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 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 sees 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 22 SUMMARY:
The media hype train almost derailed itself this week, and perfectly illustrated why this most important award deserves more a more respectful voting process than it currently endures. Impressive Melbourne youngster Luke Jackson has stormed into unanimous favouritism on the back of a key role in the Demon juggernaut, able to fulfil that integral third tall forward role, while equally adept as a back up ruckman to skipper Gawn. This is not to downplay Jackson at all, whom I rate extremely highly, but the challenge here is that the nomination process becomes murky when it is left to those who don’t watch every game, and exacerbated when the final voting process is undertaken by a separate committee who are influenced positively and negatively by recency bias through at times overwhelming PR campaigning and also are often guilty of getting caught projecting into the future and casting their vote on potential rather than exposed form.
In a round where seven of the eight finalists flexed their considerable muscle, there wasn’t much movement on the leader board, Giant Tom Green maintaining his gap at the top despite a continued absence with a hamstring strain, Jackson was only able to pull back one vote while McInerney was behind others this week. Docker Young received votes for the third successive round and is finishing the season on a high, much like Port’s Bergman who also polled for the third week in a row to move up to 6th place overall.
JAI NEWCOMBE (Hawthorn)
The feel-good mid-season draft story Hawk was superb against the much-vaunted Bulldog midfield. His presence was most definitely felt as he laid a customary 11 tackles, however, it was his combination of ball-winning with three clearances, link work resulting in four times delivering inside forward fifty and 18 disposals at just under 90% that elevated this game above his others to date. Gives the Hawks one-dimensional midfield a completely different feel and allows the likes of Wingard and Mitchell free passage to utilise their attacking instincts. A key driver in the Hawks big win over the fancied Dogs in Tassie.
HAYDEN YOUNG (Fremantle)
The highly-rated Docker has had an injury-ravaged season but has returned strongly in the back end and is a key factor in Fremantle’s charge towards the finals. Has become the primary intercept marking player in the backline and his class was on show in the derby as he led all comers with eleven marks, five of those through intercept. His 16 disposals were delivered in his typically efficient manner and his ground coverage was illustrated through four rebounds and three entries into fifty.
TRENT RIVERS (Melbourne)
The young West Australian has been a mainstay in the Melbourne defence since his impressive debut in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Much like his higher profile fellow sandgroper from the same draft, Luke Jackson, coach Goodwin has had no hesitation trusting Rivers with the big assignments as the Demons enter September with hopes of a first flag in almost six decades. Against the Crows Rivers was superb, repelling attack after attack as he took 10 marks, driving the ball 550m with precision as he rebounded eight times and entered forward fifty on a further four occasions.
MILES BERGMAN (Port Adelaide)
The famed Port triumvirate of Butters, Rozee and Duursma are the barometer for the in-contention Power, but it’s another relative rookie who is adding some real substance to Hinkley’s charge towards the 2021 finals. Bergman received a well deserved Rising Star nomination a few weeks back, and has now polled in five matches across the season. He was a significant contributor in an admittedly lopsided match against the Blues, his twenty disposals progressing his team 372m, as he helped himself to two goals among six score involvements.
LUKE JACKSON (Melbourne)
On the back of a well-oiled PR campaign Jackson has rocketed to unbeatable favourite for the NAB AFL Rising Star award, and while he’s had a brilliant season, here at The Mongrel Punt we’re always trying to go that extra little step for our fans and we have him we believe rightly in the mix but just behind the best of the best on the set criteria. This is not to admonish Jackson at all, he could very well end up with an even shinier prize on that last Saturday in September, and his game against the Crows was again very solid, particularly after quarter time. Two goals from sixteen disposals, three clearances and a season-high nineteen hit outs were aided by the absence of Reilly O’Brien, but nonetheless you can only beat who you face, and that was certainly the outcome here.
Jake Bowey, the young Demon defender who has usurped James Jordan from the line up holds the unenviable record of being the only player this season not to figure in the Mongrel top 5 in the week of his official nomination. Eighteen disposals at 84% with five intercepts was a solid contribution, but behind his teammates on the day.
Xavier O’Halloran, the composed Giant has sailed under the radar this season but his form is keeping some quality players out of the streaking GWS line up. Seventeen neat disposals adding up to 459m with five score involvements from his five forward fifty entries has his name firmly magnetised to the whiteboard.
Ned McHenry is another of Nicks’ fleet of foot brigade impressing as the end of the season draws near, twenty-two disposals at the elite rating of 87% with eight marks saw him as a valuable outlet in a mostly competitive showing against the Demons.
Sam Durham of the Bombers continues their dream run in unearthing quality performers under Ben Rutten. In the annihilation of the Suns, Durham was everywhere amassing twenty touches with five rebounds from defensive fifty and cruising forward to hit the scoreboard with 1.1.
Round 22 Leader board:
33 – Tom GREEN (GWS)
26 – Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)
24 – Justin MCINERNEY (Sydney)
17 – James JORDON (Melbourne)
15 – Harry SCHOENBERG (Adelaide)
ROUND 23 SUMMARY:
“It is my great pleasure to announce the winner of the inaugural Mongrel Rising Star to Tom Green of the Greater Western Sydney Giants”…
As much as this is what we believe Gil should be toasting later this week, it appears a foregone conclusion that the bizarre structure of the voting system in place for the Ron Evans Medal will award no doubt reward a high-quality young player, but on the basis of probability not the best young player of the season. Enough of that politicising, however, we’ll leave that to our readers. For now, we should acknowledge the superb season of the solidly built Giant, Green. Averaging 20.5 possessions, 4.4 clearances and 3.1 tackles per game he stamped his authority on a renewed Giants midfield, leading them to glorious victories over the Demons, Bombers and the Eagles. He polled coaches votes in five matches, and Mongrel votes on seven occasions, including five times receiving the maximum allocation. In a star-studded line up he was often the bull that freed up All Australian nominated Jacob Hopper, allowed Tim Taranto to drift forward, gave Leon Cameron the luxury of keeping Toby Greene close to goal and offset the regular absences of high priced trio, Whitfield, Kelly and Coniglio. He also added an extra string to his bow this season showing a strong pair of hands inside fifty, and should build on his 13 attempts on goal this season. A very well deserved winner.
Green’s victory shouldn’t diminish the incredible performance of all the Rising Stars this season, all up forty-three eligible players received votes, with countless others recognised with honourable mentions – the game appears to be in safe hands. It would be remiss not to cast an eye over the rest of the top five though, with Swan Justin McInerney exploding after mid-season to poll in six of nine games from round 15 to finish as runner up, Jackson polled in the most games (eight) to stand on the podium. Melbourne’s James Jordon and Adelaide’s Harry Schoenberg finished in a tie for fourth on 17 votes, their contrasting seasons summed up by Schoenberg polling in five of the last seven games, while Jordan was ultra-consistent up until a change of heart by his coach in the last month.
From a club perspective, the Swans were the clear winner, their 60 votes across five players the highest in both categories. Melbourne with 49 and Adelaide with 43 taking the placings, while the Crows and the Magpies each had four players poll votes. Geelong were the only team not to have a single vote-getter across the season, with Richmond, Western Bulldogs and the Eagles only having one each.
JUSTIN MCINERNEY (Sydney)
The silky Swan may be one of John Longmire’s greatest successes, after his mid-season swap with Jordan Dawson has sent them both skyrocketing to stardom and the original Sydney team now faces their fiercest rival in an Elimination Final hoping to best them for the first time. His side’s third-highest possession winner with 29, twenty-two of which by foot which made his 80% disposal efficiency even more meritorious, a career-high 13 marks, 417m, eight score involvements and one direct goal assist had him the clear stand out Rising Star player of the week for a third time. The expanses of UTAS Stadium in Launceston should suit him as an attacking force in the monster Sydney derby in Tasmania’s historic first final.
NED MCHENRY (Adelaide)
The 2018 first round selection achieved a career-high in disposals (24) and inside 50s (4) in a tremendous performance against the Kangaroos in round 23. His speed and crafty delivery going at over 80% contributed to an outstanding 13 score involvements, and his game might have been even more destructive if he’d finished better in front of goal, recording one goal, three behinds.
COOPER SHARMAN (St Kilda)
The second mid-season draftee to poll Mongrel votes after Jai Newcombe, Sharman had Saints fans in raptures as he plucked four contested marks from the Hobart sky. His workrate impressed as he added fifteen disposals gaining 339m in a super impressive four goal outing. Perhaps most pleasing to coach Brett Ratten would have been the two tackles inside forward fifty as the Saints finished the season on a high with Sharman now firmly in the clubs plans to return to finals in 2022.
HARRY SCHOENBERG (Adelaide)
Throughout the first two-thirds of the season it felt like Schoenberg was always just outside the top five vote getters, but the working class winger refused to relent as his fellow class of 2021 tired after a long season. Wearing premiership skipper Mark Bickley’s number 26, Schoenberg shows similar traits to the feted Crow and he performed magnificently on the weekend. Twenty-four touches, ten score involvements, eight tackles, six clearances, two goal assists and a goal to cap off a tremendous season that saw him equal fourth in the Mongrel voting, but almost certainly ignored by the “official” Ron Evans Medal panel.
LIAM STOCKER (Carlton)
The former Brighton Cricket Club talent has found his feet this season after a barren first two AFL seasons. Career highs with 23 possessions, six rebounds from fifty and two clearances were coupled with a massive 527m gained and pleasingly for his coach (either incumbent or in-coming) also collected five one percenters as one of his side’s best in a competitive performance against an in-form Giants side.
Tyler Brockman finished the season on a high with three impressive goals and a goal assist from his eight touches at 100% as a late inclusion for Breust.
Riley Thilthorpe was prolific with 18 disposals and eleven score involvements in the Crows big win over the Kangaroos to close out the season.
Errol Gulden is in fine form approaching his first finals campaign, zipping up and down the ground gaining 423m with five entries and four rebounds from the 50m arcs, he also added nine marks and four tackles to his 19 possessions.
Hayden Young, unlucky to miss votes again he was one of his side’s lone shining lights with a mature performance collecting 17 touches, seven intercepts and eight tackles.
Connor Idun, becomes just the second player to miss Mongrel votes in the week he received his official nomination, but has compiled a strong resume across the season. 17 assured touches, five marks and four intercepts has him a key player as the Giants enter the finals.
Round 23 Leader board:
33 – Tom GREEN (GWS)
29 – Justin MCINERNEY (Sydney)
26 – Luke JACKSON (Melbourne)
17 – James JORDAN (Melbourne)
17 – Harry SCHOENBERG (Adelaide)
Complete votes awarded across the season.
|* Jake Bowey Rd 22 nominee did not poll a vote.|