I’m usually a pretty positive person when it comes to footy, but there are times when you see things as you’re watching games, and it just becomes too apparent to ignore.

This article is the bearer of bad tidings. After three weeks of footy, I am witnessing some aspects of players’ performances that worry me. Oh, don’t fret – there are some good aspects in here, as well, but as a warning, some of this analysis of where players are at in 2022 will not be pleasant.

Oh, and I’d like to thank one of my fellow Mongrel writers for the suggestion of the name for this piece… even though his message said “Ugly HB’s Truths… ” I’m sure the title I used is really what he meant. Yes…

So, on that happy note, let’s jump into the ugly truths of 2022 to this point.

 

JARED POLEC LOOKS COOKED

Some positivity to start… great work, Mongrel.

I didn’t really buy into the chatter about him having a big preseason and rediscovering his passion for the game. That was always going to be evident once the real stuff began.

And as suspected, it did not take long for Polec to revert to looking like a player who was about as interested in footy as Ian McKellan is in the Miss World contest.

Nine disposals from his wing and a late goal are nowhere near enough to convince me that Polec has his heart in the 2022 season. If I am sitting in the coaches’ box watching the way he played, I reckon my patience would be just about worn out. If he gets another run around this week, keep a very close eye on him, and not just when the ball is in his vicinity. Is he running hard to aid the defence? Is he covering off outlet disposals as the Swans exit defensive 50? Does he maintain his space to open up the ground at all?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then I hope he enjoys the VFL for the remainder of the season. Credit where it’s due – he got himself a great deal to move across to Arden Street. Not so great for North, though.

 

BRAD HILL HAS STILL NOT DEVELOPED ANY APPETITE WHATSOEVER FOR CONTESTED FOOTY

There was a lot to like about the Saints on the weekend. The ruck combination of Ryder and Marshall again provided a headache, the use of the oft-maligned Ben Long after he came on as the sub emphasised his value to the team, and the run from Jack Sinclair and Mason Wood, of all people, gave the Saints a leg-up late in the game.

But I couldn’t help but have the efforts of Brad Hill catch my eye, and I use the word “efforts” very loosely.

He walked away from this game with 15 touches from half-back, but once again demonstrated that if there is one ounce of pressure involved in the play, he is out. He is like that kid on the playground that grabs the ball and goes home when things don’t go his way… only Brad Hill can’t get the bloody ball to go home unless someone delivers it to him on a platter.

He was moved from the wing in 2021 after being exposed as someone who couldn’t/wouldn’t win his own footy (and still, Brett Ratten laid blame on his teammates) and ended up at half-back. But here’s the thing – if you’re a defender, at some point, you have to… you know… DEFEND! You have to get your working boots on and get some dirt under your fingernails. As a footballer, he is more like someone who just came out of the nail salon.

When given space, Hill is a line-breaking killer, but teams are not stupid. Not that stupid, anyway. They know what his game is all about, and when his space is removed, he has nothing else. Time to find something else, because the more games he has where he shies away from contact and contested footy, the more likely teams will be to prey on it.

 

THE SUNS COULD BE IN DANGER OF LOSING JACK LUKOSIUS DUE TO THEIR OWN STUPIDITY

I covered this in our weekly wingman article, but feel it deserves a wider audience.

Here is the career of Jack Lukosius over the past three years in regard to his roles. Started forward and failed – of course he did; he was a kid. Moved to the wing and was good. Stuart Dew changed his mind and put him into defence. He was good again, but not as good as on the wing. Ben King got hurt, so Lukosius was thrown forward. He had one bad game and found himself back on the wing in Round Three.

How would you like to be Jack Lukosius, attempting to settle into a role in a struggling team over the last three seasons, only to be uprooted and thrown into different roles, irrespective of how well you play?

He was good on the wing early in 2021, but for whatever reason, Gold Coast cannot commit to playing him in a role and allow him to own it. He is like Mr Fix-It, only too many things seem to be broken.

Speaking of commitment, we’re all aware that he is out of contract after this season, right?

Look, Jack Lukosius may love the Gold Coast. He may have a lifestyle there that most young men would envy, but if he is wanting to be the best AFL player he can be, I am not sure that being thrown all over the park like a  blind man’s frisbee is going to be enough to keep him there.

If Lukosius packs up and goes after this season and even hints at the fact that he was displeased with being shunted all over the park in his first three years in the game, heads should roll. And I will have a hard time feeling sorry for the Suns if he walks due to their inability to stick with him in a position.

 

I MAY HAVE GOT IT WRONG ON DANIEL MCSTAY

I’ve been called out by a few Lions fans over the journey as not completely understanding the role of Daniel McStay in the Brisbane offensive structure. Of course, I summarily dismissed their criticisms as those of one-eyed supporters sticking up for their man.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so hasty…

You see, recently, I have started monitoring marks that I call the “Get out of Jail” marks, or “GooJ” marks, for short. These are the grabs taken by players when their teammates have no other option but to go long to a contest, or long down the line. And guess who pops up near the top of the rankings after three weeks?

After keeping an eye on this component of the game, it has become apparent to me that these Brisbane supporters who were so vocal about my analysis of McStay may have known a lot more than me on the subject of the Brisbane forward structure. From now on, I promise I’ll listen more to those who watch each game from their team and analyse each and every play. I try to cover all teams, but your knowledge of your own team surpasses mine.

And to Daniel McStay… sorry mate – I should have been more thorough.

 

DYSON HEPPELL NEEDS TO ACTUALLY LEAD

I remember back a few seasons ago when Luke Hodge moved to Brisbane and I was a little sceptical as to whether he’d bring the same intensity to the role as he did at Hawthorn.

That fear was erased early on when he ironed out the Bombers captain on the wing in a contest. It was the action of a player who refused to give into age, and decided to give it everything he had in every contest for the remainder of his career. Quite the opposite of Dyson Heppell, really.

To me, a captain is supposed to inspire. He is supposed to be the embodiment of the coach on the field, compelling his charges to lift, to do more, to be more. What is Dyson Heppell in this regard? Does he do any of these things? He’s just kind of… there.

The start of the 2022 season has seen Dyson Heppell resume his half-back role for the Bombers. He was quite serviceable in that position last year, but his work this year, perhaps a reflection of his team’s efforts, has not done anything for me. Missed targets, missed assignments… missed leadership?

Heppell needs to be a captain in more than just name for his team this week. He needs to stand up, make a statement, and lift his 0-3 Bombers. They need someone to fly the flag and inspire them.

And if he cannot do it, it may very well be time he hands the reins to someone who can.

 

JACK ZIEBELL IS BEING EXPLOITED IN DEFENCE

There’s no nice way of putting this – Jack Ziebell is moving like a glacier inside defensive fifty at the moment, and though I would never, ever question his heart, I get the feeling that his body is simply not cooperating with him early in the season.

And opponents know it, too.

So, if you were coaching against North, what would you do? Would you attack through his man? I would, and if a dickhead like me is able to see something like this, you can damn sure bet that the coaching staff at AFL level see it too.

Well, most of them.

Ziebell has been a warrior for North and has always been a heart and soul player. Maybe it’s time to put him forward of the ball again? He has great hands, is able to apply defensive pressure inside 50, and if his man shakes him and runs to space, he isn’t within 35 metres of goal when he does it.

As it stands, as much as JZ is trying, teams are a wake-up to his shortcomings. North are leaking goals, and whilst the pathetic defensive run from their mids takes a huge share of the blame (the last quarter against the Lions was diabolical), the inability of Ziebell to get his body to do what he wants it to do exacerbates things inside 50.

A 70/30 forward/mid role could see him become a little more effective, especially around stoppages, but if you move him forward, what do you do with Cam Zurhaar? Goalless in the first three weeks, he isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, either.

 

THE GIANTS HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY’RE DOING WITH THEIR WINGMEN

So, in Round Two, Leon Cameron played Josh Kelly on the wing.

Wanna know what he did?

Well, he ran forward, kicked two goals, had 26 touches and had eight score involvements. Yeah, he was thrown into the middle here and there, but he spent a large portion of the game on the outside, where his skills and hard run gave the Giants tremendous value.

The same bloke has also played Lachie Whitfield off half-back this season, and most of last year for that matter, despite the fact that Whitfield is one of the best two-way runners in the game and when left in space, can cut a team to ribbons. Of course, he can do that from half-back as well, so I understand the thinking, but it seems the Giants are trading off attack or some pretty mediocre defence. Let’s face it, Lachie is never going to be a contender in any defensive player of the year awards, is he?

So, we’ve learnt what they’re not doing – what are they actually doing with the wing positions in Sydney’s west?

This week just past, Xavier O’Halloran was on one wing, whilst Harry Perryman moved back to the opposite wing after a TWO YEAR break from the role. Add in players like Lachie Ash (who stunk up the role in the first two weeks), Daniel Lloyd, Tanner Bruhn, and even Jake Riccardi, and you have a rotational system that just does not get the best out of any of the players occupying the role.

Why is Leon Cameron so insistent that a reliable player in this role is not all that important?

GWS have the capacity to have two of the top five wingers in the business in the position – Kelly and Whitfield . However, due to what could be uncertainty from Cameron, or some type of rotation he employs, no player has had the opportunity to settle into the role and as a result, none have been able to excel.

Perhaps it is time he made a decision about who plays where and bloody well stuck to it for longer than a fortnight?

 

DARCY FOGARTY COULD BE PLAYING COUNTRY FOOTY IN TWO YEARS

Well, it looks like this piece could be timely, with Taylor Walker back for the Crows this weekend and guess who got the chop?

No, Darcy Fogarty didn’t get a vasectomy, but he has been dealt the second-cruellest cut, relegated to the SANFL after failing to produce anything of note in the Showdown last week.

The Darcy Fogarty that entered the league a few years ago seems to be a memory. The combative, forceful, and frightening young man has turned into a bit of a plodder, and with just five touches against the Power, he was overshadowed by Elliott Himmelberg; a player under pressure to perform, himself.

We’re now at the point where Fogarty, as good as he could be, is starting to look like a good country footballer out of his depth in this league. He is not taking marks, he is providing bugger all at ground level, and his chasing is… well, what is a nicer word to use than useless?

I hope he turns things around – he could still be a star at AFL level, and he has that mongrel edge that I love, but judging from what we’ve seen to start 2022, he is lacking in more areas than he’s delivering in at the moment. Whatever he is doing, and whatever the Crows are trying with him, it is just not working.

 

THE GAME NEEDS KIDS LIKE JACK GINNIVAN COMING THROUGH

It was obvious that Joel Selwood didn’t like the fact that he used his own move against him to draw a free kick (that was the equivalent of a Wrestlemania moment where one bloke steals the other’s finishing move and almost gets the win with it) but we often lament that players coming into the league are too cookie-cutter in terms of their personality, and that they all read from the same script. WE don’t like our sports stars to be robots, do we?

Ginnivan may just be the exception to this.

Sure, Kane Cornes can jump up and down and criticise the young bloke for being a little exuberant, or having a good time and basking in some early success in his career, but as much as I like Kane (he doesn’t pull punches), seeing a kid with some genuine personality on the field is refreshing. Plus, Cornes is the last bloke to start whacking blokes about staging. Short memory, there.

Look, he may start to grate on people after a while – it seems people with big personalities eventually do that (Jason Akermanis, as an example), but for the time being, a club looking to reinvent itself needs fresh faces to focus on, and Ginnivan, being a lightning rod for attention, gives the club just that. He will, however, need to back up his attitude with a little more than six touches and one tackle. That sounds more like the bargain deal at a brothel than a respectable footy stat-line.

 

JEREMY MCGOVERN IS READY TO RECLAIM HIS TITLE AS THE BEST DEFENDER IN THE GAME

He hasn’t been at that level for a few years, now, but over the past couple of weeks, Gov has really flexed some muscle in defence for the Eagles.

Of course, his performances were part of losses, but with the Eagles set to be bolstered by key returns, the silver lining on the start of this season is that  McGovern is playing the type of footy that propelled him to four All-Australian selections on the trot.

In his first three outings, he has amassed averages of 10.0 one-percenters, 11.3 intercepts, and 7.0 rebound 50s.

Any way you slice it, those are incredible numbers.

With the loss of Brad Sheppard and the absence of Tom Barrass, Gov has been asked to be everything to everyone in defence. Despite the team results… he has been!

 

Have you got any harsh truths of your own you’d like to share? You know where to find us – comment below, or hit our socials.

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!