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:

ROUND 21 SUMMARY:

As we approach the final few rounds of the home & away season, chatter starts to get louder about potential winners of the AFL’s major awards, as we’ve outlined in our weekly preface one of the main reasons for the introduction of the ‘Mongrel Rising Star’ award was to remove the popularity contest element of voting at the end of the season.

Taking in some of the AFL media yesterday we were clearly shown some of the biggest flaws of the existing system. Damian Barrett, on his daily podcast, espoused Luke Jackson as the only possible winner of the award (on the back of four goals against the hapless Suns, and a prominent outing under the exposed glare of Monday Night lights). This illustrates the largely unconscious but considerable recency-bias that is allowed to flourish in the existing voting structure of this prestigious award.

Furthermore, there is often an element of how potential plays a part in where the panel place their votes. There was a good discussion on Bob & Andy on SEN Drive about this, with a general perception that this influences the voter, although it should also be pointed out there were two glaring examples to the contrary, Lewis Taylor (over Marcus Bontempelli) and Rhys Palmer (over Cyril Rioli).

Lastly, we’ll look at that dirty phrase in the AFL landscape, Victorian bias. Luke Jackson is a star of the future, and may very well become a premiership player as soon as this season. He has also had a strong season supporting Max Gawn and playing as the third tall forward in the top of the table Demon side. However, Sportstab odds of $1.40 (in from $7 in the past fortnight) only confirm the previous arguments I’ve presented as to why the current voting mechanism is far from the ideal method of determining the winner.

There was some movement in the leader board this week, Jackson was solid in the wet at Optus Stadium and jumped back into second place over the Swans’ Justin McInerney who has slightly down on impact in recent weeks, while Adelaide’s Harry Schoenberg leapt into fifth place, usurping his teammate, Lachlan Sholl who dipped out of the top 5 for the first time this season.

5 votes:

Harry SCHOENBERG (Adelaide)

The Adelaide running man has hit a rich vein of form polling in four of the last five weeks to launch into the top 5. While he was ultimately on the losing side in this showdown thriller, no doubt Schoenberg figured in the meal voting behind standout Allir. In greasy conditions the young crow was the equal-highest possession winner on the ground with 31, driving the ball forward 534m and extracting six clearances.

His disposal can be a concern at times, however, and he recorded 15 turnovers, although on watching the game and relatively impact it did not appear as dire as that number suggests.

4 votes:

Miles BERGMAN (Port Adelaide)

As predicted by this column, the impressive Port utility received a well-deserved official nomination on the back of a superb game in the Power’s narrow win against their fiercest rival. Bergman is surely a coaches favourite for his versatility in being able to play numerous roles for coach Ken Hinkley, and this match played primarily behind the ball collecting 23 touches.

He had a lucrative avenue to finding the ball with his seven intercepts helping contribute towards his 373m gained for his side, and capped off a terrific game with four clearances and tackles.

3 votes:

Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)

The second-year Demon has returned to form in the past few games after a flat patch through the middle of the campaign, confidently opposing the might of Natanui when called on in the slugfest on Monday. An impressive twenty one disposals were punctuated by six marks, three of which were contested and considering the weather this was especially meritorious.

Two clearances were slightly down on his usual output and one bad miss at goal which would have completely shut the gate after the restart areas he’ll need to improve if he’s to help propel Melbourne deep into September.

2 votes:

Hayden YOUNG (Fremantle)

The Fremantle defender was up against it versus a rampaging Lions outfit, but held strong when many of his team mates couldn’t or wouldn’t. Gaining 487 valuable metres at 84% across 19 disposals with seven defensive 50 rebounds and ten marks had him as one of his side’s best in a disappointing performance with a finals spot on the line.

1 vote:

Jack MAHONY (North Melb)

The North forward has been close many times this year to making the elite Mongrel list, but alas his flashes of brilliance haven’t sustained a full game – until now. He was terrific against the two-time reigning champs, his 18 disposals at the elite 84% well up on his career average of 10.5 and his second-best tally in his 29 matches to date. The addition of a goal, two direct goal assists and five tackles saw his finally crack it for a vote.

Honourable mentions:

Cassandra, Tia Carrera’s iconic character in Wayne’s World famously warned that ‘labels can be dangerous, but they can also serve an important purpose in setting the scene or providing a cheap laugh, here at Mongrel HQ we’re not adverse to risk taking, so here goes…

Jake Bowey, the love child of Sam Blease and Matthew Bate continued on his merry way in just his second league match, 21 disposals borne from nine intercepts, along with three clearances has him a frontrunner to maintain his place in a finals-bound lineup.

Hugo Ralphsmith, the human fashion label (I’ve been waiting all season for this so please indulge me), the son of the former Hawk and Saint with flowing locks played his best game at this level, accumulating 17 touches, four one percenters and hitting the scoreboard with 1.1.

Thomson Dow, another of the Tiger cubs to get their chance in an out of form Richmond outfit starred with 22 possessions, four marks, two clearances and if not for wayward finishing might’ve nabbed two goals.

James Jordon, the hard-nosed Demon received a stay of execution as a late replacement for Tom McDonald and probably consolidated his position with 17 disposals, 7 marks, and an all over game sending the ball inside 50 three times, while also retrieving from D50 twice.

Round 21 Leader board:

33 – Tom GREEN (GWS)

25 – Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)

24 – Justin MCINERNEY (Sydney)

17 – James JORDON (Melbourne)

15 – Harry SCHOENBERG (Adelaide)