Throwing its black hat into the ring alongside the Brownlow, Leigh Matthews Trophy and AFLCA Award as the most prestigious individual award in the game, the Mongrel of the Year award is back bigger than ever with a regular Thursday slot to recognise last week’s heroes.

Using the superior 5-4-3-2-1 configuration to recognise the most important and best player each game, the Mongrel will keep a running tally through the year as well tip its aforementioned lid to the stars each round. Round 1 started with a bang as some of the biggest names in the game, Petracca, Dangerfield, Cripps and Rowell flexed their considerable muscle on the competition, the race is on in earnest to the crown.

 

Carlton vs Western Bulldogs

5 – Patrick Cripps

4 – George Hewett

3 – Charlie Curnow

2 – Jacob Weitering

1 – Jack Macrae

 

When Michael Voss was unveiled as the new Carlton coach, the watercooler talk (well that awkward few minutes at the start of every zoom/teams call when people who had been doing this for 15 months still couldn’t work out how to use their camera or microphone) immediately shifted to whether the great Lion midfielder would be able to return Patrick Cripps to his Leigh Matthews Trophy-winning glory. While 2 rounds might not be enough to give a definitive answer, the fact he almost certainly has six Brownlow votes sewn up is a pretty good indicator that Vossy has been good for his game. The Blues powerhouse was again unstoppable, 35 touches on over 500m gained, 11 clearances and another two goals have his team primed for that long-awaited shot at finals in 2022. Blues fans would also be thrilled with controversial recruit George Hewett’s second four-vote game in a row, and the all too rare sighting of Charlie Curnow booting five goals had the long-suffering Blues in raptures.

 

Sydney vs Geelong

5 – Isaac Heeney

4 – Callum Mills

3 – Brad Close

2 – Errol Gulden

1 – Dane Rampe

 

You could make a pretty strong argument that Swan superstar Isaac Heeney has had three best afield performances on the trot after his stunning start to the 2022 season on the back of an incredible one-man show in last year’s heartbreaking elimination final loss. Since being drafted/recruited/nurtured/lovingly grown in a laboratory deep under the SCG changerooms many have speculated that Heeney would develop into that next great prototype midfielder, but at age 25 he might just be the prototype forward, one thing that is now unarguable is that the Swan number #5 is one of the best and most damaging players in the league. He further enhanced his growing reputation under the bright lights of Friday night footy, for large stretches taking the considerable limelight away from Buddy1000 as he torched the Cats with five goals from all angles and avenues amongst his 21 disposals. Fellow science experiment Callum Mills performed a magic act on Cats talisman, Paddy Dangerfield, making his disappear for 120 minutes in front of our eyes, while also racking up a game-high 29 touches with six clearances and a goal.

 

Collingwood vs Adelaide

5 – Jack Crisp

4 – Ben Keays

3 – Scott Pendlebury

2 – Tom Doedee

1 – Pat Lipinski

 

Red alert, no that’s not another false alarm at the MCG, but reigning Copeland Trophy winner and one of the most consistent players in the whole comp, Jack Crisp once again playing an outstanding game. 26 penetrating possessions would have had his coach nodding along, but it’s the ten tackles when he didn’t have the ball that would have been rewarded with a firm handshake post-game, my assumption that is the highest form of emotion Craig McRae is capable of mustering. Crow dynamo Ben Keays followed up his five-vote game last week with another big-hearted display to lead all-comers with 37 touches and nine marks. Never a fashionable player the recycled Adelaide star may find himself in All Australian calculations if he is able to maintain the rage.

 

Essendon vs Brisbane

5 – Lachie Neale

4 – Hugh McCluggage

3 – Peter Wright

2 – Marcus Adams

1 – Daniel Rich

 

It shouldn’t surprise to see the 2020 Brownlow Medallist re-finding his sizeable hunger this year after a tumultuous 2021, and he was insatiable in this one at Marvel, running at top speed until the final whistle on his way to amassing 41 disposals, 12 clearances, driving the ball forward for 778m and kicking two goals. Ably supported by inside/outside runner Hugh McCluggage, unlucky to miss AA selection in each of the past two seasons, one heavy criticism of the young winger’s game is his previous inability to hurt on the scoreboard, but not on Saturday as he kicked truly three times, driving the dagger deeper into his opponent’s chest with each accurate kick. Maligned big man Peter Wright (he’s big, he’s red, his feet stick out the bed, Peter Wright, Peter Wright) silenced his critics early with a stunning first term, and while quitter thereafter still produced a fine outing, claiming 11 marks, four contested and kicking three goals in one of his best AFL games.

 

Port Adelaide vs Hawthorn

5 – Mitch Lewis

4 – James Sicily

3 – Travis Boak

2 – Jack Gunston

1 – Tom Mitchell

 

While the result was most certainly a surprise, for those keen track watchers the early season form of Hawk tall forward Mitch Lewis shouldn’t be. Finally able to complete an uninterrupted run, and noticeably stronger and more mobile the skilful Hawk big man has dominated hapless defenders in the first two rounds, finishing with a career-high five goals to head the Coleman Medal race at this early stage. Often criticised for his lack of second efforts and poor positioning, the Sam Mitchell game style seems to suit him as he can hit the ball at pace moving forward, or beat his opponent racing back into space, his strong presence in pack contests has set up numerous goals for his grateful teammates. A long 20-months on the sidelines was James Sicily’s penalty for an innocuous knock in a late-season game in 2020, but he has returned without skipping a beat, proving his AA trajectory was not a false dawn, an assured seven marks led to scything 595m gained with his 20 disposals as he once against led the Hawks most fearsome asset, their defence.

 

Gold Coast vs Melbourne

5 – Christian Petracca

4 – Touk Miller

3 – Clayton Oliver

2 – Jake Bowey

1 – Sam Collins

 

Breaking his personal career-high possessions gained for the third successive game, Christian Petracca has officially ascended to a new plane in the game of Aussie Rules football. Others have reached this utopia before, but I’m not convinced anyone has been in better form than what the Melbourne champ has churned out the last few games.  40 disposals, six clearances and a scarcely believable 14 incisions inside attacking 50 is the stat line of a weapon that must be quelled if anyone hopes to knock the reigning champs off their perch. Another player nearing his career zenith is Touk Miller who but for a single disposal missed last week would have strung together an imposing nineteen straight games of 30+ possessions. Renowned as the best two-way runner in the game, Miller earned nine clearances and progressed his team 944m with his 38 touches, only the coach’s favourite kilometrico pen provided greater distance on the night.

 

North Melbourne vs West Coast

5 – Hugh Greenwood

4 – Nick Larkey

3 – Jeremy McGovern

2 – Willie Rioli

1 – Liam Ryan

 

Suns fans would be thrilled at the form of their battering ram midfielder Hugh Greenwood to start the new season, oh wait… North supporters would be crowing over hardman Greenwood’s impressive debut in blue & white as he took top honours against an under-manned Eagles with a typically robust performance, returning 29 touches, nine clearances and ten tackles. The opposition may not have been at its strongest, but when it’s time to fill your boots, you don’t get the chance every day, and so credit to North’s primary focal target Nick Larkey who delivered six majors from his nine shots on goal, with three strongly contested marks the highlights. Eagles fans would have been enthused to see Rioli and Ryan back to a damaging one-two punch, the AFL world cruelly denied the excitement of this partnership through a regrettable mistake.

 

Richmond vs GWS

5 – Trent Cotchin

4 – Nathan Broad

3 – Tom Green

2 – Noah Balta

1 – Toby Nankervis

 

Three-time Premiership skipper Trent Cotchin turned back the clock and once again led his team to victory in a highly influential role in the absence of Martin, Lambert and Prestia. 18 disposals, three centre clearances, eight ferocious tackles, two of them inside forward 50 and a game-high three goal assists saw him awarded the five votes. Mongrel Rising star winner last season, Giant Tom Green continued his fine start to the year claiming a game-high 34 touches (15 contested), six clearances and six marks. Tiger big men filled the minor placings with Balta scoring four goals and using his impressive athletic traits to break the game open up field, while new co-captain Nankervis enjoyed having his stablemate Soldo back as they tag-teamed young Matt Flynn into submission.

 

Fremantle vs St Kilda

5 – Andrew Brayshaw

4 – Max King

3 – Jack Higgins

2 – Luke Ryan

1 – Brad Crouch

 

The next captain of the Fremantle Football Club did all he could he inspire his team on the weekend, accumulating a career-high forty touches, eight tackles and eight score involvements in a low scoring game, but it was not enough as the Saints’ two-headed monster snatched victory after a poor start. Maybe a recast of the 80s comedy Twins might be a more apt description than two-headed monster, but King and Higgins were equally effective combining for six goals in the third term as Ratten’s men went from the despair of potentially slipping 0-2 to a hard-earned win on the back of that withering goal onslaught. Four goals apiece to the Saint forwards was a great return from both players under immense pressure after disappointing performances in round 1 for various reasons.

 

ROUND TWO LEADERBOARD:

 

10 – Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

10 – Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

9 – Ben Keays (Adelaide)

9 – Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

8 – Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle)

8 – George Hewett (Carlton)

8 – Mitch Lewis (Hawthorn)

7 – Isaac Heeney (Sydney)

 

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