevant that he didn’t play what essentially amounted to junk time. Though he had just eight touches, seven of them came in the second quarter, when the game was won. With six marks, including four contested, and two goals, the Tigers’ key backs simply had no answer to him or Tom Hawkins, who was also excellent as he continued his fantastic year in front of goal.

Carlton v Brisbane

3 Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

2 Sam Walsh (Carlton)

1 Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

Wow. No player has played a better game than that from Patrick Cripps against Brisbane this season. It was as good a performance as you are ever likely to see from an AFL captain, and certainly Cripps’ most dominant performance in an impressive young career. It was an equal career high in disposals (38), while he led the game for contested possessions (16) and score involvements (nine), kicked the most goals of any player on the ground with four in the second half, and had the equal most clearances on the ground (eight). If that somehow wasn’t enough, he also gained the most metres for his team with 460, went at an outstanding 82% efficiency, and sent the ball inside 50 five times, in what was a truly dominant performance. Perhaps most impressively, Cripps had his most kicks ever in a game, with 18. The knock on him at times has been his reluctance to kick the ball, and in arguably his best performance prior to Saturday this season, against the Dogs, he had just five kicks. Against the Lions, he took the responsibility himself, and won his side the game.

If it wasn’t for Cripps, I reckon we would have heard a whole lot more about Sam Walsh in the aftermath of a famous win for Carlton. His game was as impressive as we’ve seen from a rookie this year, and demonstrated just why he’s the Rising Star favourite. He had the next most disposals on the ground, with 32, with the next most contested touches as well, with 14, while also managing two direct goal assists from five score involvements. He also raked in 12 marks, had six clearances, sent the ball inside 50 five times and had four tackles in a remarkably complete performance for a player playing just his twelfth game. If Carlton can continue to build their midfield around these two players, it will be as good a duo as the game has seen in recent years.

On the other side of the coin, Lachie Neale was outstanding, especially when Brisbane were on top in the first half. 25 of his 31 touches came before half time, while he also had 11 contested, with a goal, a goal assist, six score involvements, nine marks, four clearances and three inside 50’s. Such was his dominance that debutant coach David Teague simply had no choice but to move Ed Curnow to him after half time, and while his influence certainly was diminished, it’s obvious how important he is to Brisbane and their run to September.

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Gold Coast v North Melbourne

3 Kayne Turner (North Melbourne)

2 Jared Polec (North Melbourne)

1 Jarrod Harbrow (Gold Coast)

After winning just two of their first nine games, North Melbourne have won their last three, with Rhyce Shaw seeming to have rejuvenated the side. There’s clearly been a focus on going slower, rather than playing on at every opportunity, and one of the chief beneficiaries of that shift has been Kayne Turner, who was best on ground against the Suns. While he might have had just 15 touches, he did go at 93% with ball in hand, and every time the ball went forward of centre he looked dangerous, kicking two goals of his own, directly assisting two more, and being involved in seven scores for the match, sending his side inside 50 three times to cap off a solid offensive outing. However, just as impressive were his eight tackles, with four coming inside 50, as the Roos piled on pressure against an inexperienced Suns lineup.

Though Ben Cunnington continued to do Ben Cunnington things, with 23 contested touches and 14 clearances, and Jack Ziebell was superb in Game 200, the two votes go to Jared Polec. The former Power runner hasn’t necessarily been as good as North may have hoped he would be this year, but on Saturday against Gold Coast he showed how good he can be. He booted a goal in the second quarter amid seven score involvements, with 28 touches, 622 metres gained, and five intercepts. He managed to rebound the ball five times from defensive 50 and send the Kangaroos inside forward 50 seven times as he worked hard up and down the ground in a showcase of his workrate.

In a Suns side massively devoid of experience, Jarrod Harbrow is, by default, a leader. He is the Gold Coast games record holder, and over the journey has been one of their most consistent players. This was again the case against North, in a game in which the opposition scored just 99 points from a massive 70 inside 50’s. A big factor in that was the former Bulldog, whose 27 touches included a team high 11 intercepts, with 10 rebounds and three inside 50’s. He racked up another team high in metres gained, with 505, while also going at 78% efficiency, in a performance that was critical in ensuring his side weren’t belted by more.

Adelaide v GWS

3 Reilly O’Brien (Adelaide)

2 Brad Crouch (Adelaide)

1 Nick Haynes (GWS)

When Sam Jacobs went down injured earlier this year, despite Adelaide’s somewhat underrated midfield strength, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that they would have struggled to win the ball out of the centre square. Though Reilly O’Brien didn’t quite leap into the role straight away, but his last few weeks have been absolutely superb as the Crows have leapt into fifth on the ladder. Despite losing the hitouts, just, to Shane Mumford, Adelaide won the clearances by six against a star studded Giants lineup, which translated to ascendancy across the board. It wasn’t just in the ruck where O’Brien competed hard, though, with a game high nine clearances in amongst 17 touches, with six inside 50’s, 396 metres gained, and three tackles. Though there has been talk of Brodie Grundy returning to South Australia, if such a deal does not eventuate, then Reilly O’Brien looks to be a tremendous option nevertheless.

Brad Crouch’s return to footy has been another critical aspect in the Crows’ rise back up the ladder, and he was again hugely influential in what was, all things considered, their best win of the season. 14 of his 31 touches were contested, while he was the main target of O’Brien’s ruck work, with seven clearances, while he sent his side inside 50 four times. While he didn’t impact the scoreboard directly as he did last week, he did manage a goal himself, among nine score involvements. With his brother racking up ball as well, Adelaide’s midfield took it well up to the more fancied Giants’ side.

While Tim Taranto and Josh Kelly worked hard through the middle of the ground, Adelaide won the inside 50 count comfortably in the end, and the main reason GWS were in the game as late as they were is a testament to their their undervalued backline and, predominantly, their most underrated player in Nick Haynes, a player we love at the Mongrel. 11 of his 19 possessions came from intercepts, with 10 marks including two contested, as well as rebounding the ball five times and sending his side inside 50 three times in an example of his hard running. GWS’s loss on the weekend was, no doubt, deflating for them, but they were certainly in the game for a substantial period, and Haynes was a massive contributing factor in that.

Sydney v West Coast

3 Tom Papley (Sydney)

2 Dane Rampe (Sydney)

1 George Hewett (Sydney)

This column has, at various times throughout this season, discussed the likelihood of Gary Ablett receiving a ninth All Australian jumper as a forward pocket. However, it would appear his main competition for the spot would be Papley. After being trialled up the ground with some success throughout the early stages season, John Longmire has deployed the versatile player closer to goal in the last month or so, with at least one goal in every game since Round 5, and five goals against the Eagles on Sunday in a masterful performance. Out of his 27 touches, he had a mammoth 16 score involvements, with two direct goal assists, as well as seven marks, five inside 50’s and 456 metres gained. While Buddy Franklin and Sam Reid certainly deserve credit for the forward line’s domination of West Coast, Papley was absolutely critical in one of the best performances by a small forward this year.

It’s certainly been an interesting season for Rampe so far, but his last month or so, which coincides with somewhat of a form resurgence for his side, has been back near his best. It was a career best outing for the co-captain on Sunday in Game 150, keeping the Eagles’ game winning key forwards to just four goals between them, and in combination with Aliir Aliir restricted the opposition to just ten goals for the whole day, after kicking 21 last week. Meanwhile, he had an equal career high in disposals, with 32, going at an astonishing 94% efficiency, with 10 intercepts, 12 marks, 11 rebounds and six score involvements coming off half back, providing drive as well with a game high 748 metres gained in a performance of which it would be very hard to be critical.

In the continued absence of inspirational skipper Josh Kennedy, George Hewett was again outstanding for his side. It is remarkable how Sydney continue to uncover the talent they do, without the top echelon
of draft picks that other clubs have had, but Hewett is a prime example, going at Pick 32 in the 2013 Draft. His talent is unquestionable though, and there is every chance that with him running through the midfield this will be a short rebuild for the Swans. Against the Eagles he demonstrated that, keeping Norm Smith Medallist Luke Shuey to just 24 touches while racking up 29 of his own, at 86% efficiency, including a game high 7 clearances, plus seven score involvements. If Hewett can continue to shut down the opposition’s best midfielder while having a huge impact himself, Sydney could maybe do the unthinkable and challenge for the top 8 once again.

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Collingwood v Melbourne

3 Max Gawn (Melbourne)

2 Adam Treloar (Collingwood)

1 Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood)

In what is arguably football’s most mouthwatering one on one matchup, in a game in which his side was resoundingly beaten on the scoreboard, Max Gawn was enormous, doing his best to demonstrate why the All Australian ruck spot isn’t settled yet. He beat Brodie Grundy in the hitouts, as Melbourne won the clearances by 17, although they didn’t do enough forward of the ball to take advantage of Gawn’s ascendancy. However, equally impressive was his work around the ground, where he dominated in a realm in which Grundy has been the best in the competition over the last few seasons. The reigning Melbourne best and fairest had 34 touches, including 19 contested, alongside five marks (three contested), 10 intercepts, nine score involvements, 10 clearances, five inside 50’s and three rebounds in a remarkable performance by a big man, even in a loss.

For the victors, Adam Treloar was again outstanding, and he is the equal league leader for disposals after 12 games. His 34 touches included 10 contested, while he managed a goal, a goal assist, six score involvements, five clearances and five inside 50’s, while also racking up a team high 608 metres gained. In a midfield as highly stacked as Collingwood’s, the danger can be a lack of defensive workrate, but the former Giant had six tackles as he worked hard to ensure Melbourne’s ascendancy in clearances, contested ball and inside 50’s would come to nought due to pressure, and as such was a worthy winner of the Neale Daniher Medal for best on ground.

Steele Sidebottom is as classy a mover as there is in football, and after a dominant September in 2018, a move onto the wing has seen his raw statistical output diminish slightly, but his influence increase. On Queen’s Birthday, he was tremendous in the first half when the game was essentially won, with 17 of his 27 touches coming before the main break. He also finished with seven intercepts and six tackles, as he too brought the pressure that proved too much for a brittle Melbourne side. He also kicked a goal, had four clearances, and gained 554 metres, as he again proved critical in a Collingwood win. Had Jaidyn Stephenson kicked straight, he could easily have featured in these votes, but kicking just three goals from 10 opportunities meant he was too wasteful to be considered, while Darcy Moore was excellent in defence, though matched up against a pair of clearly out of form forwards.

Leaderboard (Players with the bye in Round 12 have an *)

1. Tim Kelly (15)

2. Travis Boak (14*)

3. Lachie Neale (11)

4. Patrick Dangerfield (9)

5. Stephen Coniglio (8)

5. Patrick Cripps (8)

5. Brad Crouch (8)

5. Nathan Fyfe (8*)

5. Max Gawn (8)

5. Brad Hill (8*)

5. Alex Keath (8)

5. Zach Merrett (8*)

5. Scott Pendlebury (8)

5. Tim Taranto (8)

No movement among the top two, as Travis Boak had the bye and Tim Kelly wasn’t considered for votes, with his 32 disposals not providing the same penetration as would usually be expected. Lachie Neale gets a vote, however, primarily for his dominant first half as Brisbane bolted out of the blocks against the Blues before ultimately falling over. The big mover is Dangerfield, who was equal leader of this award after three rounds, but hadn’t polled a vote since. His best on ground performance sees him jump clear of the logjam of players on eight votes into outright fourth.

Cripps’ amazing performance in his side’s second win for the season sees him jump into the top 10 for the first time this year. It is a worthy honour for a young captain who looks a good chance of winning the Brownlow in spite of his side’s lack of success. Likewise, Max Gawn is into the top 10 after polling a vote for the third time out of four games. Somewhat surprisingly, all of these votes have come in losses, as Gawn’s ruck ascendancy hasn’t translated to scoreboard results. Finally, Brad Crouch polls two votes for the second game in a row, and the fourth time this season, as his side won again to jump into fifth place.