The preseason is a strange beast. You either follow it and love having footy back, or it is not your cup of tea and you’d prefer to wait for the real stuff to start.

There is no right or wrong in regard to what you like and what you choose to ignore, but there may be some cases where there are things occurring that you should take note of.

And that’s where The Mongrel comes in handy.

Because I have no life (he says as he awaits his son to be born in the next 24 hours or so), I made it my job to watch every game of the Kayo coverage of the first round of practice matches…. and before I continue, if that’s what they’re trotting out in the hope you renew your subscription after the free trial, Kayo are going to be very disappointed – the quality of AFLW coverage mostly sucks, buy Kayo took that suckiness to a whole new level with their efforts.

Aaaaanyway, we got through the pixelated madness of the Swans v GWS and the missing stream of Collingwood v Hawthorn to compile a list of the winners of the preseason (thus far), and a few of the losers, too.

 

THE WINNERS

 

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Yes, it is only the preseason, but five goals in a half is nothing to sneeze at, and in what was a one-sided affair, Jamie Elliott made the most of a Hawthorn team that seemed to be in disarray.

Matched up against Sam Frost for most of the half, Elliott was too quick and read the ball too well, serviced by some great delivery along the way.

This was after a strong intraclub hitout, too.

 

NICK DAICOS

He’s the real deal, people.

Played a ripper in the intraclub game and backed it up with another excellent performance in their clash against the Hawks. Great ball use, runs to excellent spots, and his teammates look for him already.

 

PHIL DAVIS

Looked like a man on a mission as he lined up once more on Buddy Franklin.

With Sam Taylor unavailable, Davis went step for step with the Swans superstar and not only matched him in the air, but had him covered on the lead. Franklin played three quarters, with his only major coming at the conclusion of the third term, courtesy of a free kick against Jake Stein.

The Giants meet the Swans again in Round One, and whilst I would usually be a little concerned if Sam Taylor was not available, Davis looks fitter than he was in 2020/21 and another clash between the old foes would be more than welcome.

 

IZAK RANKINE

I read an article this morning stating the “penny has dropped” with Rankine. If the result is what we saw in the first quarter of the game against Port, then this could be a very exciting season – not justforSuns fans, but footy lovers in general.

Not known for his physicality, Rankine barrelled into contests and kicked the first goal of the game after a tough contested mark. Long a player that has sizzled, the opener provided plenty of steak, as well. If he can combine the two equally, Rankine may just have the season everyone expected of him when he debuted.

 

DION PRESTIA

Injury free and finding the footy a little too easily for any opposition coaches’ liking, Prestia was dominant in the Tigers’ intraclub clash and backed it up with another solid outing against the Cats.

His link play through the middle, combined with his ability to win his own footy makes the Richmond engine room work at a higher level.

The last time I saw him look this good in any game, it was 2019.

And we all remember what happened then, right?

 

BEN BROWN

He had some sticky hands in his game against his old mob, and not for the same reasons as Joe Ganino usually does, thankfully.

Brown clunked marks and had a good time inside 50 playing against his old team. Snagging five goals in any game is a feat worth celebrating, practice game or not. Many clubs believe that you train the way you play, inasmuch as you bring the same intensity to each contest and drill, irrespective of the circumstance. We saw evidence of that here, as Brown attacked the footy like we have not seen since his 2018 season.

If he can replicate this form several times throughout the season, Bayley Fritsch may very well have some stiff competition in the race for the Dees’ leading goalkicker.

 

TYSON STENGLE

Is this the piece the Cats have been missing?

Geelong have had some serviceable small forwards, with Gryan Miers probably the pick of the bunch last season, but what Tyson Stengle brought in his game against the Tigers was a presence no Geelong goalsneak has since Gaz Junior hung them up, and even then, his presence was completely different.

Stengle has had his issues, but if he is able to keep his nose to the grindstone and remain a threat inside 50, his combination with Hawkins, Cameron, and Rohan (except in September) could make for a very potent mix.

 

LLOYD MEEK

When you break even with a player at the level of Nic Naitanui, you consider it a win.

Lloyd Meek is perhaps the most promising backup ruck in the game, but without Sean Darcy in the team, he was thrust into the main role and more than held his own against Nic Nat, providing the Dockers with good service in the ruck and excellent work around the ground.

Seeing Darcy sporting bandages all over the place in 2021 was a cause for concern, but with Meek looking like an excellent replacement option, Freo could give Darcy ample time off should he require it in 2022.

 

CHAD WARNER

Released into the midfield with the ongoing Achilles injury to Callum Mills keeping him out of the action, Warner found the footy like he’d been playing the role all his life.

Spending time on the wing and across half-forward in 2021, Warner demonstrated that he has another side to his game in this contest. If Mills continues to struggle, Warner has genuinely put his hand up as a great option to join Parker and Kennedy in the middle.

 

DARCY FORT

This was a name I was not expecting to add to this section, but he was really combative in his role as backup to Oscar McInerney and managed to win clean clearances and beat Reilly O’Brien with his mobility around the contest.

With a pairing of the Big O and Fort, the Lions have a nice mix of styles to throw at the opposition, and Fort hit this contest like a man with something to prove. At least in our first look at him, he was able to successfully prove he belongs in this Brisbane team.

 

JOSH RACHELE

Th first real look at Josh Rachele was a good one, with the rookie slotting three goals and making people sit up and take notice in a game where the Crows lacked in many areas.

He took a couple of strong marks for a smaller player and was quick to convert when given a chance inside 50. I am sure there will have been a few people throwing some money on him for the Rising Star award after this performance. It may be a wise investment.

 

MICHAEL HIBBERD

He was made to earn his place in the team last in the 2021seasnon, and he did so doing what he does best – playing hard-nosed defence, shutting down his man, and providing great run from half-back.

And he continued that into this game, completing destroying Cam Zurhaar as he put the Roos’ forward under heavy pressure whenever he went near the footy. I doubt he’ll have to re-earn his place in this Melbourne side in 2022 and should be one of the Dees’ go-to defenders as the season progresses.

 

OSCAR MCDONALD

With the role left behind by Liam Jones still wide open, Oscar McDonald made a great fist of the opportunity afforded him by Michael Voss, combining with Jacob Weitering to clamp down on on Max King and Tim Membrey.

Membrey was excellent when moved into the backline to add stability, but up forward, the fist of McDonald made for a much less effective day for both him and King.

Hell, at one point he even went close to turning the ball over 15 meres out – it was like Liam Jones had never left!

 

ANDREW MCGRATH

The midfield squeeze at Essendon claimed its first victim, but I am not sure you could call Andy McGrath a victim in this regard. He was a monster against the Dogs and his run and carry, combined with his quality disposal, made him a complete weapon off half-back.

Whilst the Bombers now have strength in the position they were once thought of as weak (midfielders), the move to half-back could end up being the role that sees him elevate his own game And that of the Bombers as a result.

 

ADAM TRELOAR

Really came to the fore when Marcus Bontempelli was rested after halftime of the game against the Bombers. His third quarter performance was right up there with the type of work Treloar was doing at his best at Collingwood – hard run, plenty of the footy, and pace to burn. At one point he even took on Nick Hind and didn’t get caught.

Treloar was caught in the Dogs’ midfield squeeze in 2021 but what he provides is something that the other Dogs don’t. His burst run, and second and third repeat sprints are what made him a player whose name you recognised. If he gets the opportunity to do that more in red, white, and blue this season, the Dogs’ midfield gets even more potent.

 

JAKE RICCARDI

A couple of years ago, Jake Riccardi burst onto the scene with several excellent performances late in the season, but what he delivered in 2020 failed to be replicated in 2021, as he struggled to maintain a place in the team and failed to deliver when he got the opportunity.

If his practice match form is anything to go by, 2021 might be the season he takes the next step.

He clunked several strong marks in the game against the Swans, and finished with three goals as one of the focal points of their attack.

 

PADDY MCCARTIN

The forgotten number one pick from the Christian Petracca draft was all but lost to the AFL after concussion issues, but a lifeline from the Swans, and a strong outing combining with his brother in defence may just be the opportunity he needs.

Paddy read the ball brilliantly, and taking the role of floating defender whilst allowing his brother to do the grunt work, he was able to rack up the intercept possessions, particularly in the third quarter, where he was close to the standout defender on the park.

I don’t think there’d be anyone in the game barracking against him making good with this run at Sydney.

 

 

THE LOSERS

 

WEST COAST

Lost Dom Sheed, Elliot Yeo, and Campbell Chesser in rapid succession after losing several others in the preseason, and having Jack Darling unavailable.

Added injury to insult in their game against the Dockers, and with a rematch booked for this coming weekend, will need a massive lift across the board.

 

STEVEN MOTLOP

Started the Port Adelaide intraclub match on the weaker team in a clear indication of his precarious position in this side. He played that game like a man looking to prove a point.

Fast forward one week and he played the actual practice match against the Suns like a man who’d made his point and was content to cruise along. He had no impact on the game, was rarely sighted, and probably proved that Ken Hinkley was correct in starting him on the weaker team in the first game – he played like he belonged there against the Suns.

 

JAMARRA UGLE-HAGAN

Couldn’t get a sniff against the Bombers, with Jordan Ridley and James Stewart completely owning defensive fifty.

There was a point in the last quarter where Jamarra picked up a possession and I was genuinely surprised – I thought he’d been subbed out of the game a quarter before that. After a minimal impact in 2021, the Dogs were hopeful we’d see a big improvement in 2022. As we head toward the last practice game of the season, they would like to see more out of him than he displayed in the Essendon game.

That shouldn’t be difficult, since he did bugger all in that one.

 

SEB ROSS

A really ordinary effort, highlight by his refusal to run with Adam Saad as the Blue made position down the wing. He saw him, he watched him go, and he made no effort to close him down.

Ross is one of those players that seems to be living on past achievements, and with the Saints requiring lifts across the board, and having used him in a defensive role at times in 2021, Brett Ratten would have been bitterly disappointed in what he saw from him against Carlton.

 

JAIDYN STEPHENSON

Remember at the end of his Collingwood tenure when he was fumbly, couldn’t get near the footy, and when he did he looked like a deer in the headlights? If you thought that was just a memory, Stevo gave everyone a reminder that this is still part of the overall package.

He was one of quite a few North players to freeze when confronted with the Demon pressure, but given his off-season, he would have been keen to impress.

He didn’t. Let’s leave it at that.

 

JACKSON HATELY

Still waiting for this bloke to show me something… anything.

He was supposed to be a part of the rebuilding Crows’ midfield, but right now, he looks like a depth player, at best.

There was very little urgency about his game against the Lions and those thinking that he may have a breakout season may have been sobered by watching him meander about as his team was carved up in the middle.

 

SAM FROST

Played on Jamie Elliott.

Was destroyed by Jamie Elliott.

 

Feel free to add your own from what you saw. You’d probably throw Dangerfield and Dusty back into the mix, as well. Both are looking to put injury-affected seasons behind them this season, and their first real hitout showed no signs that would indicate they can’t. Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins, and Tom Lynch – they were all good, too.

 

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