Here at The Mongrel Punt, there are few things that truly surprise us when it comes to footy. Both good and bad, you can kind of see most things coming.
The political appointments of the All-Australian captains? Yeah, we’re used to that crap now.
Rules changing depending on which player is involved? Yeah, happens a bit.
Head of the AFLPA campaigning for a kid to come to his club and bring the number seven draft pick with him and no one bats an eyelid… yeah, nothing to see here. We get it.
However, when you genuinely think one thing and the results point to something completely different, it can leave you scratching your head a little and wondering how it came to pass. Such is the case with the lack of recognition for Charlie Cameron over the past three seasons.
Is there any question that Cameron has been the best small forward in the league over that period? Make your cases here and now, because from where I sit, he is the clear standout in the forward pocket role. Need some evidence?
I got ya.
Charlie Cameron was named to the All-Australian team in 2019 after a stellar campaign. He kicked 57 goals at an average of 2.38 per game and it was viewed by many as the first of many selections as the resident small forward of the team. Eddie Betts was on record as stating Cameron would be the next great small forward. He is, but those in charge don’t seem to be noticing.
Fast forward three years and Cameron is yet to add a second All-Australian selection to his CV and the reasons behind it seem baffling.
In the covid-effected 2020 season, Cameron kicked 31 goals at an average of 1.63 per game. We must remind ourselves that these games were 20% shorter than the length of an average AFL game (remember when they wanted to keep the games shorter? God, I am glad that narrative fell over!). If we adjust the stats to fit regular game time, he would have still averaged over a two goals per game.
No AA selection for Charlie that season. The forward pocket honours went to Liam Ryan of West Coast and Dustin Martin of Richmond… yep, the old “shoehorn a midfielder into the forward line” trick… never gets old, does it? For the record, Ryan averaged 1.44 goals per game. Martin was at 1.10 goals.
Cameron was stiff.
Jump forward a year into the 2021 season and have Charlie notching the lazy 55 goals at an average of 2.29 per game. But no AA selection again, as Toby Greene of GWS and Tom Papley of the Swans snaffled the forward pocket roles. It should also be noted that Christian Petracca and Marcus Bontempelli were thrown into the forward line this season to get the AA nod. Seriously, if you’re not in the best three or four mids in the game, you shouldn’t be in the team, but I digress…
Papley averaged 1.53 goals per game in 2021. Greene bettered Cameron’s output, with 2.50 per game. You can certainly justify Greene’s inclusion, but with more than a goal per game separating Cameron from Papley, the Lion would feel incredibly hard done by at being snubbed a second time.
And we jump to the most recent season, with Cameron once again topping the half-century and kicking 54 goals for the season and averaging 2.16 per game. If you’re all about rewarding consistency, I really don’t know what else Cameron could do, but once again, he was overlooked.
This time, Geelong recruit, Tyson Stengle got the nod after completing a fairytale comeback season with the Cats. In the other pocket, the Coleman Medal winner was pushed out of the full forward spot by Tom Hawkins as Charlie Curnow claimed his maiden AA blazer.
Again, Charlie Cameron was on the outer.
For the record, Stengle averaged 2.12 goals per game. Curnow stotted in ahead of Cameron and genuinely averaged move goals than him, with 2.91 per game. What a pity he doesn’t actually play in the forward pocket, though, huh? Another case of a bloke not being able to secure his own role, so they bumped him into that of another.
Charlie Cameron was that “another”. Stiff, a third time.
If we are looking at totals over the journey, it becomes painfully apparent how hard done by Cameron has been.
From 2020-22, Charlie Cameron has kicked 140 goals.
Charlie Curnow has 66.
Tom Papley has 101.
Liam Ryan has 69
Toby Greene has 99.
That is a massive gap! A 27.9 increase in goal production over the three-year span than the next best to receive an All-Australian forward pocket position. All those listed above have claimed spots in the All-Australian team at the expense of the Brisbane forward, who is criminally underrated fro what he brings to the table.
There will be those who will argue that being selected as an All-Australian doesn’t hold the same esteem it once did. I would argue the opposite. This is about a player’s legacy in the game and you can see it splashed across the screen on any given broadcast when a legend of the game is part of the team – Mark Ricciuto… eight-time All-Australian. Wayne Carey… six-time All-Australian. It is the reward for being assessed as the best at your position. It is the honour that makes you stand out amongst your peers.
Charlie Cameron has been the undisputed best at his position, but has been consistently bumped in favour of the flavour of the month. Hell, if we’re going to use AA selections to assess players’ ability by position, there is an argument that Marcus Bontempelli has been a better forward than Cameron over the past three seasons, with two selections as a half-forward.
He’s managed a paltry 47 goals over those three years, by the way.
Charlie Cameron has been absolutely ignored by the All-Australian selectors and it is time he makes a case that is impossible to ignore. We’ve seen him play incredibly unselfish, creative football at times over the last few years, but that has got him nowhere. It is time for a 60+ goal season from the little man to put to rest the argument that someone else is better in the role.
They’re not. It’s that simple.
The numbers don’t lie – Charlie Cameron is the best small forward in the game.
Now, he just needs the accolades to go along with it.
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