Mongrel of the Year – Four Round Update

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-ish 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 FIFTEEN**

 

The keenly awaited ‘round of the century’ saw all eight teams in the eight playings each other for only the fourth time in history. While the Demons re-established their premiership credentials with an emphatic smashing of the top-placed Lions, and the Swans dispatched a meek St Kilda, the Blues/Dockers and Cats/Tigers games didn’t fail to deliver, each contest among the best of the year to date.

Again, we enjoyed some significant moves on the leader board with Cat star polling five votes to move within six of the lead, however, his stake for the crown will be affected by the tribunal-enforced layoff for his crude attack on Dion Prestia. Consistent Crow Rory Laird made his first appearance at the top end of the votes for the year and joins teammate Keays who moved into equal fourth, while Will Brodie, Sam Walsh and Liam Baker continued their outstanding mid-season runs of form. Baker in particular has been nothing short of sensational polling 23 votes (out of a potential 30) in the past six games, in a contract year he is in line for a massive payday. Tex Walker, enjoying an incredible late-career return to form in the past two seasons, moved ahead of Jeremy Cameron to be the leading key forward on the table, and the third Crow in the top 18 players.

 

Melbourne vs Brisbane

5 – Jake Lever

4 – Jack Viney

3 – Steven May

2 – Daniel Rich

1 – James Harmes

 

Two clear standouts in this game, Demons Jake Lever and Jack Viney absolutely outstanding, the tall defender just pinching the top votes based on an outstanding 15 intercepts from his twenty disposals that led to five scores out of defensive half attacks. He was also integral in keeping the much-vaunted Brisbane forward line to just seven goals on an ideal night for scoring. Former skipper Viney was brutal in everything he did on Thursday night, crashing packs with and without the ball on his way to 19 contested possessions amongst a season-high 34 touches. Seven tackles, including two I50, eight clearances, a game-high ten I50 and a direct goal assist sees the hard man in career-best form.

 

Bulldogs vs Hawthorn

5 – Tom Liberatore

4 – Rhylee West

3 – Marcus Bontempelli

2 – Mitch Lewis

1 – Jack Scrimshaw

 

In an almost exact replica to Viney’s performance the night before, Tom Liberatore, also the son of a hard-nosed 90’s star, made this game his own, impacting every contest he attended and freeing up time and space for his skilled teammates with expert distribution. He finished with game-high tackles, clearances (seven from the centre) and contested possession (16) and was only one-off teammates Bontempelli and West for scoring involvements with 12. Yet another son-of-a-gun, Rhylee West produced a breakout performance, or as some Mongrels pondered, perhaps just a very accurate Ben Ronke impersonation as he tortured the Hawks throughout the four quarters. Registering career-highs in the following offensive categories: total disposals (19), kicks (12), marks (6), goals (3), goal assists (3), I50 (4)and R50 (1), he was literally everywhere and pushing 22 might be ready to become the player some have predicted he will. The test comes in the following weeks to see if he’s able to maintain and build on this standard.

 

West Coast vs Essendon

5 – Josh Kennedy

4 – Elliot Yeo

3 – Peter Wright

2 – Jack Darling

1 – Nic Martin

 

A surprisingly high-scoring and high-quality affair that resulted in a surprise Eagles victory, their second of the season as their team is finally starting to become settled after the enormous covid interruptions earlier in the year. 700-goal hero, Josh Kennedy was the man here – as he has been so many times before, turning back the clock to collect a handful of goals as a result of five powerful marks and his trademark agility at ground level. Peter Wright, 4.4 from eight marks, extended his career-high goal return in a season to 35, while Jack Darling completed a welcome triumvirate of big forwards in the votes with his three contested marks integral in his side’s big win as much as his two goals from four scoring shots.

 

Carlton vs Fremantle

5 – Sam Walsh

4 – Zac Fisher

3 – Hayden Young

2 – Will Brodie

1 – Alex Pearce

 

A rich vein of form to Carlton superstar Sam Walsh, that has seen him claim 18 votes in the past seven games and best afield honours here as he claimed 40 possessions, seven clearances and drove the ball I50 eleven times as the Blues consolidated their place in the eight against the high-flying Dockers. Zac Fisher was a livewire acquiring a career-high 29 disposals, beating his previous best of 28 in round 5, 2019. His speed and vision were integral in the 31-point win, an elite disposal efficiency of 83% well above his season average, not to mention the extra 11 touches he used to create constant opportunities in a fine outing.

 

Geelong vs Richmond

5 – Tom Stewart

4 – Liam Baker

3 – Jack Ross

2 – Toby Nankervis

1 – Tyson Stengle

 

A thrilling, last-gasp four-point victory was overshadowed by the fallout from the Stewart/Prestia clash, which dominated the headlines in the following days. Unfortunately, Richmond was down a prime mover afterwards, while the star cat continued his incredible form claiming maximum votes as he controlled the backline with seventeen intercepts from his 29 touches. The Tigers were once again well served by the dynamic Liam Baker who has been ranked best or second best on ground in his past five matches, and his impact was felt again through the midfield as he almost single-handedly changed the momentum when the Cats were seemingly out to a match-winning lead. 24 disposals, seven clearances, two goal assists and a major of his own, saw him probably only his team’s victory away from recognition as the game’s best player.

 

Sydney vs St Kilda

5 – Jake Lloyd

4 – Oliver Florent

3 – Nick Blakey

2 – Tom Hickey

1 – Seb Ross

 

The two-time Bob Skilton Medallist as Sydney’s fairest and best player returned to his very best form after a sluggish 2022 to date, thirty-nine disposals at a typically elite 85% were achieved through nine marks and ten intercepts, he worked seamlessly with running players Nick Blakey and Olly Florent to completely dominate the lacklustre Saints. Florent was also superb off half-back, twenty-seven touches, a season-high supplemented with 12 marks and a goal in a superb four-quarter performance.

 

North Melbourne vs Adelaide

5 – Rory Laird

4 – Ben Keays

3 – Taylor Walker

2 – Jordan Dawson

1 – Darcy Fogarty

 

In a battle of fellow cellar-dwellers, the Crows were the comfortable victors, with winners all over the ground, ten goals were shared by Walker and Fogarty up forward, while ex-Swan Dawson continued his fabulous season. Their two prime movers in the midfield battled it out for most impactful, with two-time All-Australian, Laird narrowly coming out on top, with a rare quadruple-double of kicks (13), handballs (21), tackles (11) and clearances (11), Keays provide a brilliant one-two punch with 30 touches of his own, five tackles, seven clearances and a goal as they completely nullified the Kangaroos through the middle of the field.

 

Collingwood vs GWS

5 – Darcy Cameron

4 – Will Hoskin-Elliot

3 – Steele Sidebottom

2 – Jamie Elliott

1 – Josh Kelly

 

Ex-Sydney big man, Darcy Cameron polled the five votes in this game as Collingwood win a fifth game on the trot, the final score of 11 points not representing a dominant, but inaccurate Magpie side that outscored their opponents by 16 scoring shots. Cameron shared ruck duties with Mason Cox again, finishing with twenty-three hit outs, seventeen disposals, eight marks (three contested), five clearances and two goals. His pack marking is a key feature of McRae’s game style, and it will be must-watch viewing to see how the Collingwood brains trust deal with the imminent return of Brodie Grundy, with two in-form rucks already in place. Oft maligned Will Hoskin-Elliot turned it on against his former side, collecting a season-high 23 disposals as he roamed up and down the ground as his season highs for R50 and I50 showed.

 

Port Adelaide vs Gold Coast

5 – Connor Rozee

4 – Jarrod Witts

3 – Ben Ainsworth

2 – Charlie Dixon

1 – Sam Powell-Pepper

 

Much like Port’s 0-5 start to the season, several of their stars were MIA during that period, which included but was not limited to the silky smooth young gun, Connor Rozee. In his first ten games this year he polled just one vote, in the past four he’s polled ten across three games, and in this one he was a difference maker. It isn’t volume with Rozee, its quality, the two consecutive goals he kicked in the third term gave his team back the lead from which they would never give it up again, his six clearances included three out of centre bounces, and of his four marks, two were contested. His touches are impactful, and when he is up over the 20-possession mark he is likely a key factor in the result, as it showed here. Suns skipper Witts was again a tireless worker for his team, easily outmuscling part-timer Finlayson in the first half on his way to 41 hit outs, eight clearances and twenty disposals. The surprise move by Hinkley to move Dixon into the ruck in the second half blunted Witts dominance just enough to prevent him winning the game off his own boot.

 

 

ROUND FIFTEEN LEADERBOARD:

 

34 – Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

29 – Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

28 – Callum Mills (Sydney)

28 – Tom Stewart (Geelong)

27 – Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

27 – Ben Keays (Adelaide)

26 – Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle)

25 – Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

24 – Will Brodie (Fremantle)

23 – Sam Walsh (Carlton)

23 – Liam Baker (Richmond)

22 – Jack Crisp (Collingwood)

20 – Taylor Walker (Adelaide)

19 – Ed Langdon (Melbourne)

19 – Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)

18 – James Sicily (Hawthorn)

18 – Jade Gresham (St Kilda)

18 – Rory Laird (Adelaide)

 

 

**ROUND SIXTEEN**

 

The Magpies outlasted the Suns in a thriller, while the Dockers bested a fast-finishing Port in the two best matches of a compelling round of AFL. Elsewhere the Lions got back on track with a comfortable victory over a disappointing Bulldogs, the Saints and Bombers stunned the Blues and Swans respectively and the Cats flexed their considerable muscle at home in a 112-point shellacking of North.

 

With leader Lachie Neale only polling one vote, the race to the crown tightened considerably with Oliver, Petracca, Walsh and Baker creating a logjam at the top. 10 players are now within 2 big games of the lead in this most prestigious award. All Australian backline locks Sinclair & Sicily moved onto 22 votes apiece with superb games and Rory Laird climbed further up the table, becoming the third player with 21 or more votes for the lowly Crows.

 

Brisbane vs Bulldogs

5 – Keidean Coleman

4 – Charlie Cameron

3 – Harris Andrews

2 – Jack Macrae

1 – Lachie Neale

 

Once described by Luke Hodge as the best kick on the list Keidean Coleman has struck a rich vein of form and was superb against the Dogs. His 24 touches were delivered at the elite 84% and led to nine score involvements showing his impact from a predominantly back flank position. Star small forward Charlie Cameron was unstoppable with four straight goals and five direct goal assists, creating nightmares for an undermanned Bulldog defence.

 

Carlton vs St Kilda

5 – Jack Sinclair

4 – Rowan Marshall

3 – Sam Walsh

2 – Adam Saad

1 – Brad Crouch

 

Saints defender Jack Sinclair continued his coming of age season with his second-best afield performance since the bye rounds, and seventh match for the year in which he’s polled to lead his side to an unexpected victory after several weeks of below-par efforts. Recording a career-high 37 disposals and 11 marks, the Saints #35 was literally everywhere as he brought the ball outside D50 six times and delivered it I50 a further six times.  Under the pump St Kilda big man, Rowan Marshall returned to his very best collecting 22 possessions and 12 marks (four contested) as he effectively became an extra midfielder in shutting down the vaunted on-ball brigade of the lacklustre Blues.

 

Essendon vs Sydney

5 – Chad Warner

4 – Nick Hind

3 – Zac Merrett

2 – Mason Redman

1 – Luke Parker

 

A surprise win by the up and down Bombers in spite of an outstanding best afield performance by young Swan Chad Warner. He ended up with 25 touches, 13 I50, 11 score involvements, seven clearances, 727m gained and three goals in one of the more dominant games by an individual this season. Former Saint Nick Hind’s improvement over the last month has coincided with a more run and gun mentality from the same olds as the extra freedom to take on an attacking option paid dividends. Hind impacted the game considerably with his 25 disposals, contributing to eight score involvements as well as kicking and setting up a goal of his own.

 

Collingwood vs Gold Coast

5 – Nick Daicos

4 – Izak Rankine

3 – Josh Daicos

2 – Touk Miller

1 – Darcy Moore

 

Rookie sensation, Nick Daicos was a marvel in the slippery conditions at Metricon, some might say a Macedonian Marvel if you wanted to get historical, but either way, he and our four-vote star were playing with different footies. Daicos finished with a career-high 37 disposals and was just superb with ball in hand, no wonder at just 19 and with only 15 games under his belt he is already the go-to player in Craig McRae’s game plan to set up attacking moves. His torpedo pass to Ginnivan under pressure was the type of skill that can only be learnt by carrying a ball with you everywhere you go from the time you can walk. The result was the only thing keeping a white-hot Izak Rankine off the top of the podium for this match, he finished with four goals, each more sublime than the last and is starting to consistently display the talent that saw his so highly regarded when he first burst on to the scene.

 

Geelong vs North Melbourne

5 – Tom Hawkins

4 – Cam Guthrie

3 – Jeremy Cameron

2 – Tom Atkins

1 – Luke Davies-Uniacke

 

It’s not surprising that a couple of forwards were amongst the handful of best players in this lopsided result, Cats key forward Tom Hawkins registered a season’s best six goals, with two direct goal assists as part of a whopping 14 score involvements.  Cam Guthrie has returned to his best 2020 form with a vengeance in recent weeks, this time being highly influential in extracting five clearances, seven bone-jarring tackles, and a goal from his 29 possessions. The continued resurgence of Guthrie, Duncan confidence of Atkins and Holmes and the return of Menegola have given Geelong a different look at the approach the pointy end of a season with many around the competition believing they can definitely win it all.

 

Melbourne vs Adelaide

5 – Clayton Oliver

4 – Christian Petracca

3 – Rory Laird

2 – Jack Viney

1 – Taylor Walker

 

Multiple Bluey Truscott Medallist Clayton Oliver was at his bustling best on the way to a 36-disposal game, leading all-comers and adding six clearances and an outrageous 13 tackles to another near-perfect game in the Demons comfortable win over the Crows. His partner in crime, Christian Petracca was equally effective, his 33 touches (20 contested) incorporating 11 score involvements, six tackles, five clearances and a welcome return to goalkicking form with three, his first majors since round 10 and a reminder as to why these two were so effective in leading the Dees to their drought-breaking flag last year.

 

West Coast vs Richmond

5 – Tim Kelly

4 – Marlion Pickett

3 – Daniel Rioli

2 – Liam Baker

1 – Nic Natanui

 

Expensive West Coast recruit, Tim Kelly certainly cannot be accused of putting the queue in the rack in this annus horribilis for the Eagles in 2022. He should win the B&F in a canter, and his 40-possession game with nine clearances, two goals and ten score involvements was from the very top shelf in an entertaining, high-scoring game in perfect conditions at the MCG. Mature-age recruit Marlion Pickett continued his stretch of great form this year with twenty-five touches, eight intercepts, five tackles and two goals as he has made a wing position his own during the Tigers’ run to the finals.

 

GWS vs Hawthorn

5 – Jesse Hogan

4 – James Sicily

3 – Callum Brown

2 – Josh Kelly

1 – Harry Morrison

 

In monsoonal conditions at Giants Stadium the expectation that much of the game would be played with the ball on the deck, however highly skilled big man Jesse Hogan had other ideas as he treated the bar of soap like he was playing on the beach with a grip ball. His mastery of wet-weather football saw him finish with 22 touches, eight marks, and 2.2 which could have and should have been doubled at least, a fine game. Hawk firebrand James Sicily has scarcely put a foot wrong this year, arguably going toe-to-toe with Tom Stewart for the unofficial title of defender of the year, his 25 disposals, from 15 intercepts and 962m gained generated significant momentum for the Hawks early as they dominated the first half before being overrun after the long break.

 

Fremantle vs Port Adelaide

5 – James Aish

4 – Ollie Wines

3 – Rory Lobb

2 – Jordan Clark

1 – Connor Rozee

 

26-year-old journeyman, (can you be a journeyman at just 26?) James Aish continues his career-best season in the high-flying Dockers team. During Sunday’s late game he led his team with 29 possessions, taking eight marks, and adding three clearances to his two-goal performance. 2021 Brownlow Medallist Ollie Wines after an early season heart scare continued his late-season renaissance with another tireless display, this time racking up 39 touches with five clearances as he repeatedly dragged his team off the canvas for a final assault that fell just eight points short.

 

ROUND SIXTEEN LEADERBOARD:

 

35 – Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

31 – Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

30 – Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

29 – Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

28 – Callum Mills (Sydney)

28 – Tom Stewart (Geelong)

27 – Ben Keays (Adelaide)

26 – Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle)

26 – Sam Walsh (Carlton)

25 – Liam Baker (Richmond)

24 – Will Brodie (Fremantle)

22 – Jack Crisp (Collingwood)

22 – Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)

22 – James Sicily (Hawthorn)

22 – Jack Sinclair (St Kilda)

21 – Taylor Walker (Adelaide)

21 – Rory Laird (Adelaide)

19 – Ed Langdon (Melbourne)

19 – Touk Miller (Gold Coast)

18 – Jade Gresham (St Kilda)

 

 

**ROUND SEVENTEEN**

 

The round kicked off with a top-of-the-table clash, and it was Geelong who moved to outright premiership favourite with a complete dismantling of the reigning champions, the Swans treated the Bulldogs with equal disdain and the Kangaroos just fell short of their second win of the season in a gallant effort against the high-flying Magpies. Elsewhere Noah Anderson lived out every kid’s fantasy kicking the winning goal after the siren and Freo consolidated their top four position with a barnstorming second half to completely swamp the Saints at Marvel.

Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps led the competition with 29 votes after just Round 8 but has failed to poll since despite some good performances and has been run down by now five players with Keays and Brayshaw moving into the 30s after stellar efforts on the weekend. Not a lot of movement otherwise, Freo star Will Brodie stayed in touch with the leading pack moving on to 27 and Coleman leader Charlie Curnow burst onto the leader board for the first time thanks to his five-goal virtuoso performance against the Eagles.

 

Geelong vs Melbourne

5 – Tom Atkins

4 – Cam Guthrie

3 – Jack Viney

2 – Isaac Smith

1 – Angus Brayshaw

 

For the third time in the past six matches, Cat midfielder Tom Atkins found himself in the votes, this time adjudged the most influential on the ground as his fearsome attack on the ball and player rocked the hardened Melbourne engine room to its core. 21 disposals, nine tackles and nine clearances against the likes of Oliver, Viney, and Petracca would’ve put a smile on the coach’s face as he topped off his best afield match with a goal. Speaking of recent good form, 2020 All Australian Cam Guthrie is in the midst of a 13-vote run spanning just four games and was again impactful against Melbourne, with 28-possesions, five tackles, six clearances and two goals of his own, including an absolute masterpiece from deep in the construction pocket had him marginally behind Atkins, but still fantastic.

 

Sydney vs Bulldogs

5 – Tom Papley

4 – Sam Reid

3 – Ryan Clarke

2 – Patty McCartin

1 – Tom Liberatore

 

Tom Papley played one of those games where the statistically inclined of us like to hypothesise about all-time performance if he’d just kicked straight. Five behinds were his only blemish on an otherwise out-of-this-world outing that saw him collect 24 touches, two goals, and the extraordinary five direct goal assists and seventeen score involvements. Prepare to riot if Gil doesn’t read his name out alongside three votes on Brownlow night. With first ruck Peter Ladhams forced from the ground with a broken thumb, the task fell to swingman Sam Reid to compete against Bulldog giant English, Longmire would’ve been thrilled if he was able to compete, but what he delivered was a stunning upgrade. 25 hit outs (a staggering seven above his previous career-high in Rd 6 last year), 13 tackles (usurping his career-high of eight achieved twice – 2019, 2015) and seven clearances, you guessed it career-highs again made for an all-time night.

 

Collingwood vs North Melbourne

5 – Luke Davies-Uniacke

4 – Taylor Adams

3 – Nick Daicos

2 – Todd Goldstein

1 – Jed Anderson

 

23-year-old Luke Davies-Uniacke with 65 games behind him is just starting to come into his prime. His form this season for the struggling Roos has been superb, and through no fault of his own has tried to lift them out of the mire. For three and a half quarters he did just that against the all-conquering Magpies, but alas they couldn’t quite hold on despite LDU’s equal game-high 33 disposals, fourteen I50s, twelve clearances, eleven tackles and two goal assists in a clear best on ground performance. Consistent Collingwood midfielder Taylor Adams was the best for the winners, his twenty-eight touches consisting of six clearances and eight score involvements.

 

Gold Coast vs Richmond

5 – Touk Miller

4 – Ben Ainsworth

3 – Shai Bolton

2 – Daniel Rioli

1 – Noah Anderson

 

2021 All Australian, Touk Miller has thrust his name in front of the selectors once again and moves to 24 votes overall in the Mongrel award, his running capacity is unparalleled, and he collected 27 possessions an astounding 13 clearances and kicked a goal as his Suns overcame a 40-point deficit to win after the siren. Developing forward Ben Ainsworth continued his strong recent run of form with a season-high twenty-six disposals to complement his 14 marks, 12 score involvements and two goals in the thrilling victory.

 

St Kilda vs Fremantle

5 – Jordan Clark

4 – Andrew Brayshaw

3 – Will Brodie

2 – Brennan Cox

1 – Nathan Fyfe

 

Geelong recruit Jordan Clark achieved a career-high with disposals, his 30 distributed at the elite rate of 84% efficiency, his speed and accuracy was too much to handle as the Dockers kept pace with their opponents and then brushed them aside with impunity in the second half. One of the favourites for this season’s Brownlow, Andrew Brayshaw did his chances no harm with another 36-touch game and ten tackles, his insatiable hunger for the ball a common feature of the Longmuir-coached side in 2022.

 

Port Adelaide vs GWS

5 – Connor Rozee

4 – Kane Farrell

3 – Willem Drew

2 – Sam Powell-Pepper

1 – Stephen Coniglio

 

Speaking of in-form players, Port young gun Connor Rozee polled votes for the fifth time in the past six games as he out-classed the expensive Giants midfield almost singlehandedly. While he may not compile the sheer mass of possessions as his other midfield contemporaries, his competitive advantage is hitting the scoresheet, which he has done in each of the past six games. This time he returned 4.2 amongst a game-high eleven score involvements and three tackles inside F50. Purists will tell you there is nothing more pleasing to the eye than the sight of a left-footer swinging his leg majestically through the ball and delivering the ball like a tracer bullet to the target, amongst some 700 listed players in the competition, Port’s Kane Farrell may well be the best exponent of this primary skill, and he used his talent to devastating effect with two long goals.

 

Brisbane vs Essendon

5 – Jye Caldwell

4 – Jake Kelly

3 – Peter Wright

2 – Kyle Langford

1 – Jayden Laverde

 

Despite losing nine players before the game the Lions were still favoured to win at home against the disappointing Bombers, however, they were probably not prepared for such a committed effort and continuation of the run and gun game style Rutten has released in recent weeks. Former Giant, Jye Caldwell had the unenviable job of minding Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale, and kept him to a season-low 21 touches, more than ten below his average, while collecting twenty-six of his own, seven tackles and a goal to drive his team to a win.  Former Crow, Jake Kelly was given a late reprieve as teammates succumbed to the dreaded Health & Safety protocols and made the most of his second chance completely blanketing Charlie Cameron, the matchwinner seven days prior. Kelly was disciplined in holding Cameron to just six disposals and no shots on goal for the first three quarters as the Bombers established a match-winning lead.

 

Hawthorn vs Adelaide

5 – Mitch Lewis

4 – Jai Newcombe

3 – Ben Keays

2 – Changkouth Jiath

1 – Finn Maginness

 

Two of the cellar-dwellers faced off inside at Marvel, and it was the Hawks who came out on top, led by four U23s in the votes. Mitch Lewis put behind him the unfortunate end of his 25-game goal streak in the flood-plain that was Giants Stadium last week to kick an equal career-high five majors only 12 minutes into the second term, while he was relatively well held by Nick Murray after completely out-classing Jordan Butts. Rising Star contender Jai Newcombe moved two votes clear of Nick Daicos with another bombastic display with 25 possessions and eight clearances, he has a presence of a far older player, and at only 23 games into his career is already the Hawks’ best and most important mid, pretty impressive when you consider Brownlow Medallist and three-time Crimmins Medallist, Tom Mitchell is still in the team.

 

West Coast vs Carlton

5 – Matthew Kennedy

4 – Charlie Curnow

3 – George Hewitt

2 – Liam Duggan

1 – Shannon Hurn

 

Former Giant, Matthew Kennedy was the best performed of a powerful Carlton on-ball brigade in a big win over the Eagles. Apart from 27 disposals of his own, seven tackles and five clearances he worked diligently to keep Tim Kelly under control, who had been almost a match-winner the last week. Key forward Charlie Curnow moved to 50 goals for the first time in his career, a stunning achievement considering he had barely played for two seasons prior to 2022, he kicked 5.3 and took eight powerful marks as his unique mix of aerial and ground skills exploited an undermanned West Coast defence.

 

ROUND SEVENTEEN LEADERBOARD:

 

35 – Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

31 – Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

30 – Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

30 – Ben Keays (Adelaide)

30 – Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle)

29 – Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

28 – Callum Mills (Sydney)

28 – Tom Stewart (Geelong)

27 – Will Brodie (Fremantle)

26 – Sam Walsh (Carlton)

25 – Liam Baker (Richmond)

24 – Touk Miller (Gold Coast)

22 – Jack Crisp (Collingwood)

22 – Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)

22 – James Sicily (Hawthorn)

22 – Jack Sinclair (St Kilda)

21 – Taylor Walker (Adelaide)

21 – Rory Laird (Adelaide)

21 – Charlie Curnow (Carlton)

19 – Ed Langdon (Melbourne)

 

**ROUND EIGHTEEN**

 

Now into the final stretch before finals preparation takes a grip and with still 11 teams vying for top eight positions, Friday night effectively killed off the Saints as they were blown off the park by the Bulldogs. It was a measure of how poor the Saints were that the Dogs never rose to any great heights but easily dispatched them in one of the poorer marquee timeslots for years. The Magpies extended their eight-game win streak in the match of the round, besting the Crows by 5 points in a surprisingly high-quality game considering he conditions, the two nominal best games were ultimately fizzers as the Cats easily accounted for a still not ready Blues, while the Dockers may rue the one that got away overrun by the Swans at home. Elsewhere, the Kangaroos recorded just their second victory of the season, and first with Leigh Adams in charge with a thrilling last-gasp goal by Cam Zurhaar to upset the Tigers, and the Bombers made it three on the trot scuttling any hopes Gold Coast had of September involvement for their first time in history.

 

Reigning Norm Smith Medallist, Christian Petracca moved into a share of the lead with Lachie Neale on the back of his four-vote performance in Alice Springs, while the rest of the very top of the leaderboard remained static. Just below that group however Jeremy Cameron, Sam Walsh and Touk Miller all moved to 27 votes, while Rising Star fancies Nick Daicos and Jai Newcombe made their first appearance on the tally board after moving on to 20 and 19 votes respectively.

 

Bulldogs vs St Kilda

5 – Marcus Bontempelli

4 – Ryan Gardner

3 – Tom Liberatore

2 – Callum Wilkie

1 – Bailey Dale

 

If not for the dazzling beauty of a Bontempelli masterclass this game would have received a nomination for worst game of the year, however the majesty of Maribyrnong cut through the insipid Saints, helping himself to a season-high 34 touches, 11 marks, 12 score involvements, 3 direct goal assists and two majors of his own in the only bright spot on a dreary evening. Ryan Gardner led a previously shaky Dogs defence with an equal team-high 8 intercepts, marshalling the troops to keep the dangerous Saints forwards completely bereft of opportunity in one of his better outings for the club.

 

Adelaide vs Collingwood

5 – Nick Daicos

4 – Rory Laird

3 – Sam Berry

2 – Taylor Walker

1 – Scott Pendlebury

 

For some reason before the weekend there were still doubters on the absolute quality of Magpie first year sensation Nick Daicos’ credentials as one of the finest rookie years in recent history. His spectacular 40-disposal, 3-goal effort surely put paid to any of the ill-informed still out there and moving onto the Mongrel leaderboard for the first time. It’s quite conceivable he’ll poll four best afield nods in the Brownlow this season, an outrageous occurrence for someone fresh off two covid years playing against kids. His 10 intercepts and five tackles only added to the superb all-round match he played. On the other side workhorse Rory Laird was again excellent, 31 disposals, albeit slightly down on his season average, but he more than made up for it with a vastly higher percentage of kicks which in turn added about 200m above average to his metres gained for the match. In a game that saw the all-time record for total tackles it is no surprise that Laird was in amongst it up to his eyeballs, his total of 20 became the standalone highest in history, surpassing the 19 previously held by Jack Ziebell and Tom Liberatore (both 2016 vs Melbourne), and Jude Bolton in 2011 vs West Coast.

 

GWS vs Brisbane

5 – Hugh McCluggage

4 – Rhys Mathieson

3 – Daniel McStay

2 – Sam Taylor

1 – Keidean Coleman

 

Lions midfielder Hugh McCluggage continued to put his name in contention for that elusive AA blazer after making the squad in each of the past two years with a banner performance against the disappointing Giants in Canberra. An equal career-high 4 goals was complimented with a game-high 29 touches, 542m gained and three clearances as he stamped his class on a game where Brisbane might’ve re-found their mojo. Another major reason for the improved intensity in this game was the self-proclaimed barometer as he went full beast mode in the nation’s capital compiling 23 possessions (17 contested), six tackles, and a career-high ten clearances as he gave coach Chris Fagan plenty to think about in only his second game of the season.

 

North Melbourne vs Richmond

5 – Cam Zurhaar

4 – Luke Davies-Uniacke

3 – Jy Simpkin

2 – Bailey Scott

1 – Jayden Short

The first of our six-goal heroes for the weekend to poll maximum votes, Cam Zurhaar burst to live in this game kicking four goals in this second term, giving him five from five kicks to the long break in an extraordinary display of efficiency. While he wasn’t as prolific in the second half, he did deliver the killer blow leaving his opponent Dylan Grimes in his wake as he raced onto a loose ball from a ball up and snapping the game winner in the dying seconds. LDU amusingly called both LED and UDL throughout the week continued his excellent recent form polling votes in a third successive game, ultimately racking up 28 touches along with five tackles and four clearances as his workrate and leadership shone through in a breakthrough victory.

 

Carlton vs Geelong

5 – Jeremy Cameron

4 – Joel Selwood

3 – Sam De Koning

2 – Mark Blicavs

1 – Sam Walsh

 

The running joke that was Jeremy Cameron’s brittle hamstrings in 2021 have turned the gag around as the athletic Cat forward puts together the finest season in his career, including previous Coleman Medal and AA years. His workrate is back to it’s very best and he is proving a match up nightmare as he provides outlet assistance up on the half back line then easily races his flagging defender back into space and invariably assaults on goal. 18 disposals, a game-high 11 score involvements, 3.3 and two goal assists had him as the most influential player in a game that was supposed to test the Cats but was ultimately another tick box checked. Skipper Joel Selwood with his three clearances became the AFL record holder in this category, usurping the injured Swan Josh Kennedy, and will soon become the winningest captain in VFL/AFL history as well capping a glittering career, but there’s still a few more great games in his kit bag. His 25 touches and ten score involvements taught a lesson to his Carlton counterparts still proving their credentials at this level that the Cat #14 has called his own since 2007.

 

Fremantle vs Sydney

5 – Chad Warner

4 – Errol Gulden

3 – Griffin Logue

2 – Luke Ryan

1 – Tom Papley

 

31-game Swan star Chad Warner polled his second best on ground acknowledgement in the past three rounds as he comfortably won the coveted Midfielder’s Championship belt from incumbent Will Brodie in a mildly surprising victory over the top four seeking Dockers. His 35 touches gained 800m and included the impactful 11 score involvements, seven clearances, two goal assists and a brilliant, snapped goal himself as he continues to stamp himself as one of the best young stars in the game today. Fellow 2021 Rising Star nominee, Errol Gulden added the finesse to Warner’s boombastic line breaking, with 23 decisive possessions of his own, his creativity and ball use cutting a swathe through the previously impenetrable Docker backline and also hitting the scoreboard twice.

 

Hawthorn vs West Coast

5 – Luke Breust

4 – Tom Barrass

3 – Josh Ward

2 – Jai Newcombe

1 – Finn Maginness

 

Luke Breust kicked a half dozen goals for the third time in his illustrious career, and with it moved into 8th place on the all-time Hawthorn goalkicking table, this is made more impressive when you consider the names above him include some of the most revered forwards in the games history, among them Dunstall, Matthews, Hudson and Franklin. His career figures match up very favourably against contemporaries widely regarded as the best in his position, Betts, Rioli, and Milne. While this was his first vote polling game, he has moved into 17th on the league goal kicking table, behind only Charlie Cameron as a small forward, and his 11th season out of the past 12 in which he’s kicked over 30 goals, the streak only broken in the heavily covid impacted 2020. Eagle defender Tom Barrass had a career match, claiming a remarkable 18 marks, and thirty disposals, absolutely eclipsing his previous best of 22 and without his superhuman efforts the result could’ve been far more dire.

 

Melbourne vs Port Adelaide

5 – Kysaiah Pickett

4 – Christian Petracca

3 – Connor Rozee

2 – Michael Hibberd

1 – James Harmes

 

The third small forward to return six goals this weekend and claim the five votes was Melbourne dynamo Kosi Pickett who lit up the red centre with the highest goal haul in the Northern Territory by an AFL player. He took full advantage of every opportunity, kicking six of his side’s twelve goals as they were able to establish a match winning lead at three-quarter time. In the absence of his fellow midfield mega-star, Petracca produced his very best, thirty touches, ten clearances and three goal assists the result as he moved to a tie for the lead in the Mongrel MVP award. The stern test against Port might’ve woken the sleeping giant out of their slumber, Melbourne is still well placed for a run at back-to-back flags and is CP5 and his fellow superstars can regain their hunger and swagger, the premiership might not be the foregone conclusion it appears currently.

 

Essendon vs Gold Coast

5 – Mason Redman

4 – Zac Merrett

3 – Touk Miller

2 – Sam Draper

1 – Jake Stringer

 

Bomber hardman Mason Redman polled for the third time in the past five weeks and sixth match overall in a wonderful season for him personally to guide his Bombers to a hat trick of wins against a desperately disappointing Suns outfit. A career-high 34 disposals coupled with 11 intercepts, nine score involvements and two goal assists saw him adjusted best on ground and odds on to win his first Crichton Medal as Essendon’s Fairest & Best player. Perennial vote-getting star Zac Merrett was finally back to his best in a season where he has only polled twice, those both in the past three week stretch as he tore up the Gold Coast mids, collecting 36 touches at will, a game-high 15 score involvements and nine clearances spoke to his impact.

 

ROUND EIGHTEEN LEADERBOARD:

 

35 – Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

35 – Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

30 – Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

30 – Ben Keays (Adelaide)

30 – Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle)

29 – Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

28 – Callum Mills (Sydney)

28 – Tom Stewart (Geelong)

27 – Will Brodie (Fremantle)

27 – Sam Walsh (Carlton)

27 – Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)

27 – Touk Miller (Gold Coast)

25 – Liam Baker (Richmond)

25 – Rory Laird (Adelaide)

23 – Taylor Walker (Adelaide)

22 – Jack Crisp (Collingwood)

22 – James Sicily (Hawthorn)

22 – Jack Sinclair (St Kilda)

21 – Charlie Curnow (Carlton)

20 – Nick Daicos (Collingwood)

20 – Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide)

19 – Ed Langdon (Melbourne)

19 – Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane)

19 – Jai Newcombe (Hawthorn)

 

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