Back in March, when the entire competition was shut down, very few people in the AFL world thought that this season would reach this point. 18 rounds have been completed, 153 matches have been run and won, and now we have the best eight teams fighting it out for the ultimate glory. From an individual perspective, 22 players have put together a body work across 18 rounds to consider themselves worthy of the Mongrel Punt’s All-Australian Team. So, have any players fallen out of favour? Who will be chosen to lead our group of superstars?
Ladies and Gentlemen, we give to you, the Mongrel Punt’s All Australian Team for season 2020.
BACK POCKET: BRAD SHEPPARD (WEST COAST)
Back in round 12, we labelled Brad Sheppard “underrated”. While it is true that if Sheppard played in Victoria he’d have received much more praise, after watching Sheppard’s 2020, we can say without a doubt that he is underrated no more. Tasked with shutting down the opposition’s best small forward, Sheppard has taken on the added responsibility of both defence and rebounding attack, and has done both brilliantly. Averaging 16 disposals, and sitting second at the Eagles for defensive rebounds, Sheppard was selected in all but one of the Mongrel’s teams.
FULL BACK: STEVEN MAY (MELBOURNE)
What a career turnaround from the former Gold Coast captain. Since arriving at Melbourne on big money at the start of 2019, Steven May has had what can only be described as a topsy-turvy start to his life as a Demon. After a less than stellar 2019 which included weight and discipline issues, May has improved out of sight to finally fulfil his potential as an excellent one-on-one defender. Usurping Jacob Weitering as our second defender, May battled with Darcy Moore for the full back position, and won out after receiving seven selections to Moore’s six.
BACK POCKET: BRAYDEN MAYNARD (COLLINGWOOD)
Turning 24 just two days ago, Brayden Maynard has fully cemented himself as one of the competition’s best young defenders. Averaging 19 disposals and rarely dipping his consistency, Maynard has formed a partnership with Darcy Moore that will be a mainstay in Collingwood’s defence for the next decade to come. Possessing a toughness that most find hard to deal with, and an elite disposal efficiency, Maynard sits third at Collingwood for disposals and first in defensive rebounds. Maynard only missed selection in two of the nine Mongrel teams submitted.
HALF BACK FLANK: LUKE RYAN (FREMANTLE)
Like Sheppard and Maynard, Luke Ryan has retained his place in our backline due to some stunning individual efforts in the back end of season 2020. Sitting second at the Dockers for disposals, second in marks, first by a mile in defensive rebounds (which he also leads competition wide), Ryan has stepped up brilliantly and filled the void left by Joel Hamling and Alex Pearce. Ryan’s disposal efficiency is at a career-best 85%, and he is still just 24 years of age. Ryan was a unanimous selection, either in the back pocket or across half back.
CENTRE HALF BACK: HARRIS ANDREWS (BRISBANE)
Despite missing the final three matches of the minor round, there was no doubt among the Mongrels that Harris Andrews was the best defender this season. Sitting third in the league for spoils, Andrews just kept on keeping on, and Brisbane did extremely well to cover Andrews for the final games of the season. There is some talk that Andrews will be fit to play in Brisbane’s first final, and it is very difficult to see the Lions saluting this season if Andrews is not in the back half of the ground. It was a four way battle for the key defensive spots, and Andrews missed selection in only two teams, undoubtedly due to him missing games with his injury.
HALF BACK FLANK: NICK HAYNES (GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY)
With news that Zac Williams has decided to explore free agency, star Giant Nick Haynes remains the last man standing in the annuls of GWS interceptors. In a disappointing year for the Giants, Haynes has been a shining light, and has consistently saved the Giants when games threatened to be taken away from them. Averaging 16 disposals and seven marks a game, Haynes received selection in seven teams, and it could be argued that had his team actually produced a season many know they are capable of, Haynes would’ve likely been a unanimous selection.
WING: SAM MENEGOLA (GEELONG)
The best wingman in the competition by a fair margin, Sam Menegola has capped off a brilliant season to rival Tom Hawkins as Geelong’s best player for season 2020. Averaging 22 disposals and kicking 13 goals, Menegola has taken the pressure off Geelong’s ageing stars, and taken on the role of midfield talisman in a team that includes Dangerfield, Ablett and Selwood. There was no doubt in the minds of the Mongrels that Menegola deserved his place on one side of the midfield square, as each team had Menegola placed on the wing.
CENTRE: TRAVIS BOAK (PORT ADELAIDE) (CAPTAIN)
Seen by many as the man most likely to knock Lachie Neale off the Brownlow Medal perch, Travis Boak has no doubt sealed his return to the AFL’s All Australian team after a six year absence. In the top 10 for disposals, and averaging five score involvements, four tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s, Boak has once again enjoyed a season free from the burden of captaincy, and in many ways, the shutdown worked wonders for Boak’s aging body, as just two of his performances this season could be described as average at worst. Only one Mongrel did not select Boak as their captain, highlighting that even without the official title, Boak is still an outstanding leader in many people’s eyes.
WING: JACK MACRAE (WESTERN BULLDOGS)
One of the biggest positives on Luke Beveridge’s team sheet is that Jack Macrae shares a midfield with Marcus Bontempelli and Josh Dunkley, thus allowing him the freedom to play his natural game. Failing to reach 20 disposals just twice in 2020, it is no surprise that Macrae gathered almost 100 more possessions than the next best Bulldog. Macrae was also first at the Bulldogs for contested possessions, score involvements, and second for clearances and tackles. Macrae missed selection in three Mongrel teams, two of which were to Lion Hugh McCluggage.
HALF FORWARD FLANK: CHRISTIAN PETRACCA (MELBOURNE)
A man who has finally reached the potential that Melbourne saw in him, Christian Petracca is arguably the most improved player in the competition for season 2020. The stats tell the story. Petracca is at the Demons: second in disposals, third for kicks, second in handballs, first by a wide margin in score involvements, first in goal assists, second for contested possessions, first for inside 50s, third for marks inside 50, third in tackles, and second for tackles inside 50. That alone tells you everything you need to know about Petracca’s 2020, and he is also sitting third in Brownlow Medal betting.
CENTRE HALF FORWARD: TOM HAWKINS (GEELONG)
Ladies and Gentlemen, your Coleman Medallist for 2020! There was simply no stopping Tom Hawkins once he ascended to the top of the mountain, and with Geelong perhaps embarking on their last premiership march, Hawkins is seen by many pundits as the man most vital to their cause. Kicking 42 goals, to be 10 clear of the next best, the Mongrels went against tradition in selecting Hawkins at centre half forward. Despite playing closer to goal than in previous years, the Mongrels felt that Hawkins ability to get up the ground had him better suited to this position than at full forward, the usual All Australian home for the leading goal kicker.
HALF FORWARD FLANK: DUSTIN MARTIN (RICHMOND)
A trip back in time will tell you that this is the seventh rolling All Australian team the Mongrel has put together since the beginning of 2019. For all his talent and accolades, amazingly, this is the first time Dustin Martin has appeared in one of our teams. Perhaps a victim of his own astronomical expectations, Martin has produced a stellar back end of 2020 to take the place of Tom Papley. Since the last version of this team, Martin has been brilliant, and has often pulled Richmond across the line to victory when it looked as though the Tigers were headed for defeat.
FORWARD POCKET: LIAM RYAN (WEST COAST)
Kicking 14 goals in his last seven games to usurp teammate Josh Kennedy from the forward line, Liam Ryan has enjoyed an exquisite end to 2020. In just his third season, Ryan has become vital to the Eagles quest for a premiership, and can always be counted on to deliver a goal when so desperately required. Increasing his goals per game average, and utilising supreme defensive pressure, Ryan has also worked himself up the ground to get more involved in the play, and has gone from high flyer to playmaker almost overnight.
FULL FORWARD: CHARLIE DIXON (PORT ADELAIDE)
The runner up in the Coleman Medal, Port Adelaide’s rise to the summit of the ladder has come largely off the back of King Charlie Dixon. First in the competition for contested marks, Ken Hinkley has based his game around Dixon’s dominance in the air, and it has remained a success throughout the entire season. A unanimous selection along with Hawkins, it is staggering that while Dixon is first in the AFL for contested marks, he sits a ridiculous 71st for total marks, highlighting that whenever he goes for the ball, it is usually with many other bodies around him, making his task that much more difficult.
FORWARD POCKET: DAN BUTLER (ST KILDA)
There was some conjecture at Mongrel Punt HQ as to whether Dan Butler had done enough to retain his place at forward pocket, but ultimately we decided to reward the efforts of Butler across the season, rather than punish the slight dip in form to conclude the minor round. Finishing eighth in the Coleman Medal race (the highest placed small forward), Butler’s goals per game average is at a career high, and he is also in career best form for pressure acts. Butler was selected in seven of the nine submitted teams.
RUCKMAN: NIC NAITANUI (WEST COAST)
Todd Goldstein has become the ultimate victim of North Melbourne’s lack of success. Coming home like an absolute freight train to steal the number one ruck position, Eagle Nic Naitanui is perhaps the most important footballer to his team in the country. It can be argued that especially this season, West Coast has looked all at sea when Nic Nat is not in the centre of the ground, and his cohesion with his midfielders has been beautiful to watch all year long. Leading the competition in hit out win percentage, Naitanui received six votes in the ruck to usurp the incumbent Goldstein.
RUCK ROVER: JACK STEELE (ST KILDA) (VICE CAPTAIN)
Enjoying by far a career best season, Jack Steele has been critical in St Kilda’s march towards finals. Seen by many as the Saints next captain, perhaps as soon as next season, Steele failed to pass 20 disposals just twice in 2020, and in both of those matches, his defensive pressure more than made up for his below average possessions. Ultra-consistent, and with leadership qualities for days, Steele is still just 24 years old and is yet to reach 100 games (although if the Saints reach the big dance it will be Steele’s 99th appearance).
ROVER: LACHIE NEALE (BRISBANE)
Despite having a few less than stellar weeks (by his own lofty standards) there is no doubt that, like teammate Andrews, Lachie Neale was the best midfielder in season 2020. Averaging 28 disposals (12 contested), Neale is the runaway favourite to win the Brownlow Medal, has taken his game into the stratosphere since arriving in Brisbane. No more words can be said about Neale’s 2020 campaign, and it will take a huge effort for Neale to be pipped at the post for the game’s highest individual honour.
CALEB DANIEL (WESTERN BULLDOGS)
Enjoying a stellar back half of the season, Caleb Daniel, like a player to be named shortly, came home on fire but narrowly missed selection by the barest of margins. Utilising his lethal foot to rebound the Dogs out of defence, Daniel has been a shining light at the Whitten Oval, and often goes under the radar thanks in part due to the names around him, as well as his small stature. Underestimate him at your own peril however, as Daniel has the ability to turn a game around with his beautiful foot skills, and teams will need to be very wary of him come finals time.
DARCY MOORE (COLLINGWOOD)
The third best key defender in season 2020, Darcy Moore has conceded just four goals since round 12, and is one of the main reasons the Magpies are still in the premiership race. Averaging 13 disposals, Moore is a rock solid defender that cares so much less about his own stats than what his direct opponent is doing, and that pivot from last season has seen Moore take his game to greater heights in 2020. Moore was selected in six teams this time around, which has him placed behind May and Andrews, but ahead of Jacob Weitering, who received three selections.
TOM PAPLEY (SYDNEY)
Tom Papley’s demotion to the interchange bench is arguably due to his team’s lack of success this season. Nevertheless, Papley was by far the Swans most important player in 2020, and I shudder to think where Sydney would be if not for Papley’s presence in the forward line. Well held by defenders in the latter half of the season, Papley has been rewarded for his blistering start to the season, and it came down to Papley and Liam Ryan for the final forward pocket spot, with Ryan receiving two more selections than Papley, thus sealing his place.
PATRICK DANGERFIELD (GEELONG)
After battling through an average (by his own lofty standards) start to the 2020 season, Patrick Dangerfield has charged home to narrowly miss selection on the field of our team of superstars. Since round 12, Dangerfield has averaged 22 disposals across half forward, and contributed six goals. With the Cats bringing back Gary Ablett, Joel Selwood and Jack Steven, Dangerfield has far less pressure to carry Geelong through the finals. Mongrels could not find a place for Dangerfield in our forward line, as of the six votes he received, four of them were on the interchange bench.
COACH: KEN HINKLEY (PORT ADELAIDE)
Whatever Ken Hinkley is selling, Port Adelaide’s players are spending their life savings to buy up! With so much pressure on Hinkley given the clause in his contract, the Power have delivered for their senior coach and given supporters so much hope for this season and beyond. Instilling the playing group with a ruthlessness at the contest, as well as a sense of freedom to play the game their own way, Ken Hinkley is without any shadow of doubt, the coach of the year for season 2020.
The simplified version of our 2020 team is as follows:
B: Brad Sheppard, Steven May, Brayden Maynard
HB: Luke Ryan, Harris Andrews, Nick Haynes
C: Sam Menegola, Travis Boak (c), Jack Macrae
HF: Christian Petracca, Tom Hawkins, Dustin Martin
F: Liam Ryan, Charlie Dixon, Dan Butler
R: Nic Natanui, Jack Steele (vc), Lachie Neale
INT: Caleb Daniel, Darcy Moore, Tom Papley, Patrick Dangerfield
COACH: Ken Hinkley
When looking over the teams the Mongrels submitted, some interesting nuggets have emerged:
- Unsurprisingly, Adelaide did not have a player selected in any team submitted. This was also the case in both the round 6 and 12 versions of this team.
- In addition to the Crows, Carlton, Essendon, Gold Coast, Hawthorn and North Melbourne also did not have a player selected in this team. Of those, Gold Coast joined Adelaide in not having a player receive selection in any team submitted
- Lachie Neale was the only player to receive unanimous selection in every version of this team across the season.
- Along with Neale, Luke Ryan, Sam Menegola, Travis Boak, Christian Petracca, Tom Hawkins, Charlie Dixon were unanimous selections in our final team.
This has truly been the most ridiculous, mystifying season that will ever be contested. But now we have arrived at the business end, where the superstars stand up, and memories are produced that will last a lifetime. Of the players that missed selection in our final team, Taylor Adams was a victim of the position he played, and was unable to squeeze any of the midfield incumbents out, Jacob Weitering paid the price for a dip in form and was pushed aside by Darcy Moore, and Matt Taberner’s uber consistency meant that he unfortunately did not have enough dominating stand out performances to take the place of either Hawkins or Dixon.
But this is it. The Mongrel Punt’s All Australian team of season 2020. Arguments were had, verbal stoushes were defused, and our best 22 was agreed upon. Bring on the finals.
HB here – Matt did a massive job getting this all together given he had so many teams and so many differing opinions to work with. Really appreciate the work – thanks, Matt.
Given I will most probably be the one to respond to the queries and criticism of selections, I am adding my own team and some explanations below for members so they know what I thought about selections and where I differed. Makes things a bit easier for me if they know – plus, they’re my people.
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