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 team.

If you haven’t had a gander at the first thirty players, please do so in the links below before jumping into the next ten.

 

Let’s jump in with the players ranked 20-11 in our countdown.

 

20 – JACK MACRAE (WESTERN BULLDOGS) 318 POINTS

Ultra-consistent again in 2020, Macrae had fewer than 20 touches just twice this year and more than made up for that by being the only player to notch 40 touches in a game.

Luke Beveridge deployed Macrae as a pure midfielder this year, resisting the temptation to throw him onto the wing in order to capitalise on his endurance running. It was a strange decision, given that Josh Dunkley was available for a lot of the time, and probably fits the inside role a little bit better.

Of course, he was selected on the wing in the All-Australian team, but that is a matter for another column.

Despite shortened games, Macrae was one again over 26 touches per game and has not dipped below that number since his first season in the league. That’s impressive – seven straight seasons of 26+ touches per game, and it may have been his third straight year of 30+ touches if not for the time reductions.

Macrae has emerged as an elite mid over the past couple of seasons, and it is good to see him getting the recognition and moving out from under Marcus Bontempelli’s shadow.

Macrae ranked sixth overall for effective disposals and sixth for total inside fifties as he hit targets when the Dogs got the ball in his hands.

 

19 – NICK HAYNES (GWS) 322 POINTS

A deserved All-Australian this season after taking an already-impressive game to new heights, Nick Haynes anchored a depleted GWS team, missing both Phil Davis and Sam Taylor.

Haynes ranked first in the league in total eighth overall in intercepts as he continually hit the packs hard to cut off opposition forays forward. Haynes was probably unlucky to miss AA selection in 2019, adopting the dreaded “underrated” tag by many in the footy media, so it was relieving to see both he and Brad Sheppard shed that stigma and be recognised for their stellar defensive work.

Haynes experienced only a slight statistical drop off in 2020 despite shortened games as his ability to read the ball in flight saw him find the right place at the right time in many games. His best outing was arguably his 13 intercept/eight rebound fifty performance against Carlton that also saw him register 21 touches.

The way he continues to improve, the 28 year old may end his career with a few AA blazers to his name.

 

18 – DUSTIN MARTIN (RICHMOND) 324 POINTS

It’s funny – even when Dusty has an ordinary season by his standards, it’s still a bloody good season by anyone else’s.

Traditionally, the Tigers are not a big numbers kind of team – a couple of weeks ago they had a win where no player on their team had over 19 touches. Sure, Dangerfield, Stewart and Guthrie all had 20+ but what did they do with it? The Tigers don’t need a ton of the footy to hurt you, and that statement applies to Dustin Martin above all.

A few of his kicks in traffic this season have been jaw-droppingly stunning in terms of their accuracy and velocity – I’m not going to sit here and state he is the best kick in the league consistently, because he has been known to absolutely shank a few, but when he hits them well, there is no one better.

Martin had a bit of a lacklustre first week of finals, but with the Tigers’ season on the line against the Saints this week, Id; expect to see him either bursting out of the centre with the ball tucked under his arm, or drifting forward to snag goals. It’s just what Dusty does.

With multiple goals on four occasions this season, Martin is capable to tearing a game apart, and if the Tigers ever needed him to, this coming weekend would be ideal.

 

17 – JOSH KENNEDY (WEST COAST) 329 POINTS

Earlier this season, people were calling time on Josh Kennedy’s career.

Remember that? It wasn’t that long ago.

Kennedy responded as you’d expect a champion to, finishing second in goals for the 2020 season, and going on a run that saw him average four goals per game over a five game period. And the Eagles went 5-0 during that run.

How long does Kennedy have left? His ranking here would indicate that he has plenty left in the tank. He is a fantastic mark on the lead and takes one of the top two defenders each week, which gives Jack Darling more room to operate as well. So much of Kennedy’s game now rests with his preparation and his recovery. If he can get himself right, a couple of years as one of the top five goal kickers in the league is not beyond him by any stretch.

Sitting second overall in marks inside 50 this season, Kennedy is still a force to be reckoned with, even if he has quiet patches here and there going forward.

 

16 – ROWAN MARSHALL (ST KILDA) 337 POINTS

Cast your mind back to last season’s trade period for a moment. The Saints seemed to be THE destination club for many of the league’s want-away stars, but when it became apparent that Paddy Ryder wanted to head to St Kilda, many wondered why.

I wondered why.

The Saints already had one of the best young rucks in the league, and the combination of Ryder and Scott Lycett at Port just didn’t work. Was it going to work at Moorabbin? How would it impact the growing influence on Rowan Marshall?

The answer is evident in both Marshall’s ranking here and the Saints’ position in the 2020 finals.

Whilst Marshall’s hit out numbers fell by half, his work around the ground and up forward has more than compensated for it. He clunked contested marks, kicked goals and has been a menacing presence for the Saints as they have improved. At 24 years old, Marshall’s future is incredibly bring, and he has the responsibility of powering the Saints as they look to take it up to the Tigers in this week’s semi-final. How well he is able to play will go a long way to determining whether the Saints play in a prelim.

 

15 – BRAYDEN MAYNARD (COLLINGWOOD) 340 POINTS

Desperately unlucky to miss the All-Australian team, Maynard has impressed us all season at The Mongrel Punt.

With the ability to run off any opponent who neglects to play defence, Maynard has burnt teams on the rebound consistently whilst still playing lockdown roles on some of the biggest names in the game.

As a matter of fact, Maynard’s duels with players like Toby Greene and Liam Ryan have been genuine highlights of the 2020 season. With the Pies squeezing by the Eagles, Maynard’s role against the Cats will be vital. He has a history of putting the clamps on Gary Ablett and if given the role again in the semi-final, we may see Gaz sent out in a less-than-auspicious fashion.

Maynard had a fantastic streak of games early in the season where he notched 22.2 touches per game over six games, firmly cementing himself as one of the best half backs in the game.

 

14 – CLAYTON OLIVER (MELBOURNE) 345 POINTS

One of my favourites to watch, with one of the cleanest and quickest pair of hands in the game. Oliver’s ability to win the footy and release in the one motion is unparalleled in the modern game.

Let down at times by his disposal by foot, Oliver is a pure ball winner and a great tackler. He had fewer than 20 touches just once in 2020 and added games with 8+ clearances on six occasions. People forget that Oliver is one of the best contested ball players in the game and at just 23 years old, will most likely go down as the best contested footy player (statistically) in the game by the time he retires.

Big call?

Maybe, but is already one of just three players to top 400 contested touches in a season and was ranked number one in the league in this stat again this season.

Oliver’s role at Melbourne is clear – win the footy and dish to a running teammate and it is when he is asked, or opts to do more when things go awry. Still, I find it amazing that some of his contemporaries get a lot less attention for poor disposal, but it is Oliver that gets the focus in this regard.

 

13 – JAKE LLOYD (SYDNEY) 346 POINTS

Lloyd is an accumulator, and if you listen to his critics you’d think he sits about 40 metres out from the opposition goal and gets fed the footy.

The people who state that are either clinging to their opinion of Lloyd from two years ago or simply have not watched the Swans play.

Lloyd stepped up his game, and will go close to adding a second Bob Skilton Medal to his collection this season as he adapted after the injury to Dane Rampe to average his highest contested possession numbers since 2016. He ranked first in kicks, second in total rebound fifty disposals, third in total disposals and sixth in total intercepts.

If you’re sleeping on Jake Lloyd because of what you think you know about him, time for a rethink – the bloke is legit.

 

12 – STEVEN MAY (MELBOURNE) 352 POINTS

In his second season as a Demon, the redemption of Steven May was one of the stories of the season.

An almost-immovable presence in defensive fifty, he was close to the best-performed defender of the second half of 2020 and incredibly unlucky not to make the All-Australian team. Of course, making the All-Australian squad of forty would have been helpful in that regard, huh?

May ranked fourth in total rebound fifty disposals and ninth in total one-percenters as he and Jake Lever anchored the Demon defence, starting to work together to become of the best one-two defensive punches in the game.

May continually took the best forward and notched 7+ rebound fifties on six occasions whilst adding three games of 10+ spoils and a dominant defensive game against the Saints where he notched 12 intercepts.

A small consolation was seeing my fellow Mongrels vote May in as our Mongrel Punt All-Australian full back – a just reward for a player who worked diligently to redeem himself after a poor start to his career as a Demon.

 

11 – MARCUS BONTEMPELLI (WESTERN BULLDOGS) 362 POINTS

I have to admit, this one surprised me a little as I didn’t think Bont had a fantastic season. Turns out… he may have!

On closer inspection, Bont is just a player that does most things exceptionally well. He ranked eighth in total tackles, second in centre clearances and sixth in total clearances. The thing about Bont and those clearances, when he gets it, he gets it and goes! There is none of those pissy backward handballs and kicks to nowhere – he breaks from the centre and drives the ball long every time the opportunity presents.

This is backed up by his rank as third in the league in overall inside 50s. His field kicking is wonderful, but we’re all well aware that his kicking at goal needs to improve.

Still, that didn’t hamper him slotting the vital goal in the dying stages of the Dogs’ game against West Coast, effectively winning them the game and placing the AFL score review under significant pressure in the process.

Bont is a star of the game, but Dogs fans would be waiting for him to have a breakout games when the heat is really on. His last two finals appearances have been… underwhelming.

 

 

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

Check out the top ten coming in the next couple of days.

 

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