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 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 ad0 (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)
Opposition scouts would have sighed in relief when they saw Greene unavailable on the GWS team sheet, little did they know Leon Cameron had a namesake replacement who has provided forward spark and midfield grunt with as great an effect, albeit slightly less flair in Toby’s absence.
For the third round running, Tom Green has demanded votes at the top end of the scale and leapfrogged his competitors into the outright lead. His performance in a hot contest cannot be underestimated, at least it wasn’t by the coaches who both wrote his name down after the game. 27 disposals at 75% efficiency, seven marks, six clearances, two goals, and a stunning twelve score involvements had Green deservedly at the top of the pile again.
CODY WEIGHTMAN (Western Bulldogs)
The energetic Bulldog pup is making the job of a baying pack desperate to break into the impressive ladder leading side most difficult with another superb performance. Claiming the round 10 nomination for the Ron Evans Medal, Weightman poured misery on a besieged St Kilda line up with his 14 disposals leading to 11 score involvements, including two goals two behinds of his own.
Three direct goal assists, five inside 50s, and six marks were more than worthy of five votes, but he was just pipped by the red-hot Green.
CALEB POULTER (Collingwood)
The flowing locks catch your eye immediately on the Magpie youngster out of Woodville/West Torrens, but his substance is very much confirmed watching him play. This article stood up and took notice after the match against the Kangaroos where he belied his inexperience to repel attack after attack, a formline that has continued in the ensuing rounds.
His 22 disposals in the dour struggle against the Power resulted in his team gaining 456m, while his 12 marks showcased real aerial prowess, the last of which led to a goal in the dying moments to bring the score back to one point.
CONNOR IDUN (GWS)
The relentless Giants defender has been besieged this year with injuries to so many of his fellow backmen, but he has stood resolute, and improved with each outing. A composed 18 disposal performance against the highly fancied Eagles resulted in a coach’s vote, his seven marks, six intercepts, three one-percenters and four score involvements underlined a well-rounded game.
DEVEN ROBERTSON (Brisbane)
The highly touted Brisbane rookie took some time to find his feet as senior level, but has settled to be averaging over 15 disposals per game in his uninterrupted run of 5 matches since Lachie Neale’s injury. A further sixteen hard won possessions in this match, and importantly six tackles against the battle hardened Tigers along with three inside 50s greatly complemented the established midfielders of Zorko, Lyons and McCluggage.
Ryan Byrnes, the young Saint midfielder had by far the most prolific game in his budding career, collecting 24 disposals at 80% efficiency. 12 marks, three clearances and four intercepts capped off a great personal game in a horror club result.
Beau McCreery, threatening this column for a few weeks. Not a high possession winner, but his second three-goal game this year in a long scoring affair has him on the cusp. Averaging around 5 tackles a game, is providing valuable pressure inside the Pies forward 50.
Keidean Coleman, the sublimely skilled Brisbane academy product delivered his best game so far against the reigning champs. Sixteen disposals, seven score involvements and a goal saw him as a vital contributor to the Lions big win.
Nik Cox, the lean Bomber utility gracefully collected 14 disposals at 86% efficiency, his nine marks (including two contested) resulted in two goals, as he again stamped his name as a future star.
Tom Green’s 2021 rise has coincided with the resurgence of his club, and with 14 votes in the past three rounds Green has shot to the lead overtaking Melbourne’s Luke Jackson. There were no other major movements on the leaderboard, but pleasingly three more players, Poulter, Idun, and Robertson received their first votes after inching closer in recent weeks. This brings to 27 the total number of eligible players to have received votes in 10 rounds.
While just outside the honourable mentions, it was again encouraging to see some young key forwards getting on the scoreboard and helping influence results for their respective clubs. Adelaide’s number two selection Riley Thilthorpe continued to impress with two goals, while Essendon’s Rockstar in waiting Harrison Jones scored three goals from just six disposals. Each of the players further confirmed their importance with five score involvements apiece.
Round 10 Leaderboard:
19 – Tom GREEN (GWS)
15 – Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)
12 – Lachlan SHOLL (Adelaide)
10 – Chad WARNER (Sydney)
9 – Errol GULDEN (Sydney)
9 – James JORDON (Melbourne)