Here at The Mongrel we have a flair for the extravagant. We recently introduced the first of our annual specialised awards – The Pluggies, for the best offensive efforts of the season, but far from being entirely swayed by those who kick bags of goals, we’re looking to be an equal-opportunity award giver.
We then went on to award The Doullies for the most outstanding defensive efforts of the season – this was a Members Only article. If you like this sort of stuff, six bucks a month isn’t going to kill you is it? Come on… support the old Mongrel to create more AFL content.
And so, we’re now looking at the mids.
But wait, isn’t the Brownlow the midfielders’ award anyway? Well, yes it is – nice pickup. But we’re more about drilling down into the nitty-gritty of the midfield. Who was best at getting their hands on it first? Who created the most damage going forward? Who did the best tagging job of the season? And who is the man who ????
We’ll be drilling down into each category to come up with the winners in each distinct area, but what should we call these awards? Something that does the prestigious awards justice…
The Gary Ablett awards? Nah, he’s still in the mix – can’t be tooting his horn too much. The Dangers and Dustys are out for the same reason.
The Diesels? The Buckleys? Nah, that’s for those who come second.
The Chris Judd awards?
Hmmmm… the Juddies – has a nice ring to it. Better than fucking Judd-chella, anyway.
But no… an award named after Judd would take itself too seriously. We need someone that doesn’t think his shit doesn’t stink. Like… the Dane Swan? He would know his shit stinks.
Ahhhh, now we’re getting somewhere. In honour of the former Collingwood champ who seems to give less than half a toss more than half the time, we’ll name the awards after him. It’s not the Oscars, not the Logies (thank god), and it certainly fits right in with the Pluggies and Doullies.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, the 2019 Swannies. Let’s kick it off.
THE DANE SWAN AWARD for the best single overall midfield performance
And the nominees are…
PATRICK CRIPPS – 19 clearances and 39 touches v Adelaide in R19
STEPHEN CONIGLIO – 36 touches and three goals v Gold Coast in R11
LACHIE WHITFIELD – 40 touches, 18 marks and three goals v Carlton in R9
LACHIE NEALE – 51 disposals and 14 clearances v Richmond in R23
JACK MACRAE – 45 touches and 12 clearances v Brisbane in R20
NAT FYFE – 37 touches, 11 clearances v Port Adelaide in R13
AND THE WINNER IS… LACHIE WHITFIELD
Look, we have this little system at The Mongrel, and basically it takes into account effective disposals, marks, goals and tackles. If all those stats equate to 50+ you can pretty much guarantee that player has had a huge impact on the game. You can check it out here – Dropping 50
This season, only two players hit that mark. Stephen Coniglio in Round 11, and our winner in Round 9, who equalled the third-highest total we’ve had ever (56)
Am I using this award to pump up our own rating system that no one really cares about? Well, yeah… a bit, but you’re gonna have to deal with that for the moment. And no one cares about it… YET.
Whitfield’s game was monstrous. 40 disposals (31 effective), 18 marks, four tackles and three goals for a total of 56 points. He also had 14 score involvements on the day.
Some may not agree with the choice and would prefer Cripps’ 19-clearance effort, or Elliot Yeo’s 15 clearances and nine tackles against the Tigers, but give me Whitfield running down the wing, or through the midfield, racking up stats that hurt. There is a very good reason so many of the young stars entering the elite competition look up to him – when he is on, Lachie Whitfield is a beast.
With his recent re-signing at GWS, the Giants have secured the running, outside player with the biggest impact on a game. He is a more athletic version of Andrew Gaff and has the ball use of a truly elite mid. He is the prototype of the modern outside runner, and he provided us with one of the best midfield performances of the season. If he was able to avoid injury in 2019 (and the need to have his appendix removed) he may have picked up his second All-Australian selection.
I want to throw a quick shout out to the tear Travis Boak had as well. So consistent and so resilient, in the darkness of Port’s ineptitude at times, he was like a beacon of light. There was no single game that stood out as his 2019 masterpiece, but there were a dozen at the next level down.
THE JOE GANINO “getting your hands on the ball(s) first” AWARD for being the best clearance player.
And the nominees are…
PATRICK CRIPPS (ROUND 19 V ADELAIDE)
ELLIOT YEO (ROUND 22 V RICHMOND)
ED CURNOW (ROUND 15 V FREMANTLE)
LACHIE NEALE (ROUND 23 V RICHMOND)
JARRYD LYONS (ROUND 18 V NORTH MELB)
AND THE WINNER IS… PATRICK CRIPPS (CARLTON – ROUND 19 V ADELAIDE)
Okay, have you settled down now about Cripps not winning the big award? No? Okay, go take a breather and say a prayer at your Cain Liddle shrine and then come back. In SOS we trust no longer, right? Go Cain Liddle!
We all good now? Let’s continue.
Patrick Cripps almost single-handedly ruptured the testicles of an Adelaide Crows team trying to show some fortitude with a trip to Melbourne with their season still alive.
But Patrick Cripps did not allow that.
Manning the middle, Cripps simply refused to allow Rory Sloane, and the Crouch brothers first use of the ball. As a matter of fact, the Carlton powerhouse accumulated more clearances himself than Sloane, Matt Crouch and Brad Crouch combined. And not by a small margin.
The Adelaide trilogy managed 13 between them, easily dwarfed by the maniacal Cripps, who seemed on a mission to make every stoppage his own.
Only Paul Salmon has ever had a higher number of clearances in a game (22) and from here, it looks like a matter of IF, not when Cripps will break that record. This game against the Crows was freakish, and deserves to be praised.
THE CLAMPS AWARD – Best performance by a midfielder in a defensive role
And the nominees are…
MATT DE BOER (ROUND 9 V PATRICK CRIPPS)
MATT DE BOER (ROUND 3 V DUSTIN MARTIN)
MATT DE BOER (ROUND 4 V TIM KELLY)
MATT DE BOER (ROUND 8 V JAEGER O’MEARA)
MATT DE BOER (ROUND 10 V CLAYTON OLIVER)
MATT DE BOER (PRELIM FINAL V SCOTT PENDLEBURY)
AND THE WINNER IS… BEN JACOBS… HAHA, JUST KIDDING.
MATT DE BOER (ROUND 9 V PATRICK CRIPPS)
De Boer claimed some huge scalps in 2019, but none bigger than the Carlton superstar, who was held to one of his lowest disposals totals of his career. Rubbing salt into the gaping wound, de Boer went on to accrue 27 touches, six tackles and five clearances of his own.
Really, we could have chosen any of de Boer’s games. He was far and away the best negating midfielder in the game and was performing so well that I was definitely considering him for All-Australian selection when he was injured against the Kangaroos in Round 13 (Thanks Ben Cunnington!)
Actually, add Cunnington to the list above as well.
Here’s a list of players averages and their return against de Boer in 2019.
Patrick Cripps v de Boer – 12 disposals. Cripps’ average – 28
Martin v de Boer – 15 disposals. Martin’s average – 26
Tim Kelly v de Boer – 9 disposals. Kelly’s average – 25.4
Jaeger O’Meara v de Boer – 15 disposals. O’Meara’s average – 25.8
Clayton Oliver v de Boer – 17 disposals. Oliver’s average – 30
Scott Pendlebury v de Boer – 18 disposals. Pendlebury’s average – 27.3
Ben Cunnington v de Boer – 16 disposals. Cunnington’s average – 26.6
Lachie Neale v de Boer – 17 disposals. Neale’s average – 30.9
Not a bad year for Matt. I have to wonder how much of an influence he could have had against Dusty in the Grand Final had he not been on one leg. Guess we’ll never know, but I’m sure he’ll be determined to demonstrate just how different things could have been when they meet again in Round 7, 2020.
THE SAMWISE GAMGEE “Get on my back and I’ll carry you the rest of the way” AWARD for the player who had a huge last quarter and got his team the win.
And the nominees are…
LUKE SHUEY (WEST COAST – ROUND 15 V HAWTHORN)
PATRICK CRIPPS (CARLTON ROUND 12 V BRISBANE)
NAT FYFE (FREMANTLE- ROUND 21 V ST KILDA)
AND THE WINNER IS… LUKE SHUEY
This was tough. I may be swayed a little too much because I watched Shuey’s performance live and only caught up with Cripps’ exploits on replay, but in person, I have never seen someone take control of the game in the last quarter and absolutely will his team over the line like Shuey did against the Hawks.
I watched it with a fellow Hawks supporter who at one point yelled: “Can we put someone on Shuey?” Well, that was the toned down version, at least.
Shuey finished with an incredible stat-line of 39 disposals, 11 clearances, 11inside 50 disposals and nine tackles as he powered his team home. He also managed to collect the lazy 20 contested touches, which is the benchmark of a great contested brand of footy. Think about the players that hit that mark – Cripps, Joey Kennedy, Clayton Oliver, Ben Cunnington, Lachie Neale, Patrick Dangerfield… they are inside beasts. Shuey can be that as well, but he also adds the burst and elite outside run that many of the others are lacking.
Some may feel Cripps is hard done by again, but hey… you can’t win everything.
THE RODNEY DANGERFIELD “NO RESPECT” AWARD for the player consistently playing great footy whilst getting very little respect.
Before I begin – to qualify, you must have NEVER been an All-Australian.
And the nominees are
BEN CUNNINGTON (NORTH MELBOURNE)
JACOB HOPPER (GWS)
GEORGE HEWETT (SYDNEY)
ADAM TRELOAR (COLLINGWOOD)
LUKE SHUEY (WEST COAST)
DAVID SWALLOW (GOLD COAST)
TIM TARANTO (GWS)
DION PRESTIA (RICHMOND)
JOSH DUNKLEY (WESTERN BULLDOGS)
JAEGER O’MEARA (HAWTHORN)
SEB ROSS (ST KILDA)
AND THE WINNER IS – BEN CUNNINGTON (NORTH MELBOURNE)
Let’s allow some numbers to do the talking here, shall we?
In 2019, Ben Cunnington had 20+ contested possessions in six games. Do you know who did it more times than that? Lachie Neale? Nope – five times for him. Patrick Cripps? Nope, he equalled him with six. Dangerfield – four times, Nat Fyfe – six times, Clayton Oliver – six times.
No one was better than Cunnington in terms of winning his own footy. No one.
But wait, there’s more.
Cunnington also had 10+ clearances on six occasions in 2019, bettered only by Lachie Neale and Patrick Cripps (7 apiece).
He is elite, but has never been anointed as an All-Australian player. He was on the fast track to change that in 2019, with six of his first 12 games amassing 10+ clearances and five of those same 12 games resulting in 20+ contested touches, but after the bye his form tapered a little and AA selectors have short memories (it’s the same reason Gary Ablett did not slot into the forward pocket).
Cunnington is a throwback to the days when blokes played footy, won their own ball and didn’t spend the rest of the week trying to get themselves out in the media. He is the star you never hear about, and the star football lovers cannot get enough of. I wonder if deep down, Cunnington does give a slight shit about this kind of thing. Look at those who are his peers. Look at how they are talked up by the media.
And listen to how they talk about Cunnington. *Crickets*
With 26.64 touches per game, and 15.59 contested possessions both career-high numbers, you’d have to start wondering what Cunnington has to do to be seen.
We see you, Ben.
THE GARY DEMPSEY “tap it down your throat” AWARD for the best ruck performance of the season
AND THE NOMINEES ARE…
BRODIE GRUNDY (V GWS – PRELIMINARY FINAL)
MAX GAWN (V COLLINGWOOD – ROUND 12)
BRODIE GRUNDY ( V SYDNEY – ROUND 10)
AND THE WINNER IS… MAX GAWN
When selecting this award, I felt it was important to consider the opposition, and assess partly based on that.
So, with that in mind, any game against the Western Bulldogs was disregarded, as early in the season in particular, Tim English was like a lamb to the slaughter for the quality big men of the league. He was the AFL’s equivalent on Bambi, and other rucks in the league came with their shotguns ready.
Five of the top 20 games for total hit outs were against the Dogs. But hang on, there is another team in there that underperformed statistically – Sydney. Five of the 20 were also against the swans, so I am discounting that as well. That leaves us with Brodie Grundy’s third-highest total of hit outs on record v Shane Mumford and the Giants in the Prelim Final, and Max Gawn’s Queen’s Birthday massacre at the MCG.
And on that day, Max Gawn massacred Brodie Grundy. Flat out murderfied him.
Look, I know it was later revealed that Grundy was ill, but in my book, if you’re out there, you’re fit. Whilst other hit out numbers may look more impressive, the fact that Gawn was also able to accumulate career-high disposal numbers (34) to go along with his 33 hit outs and ten clearances make it the most impressive single-game display by a big man all season.
Could it have gone to Grundy’s Herculean Prelim Final game? Well, yeah… if you count meaningless hit outs. Go back and watch the last quarter. Grundy got so many taps and so few of them went to a teammate. If anything, Shane Mumford had as much influence in the last couple of minutes as Grundy did the entire quarter, and that is coming from a Grundy fan.
I’ve written a fair bit about the Grundy v Gawn wars over the last couple of seasons, and look forward to writing more, but in their battles over 2018-19, this clash was the most one-sided result we’ve seen, and even if Grundy was unwell, deserves to be recognised.
THE “ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER AWARD” FOR SNEAKING FORWARD AND HURTING THEM ON THE SCOREBOARD
AND THE WINNER IS – DUSTIN MARTIN
No contest here. His performance in the Qualifying Final should have sounded an ominous warning to the rest of the competition.
If only they’d taken more notice.
Dusty drifted forward to snag six goals on the finals stage, leaving no doubt in peoples’ minds as to who the best forward/mid in the game is. Continually finding himself in the right spot at the right time, martin’s six goals were the largest haul not just of a midfielder, but by ANY player in the competition in September action.
THE WILT CHAMBERLAIN “repeat penetration” AWARD for the best inside 50 player.
The nominees are…
PATRICK DANGERFIELD (GEELONG V ADELAIDE IN ROUND 3)
DUSTIN MARTIN (RICHMOND V WEST COAST IN ROUND 22)
NAT FYFE (FREMANTLE V ST KILDA IN ROUND 21)
TIM TARANTO (GWS V WESTERN BULLDOGS IN ELIMINATION FINAL)
TOM ROCKLIFF (PORT ADELAIDE V ADELAIDE IN ROUND 8)
PATRICK DANGERFIELD (GEELONG V WEST COAST IN ROUND 6)
SCOTT PENDLEBURY (COLLINGWOOD V PORT ADELAIDE IN ROUND 7)
DAYNE ZORKO (BRISBANE V SYDNEY IN ROUND 7)
AND THE WINNER IS… PATRICK DANGERFIELD FOR A GREAT DOUBLE ACT
Yeah, people will claim Dusty was ripped, and he may be from a certain point of view, but I’m looking at these stats and Dangerfield has two of the top four inside 50 games for the season, with 12 in each of them. Whilst Dusty has the highest individual game (13) against high-quality opposition (WCE), the fact Danger has those two games tip it slightly in his favour.
Some of you may question the potency of his kicking inside 50, perhaps thinking that he blazes away too often. You may have a point – I’d much prefer leading to Gary Ablett than I would to Danger, but with the Little Master spending more time forward, and those legs looking a little weary in the back half of the season, Danger became the biggest weapon the Cats possessed, and remains in that role unchallenged with the departure of Tim Kelly.
THE DUSTIN MARTIN “COMING UP BIG WHEN IT COUNTS” AWARD for best midfield performance of the finals
AND THE WINNER IS – DUSTIN ‘GODDAMN’ MARTIN (RICHMOND)
Yeah, so here I was thinking it would be cute to have a modern name in there. I chose Dusty because… well, let’s face it – his name equals clicks, right?
And then the bastard goes out and repeats his 2017 finals series to become the first ever dual Gary Ayres Medallist and just the fourth man to have two Norm Smith Medals to his name. You think about that company – Ayres, McLeod and Hodge. The good driver in heavy traffic, the rolls Royce through the middle and the General. And now Dusty joins them.
Look, I am sure there’ll be times when I write something negative about Dusty, and when I do I am sure the Tiger faithful will lash me, and they’ve earned the right to do that. But right now, all I can do is praise him. On the biggest stage in footy, in three consecutive games, Dustin Martin was once again THE MAN.
And in the 2019 finals series, no one else came close.
And there we go; the first-ever edition of ‘The Swannies.
Hopefully, it is taken in the tone it is intended, but you just can never tell with some people… they get so fired up over something so small. Much many of like Joe Ganino’s romantic partners.
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