I watch a bit of footy… that’s a bit of an understatement. I watch a heap as I like to have a slight idea of what I am talking about when it comes to each team. Whilst some of the things I notice are common knowledge (and don’t you guys love pointing that out), some of them aren’t.

So I thought I’d jot a few down and gauge what you guys think.

Here we go.

 

BRISBANE HAS THE POST-ROBINSON WING FUTURE SEWN UP.

One player I have been watching this year is 20-year old Zac Bailey. As the Lions continue to morph into a powerhouse, the emergence of Bailey as an elite wingman has been a little lost.

But hang on, I hear you think… don’t McCluggage and Robinson play on the wings for the Lions? Yeah, they do, but when one is off for a rest or moves into the action, Bailey picks up the slack.

And he does it as well as anyone in the game right now.

Each week, here at The Mongrel Punt, we compile our wingman rankings… I mean, they can’t even get a position in the AA team half the time in the position they play – someone has to ensure they get some recognition. Despite being the third wheel when it comes to the Brisbane wingmen, Bailey has found himself knocking on the door of the top five. That’s pretty bloody impressive.

The last quarter against the Saints was tight this week, but it was the 20 year old who stepped up and made the big plays. He had five touches, which doesn’t sound like much, but each and every one of them was telling. In a game decided by just two points, Bailey’s last quarter effort was huge and I have little doubt that Chris Fagan will be pointing out how important his efforts were when the review rolls around.

He is getting better week by week and will be a huge fixture in this Brisbane team for many years to come. With Mitch Robinson now 31, the next big thing on the wing is Zac Bailey. Mark it down now.

 

THE BLUES DON’T NEED PATRICK CRIPPS TO BE SUPERMAN.

It’s slowly happening, but it is happening nonetheless. Carlton are starting to morph into an actual team, as opposed to one Herculean midfielder and a few blokes around him.

2020 has seen a slight drop in form from Patrick Cripps, but the upside of this has seen several players pick up the slack. Ed Curnow has once again provided immense value in the middle and should be the Blues’ Best and Fairest if current form continues, whilst we have seen the maturation of players like Will Setterfield and Sam Petrevski-Seton add stability to the side.

Additions to the team like Jack Martin and Marc Pittonet have been astute acquisitions and with several high-quality players sitting on the injured list, including the greatly curly-hope, Charlie Curnow, suddenly there is no need to look for green shoots anymore.

The Blues are blossoming right now. And they’re doing it without Cripps having to drag them, kicking and screaming, to wins.

They have given themselves every opportunity to play finals in 2020 and I have to admit, I didn’t think that would happen this season. 2021, yes… but Carlton could be a little bit ahead of schedule. A win over the old enemy in Round 14 and the lid comes off for Blues fans. Until then, wisely, they remain cautiously optimistic.

 

THE HAWKS ARE IN TROUBLE.

I’m a Hawks man, and I am prepared for some very tough times ahead.

With James Sicily going down with a season-ending knee injury… and I am not just talking about this season, it takes away one of the Hawks’ best three players. And with Tom Mitchell only now starting to find the footy and Jaeger O’Meara perhaps not hitting the heights everyone hoped he would, it leaves a team looking old and ill-prepared for the next few years.

Hawthorn still possess a great duo up forward in Gunston and Breust, but their topping up is starting to come home to roost right about now. Will Day looks good, and James Worpel has already proven he has what it takes, but outside of those two, I am struggling to see the next brown and gold star in the making.

Is it Jack Scrimshaw? He’ll get his chance to shine now with Sicily’s absence. Will Finn Maginess be the one to jump out of the box when his opportunity comes? Or will James Cousins emerge as a player over the next 12 months?

There were some good signs against Port – signs that there is fight left in this team and a willingness to continue to compete even though at this point, losses would be more valuable in terms of draft position. That is promising, but looking at the list right now, is middle of the table the best the Hawks could actually hope for in the next couple of seasons.

As a Hawks fan, I’m worried and I reckon I have good cause to be.

 

GOLD COAST ARE NOW SET UP BEAUTIFULLY.

Suns fans may not want to hear it, but here are four names that may not be with the club next season.

Will Brodie, Alex Sexton, Brayden Fiorini, Peter Wright.

No, this isn’t a Gold Coast bash… settle down – this is actually a great spot for the club to be in. Each and every one of those four names would be in moderate to high demand at a number of other club. Sexton would add some goal-kicking punch to any team requiring it. At 26, he is in his prime right now, and if he is not in their best 22, greener pastures could beckon. He has been dropped twice this season after leading the team in scoring last year. Something’s up.

Will Brodie cannot get a game and would have teams lining up to offer him the chance of running around in their midfield. He is a big body and a team like Essendon could really use someone possessing his skill set.

Brayden Fiorini has gone from averaging 25+ disposals per game in 2019 to having three touches in Round 12 and being dropped again for Round 13.

Add in Peter Wright, who will continue to sit behind the duo of Ben King and Sam Day, and the Suns have a bunch of assets that, combined, will fetch a hefty price at the trade table.

But what do they want? What do they need? Do they try to parlay these players into a series of future picks to ensure they are provided a continuous supply of good draft selections as they improve as a team? Or do they trade for a running half back or defensive pillar to aid Sam Collins, particularly with the health of Rory Thompson a real concern?

For once, the Suns are in a position of real power heading into this off-season, and with a midfield core of Rowell, Greenwood, Swallow , Anderson and Miller, they can now start to build toward the club’s first-ever finals appearance. Is 2021 a possibility? And if not, 2022 would be almost a certainty.

 

MATURE AGED PLAYERS ARE THE BEST WAY TO WIN RIGHT NOW

In doing a bit of research into the players who are getting rag-dolled in “dangerous tackles” over the past couple of season, something became apparent to me. The teams with mature bodies are usually the ones that win the most when it counts.

Disagree? Well, Richmond is the obvious case – where are their weedy kids? Brisbane is another – they’re playing a team of experienced players with their youngest regular selected players being Cam Rayner and Zac Bailey, both of whom are battle-hardened.

And this season, I started looking at St Kilda. Where are their kids? Nick Coffield? Max King? Jack Bytel? All solid (well, King isn’t soild but he is 90+ kilos). No teenagers.

Yes, the teams languishing at the bottom of the ladder may want to sell hope by playing the kids. Adelaide have Will Hamill, Fischer McAsey and Harry Schoenberg running around out there – they’re all under 20. Add to them Ned McHenry who clocks in at 70 kilos, Lachie Sholl and Chayce Jones who both weight 77 kilos and you get an indication as to why they’re getting knocked around in the contest.

I’ve long thought that the kids coming in have to be extremely talented to stand up against men. Some can do it, and some teams can carry one or two, but the best teams have 22 mature working parts on any gameday are the ones to keep an eye on. They have 22 men pulling in the same direction. Take a look at the teams performing the best this season – they’re the ones able to stand in tackles and withstand the pressure when it comes, and I’ll be backing the teams who have that component come finals time.Taberner

 

RICHMOND HAVE MANAGED TO FLY UNDER THE RADAR.

This is bordering on ridiculous, but I keep hearing people state that they’re not sold on Richmond in 2020.

Huh?!?!?

Did I miss something?

They’ve moved to within half a game of third spot with an injury list this season that has included Trent Cotchin, David Astbury, Dion Prestia, Jack Higgins, Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis as well as the absences of Bachar Houli and Shane Edwards who opted to stay in Victoria due to family reasons when the team went into the Queensland hub, their position is bloody exceptional.

After unexpected losses to Hawthorn and St Kilda, the Tigers have rattled off a 7-2 record and unearthed new stars in the making, including Noah Balta and Shai Bolton. However, as I threw together my own version of the running All-Australian team for The Mongrel Punt, here I was down to the last couple of positions and… no Tigers.

Even as someone who openly acknowledges that Richmond are flying under the radar, I couldn’t find a place in the team for one player wearing yellow and black. Dusty has had a couple of Dusty-like games, Liam Baker had a huge outing along the way, as did Kane Lambert and Kamdyn McIntosh, and Nick Vlastuin has been good, but the more I look at things, the more it becomes apparent that Richmond have a list where ANYONE can bob up and hurt you. This week it was Shai Bolton and Dusty. Next week, it may be Dylan Grimes. The week after, Lynch kicks a bag. They just seem to find someone different to step up all the damn time!

And so, with players becoming more available and the pointy end of the season beckoning, the time to stop ignoring Richmond is upon us. Their best footy is ahead of them, and in playing some of their most ordinary footy this season, they’re still at seven wins, four losses and a draw.

And they’re sitting in a perfect spot for another run at the flag… those infuriating, magnificent bastards.

And to those who have been throwing the claims of “bias” at me (but mainly the site in general), please join Mrs Mongrel and I after this round on the Mongrel Punt Podcast when we count down the things we like best about the Tigers. Surprisingly, there are quite a few.

 

MATT TABERNER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED BIG FORWARD IN THE GAME.

So, one player has managed to kick a goal in every round this season –Matt Taberner, yet whilst the plaudits have been thick and fast for forwards like Josh Kennedy and Charlie Dixon, it seems that consistency and reliability are qualities that aren’t really recognised by the AFL media.

Otherwise, the season of Matt Taberner would be more widely applauded. He sits fourth in goals scored, second in contested marks and fourth in marks inside 50 this season and when you consider how often the Dockers have had to play in slippery conditions, it makes his achievements all the more impressive. After 40+ contests without a one-on-one loss, Carlton defender, Jacob Weitering had his streak snapped when Taberner manhandled him to take contested grabs, and at 27 we are probably seeing the big fella playing his best footy.

He was at it again this week, taking seven first-half marks as Freo set up their win over Sydney. Granted, he was aided by the absence of Dane Rampe, but it is unfair to judge his performance on who wasn’t playing. He was way too much for Lewis Melican, as he has been for most defenders in 2020.

Taberner’s best return this season is four goals against the Pies in Round Nine, but I feel that he needs a bag of five or six to cement him as one of the best big men in the game in the minds of those who have chosen to ignore what’s happened until now.

 

SMALL FORWARDS NEED TO DO MORE THAN JUST KICK GOALS

This may be a little harsh on one player, but I hope you can see the point.

Charlie Cameron is a great goal kicker, and by proxy that makes him a great small forward. However, when I look at what I want from a small forward, hitting the scoreboard ticks just one box. As difficult as that aspect is, there’s more to being a gun x-factor player than just that.

The ability to apply high-pressure and creativity with the footy in hand are two facets that every small forward should possess, and never has that been more apparent than in 2020. With Dan Butler at St Kilda, Liam Ryan at West Coast and Tom Papley at Sydney, Cameron has had what seemed to be a sure place in the next few All-Australian teams snatched away from him.

Of these four, Cameron is third in score involvements, fourth in goal assists and third in tackles inside 50. He is also third in goals scored. As it stands, the efforts of Butler and Papley in particular have made the efforts of Cameron look a little one dimensional. He has six rounds left to turn things around and be a better-rounded small forward.

Amazingly, despite a disastrous Round 11 performance, if given the chance to pick up any of the, I’d grab Liam Ryan. His pack-marking prowess adds something none of the others possess.

 

ZAK BUTTERS COULD BE SOMETHING SPECIAL

You could be forgiven for thinking that Butters was the distant third of the Port Adelaide draft picks last season. Connor Rozee had a blinder and was the pick of many for the Rising Star behind Sam Walsh. Then you had Xavier Duursma tearing up the wings as he stormed to a top ten finish in the Port Best and Fairest.

And behind them was Zak Butters. The third of the big three recruits.

But things have changed in 2020. With Duursma suffering an early-season hamstring injury and Rozee unable to recapture that same scintillating form before hitting the injury list, himself, it has been the emergence of Butters that has delighted Port fans as they have established themselves as premiership contenders.

And it was on display this week as he split the pack to kick the game-icing goal against Hawthorn. Watching on replay, it is probably the purest ruck-to-rover connection we’ve seen, and that is saying something in a season where Nic Naitanui has made an art form of it.

Butters brings a sense of desperation, combined with clean hands and silky skills that have added an extra dimension to Port across half forward and the way he attacks the loose ball has created many scoring opportunities out of what seemed to be 50-50 situations. It may have taken him a bit longer than the other two, but Butters arrived in 2020.

And the wait was worth it.

 

THE BOMBERS ARE STILL TREADING WATER

Did we get excited when they sat at 4-1 after the first six rounds (there was that cancelled game against Melbourne in that mix)? It would have been easy to get caught up in the excitement, but wins over Sydney, Fremantle and North Melbourne were a bit misleading, particularly when you look at where those teams are on the ladder now.

Injuries to key players – Stringer, Heppell, Daniher again, Hooker and Ambrose have left the Bombers looking thin up forward and down back, and they have continued to attempt to function without a designated inside mid, instead relying on Dylan Shiel and Andrew McGrath to get the job done. They have tried, but this isn’t primary school – trying isn’t good enough.

There have been a few positives – the emergence of Jordan Ridley the best of them, however despite sitting just half a game out of the top eight, it seems like it is going to be another year wasted.

Their list is clogged with blokes like Daniher, Conor McKenna who wants to go home and seems more determined to use the “solo” than to do anything worthwhile, and Orazio Fantasia who spent the last off-season playing funny buggers with Port Adelaide and has offered bugger-all since… the list needs a bit of a clean out and it should use one rule to guide it – if you don’t want to be here, you’re gone.

Everyone knows the stat about finals wins, but the Bombers may have bigger problems unless they start getting as tough on their own list as they apparently are at the trade table. Addition by subtraction coming up.

Their loss to the Tigers was clouded by a couple of iffy decisions, but the reality of it was that the Bombers really struggled to progress the footy anywhere near their attacking zone. A 66-24 count in the forward fifty entries should be the talking point for the Bomber fans – instead, we’re yapping about Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin “staging”.

There are bigger problems to address, people.

 

NIC NAITANUI IS A FORCE OF NATURE

I just want to state that in my own AA-team after Round 12, I had Nic Nat as the number one ruck. Some of my fellow-mongrels thought that Todd Goldstein deserved the nod and voted that way. In the end, I was outvoted (bloody democracy…) and Nic Nat was relegated to the bench.

Did he read that?

Did someone tell him?

Because in the first quarter against the Giants, he made a mockery of that selection, notching the kind of stat line some rucks would be pleased with for an entire afternoon. As the Eagles jumped GWS, Nic Nat put his stamp on the game, with eight touches, seven hit outs, six clearances and a goal.

It was a statement, and it was heard loud and clear. If you mess with the bull, you get the horns, and if you mess with Nic Nat’s standing in the game right now, you get obliterated.

GWS thought they’d fixed their ruck problems when they recruited Sam Jacobs. Now, they’re back where they were, with Shane Mumford battling on against the best in the league. And believe me, from what I have seen this season, Nic Naitanui is the best in the league.

 

A FEW QUICKIES

Yep, the story of Joe Ganino’s entire love life

  • Players to beat Toby Greene this season – Luke McDonald and Brad Sheppard. If Sheppard isn’t in your All-Australian team at the moment, make a change
  • Patrick Dangerfield is hitting form at the right time and will no doubt be in contention for another AA selection, but the efforts of Cam Guthrie on this Geelong team have been hugely underrated
  • I’m not really sold on Stephen Coniglio’s captaincy at the moment. Sad to say, but Phil Davis was the kind of guy I’d follow into battle. I don’t feel the same about Cogs.
  • Love what Lachie Hunter has brought to the Dogs upon his return. They look like a powerful running team with him in the mix – opens the game up.
  • Really disappointed with Darcy Fogarty this season. I had such high hopes for him but he just seems lost. he attacked the contest better in his rookie year of 2018. Elliot Himmelberg is looking like a better option.
  • Fogarty is nowhere near as disappointing as Jeremy Cameron this season, however. He’s hitting contests with the intensity of a sun shower.
  • James Rowbottom is the next big thing in Sydney. Already strong at the contest, as soon as he starts winning some easy footy to complement his contested work, the Swans have found their running mate for Isaac Heeney.
  • Can’t wait to see what North Melbourne does this off-season. I’ve read about them targeting Zac Williams, but who they let go will be just as interesting as who they pick up.
  • Mason Cox has five games to justify his place on the Collingwood list. With Ben Reid and Brody Mihocek hurt, his time is now… or never.
  • There is no more important defender in the game than Jeremy McGovern. His body has betrayed him this year, but when healthy, as he now seems, it is him, Harris Andrews and Luke Ryan who can change a game with their presence. His game against GWS was insanely good.

 

Not bad for a Monday morning, Mongrel… not bad at all. As always, your input is more than welcome and if you like what you’re reading here on a weekly (almost daily) basis, please consider becoming a member of the site to help us grow. Click the pup in the pic below – your support is greatly appreciated.

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