The AFL does 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 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:
JUSTIN MCINERNEY (Sydney)
The 2020 round 15 Rising Star nominee moved out from the shadow of some illustrious rookie teammates to claim the coveted five votes for an all-around performance in his side’s win over the Magpies. Threatening this type of output for a few weeks now, the young Swan collected 24 disposals, claiming 495m for his team in the process.
Seven marks, five score involvements and four tackles should have him in the frame for Brownlow votes as he becomes the fifth Sydney player to be awarded Mongrel votes in 2021.
TOM GREEN (GWS) in best
The Giants bull is making a habit of only attracting votes at the upper end of the scale, and another 4 votes were his in an eye-catching effort against the reigning champs in a thriller at Marvel on Saturday night. Despite some gaping holes in the Tigers midfield, Green was irrepressible for most of the night gathering 24 hard fought possessions, four tackles, five score involvements and a goal. He was again named in his club’s best players and has been a shining light in their rise up the ladder after a dire 0-3 start.
JAMES JORDAN (Melbourne)
After being possibly unfairly overlooked by this page in the early rounds, Jordan’s surging form has proven irresistible and with three votes this round shoots up the leaderboard to sit in a tie for fifth. A tackling beast the Demon number 23 added thirteen to his impressive tally against the Blues moving to 3rd in the league only behind the fearsome duo of Jack Steele and Hugh Greenwood. Twenty disposals with six forward 50 entries and four rebounds from 50 gaining his team 430m coupled with six intercepts showed his prowess.
RILEY COLLIER-DAWKINS (Richmond)
Crisis presents opportunity. Now, I’m not turning into a Mick Malthouse parody, but in this case the traditional fable rings true as young Collier-Dawkins in just his third match dutifully substituted for premiership stars, Bolton, Cotchin, Lambert and Prestia with aplomb. Highly rated out of the fertile Oakleigh Chargers program, RCD had to bide his time while his teammates have won two premierships in his short time on the senior list. While it’s early days his three outings have shown improvement each week, and he delivered 18 disposals, seven tackles (after six & five in the previous fortnight), four clearances with three in the hustle-bustle of the centre and kicked two timely goals in a narrow win. One to watch.
CODY WEIGHTMAN (Western Bulldogs) in best
Another youngster waiting patiently in the reserves for his chance at senior level in a top-of-the-table team, Weightman burst onto the scene last year with an outrageous mark and goal his first act on a football field. Grasping his opportunity with both hands, along with three contested marks, Weightman led all comers with three goals two as a pressure small forward in the Dogs meritorious victory at Port’s Adelaide Oval fortress. Six score involvements and five tackles, including three inside their forward fifty would have most pleased coach Luke Beveridge. Can be an important addition to the premiership contender, but there are plenty gunning for spots in the 22.
Chad Warner, the young Swan star continues to impress and is now firmly entrenched in Longmire’s best midfield. 19 disposals capped off with a goal and was integral in turning around an early deficit into another strong Sydney win.
Dev Robertson, has improved every week in Lachie Neale’s absence and was desperately close to the votes this week. Seven score involvements and three clearances including two from the centre highlighted his day that also included 18 touches and three tackles.
Harry Schoenberg, the Crow speedster was named in his team’s best and relished the open space at Optus Stadium. Eight of his 21 disposals drove his team inside attacking 50 as part of 411m gained for the match. Three marks inside fifty were unfortunately let down by wayward kicking as he registered 1.2.
Jacob Koschitzke, the Hawk key forward was excellent early as his side raced out to an early lead against the previously winless Roos, fifteen disposals at 87% resulting in six score involvements and another two goals a solid return for the round 6 nominee.
Tom Green with his official Rising Star nod became only the 15th player to receive two nominations since 1993, curiously he’s the fourth this year following on from Sholl, Georgiades, and Jackson. Another potential two-time nominee, and the Mongrel five-voter this week, Swan wingman, Justin McInerney was desperately close to joining that list and should become the 16th sometime this year.
An interesting fact about Rising Star nominees, and an encouraging one for supporters of clubs already recognised in 2021 that almost 30% of Rising Star nominees go onto play 200 games, far exceeding the league average of around 4.5% for all players reaching that milestone.
This article has questioned over the year to date, and we’ve engaged in some robust discussion with readers about the merits of qualification. While there is no definitive answer on what criteria is best, it’s always interesting to observe others and I noted that the SEN Rookie of the year has had a crack, and allocates 3-2-1 votes for first year players only.
The streaking Mongrel James Jordan finds himself equal leader in the SEN award on 9 votes, matching North’s Tom Powell, both have been prominent in our award as well. The high-flying Tigers & Bulldogs received their first votes of the year this round in an ominous message to rival clubs, with Weightman, Collier-Dawkins and McInerney polling this week it brings to 24 the total number of players acknowledged by the Mongrel Rising Star after ten rounds.
Round Nine Leaderboard:
15 – Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)
14 – Tom GREEN (GWS)
12 – Lachlan SHOLL (Adelaide)
10 – Chad WARNER (Sydney)
9 – Errol GULDEN (Sydney)
9 – James JORDAN (Melbourne)