The AFL do an admirable job introducing and promoting awards that recognise their players, albeit the execution can on occasion fall short.
The Mark and Goal of the year are downgraded to nothing more than a popularity contest due to the result being determined by a public vote. Likewise, what should be one of the most prestigious awards in the game, the Gary Ayres Medal for the premier finals player of the year loses some of its sheen by not being given clean air for its presentation, usually lost in the aftermath of the Grand Final.
Many other awards, among them selection of the AA team, the 22-under-22, and even the AFLPA MVP have significant limitations that prevent them from hitting the lofty heights they set out to achieve.
So here at the Mongrel, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to rectify another good AFL idea not quite reaching its potential, this time the Ron Evans Medal for the rising star. We’ve decided to rename it the creative ‘Mongrel Rising Star’, but will keep the same eligibility criteria as the official award, players cannot have played more than 10 senior matches or turned 21 before the start of the 2021 season. We’re we are adding our very unique magic mongrel secret herbs and spices formula is to the voting system, which presently involves seven assorted media dinosaurs desperately trying to remember the name of the top five most popular kids that Sportsbet have installed as favourite. Our system will see a 5,4,3,2,1 vote system applied each round and cumulative scoring with the winner crowned by finishing with the most points.
Of course, this doesn’t ensure our methodology is foolproof, but without being arrogant, we think we can do it a little better than the AFL. So without further ado (we’re also cultured speaking French, Gil would love that), here is the next instalment of vote-getters in the remarkably catchily named ‘Mongrel Rising Star’ award for 2021:
TOM GREEN (GWS)
The big-framed Giant midfielder collected his second five-vote nomination of the season to thrust him up the leader board this week with a commanding performance against the luckless Bombers. A rising star-leading 28 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s, four clearances and eight score involvements helped his team sneak over the line by just two points in a thriller at Giants Stadium.
Green has played a big part in his team’s turnaround from 0-3, averaging almost 24 touches per game in their four wins since, a big challenge faces him over the next three games with heavyweights Richmond, West Coast & Brisbane ahead. Was the only Rising Star eligible player to poll coaches votes this round, another glowing endorsement of his contribution.
JAMES JORDAN (Melbourne)
The Melbourne hard nut has been rewarded with his second votes of the season after a sterling effort in tough conditions on Saturday night against the Swans. Repeatedly throwing his body on the line, Jordan was a prime mover for his Dees with 23 touches and eight tackles, two of which were invaluably inside forward fifty adding to the pressure applied by Spargo and Pickett.
Two clearances and four intercepts topped off his night, only slightly marked down by the six turnovers he recorded which led to a disposals efficiency of just 47%. The weather and fierce attack of the opposition were most certainly added contributors to this lower than usual number, so all forgiven.
MARK KEANE (Collingwood)
The rookie Collingwood tall defender has returned strongly after his suspension for tripping in Round Five and becomes the first Magpie to poll votes in the Mongrel Rising Star award for 2021. Nine intercepts highlighted Keane’s break out game, as he repelled multiple advances from the competitive Kangaroos, helping himself to twenty-one disposals in the process and five marks.
His coach would’ve also been pleased with an impressive three one-percenters recorded, always a good indication of work rate and willingness to follow team instructions.
CHAD WARNER (Sydney)
The rugged Sydney number 1 was slightly less prolific than in other matches, but no less effective against the might of Melbourne’s highly-acclaimed midfield. 15 disposals, 338m gained kept his team in the fight for much of the night and his grit and determination slowed the likes of Oliver and Petracca from running completely roughshod over the Swans.
Four tackles including a meritorious three inside the attacking fifty meant the usually free-wheeling Demon backline didn’t have things all their own way. Warner has now polled in five matches out of eight rounds this year to move to within one great performance of the lead.
HARRY SCHOENBERG (Adelaide)
While Port Adelaide’s recent recruits get all the acclaim, Crows fans would be quietly content with the progress of Sholl and his fellow winger, Schoenberg who was again important in their highly anticipated cross-town match up.
He collected nineteen disposals as he worked tirelessly up and down the ground as well as in the clinches, recording five clearances and five tackles had him as one of his sides best on the night.
Mitch Georgiades, the Port key forward was unlucky not to snag a vote this round for a strong performance in the showdown, probably his poor conversion the difference, but remains highly effective with five scoring shots from 14 touches.
Caleb Poulter, another of the emerging Collingwood young brigade, Poulter was excellent with 18 assured touches disposing at 84% as he coupled his four marks with four intercepts along with two each inside 50s and rebounds from fifty in a highly encouraging display.
Lachlan Sholl, already an Adelaide favourite the dashing winger gained 415m during the pressure cooker Showdown, adding 21 disposals, three clearances and a customary nine combined inside and rebound 50s.
While the leader board is starting to take a little bit of shape, by the nature of rookie players they can be inconsistent and across a long season can experience some ups and downs, so the award is still truly anyone’s to claim. The exciting thing is that plenty of other quality kids are starting to find their place, and while not challenging the votes this round, there were more than glimpses in each of Oliver Henry, Tanner Bruhn, Connor Idun, Charlie Lazarro and Bailey Williams’ performances over the weekend to suggest they could push into vote calculations in the coming weeks.
Round 8 Leaderboard:
15 – Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)
12 – Lachlan SHOLL (Adelaide)
10 – Tom GREEN (GWS)
10 – Chad WARNER (Sydney)
9 – Errol GULDEN (Sydney)