In each game of the 2023 AFL Finals Series, the Mongrel team rate every player out of ten to compile scores to name the Mongrel Player of the Finals.
Who will join previous winners? Let’s get into it
Elimination Final 2: St Kilda vs GWS Giants
St Kilda (Trent )
 Josh Battle – 6
Three contested marks from nine intercept possessions and eighteen touches overall at 83% for the underrated Saint defender. Four spoils and no contest one on one losses, but through clever switching and leading patterns by the Giants forwards ended up conceding goals, primarily to Riccardi.
 Callum Wilkie – 7
The AA full back led the game with 10 one percenters, and took two miraculous contested marks from Giants kick ins during his team’s second term resurgence. Kept Giants barometer Greene relatively quiet, but in key moments allowed separation, and Toby captiatlised.
 Zaine Cordy – 1
Preferred to Howard throughout the end of the season, in what might not turn out to be one of The Boss’ trademark genius moves. Looked confused all game as the Giants tall forwards switched and swapped, usually leaving Cordy flagging behind as they took uncontested marks in F50, straighter conversion would have made his performance even more dire.
 Jimmy Webster – 3
A terrific St Kilda person, but far too slow for a defensive lockdown role, and doesn’t get enough ball nor use it well enough to be a creator. Was exposed for his speed deficiencies repeatedly as the small Giant forwards had a picnic.
 Jack Sinclair – 5
The star Saint, almost certain to claim back-to-back Trevor Barker medals, was sadly not at his best in this game when his team needed it. Four clearances won in the second term when he was belatedly moved onto the ball changed the momentum temporarily, but was unable to find the time and space he commands during the H&A rounds. His 25 touches were largely ineffective, 19 pressure acts and six tackles showed he cared, but his impact was minimal.
 Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera – 8
A pretty impressive cherry on top of a breakout season for the star in the making Saint half-back. Worked tirelessly running both ways, and secured an opportunist goal for Owens with a run down tackle of Giants captain, Greene. 23 disposals at 74%, six score involvements and a brilliant goal on the stroke of the three quarter time siren gave his team hope.
 Bradley Hill – 9
A superb game by Hill, running long and hard along his well worn MCG wings. 29 possessions, delivered with trademark efficiency, 20 pressure acts and two goals only told part of the story. It felt every time the ball was deep in defence or spilling in their forward line Hill was there supporting and mopping up, incredibly he was also involved in fluent chains through the middle of the ground. If the Saints had managed a victory, this may be viewed as the crowning glory in Hill’s impressive career.
 Sebastian Ross – 5
Another of the Saints prolific midfielders to lower their colours to their bigger, hungrier opponents. Ross deserves credit for diligently overcoming two hamstring complaints in the past six weeks to compete at this level, and his fierce run down tackles on Ward in the second term, and Whitfield in the third brought the large Saints crowd to fever pitch, but his 24 touches at 50% efficiency and only four clearances and no one percenters were probably more representative.
 Mason Wood – 4
Excellent early with ten disposals in the first term, including telling intercept marks that drove the Saints early dominance, but faded badly to only collect a further nine touches for the rest of the match. Disappointing end to a career year for the Saint winger.
 Jade Gresham – 5
Gresham worked hard defensively and recorded 22 pressure acts and a game-high seven tackles, but sadly gives precious little offensively not recording a single shot at goal. An effective role player in Ross’s system, but no longer the star in waiting he appeared to once be.
 Jack Higgins – 5
Kicked a big goal early in the last term to give his team a sniff, and worked hard to gather 14 touches, but wasn’t able to impact this game in a meaningful way. Seven score involvements showed his positive contribution.
 Cooper Sharman – 7
A hard game to rate, as he was assigned a defensive disruptor role on Whitfield who accumulated 31 possessions. Sharman almost single handedly kept his side within touching distance in the first half with three contest marks inside F50. Ended up leading his side in pressure acts (25), score involvements (8), goal assists (2) and was far from disgraced. A unique player.
 Mitch Owens – 4
The rising star was unable to exert himself into this contest and after a promising early holding the ball decision from a bone crunching tackle missed the important set shot. Scored a goal late in the third term, but just couldn’t impose himself in the heat of the battle. Serviceable game for a rookie, but he perhaps unfairly expected much more.
 Anthony Caminiti – 1
Even taking into account the difficult circumstances in which he found himself playing in this game, was disappointing. Just three disposals and a point, along with no hit outs from seven ruck contests. Regularly found himself watching in marking contests, twice in the first term he was the third man into a contest, and neither attacked nor blocked allowing the Giants to regain the ball.
 Max King – 4
Had an intriguing battle with Sam Taylor who was clearly hampered after returning from his hamstring strain. Kicked three goals, and took a towering mark in the final term, but failed to physically impose himself either in the air or on the ground despite his physical gifts. A worrying trend is that he prefers to rely on umpire intervention, than fighting tooth and nail to win the ball, especially after the first contest. Could be a top 10 player in the league, and potentially lead the Saints to the promised land – will that drive him in the off season?
 Rowan Marshall – 8
A lion-hearted performance by Marshall under the heat of finals pressure saw him win 31 possessions and an equal game-high nine clearances. He also drifted forward and back with great aplomb, winning a free kick in the first term due to a mismatch, and then grabbing a classic intercept contested mark to foil a Giant forward foray. The reason he isn’t rated more highly is because his direct opponent was equally effective. Briggs winning ten more hit outs from less ruck contessa key in helping his mids gain ascendency.
 Jack Steele – 7
Only the third time the prolific Saints skipper has exceeded 30 disposals for the season, he eventually finished with a monster 38-touch game, with eighteen won in the contest and handed off at an elite 82%. Eight clearances and 19 pressure acts recalled his best matches of the past three years where he was regularly in Brownlow contention, but only 256m gained from that bevy of touches probably didn’t provide the forward impetus he provides at his absolute best.
 Brad Crouch – 4
Well down on possessions, clearances, tackles, metres gained and pressure acts. Crouch just couldn’t find any space, a fate keenly felt by almost the entire Saints on-ball brigade. Had a fantastic season, but this end note will sting.
 Hunter Clark – 3
Unobtrusive game from Clark, who gathered 19 disposals, primarily in the back half, but lacked creativity and drive, and his disposal was untrustworthy at times. Another Saint whose potential ceiling has stagnated.
 Dan Butler – 2
Rated highly with an equal team-high 25 pressure acts, and took a genuine screamer on the MCC wing in the third term, but apart from that was poor. Failed to hit the scoreboard despite several gilt edged opportunities, choosing the Gen Y preferred removal of responsibility snap to comical if the stakes weren’t so high results. Again needs to be mentioned with regard to Butler he conned the umpire into one of those shots on goal through a cynical flop after a stoppage.
 Marcus Windhager – 2
Clearly overawed by the occasion, Windhager didn’t fire a shot until late in the game when he laid some strong tackles and pressure. Only 13 disposals, of which only three were kicks.
 Mattaes Phillipou -2
Another highly promising young Saint, who will be better for the experience, but cannot escape the judges verdict for a very poor game. Gains a vote for half of his paltry nine disposals in the final term showing pride for himself and care for his teammates, and the second vote for getting himself dressed and to the game on time.
[Sub – 14] Liam Stocker – 6
Inserted into the fire after Caminiti was spared, Stocker was solid, providing drive to the tune of 299m with his 10 touches in only 42% game time, he also took a stunning relieving mark on the last line to prevent a certain Giant goal.
GWS Giants (Max Ford)
 Jack Buckley – 6
Appeared slightly overawed by the occasion in the early stages, but worked his way into it with his trademark defensive desperation. A couple of errors both with ball in hand and whilst the ball was in dispute were offset by some nice spoils, with one against Mason Wood in the last quarter standing out in particular, along with some intelligent moments involving the use of his solid frame.
 Sam Taylor – 6
Was clearly hampered by his injury niggle and appeared to be running in treacle for most of the game, particularly early, making my rating of him as the best key defender in the comp appear utterly bonkers. Nevertheless, he had a much improved second half, asserting his dominance intercept-wise and pulling off an absurd spoil against Max King. King still scored 3 goals and out marked him twice but Taylor’s performance was passable, particularly given the constant pressure on the Giants backline.
 Isaac Cumming – 4
Fairly average day consisting of an assortment of errors, with his extraordinarily satisfying kicking action (top 3 in the league imo) only providing limited output for his team. Gave away a needless free kick when his team had a 4-1 outnumber in a contest right before HT, resulting in a St Kilda goal. Was subbed off and probably won’t be framing any pictures of this one above the mantelpiece.
 Lachie Ash – 7
Had a very consistent day, finding the ball with ease and generally hitting a teammate with his disposals. Showcased his run and carry and had one or two particularly clever passes, especially around half forward. Cracked in defensively too, neutralising ground ball contests and spoiling when necessary. Rarely flashy but his consistency and composure holds him in good stead.
 Harry Himmelberg – 6
A real Yin Yang game. His poor moments included being caught stone cold with the ball in the defensive 50, spoiling a ball when he could’ve easily marked it, resulting in a Wanganeen-Milera goal to keep the Saints within touch, and giving away a braindead off-the-ball free kick to diving champion Dan Butler. However, an important toe poke whilst under immense pressure in defensive 50, eight intercept possessions, and several scything passes to teammates ensure that his game rating remains steady.
 Lachie Whitfield – 6
Got a fair bit of it throughout the day, with 31 touches, but didn’t always use it to good effect. Regardless, he provided valuable run and carry for his team, and hit some really nice passes in the middle two quarters after an uncharacteristically sloppy first term. Also receives the honour of ‘dumbest moment of the game’ with his inexplicable decision to stop as he streamed towards his forward 50 with the ball, resulting in his being mown down and a scoring shot up the other end for St Kilda.
 Finn Callaghan – 7
Definitive quality over quantity player. Oozed class whenever he got involved in possession chains, with two kicks in particular standing out; one inch-perfect pass to Whitfield on attacking 50, and another perfectly weighted pass to Hogan’s advantage at full forward. Also converted a gift-wrapped chance after a 50m penalty, essentially putting the game to bed. Quelled some desperate Saints momentum in the last quarter with a couple of smart interventions too. Good game.
 Tom Green – 8
Bullocked all day in the midfield. 17 contested possessions and a handful of tackles and clearances to boot. Sparked countless forward forays with his relentless attack on the ball and really couldn’t have done his job any better. Takes the chocolates in his head to head battle with Steele, despite Steele’s impressive numbers, as Green’s disposals simply had more impact.
 Josh Kelly – 8
Displayed his usual silk on the way to 27 touches. His second goal was not something that many other players on the field would’ve been able to pull off; a dead-eyed shot on the run from 35m whilst being corralled towards the boundary line. Also had a couple of keenly intelligent moments; one where he shoved Wilkie away as Wilkie attempted to halt Kelly’s momentum after a mark, enabling Kelly to take off and execute a kick to a teammate inside 50, and another handball in the centre square whilst falling over that if turned over would’ve had disastrous consequences.
 Toby Bedford – 7
Was extremely lively all day with his blistering pace and knack for bobbing up at the right time. Was a thorn in the Saints’ side defensively too with his insatiable desire to chase and tackle. His assist for Riccardi’s third goal, sprinting away from Jack Steele, was the dagger in Saints fans’ hearts. No doubt said Saints fans are cursing the MRO appeals board at this moment.
 Jake Riccardi – 7
Provided a vital aerial presence all day, but most important were his early contests, as the Giants were forced to kick long in their struggle to adapt to the frenetic Saints pressure. As the game opened up, he reaped the rewards, finishing with 3 goals, including a fantastic checkside finish from 40m. One egregious miss from about 8m out on a slight angle isn’t as bad as it appears, as earlier in that play, the Saints should’ve received a holding-the-ball free kick, so I’ll give both Riccardi and the footy gods the benefit of the doubt.
 Brent Daniels – 9
Would receive a 10 if I wasn’t so stringent with my administering of 10s (this is in all categories, mind you. For example, I’ve only ever given one movie a 10/10). Daniels didn’t put a foot wrong. He roved contests flawlessly, he hit some incredibly clever passes, he clattered opponents fairly in his desperate desire to win the ball back, he kicked a lovely goal from 40m, he ran and willed his team forward with his efforts. He was even winning contests in his defensive 50. It was a performance of enormous heart and skill from the smallest bloke on the field. Definitely earned his post-game beer.
 Daniel Lloyd – 5
Probably slightly unlucky to receive a 5, as his limited involvement generally led to good results, but he just didn’t get involved enough for mine. Aside from a missed regulation on-the-run shot, he converted a nice snap in the second quarter, and executed a lovely left-foot squaring ball to Riccardi from the boundary line. Has had quite an unassuming career, but his ability to do the right thing at the right time will see him missed by Kingsley and co.
 Jesse Hogan – 6
Certainly kept the Saints’ key defenders busy all game with his intelligent leading patterns and deceptively quick hands at ground level. Outwitted a large pack to mark and kick the Giants’ second for the game as they struggled to settle into the contest. Finished with two goals alongside a host of ‘almost’ moments.
 Toby Greene – 6
Had a blistering first quarter and then faded. A trademark moment of anticipation off a contest, resulting in his and his team’s first goal, was followed by a clever ‘chaos ball’ long bomb to full forward, which enabled Callum Brown to eventually capitalise. Thereafter, however, he was quieter. His roving was still a threat all day, but a couple of slow moments in which he was caught with ball in hand drag his score down.
 Kieren Briggs – 8
A force of nature that would be more widely acknowledged if he played for basically any other team. Has the priceless knack of winning the ball cleanly from the ruck stoppage and sending his team forward. His physicality was unmatched and fifteen contested possessions from his total of seventeen touches, along with five tackles, is testament to that. Could be AA next year.
 Callan Ward – 5
Looked every bit his age, being caught holding the ball early on in his defensive 50, and struggling to really get into a groove. The old determination did rear its head late in the game though, with a brilliant moment in which he dove into a contest with no regard for his safety and emerged with the ball. Four score involvements further helps him reach a borderline acceptable rating.
 Harry Perryman – 6
Didn’t do a ton offensively but was an absolute stalwart defensively. A superb spoil of Max King, the only likely-looking Saints forward, was a feather in his cap, and a couple of incredibly intelligent passages inside his defensive 50 whilst under pressure revealed a defender’s nous that I’ve not noticed in him before. Six tackles capped off a solid, if unspectacular, performance.
 Lachlan Keeffe – 2
His only moment of note was an assist to a Jackie Chan goal from Callum Brown, in which Keeffe remained composed whilst being tackled, keeping his arms free and executing the handball over the top. Aside from that, he did absolutely nothing, being soundly beaten in the ruck whenever he pinch-hit there, and generally just looking out of sorts.
 Xavier O’Halloran – 5
Another Yin Yang game, with the bad probably slightly overshadowing the good. He had a couple of nice plays, including a well-weighted pass inside 50 and some moments of pure gut running to contest a loose ball. But when I think of his game, what comes to mind most vividly is the incident in which he failed to dispose of the ball whilst being tackled, after having been afforded time to do so, with two free teammates around him. An honest trier’s game, nothing more, nothing less.
 Connor Idun – 9
Pushed Daniels for BOG honours in my humble opinion. Was absolutely peerless in an under-siege backline, dealing with every ground ball and air ball that came his way efficiently and effectively. His gathering of defensive 50 ground balls in particular was ridiculous; it was as if the manic pressure being put on him wasn’t even there. Whether it was tapping the ball on, spoiling, slowing the play down, or gathering and handballing in the same action, he made the correct decision every time. Even a deliberate tap over the boundary line halted a swarming group of Saints and afforded his team time to get back. I’ll be paying much more attention to him in the coming years.
 Callum Brown – 6
Utilised his genetic fortune with a nice mid-air gather and goal. Also had a blistering moment where he covered significant ground to get to the drop of an inside 50 ball. His poor opponent never had a chance. Didn’t do a whole lot around the ground but still ended up with 2 goals and a behind.
Sub – : Nick Haynes – N/A
His only notable contribution was a clever knock-on in a pressure-filled situation, one of many Giants to perform that skill to great effect in this one. Gave away a free kick too; I believe it was for deliberate (sorry, insufficient intent), but he only played 11% of the game, so it’d feel harsh for me to award his game any sort of score.