Here at The Mongrel we have a flair for the extravagant. We like to watch football with personality, and none in the AFL have more personality than those who kick the big bags. Let’s face it – we love to see a dominant mid rip the game apart, or a defender completely own the back 50, but there is something about a player getting on the end of a few long balls, and slotting a bag of goals… it’s what you pay to watch the footy for.

But there is already an award for the big goal kickers, right? It’s the Coleman Medal and as we’ve seen in recent years, it is a sought after award. Both Jack Riewoldt and Jeremy Cameron have used Gold Coast as their personal punching bags over the last couple of seasons to secure the Coleman for themselves, both times at the expense of Ben Brown, but here at The Mongrel, we want to dive deeper into the art of forward craft to look at more than just a season as a whole.

Yep, here we’d like to drill down on the performances that made the season what it was. Whether it was a standout performance by a youngster, a dominant performance by a key forward, or a sublime effort from a player who is not the marquee forward on the team.

So if the official award is called the Coleman, it is only fitting that we name our awards after the greatest goal kicker of all time.

The Tony Lockett Awards?

No, no, no… that’s way too formal. We need something a little catchier.

The Pluggers?

Hmmmm, not quite.

The Pluggies?

Well, it’s not quite the Oscars, and it’s better than the Logies, so it’ll do for right now. And it beats what we would have called it if we named it after Dunstall – The Dunnies?

 

So, without further ado, The Pluggies for 2019…

 

THE TONY LOCKETT AWARD FOR  the best overall forward performance in a key forward role

And the nominees are

 

Jeremy Cameron kicks 7.5 and has 30 touches v Richmond in Round 3

Jeremy Cameron kicks 9.5 v Gold Coast in Round 23 to pass Ben Brown and win the Coleman Medal.

Ben Brown kicks 10.1 in Round 22 v Port Adelaide to claim the Coleman lead

Josh Kennedy kicks 7.0 v North Melbourne in R19

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

JEREMY CAMERON KICKS 7.5 AND HAS 30 TOUCHES V RICHMOND IN ROUND 3

Cameron had tongues wagging about the potential of being a century goalkicker at this point in time, and with his tank on full display as he worked up to the wings and back, he was too much for any of the Tiger defenders to go with.

Read that last part again.

Too much for any of the Tiger defenders to go with. You know, that’s why Cameron gets the nod in this award – he beat one of the best defences in the game. Dylan Grimes may have been out, but Richmond as a unit are formidable… well, they ended up being premiers, and the fact Cameron was able to strut his stuff against them is enough to sway me over to awarding the first ever “Pluggie” to the GWS star.

 

THE REDGUM “HE WAS ONLY 19…” AWARD – for forwards 23 or under

And the nominees are…

 

Eric Hipwood kicks 6.1 v Port Adelaide in Round 3

Charlie Curnow kicks 7.1 v Western Bulldogs in Round 13

Cameron Zurhaar kicks 5 v Carlton in Round 7

Cameron Zurhaar kicks 5.3 v St Kilda in Round 16

Nick Larkey kicks 5 v Port Adelaide in Round 22

Nick Larkey kicks 5 v St Kilda in Round 16

Connor Rozee kicks 5.2 v Brisbane in Round 3

Aaron Naughton kicks 5.3 v Richmond in Round 7 and takes 9 contested marks in the process

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

Aaron Naughton kicks 5.3 v Richmond in Round 7 and takes 9 contested marks in the process

What a game for Naughton, going within one mark of equalling the record of Wayne Carey for contested grabs in a game. He was a clunking, jumping, goaling lunatic en route to his five goals.

Unlike Jeremy Cameron above, Naughton DID have to contend with the best defence the Tigers had to offer (sans Alex Rance, of course) and he did it in such emphatic fashion that it belied his tender 19 years.

We saw some stars emerge in 2019. I was very tempted to award this to Cam Zurhaar due to the way he attacks contests at ground level and makes plays happen, but those nine contested grabs… it’s very hard to look past.

 

THE STEWART “PLUGGER’S SIDEKICK” LOEWE AWARD – Best performance by a forward in a supporting role

Just two nominees for this award…

 

Jeremy Finlayson kicks 44 goals as second fiddle to Jeremy Cameron.

Sam Lloyd kicks 38 goals to lead the Dogs.

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

Sam Lloyd kicks 38 goals to lead the Dogs.

GWS fans may feel a little aggrieved by this, but far out, surely you can take solace in the fact that your team beat the living shit out of the Dogs in the Elimination Final, right? I mean, that was a manhandling. Sorry Dogs’ fans, but players now saying they wished they knew Bontempelli was being targeted so they could have done something about it is a real cop-out. You were there! And you did nothing!

Anyway… here’s a little something to make you happier.

Here’s my thinking around this. I don’t think there was a game when Sam Lloyd was the number one option for the Dogs all season. You had Naughton coming out of the square, you had Bailey dale making a late run, and Tory Dickson being his serviceable self despite having a name like a porn star, yet there was Lloyd… picking up his two or three goals here and there, never overstepping and doing anything above what his role required.

In contrast, Finlayson did have a few games where he stepped to the fore in the wake of a quiet one or two from Jeremy Cameron. As much as I like Finlayson’s story – you could have got him for a couple of magic beans following the 2018 season, I like Lloyd’s more. Squeezed out of the Tigers due to lack of opportunity, he found that opportunity at the Bulldogs, and he delivered in his first year with a new team. That’s something that is not a common occurrence.

 

THE TIPRAT MILNE ‘SMALL IN STATURE BUT BIG ON RESULTS’ AWARD – Best performance by a forward of the small variety

And the nominees are…

 

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti kicks 7.1 v Brisbane in Round 4

Eddie Betts kicks 6 v Gold Coast in Round 5

Eddie Betts kicks 6 v Gold Coast in Round 17

Charlie Cameron kicks 6 v Gold Coast in Round 21

Michael Walters kicks 6.1 with 25 touches v Port Adelaide in Round 13

Luke Breust kicks 5 straight v North Melbourne in Round 3

Tom Papley has 5.2 and 27 touches v West Coast in Round 12

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti kicks 7.1 v Brisbane in Round 4

Right off the bat, I want to make one thing clear – if you’re beating up on Gold Coast, you don’t get the award. As a matter of fact, if you’re beating up on any team that is losing a heap of games in a row, you can’t be considered. Eddie, Charlie… that rules you out.

So, in lieu of that, Walla takes this award out based on the absolute brilliance of his performance as he dominated the game against the Lions. He was magical, with 20 touches and seven goals.

Some may point to the fact that AMT kicked a couple late, bolstering his overall numbers. This is true, but he kicked the first of the game and another in the first as Essendon established a handy lead. He was complete handful for the Brisbane defence, and his seven goals were a fitting reward for a damaging performance.

 

THE GARY ABLETT SENIOR BIG BAG AND NO WIN AWARD – Best performance by a forward in a losing side

And the nominees are…

 

Ben Brown kicks 6.2 v Essendon in Round 17

Charlie Curnow kicks 7.1 v Western Bulldogs in Round 13

Josh Bruce kicks 6 straight v North Melbourne in Round 16

Connor Rozee kicks 5.2 v Brisbane in Round 3

Sam Reid kicks 6.0 in loss to Collingwood in Round 10

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

Connor Rozee kicks 5.2 v Brisbane in Round 3

I’m going with the kid here, as I reckon years from now we may look back at just the third game in the career of Connor Rozee and say “well, we saw it coming early on.”

Whilst many loved the season of Sam Walsh, and rightfully so, there is an x-factor about Rozee that is simply undeniable. Does this mean he’ll be a champion of the game? Well, Chad Wingard had that x-factor, and after a few years of… less than AA-standard footy, some of that sheen has worn off. Having the talent is no guarantee…

… but it bloody helps!

Rozee has all the tools, and his five goals against the Lions were a statement that there is big things on the horizon for him.

 

THE KEVIN BARTLETT “NEVER SEEN A SHOT AT GOAL HE DIDN’T LIKE” AWARD

 

AND THE WINNER IS – Alex Sexton

I swear that whenever this bloke got the ball with 60 metres of goal he was going to have a ping in 2019.

When a player is in the top 12 players in the league for goals kicked and doesn’t make the top 100 players for score involvements, you know he is either having a shot every time he gets his hands on it, or he just doesn’t trust his teammates to get on the end of his creativity.

Kevin Bartlett was called “Hungry” for a reason, and based on his 2019 season, Alex Sexton is an excellent choice to live up to the lofty standards of KB with his willingness to have a shot at the big sticks from anywhere at any time, irrespective of how open a teammate may be in a better position.

 

The KOBE BRYANT “OUT WITH A BANG” award

 

AND THE WINNER IS – Jarryd Roughead kicks 6.1 in his final game v Gold Coast in Round 22

We all love Jarryd Roughead, and I know I said I wouldn’t reward people who beat up on Gold Coast, but come on… this is Rough! He’s like a big, playful Labrador that, if left unchecked, would sneak into the shed and eat everything in sight (people, I cannot stress this enough; do not leave snail pellets at low levels in the shed – labs will eat them, and Roughead may eat them too!).

So, Alastair Clarkson gave the old dog one last walk around the block before the fateful day came. Rough got out there, cocked his leg, sniffed some other dogs’ behinds and had a great day, snagging six goals in the process. That he did it against Gold Coast… well, it takes a little sheen off it, but the big Roughie had a day out in his final game, and it is worth celebrating.

Aaaaaand then he was taken to the vet.

 

THE MICHAEL JORDAN “COMING UP BIG WHEN IT COUNTS” award for best forward performance of the finals

 

AND THE WINNER IS – Dustin Martin kicks 6 goals straight v Brisbane in Qualifying Final

As if the sight of Charlie Cameron cradling an injured arm wasn’t bad enough. As if the sight of a 47 point belting on your home soil wasn’t bad enough. As if the trio of McStay, Hipwood and Cameron combining for two goals didn’t hurt enough…

… you had Dusty deciding to turn it on for the biggest and best goal haul of the finals series. He slammed home six straight as the Tigers travelled to the Gabba and lay the smacketh down on the Lions in front of their home crowd.

Martin sowed the seeds of his second Gary Ayres Medal with a sterling performance and once again made a big statement that he is a player built for finals.

 

And there we go; the first-ever edition of ‘The Pluggies’.

Hopefully, it is taken in the tone it is intended, but you just can never tell with some people… they get so fired up.

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