All year, The Mongrel has been compiling a list of the top fifty players in the league. And now… to channel Frank Sinatra, the end is near…

Well, it’s not “near”. For some, the end of 2020 has already sent them into exit interviews, free agency, or in some cases, a different career. As some players prepare for finals, we’ve been busy(ish) preparing our year-end top 50 players of the season.

You may be familiar with the concept of The Mongrel 50, but just in case you’re not, I’ll give a brief rundown.

Every round, we compile a ranking based on stats and votes pertinent to a player’s role. For instance, defenders are assessed on spoils/one-percenters, intercepts, metres gained and disposal efficiency as well as several more. A player has to hit a certain number in each category to register points. The player who does that most often will obviously rate higher.

It’s the same for mids, forwards and rucks – all assessed on criteria pertinent to their actual positions. It’s no use trying to award a forward points for rebound 50s, or a defender for tackles inside 50. So, we disregard the stats that don’t matter to a position and concentrate on those that do.

We then add the coaches’ votes and our own Mongrel votes to the mix as well as a small bonus for any player who scores points on a winning team – after all, winning games of footy is what it’s all about.

And what we end up with is a mix of all positions, and the Mongrel Punt’s top fifty players of the season. My vision with this was to be able to have a list representative of the best players on the best teams.

If you haven’t had a gander at the first ten announced, please do so before jumping into the next ten.

Final Mongrel 50 – Ranks 50-41

Let’s jump in with the players ranked 40-31 in our countdown.

 

E39 – SAM DOCHERTY (CARLTON) 271 POINTS

He started the season like a bolt out of the blue, pardon the pun, and kind of dropped back to the pack by around the halfway point, but the 2020 season for Sam Docherty was a resounding success.

He ran rampant through the first four weeks of the season, averaging 26.25 touches per game as opposition coaches basically neglected to man-up on him, allowing Doc to do as he pleased in the Carlton defensive 50. As a result, he was ranked number one in our first Mongrel 50 of the season.

The Mongrel 50 – Rounds 1-4

Docherty had more moments as the season progressed, but with forwards now painfully aware of how damaging he could be, they were instructed to tighten up on him at every opportunity. Consequently, he was prevented from reaching the same heights he did through the first month of the season.

As an example of how good he was early in the piece, Docherty’s four highest Rebound 50 totals came in the first four weeks – 9-7-14-8 at an average of 9.5 per game, which is absolutely ridiculous. His next best came in Round Seven, when he notched six.

All in all, a wonderful return season for Docherty after so much heartbreak the previous two years. It is great to have him back!

 

E39 – JACOB WEITERING (CARLTON) 271 POINTS

Many will think he deserves to be higher, just as many thought he deserved a spot in the All-Australian team this season.

In basically every defensive player of the year weekly column I’ve written, I was talking up Weitering’s AA credentials. He was barely beaten all season and I genuinely thought it would come down to him and Darcy Moore for the AA centre half back position. Joke was on me – Weitering was left out of the team altogether.

Do Blues fans have a reason to be salty about the snub? I reckon they might – I can’t really recall Weitering being comprehensively beaten in a game. Taberner did well on him and Josh Kennedy got away from him in the last quarter of the game against West Coast, but that’s about it.

Weitering ranked fourth in the league in one percenters and 14th in intercepts and probably suffered from not being flashy enough for the AA selectors. I doubt it’s the last time we will be talking about him in terms of All-Australian selection.

 

38 – JAYDEN SHORT (RICHMOND) 273 POINTS

If there is a radar at Punt Road (or wherever their hub is situated) I reckon Jayden Short is flying so far under it that people haven’t even noticed how good he’s been for the Tigers this season.

With Bachar Houli opting to remain in Melbourne as the team moved interstate and Shane Edwards, who played off half back a lot last season, doing the same, Jayden Short was handed the reins as the running half back, and geez, he relished the opportunity.

The thing with Richmond is that they kill you with a million cuts. Yes, Dusty can tear a game open single-handedly, but if you look at their wins this season, different players bob up and claim best on ground honours week to week – Liam Baker, Nick Vlastuin, Dylan Grimes, Kamdyn McIntosh, Noah Balta, Kane Lambert, Shai Bolton, Jack Graham – hell, even Derek Eggmolesse-Smith picked up votes this year. They kill you from different angles each week!

And there, doing his job and doing it exceptionally well, week after week is Jayden Short. Whilst not quite at career-high numbers, he did have a bump on his 2019 numbers despite decreased game time, and played to his strengths in scoring points in this system – quality disposals, plenty of metres gained, and a heap of rebound fifty disposals.

As the Tigers warm into finals yet again, Short’s run, carry and reliability off half back will be vital to their mission to win three flags in four seasons.

 

37 – HARRIS ANDREWS (BRISBANE) 274 POINTS

Missed the last three games and sat out the second half of one clash with his hamstring injury, yet in terms of impact defenders, none were more potent than Andrews in the contest in 2020.

Already the reigning All-Australian full back, he added another AA honour to his CV this season whilst notching double figures in one percenters (spoils) on eight occasions. This included a splendid four-game stretch from Rounds 2-5 where he completely obliterated the ball whenever it came into his area, averaging 10.25 one percenters over that period.

Andrews also added two defensive double-doubles to his CV this season (double figures in one percenters, rebound 50s or intercepts) in both Round Two and Round 13.

The Brisbane star’s return to the Lions in time for finals is vital to their defensive setup, despite the Lions compensating well in his absence.

 

36 – LIAM RYAN (WEST COAST) 275 POINTS

I was rapt to see him rewarded with an AA berth this season as he expanded his game from flashy high-flier to creative ball winner. Sure, he still tried to sit on the heads of his opponents multiple times (often dropping the footy in the slippery QLD conditions… hope he learns from that) but it was the playmaking skills and willingness to bring his teammates into the game that was the standout in Ryan’s 2020 game.

He finished 12th in total goals, but his real value to his team was represented in his sixth overall rank in score involvements. It’s as though Ryan had a bit of an awakening this season. I don’t believe he was ever lacking in confidence, but it was as though he had the realisation that his continuation to this team was far beyond taking big grabs and slotting the occasional goal.

Ryan’s ball use, particularly in the run home, was exceptional, and his vision and willingness to look inboard to hit an open target when the safe option of kicking to the pocket (the AFL-preferred route, it seems) allowed the Eagles to find avenues to score others weren’t able to find.

With 3+ goals on five occasions in 2020, Ryan made the step to establish himself as the best small forward in the game. As finals loom, he has the opportunity to cement that status.

 

35 – TIM ENGLISH (WESTERN BULLDOGS) 276 POINTS

Started the season looking as though he was going to be the AFL’s ruck whipping boy again, as Brodie Grundy completely abused him in the first half of their season opener against the Pies.

But Tim English showed that there is more to him than arms and legs, and started to look like a champion in the making as opposed to a baby giraffe in many games.

English’s best stretch came during Rounds 4-7 as he averaged 21.6 disposals and 18.75 hit outs, including an impressive outing to break even against one of the high-quality bigs in the game, Todd Goldstein.

The big Bulldogs has a great pair of hands, and as he bulks up a little more to contend in the strength department, he should be mindful of maintaining his excellent run around the park. He took 3+ contested grabs four times in 2020 and multiple goals in his last two games of the season.

 

34 – TOM JONAS (POT ADELAIDE) 277 POINTS

Had a wonderful first half of the season before settling back into the regular, unsung Tom Jonas role in defence. Ranked sixth overall in one percenters for the season and 20th overall for intercepts.

He had 10+ one percenters in four games, with his most impressive statistical output coming in Round Seven against the Blues, when he notched his defensive double-double, with ten one percenters and 11 intercepts.

Jonas has assumed sole leadership of the Port Adelaide Football Club in his stride, carrying himself as a true captain as the team has rallied around his no-nonsense approach.

I took particular notice of Jonas’ role in the game against Geelong. Tom Hawkins was running rampant inside forward 50 yet Jonas did not go to him. You have to think that Ken Hinkley was keeping a few of his cards close to his chest in this game, and that should there be any hint of Hawkins getting off the chain again, Jonas’ number will be called this coming week.

 

33 – REILLY O’BRIEN (ADELAIDE) 279 POINTS

The Crows’ big man picked up a well-deserved Best and Fairest award earlier this week after a season where he well and truly justified Adelaide’s decision to stick with him in favour of Sam Jacobs.

I listened with interest to Mark Ricciuto speaking about O’Brien during one of the last Crows games of the season, admitting that people “laughed at” O’Brien as a ruckman, thinking he was not up to AFL standard. Well, the 2020 season of the Adelaide ruckman should give all AFL hopefuls something to cling to.

O’Brien ranked fifth overall in hit outs and fourth for contested grabs – a talent that was on display in the last game of the year against Richmond where he dragged down four contested grabs in a 19-disposal and 29 hit out effort.

He took $+ contested grabs in six games in 2020, a bit of a throwback to the days when the big men would crash the packs and clunk marks.

At 25, the best is yet to come for O’Brien, and in a season the Crows would rather forget, he was one of the few bright spots.

 

32 – CALEB DANIEL (WESTERN BULLDOGS) 280 POINTS

The little man from the Kennel established himself as one of the best ball users in the game this season, earning himself an All-Australian guernsey in the process.

I’ve written about this in a couple of game reviews, but Daniel has the rare ability to shape a kick around the oncoming opposition player, holding the footy out a little wider and almost sling-shotting the kick to avoid the outstretched hands of the smotherer. It’s something I have only seen a few players employ regularly – the most recent being Sam Mitchell.

Daniel’s vision is one of his main assets, and with him distributing the footy off half back, the Dogs look dangerous. He had 25+ disposals on four occasions in 2020 – all resulted in Bulldog wins. Stretching it further, the Dogs were 7-3 when Daniel had 20+ possessions… but the first one sounds more impressive.

Daniel’s most impressive outing for the season came in Round 17 against the Hawks where he compiled 28 touches, 11 marks, eight intercepts and sent the Dogs inside 50 on seven occasions.

I have to admit, I was a bit of a sceptic having the little man in defence, thinking that coaches would work out how to exploit him. Hats off to both Daniel and Luke Beveridge for working diligently to ensure this hasn’t occurred. It’ll be interesting to see if Brett Ratten can conjure something different in the first week of finals.

And just on that, I am really looking forward to the Dogs v Saints game the most of all finals – s many wrinkles to this game. It should be a belter!

 

31 – TODD GOLDSTEIN (NORTH MEBLBOURNE) 290 POINTS

Was the big Kangaroo robbed of an All-Australian berth in favour of Max Gawn? Well, considering Goldy didn’t even make the squad of 40, I reckon he’d have a case to be a little miffed.

At the half way point of the season, the debate raged around which big man would be the All-Australian ruckman – Naitanui or Goldstein. Whilst I leaned heavily to Nic Nat due to the impact he had on games, Goldstein’s consistency through the first nine games of the season was impressive.

Up to, and including Round Nine, Goldy was averaging 16 touches and 33.3 hit outs per game. He finished the season ranking third in stoppage clearances and eighth in overall clearances, giving the Roos some badly needed bit at stoppages.

In my eyes, Goldstein’s body of work over the course of the season was more than good enough to have him included as the second ruck in the team, but I reckon his slower finish to the season cost him – those AA selectors have a terrible memory when it comes to the first half of a the year.

 

So, should be rated higher? Who is nowhere near the top 50 for the season? As always, I am open to feedback.

Check out ranks 30-21 coming in the next couple of days.

 

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