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 adieu (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:
ROUND 12 SUMMARY:
There was certainly internal debate about the top vote scorer this week, the silky smooth marking capacity of Cox (in what became a heavy defeat), or the magnificent output from Poulter (in a backs against the wall victory). Ultimately it was the Bomber who won out narrowly this time, backed externally by a wave of public opinion. The myriad of exasperated media claiming finally in regards to the impressive Bomber’s nomination clearly illustrates what is wrong with the current process and why the old mongrel had the foresight to try a different method. While not claiming this system as foolproof, what it does allow is recognition of consistent high performers, not just a single stand out match.
There is also always the farcical situation using the official process where later in the year players are nominated based on a ‘body of work’ or to fill the quota rather than an exceptional performance that round. The allocation of votes each week makes that redundant and as you can clearly see by the leader board those high achievers are receiving due acknowledgement, while 31 individuals have been recognised in total for the season to date.
Speaking of the leader board, some significant movement after a few static weeks, Nik Cox swoops up to claim a share of third place with his eye-catching five-vote game, while Melbourne hard-nut James Jordan slides into the top 5 and within striking distance of the lead. More than halfway through the year and still no representation from the Cats, Eagles or shamefully the Blues – that may be about to change as two young Eagles sharing the same surname, Luke & Harry Edwards put forward encouraging performances on the weekend. Harry in particular was prominent with an 87% disposal efficiency, seven intercepts, six one-percenters and two contested marks, among nine for the day. Luke returned an identical 15 touches and added four score involvements as well as inside 50s which would have put a smile on coach Simpson’s face.
NIK COX (Essendon)
You’d be forgiven for thinking Nik Cox was Dusty Martin the way Luke Darcy salivated every time he was near the ball on Saturday night in the Dreamtime at the ‘O’ match, but to focus on that walking mannequin would be a disservice to Cox who is putting together a fine season to be one of the leading contenders for the inaugural Mongrel Rising Star award. The quality of the opposition was absolutely factored into the rankings this week, and Cox gathered 23 disposals, eight marks, seven score involvements, five intercepts, four clearances and a goal against the two-time reigning premiers who are building nicely for another assault on the cup.
Essendon’s strategy to load up on high draft picks at the expense of underperforming wantaway stars is proving a masterstroke if Cox and his fellow alumni Perkins, Jones and Reid are anything to go by.
CALEB POULTER (Collingwood)
Hard to miss with his luscious flowing locks, Poulter has so far bucked the trend of AFL players either sporting the charismatic mullet or the dour schoolboy cut, and it’s not only his choice of unique hairstyle that stands out, this kid can play. In a hot game against an overwhelming favourite the young Magpie utility in just his sixth senior match was one of his sides best collecting 20 possessions launching his side 482m in the process, ten marks, six score involvements and three tackles.
Collingwood’s “reset” last off-season which ultimately led to the loss of Treloar, Stephenson, Phillips and demise of McGuire and Buckley has at least netted some very talented kids who the new coach will be able to mould into the next stars of this proud club.
JAMES JORDON (Melbourne)
Can you be unassuming and a human battering ram at the same time? I vote yes if James Jordon is the example, the first-year Demon would comfortably have the highest winning percentage in the club’s history to date, and with contributions spanning twenty disposals at an elite 80% driving his side forward over 400m you wouldn’t bet on it diluting any time soon.
TRENT BIANCO (Collingwood)
The former Oakleigh Charger proved his standout debut was no fluke backing up with another outstanding match in game two. 16 disposals, six marks, five score involvements, four tackles and an ice-cold finish from a set shot in the third quarter helped his side to a rare 2021 victory in the unfriendly confines of the Adelaide Oval.
In a tough week at the Holden Centre, both Bianco and Poulter brought some positivity to their club.
DEVEN ROBERTSON (Brisbane)
It was always going to be intriguing as to how the Lions would restructure with their returning Brownlow medallist claiming his rightful throne in the centre, pushing out Zorko, Lyons, Robertson and others to less starring roles. While Robertson’s disposal tally may have suffered his workrate seemingly doubled in an effort that would surely have pleased Chris Fagan.
12 disposals at a whopping 92% was a great return but more impressively the midfielder made eight tackles, two of these within his attacking fifty, drove the ball into the forward zone five times and retrieved it from the defensive 50 three times in a complete game.
Josh Treacy, the 19 year old Docker key position player has taken his chances created by injury and showed huge promise in a hard fought match against the finals-bound Dogs, snaring three goals and two contested marks from his ten disposals.
Cody Weightman, the tenacious Bulldog small was again an important player in his sides narrow victory. Two goals from eleven touches with four tackles and again causing opposition headaches taking two marks inside the forward fifty.
Harry Schoenberg, the Crow winger consistently turns up week after week, but his disposal has let him down in recent rounds otherwise he’d be sure to feature in the votes again. 19 disposals gaining 392m, nine inside 50s, six score involvements and three clearances were tempered by eight turnovers and a disappointing 58% disposal efficiency.
Round 12 Leaderboard:
19 – Tom GREEN (GWS)
15 – Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)
12 – Nik COX (Essendon)
12 – Lachlan SHOLL (Adelaide)
12 – James JORDAN (Melbourne)