So, here we are – the top ten players of the home and away season according to our Mongrel Punt player rankings. Sure to be the most accurate of the year, right?
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 forty players, please do so in the links below before jumping into the next ten.
Let’s jump in with the top ten players
10 – SAM MENEGOLA (GEELONG) 370 POINTS
The Mongrel Punt Wingman of the Year didn’t get an All-Australian berth this season (an absolute travesty) but I reckon anyone who watched him control his position all season would have no doubt as to the influence he has had on Geelong games.
Unlike those who were picked on the wing in the AA team, Menegola actually played every game in the position and ran as hard for as long as anyone in the league. He would often be found getting back to get a timely spoil on a long inside fifty in one play, only to be seen running hard inside his own fifty metre arc on transition.
The former Docker is the kind of player whose standing in the game right now is testament to hard work. Early in the season, Chris Scott paid respect to Menegola, stating that all players should look at the way he has reinvented himself at Geelong.
Despite his AA snub, Menegola would be close to a guaranteed top four finish in the Cats’ best and fairest and could still yet play a huge role in the Geelong finals campaign.
9 – PATRICK DANGERFIELD (GEELONG) 371 POINTS
You know, about six games into the 2020 season, I had a look at what Patrick Dangerfield was doing for Geelong and the answer came pretty simply – not much. He was kind of meandering along – it’s just that his meanderings are at a level that most players would rate as their best.
Danger kicked up the offensive side of his game a notch in the second half of the season – he had 6+ inside fifty deliveries in five of his last seven games as he put the jets on out of the middle and drove the Cats deep into attack repeatedly.
It wasn’t a vintage Dangerfield season, yet here we are talking about him in terms of the top ten overall for the season as he collected yet another AA berth, and the captaincy too. I guess that is indicative of the expectations the footy world has on him. He is very similar to Dustin Martin in that respect – he has a very good game, but people consider it ordinary because they’re just so used to seeing him dominate.
Dangerfield has a challenge ahead of him. We heard in the past week the pundits spouting tales of great players who never played in a Grand Final – Danger is looking as though he could join them unless he can help turn this team around. He has played in plenty of finals – he just cannot get over that hump.
8 – TRAVIS BOAK (PORT ADELAIDE) 387 POINTS
There is a career waiting for Travis Boak after he finished up with a Power. Hopefully, that won’t be for a few years, yet, but when he is good and ready, a role as a life coach beckons.
After being moved to half forward by Ken Hinkley, Travis Boak appeared to be finished as a top-line midfielder in the league. But unlike so many who would see the move out of the action and into a different role, Boak didn’t whine and complain. He simply knuckled down an went to work, returning to his role in the midfield in 2019 an staying there in 2020.
Oh, and he played the best footy of his career in the process.
Boak is a shining example to all who wish to prolong their AFL careers. What he has been able to achieve post-30 years of age is more than most do in their entire careers. After topping 30 touches per game in 2019, Boak slipped back to 23.1 in the reduced game time of 2020, but his impact on the contest has not fallen away.
Viewed as one of the legitimate threats to Lachie Neale’s Brownlow chances, Boak sits comfortably in the top ten in the league for clearances, disposals, inside fifties and goal assists. Though no longer the captain of this proud club, Boak has been a leader in every other way in 2020, often winning the hard footy right when Port required someone to stand up.
He added a third All-Australian selection to his CV this season as the footy world sat up and took notice of the impact he has had on Port’s success.
7 – JACK STEELE (ST KILDA) 397 POINTS
One of the great St Kilda success stories, Jack Steele has built his 2020 season on being the best two-way midfielder in the competition. Powering the St Kilda midfield with both offensive weapons and a complete defensive arsenal, Steele finished in the top ten in both clearances and tackles.
If he doesn’t get the footy, he goes a long way to making sure his opponent doesn’t get it either!
It was Steele’s tenacity that made the footy world sit up and take notice against Carlton as he not only took on Patrick Cripps, but beat him at his own game. Steele was at his desperate best as he stifled the Carlton co-captain en route to picking up 23 touches and nine tackles.
With double figures in both clearances and tackles on two occasions each this season, Steele’s work is now right up there with some of the best work from Elliot Yeo, who is largely recognised as the best two way runner over the last couple of seasons. Can he power the Saints over the Tigers? I have to admit, the thought of Steele and Dusty going head-to-head is a tantalising prospect.
6 – CHARLIE DIXON (PORT ADELAIDE) 401 POINTS
Our own Tom Basso drew a snort or two when he announced that Charlie Dixon would have a breakout season in 2020. I mean, if he hadn’t broken out by 2019, was it too late for him?
Nope…not at all.
Dixon exploded in 2020, establishing himself as the most dominant contested mark in the game. He led the league, with an average of 2.5 per game and finished third in the Coleman Medal. Until Port’s win over the Cats, the Power were very reliant on Dixon’s presence to get a win, however the team rallied around him against Geelong and proved that they are far more than a one-man-band.
However, when Dixon is on, it spells trouble for opponents. When Dixon kicks multiple goals, the Power are 10-0 in 2020. If he can slot a few in the Preliminary Final, the data tells us Port will be heading to the Grand Final.
5 – CHRISTIAN PETRACCA (MELBOURNE) 415 POINTS
Emerged as the dominant player we’ve been expecting him to be for a couple of seasons.
Threatening for a couple of seasons, Petracca didn’t just walk through the door to stardom this season – he kicked it down and staked his claim as one of the best.
Petracca’s appearance in the top ten makes him one of just two players whose teams failed to make the top eight, but even the poor form of the Dees was unable to cast a shadow over his brilliance this season.
With only Tom Hawkins ahead of him in score involvements, Petracca had a knack for making things happen whenever he got the footy, with the Dees looking their most dangerous with the ball passing through the hands of their new star.
He finished third overall in contested touches, sixth in goal assists, and did it all whilst averaging 23.5 touches per game; a clear career best. The challenge for Petracca is to now sustain the level of form he reached this season, or even raise the bar again. What is his ceiling? What sort of player can he become as the games extend again in 2021?
With teams now using Petracca as the example for their own stars to follow this off-season, Petracca is no longer the wolf climbing the hill – he is one of those on top, and he will have challengers nipping at his heels next season.
4 – NIC NAITANUI (WEST COAST) 428 POINTS
I’ve not seen a player exert his will on a contest quite like I’ve seen Nic Naitanui in bursts this season. Dominating the centre bounces and pushing the ball forward like a wall of force, Nic Nat was irresistible at times in 2020.
Thoroughly deserving his second All-Australian ruck blazer, Nic Nat’s tap work was second to none, and his ability to follow up at ground level an get the momentum going the Eagles’ way was the catalyst for their return to form after a shaky start to the season.
There are those who don’t rate the influence Naitanui has on the game. Hard to believe, but it’s true. I reckon they might be the very same people who use a stat sheet to decipher who played well and who didn’t.
Naitanui’s last quarter against St Kilda late in the 2020 season was a shining example of just how good he can be. If you’re looking for an example of his dominance this season, head back and watch that last 20 minutes of football – he was monstrous.
3 – LUKE RYAN (FREMANTLE) 466 POINTS
Our 2020 Mongrel Punt Defensive Player of the Year slots in at third overall, and really looked as though he could make a play for top spot with five or six rounds remaining.
Ryan had an incredible run between rounds eight and thirteen as he put distance between him and other defenders with a string of incredible performances. He finished as the number one ranked player in both intercept possessions and rebound fifty possessions as the Dockers looked to him to salvage a defence that had been crippled by injury to key players.
Ryan relished the responsibility and over a five game stretch averaged an incredible 23.8 touches, 11.2 intercepts and 9.4 rebounds.
Such was the level of Ryan’s play that the Dockers’ defence started to be one of their main assets, often able to lock down key forwards and stifle the attack of more highly-fancied teams. Teaming with Brennan Cox, Reece Conca, Nathan Wilson and the unsung duo of Taylin Duman and Ethan Hughes, the Freo defence became a rather formidable force with Ryan the captain of the ship.
Ryan had three of the top five defensively ranked games in our DPOY ratings this season as he knuckled down and took his game to a new level.
2 – TOM HAWKINS (GEELONG) 491 POINTS
Despite an inauspicious outing against the Power in the first week of finals, Tom Hawkins capped a sterling season with his first Coleman Medal.
However, kicking goals is but one string to the Hawkins bow in 2020. He also led the league in goal assists (one ahead of current teammate, Patrick Dangerfield and two ahead of former teammate, Tim Kelly) and finished top of the table in score involvements overall.
Though many see Hawkins as simply a full forward, he has meant so much more to this Geelong team in 2020. His deft tap ons, his ability to cleanly win a ruck tap and dish off to a teammate for a shot at goal, and his contested marking (sixth in the league) combined to make him a huge force in the Cats’ forward half.
The marquee game for Hawkins in 2020 saw him tear the top of the table Port Adelaide to shreds with a six goal blast as Geelong won by ten goals. The tables were turned, however in the first week of finals, when he couldn’t hit the side of a barn, registering 0.5 from six shots.
As Hawkins fronts up to go up against the Pies in a cut-throat final, the Cats will be desperate for him to hit the scoreboard. As goes Hawkins, so goes Geelong? We’ll soon see.
1 – LACHIE NEALE (BRISBANE) 527 POINTS
The man in 2020.
There can be no mistaking it – Lachie Neale has been the best player of the 2020 AFL. Establishing himself early, Neale averaged 29.4 disposals and almost seven clearances over the first five games, and come Brownlow night, many expect him to have a large lead through the first third of the season.
Neale notched 30+ touches on six occasions in 2020 and had just as many games with 7+ clearances as he ruled the roost in the middle. He lost the top spot only briefly after Sam Docherty occupied it after the first four weeks, but his dominance through the middle of the season, combined with his consistency allowed him to finish the year clearly on top.
Last year, Neale finished second to Brodie Grundy, who had an outstanding season, but this year he sits alone at the top of the tree. Could his inside work, and his new-found ability to hit the scoreboard (try saying those disposals don’t hurt!) be the thing Brisbane needs to push it into a Grand Final and onto a flag?
Neale had a brilliant season, but I doubt he would be content with anything but a shot at the title this season. With Brisbane in the final four, he’s not that far away, and his Lions are roaring.
So, there we have it – The Mongrel’s top fifty for the 2020 home and away season. Who should be rated higher? Who is nowhere near the top 50 for the season? Who are you gonna get angry about? As always, I am open to feedback.
Make sure to check out the 2020 Mongrel Punt Finals Player of the Year rankings hitting the site on Monday.