Does the Mongrel Team have all the answers? No, not by a long shot. but we do have is opinions – some considered and some… less so.
You’ve asked the questions. We’ll try to answer them.
Carolyn: Who, of Tim Taranto and Hugh McCluggage, would you say is ahead in terms of career, development and direction? And if you supplanted them into each other’s team, how would their careers be playing out?
Matthew Passmore: Tough call. My gut says Tim Taranto but I have nothing really on which to base the assessment. I am surprised at just how similar they are. The only stat that really separates them is McGluggage’s marginally better disposal efficiency, but I often find that a statistic which is marred by its lack of surrounding context.
HB Meyers: McCluggage really leapt into the national focus this season, but I’ve loved what Taranto has brought to the table for a while now. Runs both ways, tackles, pressures and wins his own footy. Hard to compare them as McCluggage is more of an outside player who uses his creativity to open the game up, but I can’t go past Taranto. Will push to be considered a top ten mid by the end of 2020, injury permitting.
As for who would do better in the other team, McCluggage on one wing and Lachie Whitfield on the other would be a nightmare for teams to defend – running machines who use the ball well attacking from both sides of the ground. Throw in Mitch Robinson to change things s up and you have a wing position trilogy that could carve teams up.
So yeah, personal preference is Taranto, but I reckon McCluggage would thrive at GWS.
Trent Shields: Terrific question, I think they are the two clear standouts of the 2016 draft (discounting mature age recruits Tom Stewart and Matt De Boer) but play in different positions so it’s difficult to compare. Both were integral in their sides’ sharp rise up the ladder this year, Taranto had probably shown more consistency in the first two years, but I firmly believe McCluggage has more upside. The Lions winger is the closest player in style and impact to the great Chris Judd since his early years at WCE and I expect another leap as further reinforcement is secured in the Lions midfield.
As for your original question, I think both would’ve had a similar trajectory if they were drafted to the other team as the lists are in a similar shape, Taranto would have supported Zorko Beams/Neale and McCluggage having Whitfield/Kelly.
Peter Walsh: Will the crows take the wooden spoon in 2020?
Julian Russo: I think they’re a great chance to, but they still have some A-List players that should drag them to a few wins. This asks the question, who is going to be worse than them? Carlton, GC and St. Kilda all look like improving, Freo and North will float around the 13-14 mark and that leaves Melbourne and Sydney to compete with them for the wooden spoon.
Matthew Passmore: Possibly too early to tell, they haven’t lost all their players – yet. I certainly don’t think they’ll finish higher than 16th, but if they can keep a half decent player or 2 then they may win a few more.
HB Meyers: I’m waiting for this trade period to finish before making any assessments. They’re still a talented bunch, even with the departures, but if the attitude isn’t great then things fall away quickly. I’d love to see them really shake things up in the final stages of trade week, but if they do that, it may lead to some short term pain.
Trent Shields: No, but don’t get excited about some of the media articles suggesting a quick return to contention. A lot will depend on the coach who is finally appointed; often a new voice can produce dramatic improvement. The players leaving are a significant concern, but may open up positions to talented kids who weren’t getting a decent opportunity to thrive.
Nick Sluggett: No. They will definitely continue to struggle, but I don’t see them being the worst team in the league next year.
Andrew Taylor: Is West Coast the only team that can challenge Richmond ?
Julian Russo: There’s too much that can happen between now and then, but at the moment, it’s looking like it. Maybe the Cats or Giants if they have a good season, but the Tigers are adding an all-time great full back to a premiership side… Back to back incoming.
Matthew Passmore: It’s a long pre-season and a long season. Anything is possible at this stage. Richmond might not be the team who needs challenging next season. Another team may come out of the blue completely. It’s way too early to make any kind of assumptions, but the Eagles probably do have a better list at this stage.
HB Meyers: My favourite game of the season was Richmond v West Coast at the ‘G. I reckon they’re the two teams everyone thinks SHOULD play off in 2020, but there’s so much water to go under the bridge yet. Injuries, win or loss streaks… I’m gonna enjoy the ride.
Trent Shields: The Eagles are probably the best placed at this stage to bridge the substantial gap that appeared late in the season between the Tigers and the rest of the pack. The addition of Tim Kelly to further strengthen an already powerful midfield group, along with a fit Nic Nat are a scary proposition, however as is a Tiger outfit with the return of Rance.
I wouldn’t discount Collingwood or the Giants though. The Magpies finished top 4 despite numerous hardships and a devastating injury list and missed a GF berth by a single kick. They would need De Goey and Moore to step up to consistent AA form, but that isn’t out of the realms of possibility. The Giants were eviscerated in the Grand Final but that shouldn’t discount the leaps they made with their courageous finals series. A young list choc-full of talent now have the belief and hurt to drive them even further, Jacobs is a considerable upgrade on Mumford too to rectify a weakness.
Nick Sluggett: Absolutely not. I do have a bias towards my team, but you only have to look to 2018 to see how things can turn in a single game. Based on the stories around this trade period I would say Richmond has several rivals next year. My picks for contenders outside of Richmond are GWS, Collingwood, Geelong, Bulldogs and Brisbane.
Troy Edwards: Who do you guys rate as next season’s top 10 under 23s
Matthew Passmore: I like Worpel. It’s not often a player gets their club’s B&F within their first couple of years. He’ll be a genuine star if he can lift it to another level next season.
HB Meyers: Mentioned him above – Tim Taranto is an absolute gun. He’d be my first pick. Aaron Naughton, Cam Zurhaar (hard at it), Sam Walsh, Connor Rozee, Hugh McCluggage, and I reckon we might see Tim English start to emerge next season as well.
Trent Shields: I’ve copped out and listed 11 in no particular order: Harris Andrews, Sam Taylor, Blake Hardwick, Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Jacob Hopper, Tim Taranto, James Worpel, Clayton Oliver, Josh Dunkley, and Liam Ryan. Giants & Lions with three, Hawks with two.
Rhett Mulder: Do you think ASADA will show leniency towards Rioli or will they throw the book at him?
Julian Russo: You’d like them to, but why would they, it’s such a serious offence that can alter careers outside of his. I reckon he’s never stepping foot on an AFL field again.
Matthew Passmore: ASADA operates under WADA who have no idea who Rioli is. They will likely adhere to the status quo for such indiscretions. Having said that, Rioli is up for two offenses but it is unlikely they will be run back to back. So at the very least, he will only get the highest penalty of the two.
HB Meyers: I hate to say it, as I love watching the bloke play, but I reckon he cops a decent whack for this. I hope it’s not the maximum penalty, but I have a feeling it’ll still be a pretty hefty suspension.
Trent Shields: The machinations of drug penalties are too complex for me to even attempt a guess at what will happen. The facts of the matter from where I see it though are: A). If Rioli is suspended for an extended period of time then the AFL will be worse off for his unique talent not being there; & B). Rioli has himself to blame for this whole disaster, the amount of time and resources invested by clubs and the AFL into education it is hard to fathom how this occurred.
Nick Sluggett: There will be no leniency. He faked one test and then proceeded to test positive for an illicit substance on game day, just weeks later. He’s looking at 4 years, no doubt.
Liam Lynch: Where do you see Tim Kelly slotting into West Coast’s midfield next year, and what is your predicted best 22?
Julian Russo: Where’s he slotting in? More like, who’s he pushing out? For a player like Kelly, you move whoever around to get him in the guts.
Matthew Passmore: With Rioli not playing, I think they will simply fill his spot with a resting mid and rotate Kelly through the wing as needed. I don’t think anyone needs to come out of the side specifically, but it will certainly put pressure on the players to perform, which is always a good thing.
HB Meyers: Best 22 is a bit tough to fill out, but a midfield with rotations of Nic Nat, Yeo, Shuey, Hutchings, Sheed, Redden and Kelly is just about the best in the game. I do think you have to have either Redden or Hutchings in with a combination of Kelly/Shuey/Yeo/Sheed to add that extra defensive pressure, but the presence of Yeo, who can play the defensive role means the Eagles have a lot of versatility in there.
Kelly, Shuey and Yeo had ten games in 2019 where one of them racked up 10+ clearances. Any one of them roving to Naitanui is big clearance numbers waiting to happen.
Trent Shields: Imagine adding a player who finished 5th in the Brownlow to a group already including Shuey, Yeo, Gaff, Redden, Sheed? The frightening reality is that as good as Kelly has been in his first two years, he may not be better than any of the existing group already there. All are in their prime and must realise the time is now to capitalise on premiership potential. I see him slotting into a fearsome rotation and with his flexibility he may also go forward to further boost an already potent attacking 6.
Nick Sluggett: I see Tim Kelly slotting straight into West Coast’s best midfielder slot. Asking for a best 22 this far out is a bit steep. But the combination of Nic Nat, Kelly, Shuey, Yeo, Sheed, Gaff and Redden should strike fear into opposition coaches and players.
Michael Barbaro: Predicted wins for Suns next season?
Julian Russo: Give me seven, they started strong last year and then completely fell off. I’d like to see them remain competitive for all 22 games.
Matthew Passmore: The Suns started this season really well. They won three games this season, but could easily have won another three or four, with some very close losses. The most disappointing aspect for them was how uncompetitive they were towards the end of the season as the young side fatigued. I think next year is less about wins and losses and more about maintaining that early season competitiveness. If they can be competitive all year, they could win around eight games.
HB Meyers: I think 5-6 is a realistic number for the Suns, but what I really want to see is a competitive team in the second half grind of the season. They averaged over 70 points per loss in the last eight or nine games. Can’t have that occurring.
Trent Shields: I don’t think 5, 4 or even 3 wins next year is a disaster depending on how the team and players develop. This season the three wins came in the first month and then close losses became blow outs. A more even spread of wins and competitive efforts while the next gen build confidence at this level and perfect a game plan would be a good launching pad for genuine move up the ladder around 2022. For the record I’ll guess 4.
Nick Sluggett: They won what… three games this year in the first few weeks before falling apart? I’m guessing 4-5 wins in 2020. They pick up the premier talents in the draft and get another pre-season into the young core. Also have recruited Ellis and Greenwood which provide some level of experience in the midfield.
Colin Larter: What do you think about the AFL when manipulating the draw as they do each year to have Richmond, Collingwood and Geelong all play 2 games interstate in the last four rounds, as everyone of the interstate teams already do, so that the issue of travel is not weighted so heavily against the interstate clubs come Finals time?
Julian Russo: I love this idea, it could fit in nicely to the way the fixture is constructed with the 6-6-6 system we have right now. Unfortunately, fixture changes aren’t what the AFL are focusing on now, just rule changes.
Matthew Passmore: I like the idea in theory, but I am firmly against any kind of draw manipulation. I think to make the fixture as fair as possible they need to not manipulate it in any way, except those last five weeks where teams play opponents who finished in the same third of the ladder they did in the previous season. Too much tinkering just creates problems down the track.
HB Meyers: A lot of assumptions that certain teams are going to make finals in that question… Given the nature of the competition, you’d almost have to make sure EVERY team played on the road once or twice in the last few weeks if you wanted complete parity. Teams come from nowhere all the time to make runs at the finals, and often do that off the back off a weak draw. Really hard to predict which teams will come from where, as I actually believe we have, for the most part, a really even competition.
But I get what you’re saying – maybe the top Vic-based teams from the year before have a couple of road trips late in the season? If that is possible, I reckon it should be the case.
Trent Shields: I understand the commercial realities of running a competition seemingly more interested in revenue than fairness, but I don’t like any fixture manipulation. That said, I don’t think your suggestion is a bad one and may in fact lessen the advantage Victorian teams enjoy with where the Grand Final is played.
Nick Sluggett: I would love to be able to tell the future, but unfortunately I can’t. The way the fixture works is to accommodate all of the key fixtures and then fill in the gaps. I don’t think this will be changing anytime soon.
Sue Berlic: Do contracts mean anything anymore ?
Julian Russo: To me, they mean player security, a 22 year old kid getting guaranteed money for 4 years is life changing and being financially secure is everything.
Matthew Passmore: A contract gives power to the club. A player under contract can request a trade, but their club is under absolutely no obligation to see out that request. If they choose to put the player on the market, it gives the club the chance to make sure the trade is heavily weighted in their favour. So contracts may not mean much to players, but they are certainly important for clubs.
HB Meyers: Truthfully, not a hell of a lot. It’s nice security for players, but Tim Kelly-aside, it’s not often we see players made to honour their deals. Will be interesting to see how the Daniher/Hill/Howard situations all unfold in the next however long. If you have a player unhappy on your list, how much does that impact the rest of the team?
Trent Shields: Contracts haven’t meant anything for years, loyalty is a term that both players and clubs pay lip-service to, and the only thing that matters is money. Even when you hear clubs and players talk about taking pay-cuts to stay together and valuing success over financial gain this needs to be taken with a grain of salt as success breeds further financial opportunities down the track, as does the extended network of larger clubs.
Nick Sluggett: Absolutely. They provide security to the player for a house deposit and for the club to the AFL that they’re spending the required amount in their salary cap. Haha. But seriously they do. Just ask Tim Kelly. I actually don’t think Daniher and Hill will move. On the back of the success of Geelong holding Kelly I think clubs will begin to back themselves in, when it comes to players requesting trades and the incoming club not offering “fair” value.
Nick McPhate: If Dogs get Bruce any chance of Naughton heading back to defence?
Julian Russo: Definitely not! Naughton is a couple of break out games away from being considered elite. With the two of them down there, I expect one of them to flourish.
Matthew Passmore: They could, but why? If you can have two good forwards up forward then you may as well do that. But it will give the Dogs the freedom to use him as a swing-man when needed which gives them plenty of options to deal with match situations.
HB Meyers: I getcha, Nick. I was a little against Naughton going forward – he looked so at home as a defender, didn’t he? But you know what – I was dead wrong. Naughton attacks the footy brilliantly in the air and at 19, played the deep forward role like a veteran. Let him fill out a little more, get a bit stronger and he’ll lead the league in contested grabs. Best if he does that inside 50.
Trent Shields: Don’t think so, while a prophetic coach or media performer (no doubt a backman) coined the phrase ‘defence wins premierships’ some time in the dark ages, it is actually goals that win games. Stack the forward line, they’ve already got a great midfield, and dour defence, it’s always been more difficult scoring than stopping, put your best players in the forward 50.
Keiran McLeod: What is Joe Daniher’s real value. Two top 10 picks seems to be massive overs for a player who has only played a quarter of all possible games over the last 2 years and is no guarantee to play again, but the footy media has taken it as gospel that the two picks plus a best 22 player is fair. I just can’t wrap my head around that logic.
Matthew Passmore: Joe Daniher is a player who has realistically played one good season and has been injured for two. He can’t be considered a reliable player and is often pretty inconsistent when he does play. He has plenty of potential but the uncertainty of form and injury lowers his value. Secondly, he has requested a trade to the Swans who already have a pretty good forward line. They gain a bit by recruiting him, but don’t lose much by not.
The Swans will be looking to improve their midfield and the draft is the best way for them to do that, making any chance of a first rounder unlikely (and two first rounders virtually impossible). Essendon might get that if they shopped around other teams, but GWS are in a similar position and Daniher seems keen on NSW. Still, He’s a contracted player and Essendon, like Fremantle, have every right to ask for a deal which heavily favours them- and should be doing that. If I was Sydney’s list manager though, I wouldn’t be offering more than a second round at this stage (knowing it likely wouldn’t happen)- but open to re-evaluating that if he puts in a full season at Essendon next year.
HB Meyers: Personally, given his recent injury history, if the Bombers got pick five for him, I’d say that was a pretty good deal for them. I’d grab that, pick up Josh Jenkins and be pretty pleased with how it all turned out. But we know the Bombers want more. Who knows…maybe they’ll get it? If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.
Trent Shields: You can consider this two ways, based on 2017 form Daniher is worth two first round picks, maybe a very good player and a first rounder. Based on 2018/19 form Daniher is worth a second round pick, maybe. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, one top ten pick is more than fair from my perspective.
Vanessa Tregillis: What are your thoughts on the outcome of the Crows’ external review?
Matthew Passmore: A clean out is a good thing for a club under pressure. Any club who has underperformed for a couple of seasons should be having an external review. Whoever comes into coach will have a clean slate to play with, which is a fantastic thing. It’ll likely be a long road for Adelaide, but it would be longer if they didn’t have the review. I think the end result seems reasonably good, but we’ll know a lot more by the end of next year.
HB Meyers: I see all at the very top of the tree survived… as you’d expect. This is as close as it gets to a clean out, and I have no doubt that Don Pyke saw this coming a mile off and opted for the door. Jumped before he could be pushed. With the player exodus, I hope that those left genuinely want to be there. If they do, the Crows may not be the spent force everyone has them pegged as.
Trent Shields: Several other clubs have faced a fork in the road moment over the last decade, namely Geelong, Richmond and Collingwood. Those three probably more for on field rather than off field, but mostly they determined to support the incumbents, Adelaide have gone mostly the other way. It remains to be seen how this will play out, and until a new senior coach is appointed or officially announced, it’s difficult to even guess which direction they’ll go.
Nick Sluggett: Pretty much everyone gone except the CEO? Who organised this review? I will be looking forward to seeing how their new-look footy department functions and how long the CEO will hang around.
Marcus Phillips: Almost every season a team rises from the depths and into the finals, [occasionally Prems]. Who’s brave enuff to predict a 2020 vision?[no dreaming barrackees, please].
Julian Russo: Carlton! They finally have the right coach and a great culture at the club. They’d have to climb past a lot of teams to get there, but with their bottom 6 draw, I think they can do it.
Matthew Passmore: At the risk of sounding like a dreaming barracker, I think Fremantle have a genuine chance at finals next year. They were looking at making finals for most of this season, have a good list and a new coach should bring improvement for next year. I also wouldn’t rule out North or Carlton who finished their seasons strongly.
HB Meyers: I’m going to say North. I’m a big believer in allowing players a season to settle before judging them in a new team, and I hope 2020 sees Polec, Hall and Pittard all excel. But the one thing I am looking forward to is seeing Ben Jacobs back on the park to challenge Matt de Boer and Mark Hutchings for the title of best tagger in the league. Jacobs makes a huge difference to the Kangaroos’ midfield – check their win/loss with and without him for proof.
Trent Shields: I don’t mind the selection of North or Freo (if Hill stays) from my learned colleagues above, but I’ll take the Dogs, even though they made the finals they were out of gas by the time September came around and were well out of contention for most of the season. With an elite midfield, developing stars up forward and a dour defence, added to yet another season development for English they should be planning on a top 4 finish.
Nick Sluggett: The obvious choice is the Dogs. if they can add the two bookends, it really gives their team the look of being just about complete. I also never write off the Hawks, particularly if they add players like Jon Patton and also get their Brownlow winning midfielder back next season.
Joseph Zampogna: With the draft becoming increasingly compromised with more compensation picks, academy selections and clubs becoming more sophisticated in exploiting the system to accumulate draft points and match bids (Eg. Sydney last year with live trading), what measures, if any, should the AFL introduce to improve the integrity of the system?
Matthew Passmore: I think the system works reasonably well. Sure there’s elements that muck the order around but ask yourself this: how important is the order, anyway? I think there is way too much value placed on draft picks (especially in trading); after all, a pick is not a player. How many top 20 picks have turned out to be no good, and how many later picks have become superstars? I do like the live trading, but considering every selection is a gamble anyway, I don’t think the AFL needs to change too much. Academy selections, if anything, add to the integrity because they ensure clubs get first chance at recruiting the players they develop.
HB Meyers: Glad you asked this, Joseph. I hate the compromised drafts. Unlike the esteemed Mr Passmore above, I don’t like academy picks, and although I love the sentiment of the father/son rule, it’s just another thing that skews the integrity of the draft. I love the live trading, but the whole points system… too smart for its own good at times.
I like when a team finishes last and gets the first pick. I like when a team finishes third last and gets the third pick. I like things simple… yes, I am a very simple man.
Trent Shields: The AFL keep adding complexity, I don’t think they are actually interested in integrity, fairness or an even distribution of success. Now that I have a better understanding of the points system, I don’t mind it but do have some concerns about academies especially when these were all abandoned when the draft was established as they provided an inequitable advantage to clubs with access to better areas.
Nick Sluggett: The AFL shouldn’t have to do any more. The draft has been litigated to the point for over complication. What people should be doing is looking at the other ways to improve their team. You point out Sydney as a manipulator of the draft, but how many players have they pulled out of the preseason and rookie drafts? Countless. What about Richmond’s current premiership team, I think there is about 4-5 players that were rookie elevations and such. As pointed out above, draft picks can be overrated. There are no guarantees.
Nick John: Is the trade period’s length for the benefit of clubs or so the media can talk shit for two weeks?
Julian Russo: Neither, it’s for the benefit of the AFL, with the trade period being two weeks long, the AFL stays relevant for two more weeks in October. Although, it could be for the benefit of the players, they may see someone go somewhere and wish to join them and the two week period could help give the time to facilitate that.
Matthew Passmore: I have started referring to certain “reporters” as fiction writers. What they actually know is no more than the rest of us, because what is really happening generally happens behind closed doors. All they do is speculate, judge, and make as many stories as they can because those stories turn into profits for their employers. The AFL love it, because it keeps the sport in the headlines and overshadows the start of the Cricket and Soccer season. Clubs don’t really need it because they don’t ‘need’ a trade period to start talking trades; they could easily do it in the weeks leading up to a shortened trade period- and likely do anyway. Really, the trade period should be around three, maybe four days and that’s it. It’s far too long and it’s honestly becoming a joke. Still, it’s a Joke that people listen to, and ratings are more important to the AFL and (in particular) the media than anything else.
HB Meyers: The first two days of posturing and piss-farting around should have been enough to convince the AFL it’s too long. Either shorten it or allow teams to deal with each other from the moment the season ends until Xmas or New Year. Having all these bozos gather and puff their chests out for a week or so can be pretty pointless at times. If clubs want to get a deal done, they will, irrespective of the time frame. I don’t know why clubs need to all gather like a flock of sheep to nut out a deal in a nine day period. Just let them act like adults and work things out on their own time.
Trent Shields: I love a good cynical take, especially at the AFLs expense, however in this case I’m interested to hear the club’s take on this as I think they are as much to blame as the AFL. I think the ego of certain list and player managers like the spotlight for as long as possible. The entire process could be done in 48 hours I think as a lock in at a hotel.
Nick Sluggett: A little from column A. And a little from Column B.
Thanks to all who took the time to write a question. We’ll do a couple more of these over the off-season and they’ll pop up frequently as the new season gets underway.