The Mongrel Punt’s 2019 Rolling All Australian Team: Round 17

We’ve made it to the middle of July. A time of joy, a time of sorrow, and a time when teams start to wobble and fall off the September bound train. So where does that leave our team of superstars? How many players retain their places? Who has put forward a strong case for an inclusion. The penultimate Mongrel Punt All Australian team was a very difficult one to select, and we are sure it will be dissected by the loyalists.

BACKS

Back Pocket: Shannon Hurn (West Coast)

As West Coast assume the role of “premiership favourites” (although who can really pick it these days), the man leading the charge as always is their fearless skipper, and the captain of our team, Hurn. Teaming with Brad Sheppard to form a fruitful rebounding partnership (it should be noted that Sheppard was very close to being selected himself), Hurn’s last five weeks haven’t been his most prolific, but his leadership is what key Eagles personnel value the most, and with West Coast firmly in the race for a top two spot, Hurn shapes as the catalyst for the Kings of the Big Game to soar once more.

Full Back: Harris Andrews (Brisbane)

Moving from centre half back to the full back position in this team, Harris Andrews has turned himself into one of the best one-on-one defenders in the competition. Ask yourselves when you remember Andrews being beaten one-on-one. The fact that it is taking so long to recall any moments of loss speaks for Andrews’ talents as a tall defender. Averaging 13 disposals a game, Andrews’ efficiency of 85% is elite for a man of his size, and he leads the competition for spoils. All of this, and Andrews is still just 22 years of age.

Back Pocket: Jake Lloyd (Sydney)

As the Swans set about an unlikely stumble towards September, prolific rebounder Jake Lloyd reminded us all just how devastating he can be running from defence. In round 12, it was the tightest of calls between Lloyd and Alex Keath, however there can be no such debate this time around, with majority ruling in favour of the Sydney backman over the likes of Mark Blicavs and Brodie Smith. Since the bye, Lloyd has averaged 27.5 disposals at 88%, five marks and four score involvements. It remains to be seen if Sydney are still in the finals race, but Lloyd’s work in defence will be paramount to their success should they make it.

HALF BACKS

Half Back Flank: James Sicily (Hawthorn)

Master tactician Alastair Clarkson made a rare blunder early in the season, moving James Sicily into Hawthorn’s forward line in an attempt to correct their scoring woes. All it did was rob a fragile backline of its most talented player, and once Sicily was swung back to his familiar place in defence, he thrived once more. Sicily’s best on ground performance against the Magpies was perhaps the best of his career, and while drafted as a forward, Clarkson will surely be thinking twice before moving him out of Hawthorn’s back half again. Selected by nine of 11 Mongrels, Sicily’s place on the half back flank is a strong as it has ever been.

Centre Half Back: Jeremy McGovern (West Coast)

With Andrews moving closer to goal, marking machine McGovern has overtaken Mark Blicavs for the second tall defensive position. Interestingly, McGovern was only picked in five Mongrel teams, but all of them on the half back line. Inside the top 10 for total marks, and in the top five for contested marks, McGovern’s last five weeks have been vital to West Coast’s march towards the finals, as he is equally brilliant with the ball as he is stopping his direct opponent from having any influence. West Coast’s defence is often underrated, but a fourth consecutive All Australian jumper looks well within McGovern grasp should his excellent form continue.

Half Back Flank: Tom Stewart (Geelong)

Once again, Tom Stewart’s spot in our defence is his for the foreseeable future. A selection that proved tougher than first figured, Stewart’s inclusion in six teams saw him retain his place ahead of Brad Sheppard. Remarkably consistent, every single game Stewart has played in has produced at least 21 disposals and his effiency is still 80%. Leading the competition in rebounds from defensive 50, Stewart, along with fellow Mongrel team member Tim Kelly shows just what a remarkable job Geelong’s recruiting team has done to find diamonds in the rough.

CENTRES

Wing: Bradley Hill (Fremantle)

While Fremantle’s season is crumbling, speedster Bradley Hill’s season has gone from strength to strength. Since the mid-season bye, Hill has averaged 28 disposals at 81% efficiency, and his tandem with Michael Walters is as important to Fremantle’s hopes as their skipper. Interestingly, Hill was only selected in four teams, but every Mongrel that selected Hill placed him on the wing, and was picked just ahead of Giant Lachie Whitfield be the smallest of margins.

Centre: Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

Since Brendon Bolton’s departure, Carlton skipper Cripps has made a strong recovery from his slight mid-season form slump. Playing without the weight of the world on his shoulders, Cripps leadership has been superb in the Blues’ resurgence. Selected in six teams, it was Cripps’s selection in the centre square in four teams that got him the nod over Geelong midfielders Mitch Duncan and Tim Kelly.

Wing: Travis Boak (Port Adelaide)

With Port Adelaide’s season becoming increasingly unpredictable, former skipper Boak has continued his stellar efforts, averaging 32.5 disposals since the trip to China. Most pleasingly, while Boak has drifted forward on occasions, when he moves back into the midfield, Boak has been his regular contested self, averaging 18 contested possessions. Port Adelaide’s season may be on the verge of spiralling out of control, but for them to arrest their inconsistent form, they will need their fearless leader to keep his prolific season going.

HALF FORWARDS

Half Forward Flank: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

A player who had only received just a single previous selection (coming in Round 7), Bontempelli’s second half of the season has been exceptional, and his performances have mirrored his team, as the Bulldogs are starting to motor towards September. Being selected in seven teams, Bontempelli’s numbers are all career bests, averaging 27 disposals, four marks and four tackles. Bontempelli is also in the top 10 for contested possessions, and is seen by many as Easton Wood’s heir apparent to the captaincy.

Centre Half Forward: Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney)

How do you pick a centre half forward when the position almost doesn’t exist anymore? It is clear based on weight of numbers that Jeremy Cameron is the most likely type, due to his ability to play further up the ground. Cameron was selected in all 11 of our teams, six at centre half forward and five at full forward. Averaging three goals a game, the current Coleman Medal leader’s gap has shortened to his rivals, and he will need to maintain his consistency to obtain his first leading goal kicker trophy.

Half Forward Flank: Michael Walters (Fremantle)

A player that received unanimous selection, Walters form has continued the upwards trend since the mid-season break. In a battle with skipper Nat Fyfe as Fremantle’s biggest Brownlow Medal chance, Walters combines his ball-winning ability with a goal sense that the Dockers have been so desperate to find. Leading Fremantle’s goal kicking, Walters speed and elite ball use has put him in contention for the AFL’s highest honour.

FORWARDS

Forward Pocket: Gary Ablett (Geelong)

This was the absolute tightest of calls. Both Ablett and Lion Charlie Cameron were selected in five teams, and both received four votes in the forward pocket and one at half forward. It came down to Cameron not having enough momentum to push Ablett aside, and the Little Master just retains his place. Kicking 28 goals from his 15 appearances, Ablett’s disposal average of just 20 is his lowest since 2006, but his goals per game average is a career best.

Full Forward: Tom Hawkins (Geelong)

Sitting third in the race for the Coleman Medal, Geelong mountain Hawkins has quietl
y gone about his business in establishing the Cats as the team to beat in season 2019. Hawkins was included in nine teams, including six at full forward, and though his 40 goals aren’t a career best, his partnership with Gary Ablett has been impressive to say the least. Hawkins has also been a dead eye in front of goal, as his accuracy of 63% is the highest of the top 20 goal kickers.

Forward Pocket: Ben Brown (North Melbourne)

The closest challenger to Jeremy Cameron’s crown, it seems the Mongrel team was divided in their opinion of Ben Brown’s season. Being included in six teams, the question over Brown’s best and worst has reared its head, as it was argued that Brown’s inconsistency makes him a liability. Brown’s six goal return against Essendon was simply outstanding, but his previous effort registering over three goals came in round 11, indicating that Brown is capable of huge bags of goals, but if held by a capable opponent, his output diminishes significantly.

FOLLOWERS

Ruckman: Brodie Grundy (Collingwood)

Still the clubhouse leader for the first ruck position, Brodie Grundy has continued to fend off the advances of Max Gawn, who for the first time has taken selections away from Grundy as Mongrels’ starting ruckman. Still picked as nine Mongrels’ first choice, it seems that Grundy’s form has somewhat fluctuated with that of his team, as when he is at his most inspirational, Collingwood plays brilliantly, but if Grundy is even slightly off, the Magpies have struggled. The final six rounds have become a two horse race, with Grundy leading the pack as they all turn for home.

Ruck Rover: Nat Fyfe (Fremantle)

The skipper of a ship that is hurtling towards an iceberg, Fyfe has been outstanding in his leadership of a team trying a turn around a season that threatens to come to a halt. Selected in all but one team, Fyfe’s statistics are identical to his Brownlow Medal winning 2015. Sitting equal second with Lachie Neale for contested possessions, Fyfe inspirational effort in returning to the field in a close to best on ground display after injuring his shoulder in the loss to the Hawks saw him retain his place underneath Brodie Grundy over the likes of Dangerfield and Coniglio.

Rover: Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

Sitting second behind Adam Treloar in total possessions, and leading all comers in clearances, Brisbane superstar Lachie Neale was one of four players who found himself in every team the Mongrels put forward. We were divided over which midfielders made the starting 18, and seven Mongrels had Neale in their midfield, winning him the spot over Tim Kelly and Ben Cunnington. As Brisbane make a charge towards a finals double chance, Neale’s leadership since crossing the country from Fremantle has been vital in the Lions rapid improvement.

INTERCHANGE:

Tim Kelly (Geelong)

In looking at the statistics for selections in our team, it should be noted that Kelly found a place in nine Mongrel sides, but we were unable to agree on Kelly’s best position, and as such, the Brownlow Medal favourite finds himself sitting on the pine. Since the bye, Kelly has been overshadowed in the Cats’ midfield, with only his performance against Adelaide likely to receive votes. Regardless, a player of Kelly’s enormous talent is still considered one of the best 22 players in the competition at this stage of the season, and he will be vital to Geelong’s premiership aspirations.

Ben Cunnington (North Melbourne)

It has finally happened. Mongrel Punt HQ couldn’t hold off the onslaught any longer, and Kangaroo Ben Cunnington has taken his place in our team. The leading player for contested possessions, Cunnington’s selection in six of our team earns him a place on our interchange bench. While others around him are elite users of the ball, Cunnington’s best work is at the bottom of packs, but his efficiency of 78% often goes unnoticed by many pundits.

Charlie Cameron (Brisbane)

Who saw this coming? After 17 rounds, Brisbane sits third on the ladder, and a man that has been vital to their success has been their magician Cameron, who leads the Lions goal kicking and has produced some moments of pure magic. Just getting pipped at the post by Gary Ablett for the forward pocket position, Cameron is Brisbane’s most important forward, and a key ingredient to the Lions reaching the Holy Grail a year or two before anyone predicted.

Max Gawn (Melbourne)

Brodie Grundy’s biggest threat, Max Gawn’s last five weeks have heaped the pressure on the hairy Magpie. Leading the competition for hit outs to advantage, and third for overall hit outs, Gawn is seen by many as Melbourne’s most important player and his partnership with Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw will be the key to the Demons finally realising their potential. Selected in five of our teams, two Mongrels felt that Gawn had done enough to usurp Brodie Grundy, and if his form continues, the race of the ruckmen will certainly come down to the wire.

As always, the significantly shortened version of our team looks like this:

B: Hurn (c), Andrews, Lloyd

HB: Sicily, McGovern, Stewart

C: Hill, Cripps, Boak

HF: Bontempelli, J. Cameron, Walters

F: Ablett, Hawkins, Brown

R: Grundy, Fyfe, Neale

INT: T. Kelly, Cunnington, C. Cameron, Gawn

IN: McGovern, Bontempelli, Brown, Cunnington, C. Cameron, Gawn

OUT: Blicavs, Coniglio, Finlayson, Keath, Whitfield, Luke Ryan

This really was one of the hardest teams to select, and this is backed up by some interesting stats:

§  64 individual players received a selection, the highest of our teams this season.

§  Just four players were selected unanimously, down from 11 in round 12.

§  Despite once again sitting second on the ladder, only Brodie Grundy was selected from Collingwood.

§  Five teams (Adelaide, Essendon, Gold Coast, Richmond and St Kilda) did not have a player selected.

§  Giant Jeremy Finlayson received seven selections in round 12, and did not receive a vote in this instalment.

Just six rounds remain until our final team is selected. Have our players done enough to fully secure their positions? Or will there be a bolter from the back of the pack? Of the players that were closest to selection this time around, former members Mark Blicavs, Patrick Dangerfield and Lachie Whitfield would consider themselves the unluckiest, with Whitfield’s injury coming in the worst possible time. Teammate Stephen Coniglio’s knee means that he will be unable to regain his place, and newcomers Brodie Smith and Josh Dunkley have both put forward strong cases for a late season inclusion.

Round 23 awaits.