2022 Mongrel of the Year – Lachie Neale

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 has rated players every week using the superior 5-4-3-2-1 configuration to recognise the most important and best player each game.

And here we are – at the end of the road.

 

**ROUND TWENTY-THREE**

 

A round that promised so much with ten teams still finals dreaming and our top two Mongrels of the year playing head-to-head under the Friday night lights was perhaps a mild anticlimax, as neither Neale nor Petracca polled votes, although the Demon could possibly be considered unlucky as he was influential in the annihilation the reigning premiers handed out to the faltering Lions. There was movement in the placings however, with inspirational Carlton skipper literally doing everything bar dragging his team over the line in the most heartbreaking/thrilling loss of the season. His five-vote performance secured 3rd place, but it’s a bitter pill he and his teammates will have to swallow over a long pre-season.

A barnstorming finish to the season saw Rory Laird claim equal fourth after polling eleven times after Round 7, he shared that placing with Suns skipper and AFLCA champion Touk Miller on 38 votes. One vote further back in fifth was breakout star and first-time All Australian Callum Mills with 37 votes.

Other big movers in the final round were Clayton Oliver into 33 votes, after polling for only the second time since Rd 13, former-Sun Will Brodie whose stunning first season at Freo resulted in 30 votes, Dion Prestia joined him on 30 after polling in the last three rounds, and four of the last five, James Sicily and Connor Rozee ended on 28 after vote catching performances in Rd 23, while Tiger big game player Tom Lynch polled for the sixth time to finish on 27 votes.

While many players will rejoice at having their names in lights on the final Mongrel Leaderboard only one player stands atop the league, voted by the ragtag highly credentialled scribes employed by Mongrel enterprises.

So without further ado, we joyously celebrate a worthy winner, the 2020 Brownlow Medallist and favourite again for this year’s honour, Brisbane Lion #9, Lachie Neale. The prolific midfielder was consistent throughout the season, polling in a competition-leading twelve matches to take the title from Melbourne dynamo Christian Petracca. Interestingly, none of the 2021 top 5 (Wines, Oliver, Macrae, Steele or Merrett) were in the mix this season, Oliver the best of that lot polling 33 votes to finish equal 7th, while Macrae was only able to attract nine votes as his Bulldogs crashed out of contention.

So let’s raise a glass to our 2022 champion, Lachie Neale, while his team have faltered badly in the run into the finals, they are still there and capable at their best of causing concern to anyone. Let’s see how our team fare on Brownlow night in comparison to the umpires tasked with the responsibility of awarding what is still the most highly sought-after and acclaimed individual award (after the Mongrel of the Year of course).

 

 

Melbourne vs Brisbane

5 – Steven May

4 – Angus Brayshaw

3 – Clayton Oliver

2 – Kysaiah Pickett

1 – Jake Lever

 

Melbourne star Steven May ensured that the top 4 showdown with the winner taking the double chance was never going to be one to remember for the Lions embattled tall forwards. While his final tally of 20 disposals and 552m is slightly inflated through kick outs, he refused to allow his opposition a look in, and led an efficient and frugal backline to only give up four scoring shots to Daniher, Hipwood and McStay. Angus Brayshaw, who is rumoured to be considering a six-year extension at the Demons, continued his sensational year as he transitioned back in to the midfield winning 27 disposals and six clearances as he outworked his opponents running with and without the ball.

 

GWS vs Fremantle

5 – Caleb Serong

4 – Sam Taylor

3 – Will Brodie

2 – David Mundy

1 – Michael Walters

 

The Fremantle Dockers qualified in fifth position and a home final against the Bulldogs after a rousing come-from-behind victory. The clear standout across the four quarters was Ron Evans Medallist, Caleb Serong who compiled game highs with 32 possessions and eleven clearances finishing off his superb outing with a goal. Giant Sam Taylor consolidated his AA selection with an elite performance in keeping the Dockers at bay for as long as he could. His 12 intercepts, most forming part of his game-high dozen marks was as thrilling as it was frustrating for fans of the purple haze, and he was a worthy four-vote getter in this last game of the season.

 

North Melbourne vs Gold Coast

5 – Alex Sexton

4 – David Swallow

3 – Noah Anderson

2 – Luke Davies-Uniacke

1 – Touk Miller

 

Fortunately for Gold Coast, Stewie Dew managed to find Alex Sexton’s phone number on an old burner phone after deleting it after Rd 3 when he was seemingly cast off into footballer purgatory. Luckily Sexton picked up as his replacement Izak Rankine was busy viewing waterfront properties on Henley Beach, and duly obliged with his reprieve by slotting a career-high six goals. Along with his half dozen majors, Sexton also contributed 10 score involvements to be the most influential player on the ground and will force the hastily reappointed coaching panel to consider him more seriously in 2023 while still in contract. Former skipper Dave Swallow was also impressive, as was his second half of the season, as most dropped off, his 33 disposals and nine clearances led the game.

 

Geelong vs West Coast

5 – Tom Hawkins

4 – Joel Selwood

3 – Tyson Stengle

2 – Mark Blicavs

1 – Tom Stewart

 

The Cats beat up on West Coast as they traditionally do at GMHBA, and the newly minted AA captain, Tom Hawkins had a day out with a 62-27 advantage in I50 leading to a return of 4.3. He didn’t have it all his own way though matched up to Tom Barrass who was brave under adversity but lowered his colours to the Geelong freak who has somehow managed to play a combative sport in one of the most dangerous positions and not copped so much as a broken fingernail in the past 5 years in what is almost certainly a mystery of science and the universe. Hawking took nine marks, laid three tackles I50 and led the game with a dozen score involvements. His skipper followed his lead, and also proved that Masters footy is still a long way from these two Cats thoughts as he collected 28 touches, five clearances and kicked two goals in what may have been his swansong down at Kardinia.

 

Essendon vs Richmond

5 – Dion Prestia

4 – Tom Lynch

3 – Zac Merrett

2 – Trent Cotchin

1 – Jayden Short

 

Off-field turmoil usually translates to an improved on-field performance so many in attendance were expecting a red-hot contest, but the Bombers shortly after shaking hands and tossing the coin, rolled over with limbs flailing wildly as their soft underbelly was exposed to a ruthless Tigers outfit. Richmond have hit the finals in form and with a full list to select from, you might know a certain Dustin Martin who is likely to be available for their Elimination final. Their big names once again pushed forward in this one, Prestia claiming votes in four of his last five games as he accumulated a team-high 31 disposals, five clearances and ten score involvements, while Tom Lynch booted five goals as he destroyed any opponent the under-siege (unfortunately no Erika Eleniak cameos here) Rutten could coerce into standing him. A larger tally, and potential Coleman run was only thwarted by a mild groin concern, which was more likely a strategic resting as Hardwick knows the fear his big forward will cause on any luckless opponent in the next few weeks.

 

Port Adelaide vs Adelaide

5 – Connor Rozee

4 – Ollie Wines

3 – Zak Butters

2 – Rory Laird

1 – Jordan Dawson

 

A typical showdown until halftime saw the game in the balance, before Port asserted their authority going on to win by 56 points and finish what is ultimately a wasted season on a high. Best afield was Connor Rozee, acknowledged as an All Australian in the glitzy awards ceremony last Wednesday, his 34 possessions an equal career-high, in-fact before this season he’d never gathered more than 25 touches in a game, a feat he’s bettered seven times in 2022. He also kicked a goal (his 15th since Rd 11), laid eight tackles and drove the ball I50 eleven times. His partner in crime on the night was 2021 Mongrel of the Year and reigning Brownlow Medallist, Ollie Wines, who after an injury-interrupted start finished with 18 votes from four games. Wines just pipped Rozee for top honours in possession totals with 35, adding eight clearances, two goal assists and six tackles to a memorable Power performance.

 

Hawthorn vs Western Bulldogs

5 – Josh Dunkley

4 – James Sicily

3 – Finn Maginness

2 – Sam Darcy

1 – Lachie Hunter

 

The Bulldogs stayed alive in 2022 thanks to a hard-fought victory over the Hawks at their Launceston fortress, ultimately victorious by 23 points to book their place in a knockout game against Fremantle next Saturday night. Their main contributor was Josh Dunkley long rumoured to be on the move at the end of the season, he was the grit and drive behind this win however, his 29 disposals including eight clearances, nine tackles and ten score involvements as the Dogs vaunted on ball brigade proved too much for their young Hawks counterparts. The Hawks were best served by James Sicily who put a solid exclamation mark on his All-Australian season with a game-high 33 touches, 17 marks – both career-highs, nine R50 and nine intercepts. (Apologies I’ve just been advised Sicily was in fact not named in the Therabody All Australian 22 named by a group of nine individuals, united by the fact that not one of them watched a game of AFL for the entire season. Might want to have a look at Matt Bryker-Oman’s vastly superior effort ‘The Disney Mongrel 2022 All Australian team’, which incidentally named Sicily as Captain).  It’s also of note that Finn Maginness was again superb in shutting down Bailey Smith in the first half and Caleb Daniel later on as he became the only Rising Star eligible player to poll four times throughout the season and not be recognised with a nomination. I guess games past 1pm are a bit late for poor Shifter Sheehan to pay attention to.

 

Carlton vs Collingwood

5 – Patrick Cripps

4 – Darcy Moore

3 – Adam Cerra

2 – Brayden Maynard

1 – Josh Daicos

 

Was this the game of the season? In retrospect, it certainly was not for anyone with navy blue coursing through their veins, but 88k at a heaving MCG with literally everything on the line is what all footy fans have been hanging for over the past 2.5 years of hardship. The Blues skipper was superhuman in his efforts to propel his team forward, the clear catalyst in a withering eight-goal flurry in the third term took them to the brink, and for each of his 35 possessions and 12 clearances, it is wildly unfair, but unavoidable he’ll be remembered for a poor decision late that caused yet another turnover. Magpie defensive leader Darcy Moore was unpassable, collecting 24 disposals and delivering at 96% efficiency, he added nine marks and 11 clearances as he managed to hold the twin towers to just four goals, in a thrilling one-point win.

 

St Kilda vs Sydney

5 – Ben Long

4 – Isaac Heeney

3 – James Rowbottom

2 – Will Hayward

1 – Jack Steele

 

The very last game of the year seemed formulaic until the Saints briefly forgot their history of falling short and challenged the high-flying Swans, before ultimately reverting to type. Best afield and first votes for the season went to Ben Long, a player who has all the skills and an aggressive streak to match finally put it all together. His box score for possessions (27), marks (17), and R50 (8) were all career highs. An inconsistent player, but one that could potentially progress the Saints next year. Best for the Swans was Isaac Heeney, while his scoreboard impact of 2.2 was less than in other games, his 23 touches, with fifteen contested set the scene for the Swans to claim third spot on the ladder.

 

ROUND TWENTY-THREE & FINAL LEADERBOARD:

 

43 – Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

41 – Christian Petracca (Melbourne)

39 – Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

38 – Touk Miller (Gold Coast)

38 – Rory Laird (Adelaide)

37 – Callum Mills (Sydney)

35 – Ben Keays (Adelaide)

33 – Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle)

33 – Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

32 – Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)

31 – Sam Walsh (Carlton)

30 – Will Brodie (Fremantle)

30 – Dion Prestia (Richmond)

29 – Tom Stewart (Geelong)

28 – James Sicily (Hawthorn)

28 – Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide)

27 – Taylor Walker (Adelaide)

27 – Tom Lynch (Richmond)

26 – Jack Crisp (Collingwood)

25 – Liam Baker (Richmond)

25 – Jai Newcombe (Hawthorn)

25 – Brad Crouch (St Kilda)

25 – Angus Brayshaw (Melbourne)

 

 

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