The Mongrel Pre-Season Player Power Rankings 20-11

Before we kick off with numbers 20-11, you should probably get up to speed with the last three instalments of the countdown. I kid you not – I got a message from an irate Western Bulldogs supporter accusing me of bias against his team. Apparently, he was adamant that Jack Macrae should have been part of these rankings.

I counted 11 swear words in his 15-line blast, and he even questioned my parentage. For the record, I believe my mother and father loved each other very much, and I was not “a load that should’ve been swallowed”. Actually, he wrote “should of” been swallowed. I just corrected it for him. Poor bugger…

The thing is, I completely agreed with our angry Bulldogs supporter. So much so, that Jack Macrae was in the bloody countdown all along! He was ranked #45. It turns out the bloke hadn’t bothered to look at that portion of the article, and somehow believed that our Top 50 Player Power Rankings magically started at number 40.

I’m still waiting for an apology, if you’re reading.

To ensure you aren’t the next person to unfairly lambaste me, please check the links below to see who has already appeared in these rankings. Really, I don’t get offended when people have a crack, but if I am going to cop abuse, I’d at least like it to be justified.

THE MONGREL PRE-SEASON PLAYER POWER RANKINGS 50-41

THE MONGREL PRE-SEASON PLAYER POWER RANKINGS 40-31

THE MONGREL PRE-SEASON PLAYER POWER RANKINGS 30-21

Before we start making headway into the pointy end of the countdown, let’s take a look at three or four big names you won’t see on the list.

Killing the suspense, right? Well, yeah I guess so, but if they weren't in up til now, my guess is that you know they weren't getting a run.

We’ve already touched on Nat Fyfe elsewhere. His 2018 was derailed by injury after it looked as though he could be compiling something special early in the season. His case wasn’t assisted at all by a team that won just eight games and finished 14th. With Fyfe in the side, they accumulated just five wins. In 2017, things were marginally better. He played in eight wins, only missed one game, and sat right at 26 touches per game. Yet in both seasons, Fyfe couldn’t even crack the All-Australian squad, let alone the team.

Gary Ablett won’t be appearing on this list, either. After an amazing run for many years, Ablett had the wheels fall off in 2017, missing eight games. He missed four last season, too. No AA squad for Gaz in either year, and though he was quite effective when he played, he was far from the match winner we all expected him to be in 2018. One wonders just how things would’ve been assessed for Gaz had his hamstring not betrayed him early in the season, and had that running goal in the dying stages of the game against Richmond sailed through and gave the Cats the lead. His numbers were great when he played, but his influence? Negligible at times.

And you won’t be seeing Marcus Bontempelli make an appearance either. Cue the hate-messages, I guess. Let’s face facts  - Bont has simply not lived up to expectations since his breakout 2016 season. He looked like he was banged up in 2018, and was forced to spend more time forward than any Dogs’ supporter would’ve preferred. The win-loss record for the Dogs over the past two years won’t be blowing anyone away, and there has been no sign of Bont in any AA squad list either.

If we added any of the aforementioned players to this list, it would be outside the parameters I set when compiling it. Their achievements over the last two years, weighted to favour the most recent season, is the criteria I used. For each of these players, whilst they are potentially top ten talents in the game when at their best, their recent results have not justified their inclusion.

Those who made this list are players who have walked the walk in the last two years. They’ve performed when it mattered. They’re not on this list by virtue of reputation. They’ve earned it. Does it mean they're better players than those mentioned? Of course not - those players are superstars, and some on this list have just had a great 2018. Still, that's what Player Power Rankings are about; they're very much a "what have you done for me lately?" kind of rating system. Reputation doesn't factor in, and the only way for players like Fyfe, Bont and Gaz to be on the list is to earn it. Luckily, they have the chance, starting in about 80 days.

So, here we go.

20 – Shannon Hurn (West Coast)

Let’s get this out of the way early – he was absolutely robbed in regard to the All-Australian captaincy in 2018. As the only club captain on the list, he was overlooked in favour of Lance Franklin, who is not even part of his own team’s leadership (has Buddy ever been in a leadership role?), and Patrick Dangerfield. At least Danger had some  experience as a vice captain, but he still had no business being named in the All-Australian leadership over Hurn.

But you know what is better than All-Australian Captaincy? Premiership captaincy. Hurn standing on the dais, holding aloft the premiership cup, was as sweet an ‘F-U’ to the All-Australian selectors as I can remember.

Whilst Hurn is well supported by players like Jeremy McGovern, and the often forgotten about Brad Sheppard (how good will that back six be with him back in the mix, by the way?), it is his calm demeanour under pressure that makes him one of the most reliable backs in the game.

He racked up a career-high 21.24 touches per contest in 2018, +1.37 on his 2017 numbers, and also notched career-highs in rebound 50s and uncontested possessions as the Eagles looked to use his superior kicking skills to get them out of the danger zone.

I wrote earlier about leadership in regards to Trent Cotchin. I spoke about the little things that leaders do that speak volumes, and one of those things is about deflecting the glory and not having to be in the limelight. That’s Shannon Hurn in a nutshell.

Before the 2018 season, I heard a bit of talk amongst West Coast supporters when Hurn was announced as captain again. There was no real excitement about it – it was almost resignation that he’d be there as captain for this phase of the West Coast Eagles, before another made the step into the leadership role. I’m not sure many envisioned Hurn as a premiership captain at that stage.

But he is. And he will be beloved by West Coast fans due to the way he goes about it – probably the same reasons they questioned whether he was the right guy for the role in the first place. He is not a superstar. He is not a dominant presence. He’s not demonstrative. He’s quiet. And he plays the role he’s assigned well.

Actually, isn’t that what makes a captain great?

 

19 – Dayne Beams (Collingwood)

Collingwood gets the nod here in terms of current reporesentation, but it was obviously in Brisbane that Beams worked his magic, and in this ranking system, where lack of team success hurts the chances of the individual, Beams’ inclusion so high on the list is indicative of just how excellent his past two seasons have been.

There was a bit of back-and-forth amongst fans following Beams’ own version of going back-and-forth regarding where he would be playing in 2019. At the Brisbane best and fairest, he did the football equivalent of professing his undying love for his missus, only to jump back in bed with the ex as soon as she showed a little interest.

Beams leaving Brisbane may be the difference between whether the Lions threaten the top eight, or remain in the mire of the bottom half of the ladder. A midfield boasting him, Zorko and Lachie Neale would’ve been a real handful, and exactly the kind of senior stability the Brisbane young guns needed as they continued their development. It would’ve been a midfield in perfect balance, for mine. Now, they just seem one quality player short.

Alas, we won’t see Beams in Lion colours next season, but what we will see is Dayne Beams back in black and white, and in an already star-studded midfield, just what can he bring to the table that Collingwood do not already possess? They’ve got leadership covered in Pendlebury and Sidebottom. Ditto for good decision-making. They have speed in Treloar, toughness in Taylor Adams, and an emerging inside presence in Sier. So where does Beams fit in? And at what cost? Who gets left with the scraps when this midfield feasts?

I covered the potential move of Pendlebury to half back in one of the previous lists of power players, but could this be a move more suited to Beams? Look, with Brayden Sier developing rapidly, and I’m guessing a desire not to stifle that development, there is simply not enough room in the Magpie midfield to give all the talent the time they deserve. Something has to give. I hope it is not injury that opens up more room to move, but that may be the only way Collingwood can fit all this talent into one midfield without allocating a different role to one.

In the current rotation, where would Beams rate? I’d have Sidebottom at one, Treloar at two, Pendlebury at three and then Beams? Does that squeeze Adams out? After the second half of the season he just had, I find it hard to believe they’d relegate Adams to a lesser role in the rotation. He was spectacularly good.

It’s a nice problem to have, I suppose. All things going well, Beams offers a pro-rata version of 29 touches, 11 contested possessions and 5.6 clearances per game. He has an enormous tank, and without the additional stress of family issues to deal with, should be able to completely focus on footy in 2019.

Is there such a thing as having too much of a good thing? I guess we’ll see.

Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

 

18 – TIE Jack Redden (West Coast) and Taylor Adams (Collingwood)

Surprise!

Did any of you see this one coming? If you say you did, I think you may very well be a liar. I was compiling the list, and I didn’t see it coming. Amazingly, it is the only tie we’ve had in the entire rankings, which I suppose makes it a top 51, but whatever…

Let’s start with Adams. I’ll be completely honest here; I looked over at my old pal Adam West couple of years ago while watching Collingwood flounce about with the ball. Adams looked less than interested. He’d grab it and hack it every which way. He looked like a player who was out there making up the numbers. I saw him as a distant chance to be an impact player in this league, but he was so wasteful and rushed with the ball in hand. I may have uttered the words “I don’t reckon his heart is in it.”

Now, Adam West may choose to confirm or deny that conversation ever happened, but it did, and I’m owning up to it. It’s now right up there with my legendary call that “Dustin Martin doesn’t have the tank to be an elite midfielder.” Yes… that was a great one, but in my defence, he was having those games at that point where he’d have 20 touches in the first half and five or so in the second.

Anyway, enough of me being wrong. For now.

In the second half of 2018, with Adam Treloar clutching at both hamstrings and out for an extended period, Adams stepped to the fore. How so? Try this one for size.

From Round 15 until the end of the finals, Adams notched 29.31 disposals per game. He added 5.76 tackles and 14.46 contested possessions as well. That is elite. In contrast, Sidebottom went at 27.38 disposals, 3.53 tackles and 8.38 contested disposals. How about Pendles? 26.30 touches, 5.69 tackles and 12.76 contested touches. Adams has them covered. He lifted his game.

Do I think Collingwood are a better side with Treloar out and Adams in the middle? Hell no, but what I am doing is giving credit where it’s due to a bloke who had an opportunity arise, grabbed it with both hands and gave it one almighty shake.

Speaking of grabbing an opportunity, let’s move onto Redden

Hands up if you thought West Coast may struggle a bit in the middle with both Priddis and Mitchell hanging the boots up at the end of 2017?

*Raises hand*

I’ve banged on about organic improvement in teams for a while now, and what I should’ve done was stop and read what I’d been writing about that, and apply it to the Eagles in 2018. I wondered aloud to a couple of people how West Coast would cover the absence of that kind of class in the middle.

Well, the answer was already on the list, and the answer was named Jack Redden.

After becoming a little more accustomed to the hustle, bustle and high expectations of playing a key role in the midfield of a quality team, Redden hit his straps in Round 6, and he didn’t look back.

From that point until the end of the year, Redden was electrifying, notching an incredibly impressive 27.35 touches per game. For the season as a whole, he ran at 25.12 disposals per game, which was +4.65 touches per game on his 2017 numbers.

The thing that stood out the most regarding Redden was his 2018 finals series. When the heat was on, Redden stood up. He was in blistering form against Collingwood in the first week of the finals, racking up 32 touches in the West. He also snagged a goal. He was then a huge contributor in the Eagles’ demolition of Melbourne, going for another 31 touches and a goal. His pressure was also a large factor in Melbourne’s inability to do… anything! He laid nine tackles for the game to lead all players by a significant margin.

Whilst his Grand Final did not live up to the lofty standards he set in the two previous finals, Redden’s contribution to the Eagles’ fourth premiership should not be overlooked.

Now entering his 11th season, Redden finally seems comfortable in his role. After being a decent size fish in a smaller pond at Brisbane, he is now in his fourth year in the West, and playing with the confidence of a player who is well aware he belongs at this level.

Sometimes, all a player needs is opportunity. Redden got his with the departure of two great mids, and here he is at #18 on our list as a result.

 

17 – Jack Darling (West Coast)

There was no better player in the first nine games of 2018 than Jack Darling. Not just amongst forwards – I’m talking the whole league. With Josh Kennedy struggling with fitness, Darling stepped up his game and finally became the player he threatened to be back in 2011.

Here’s a confession – at the beginning of last season, I had an article half-finished entitled ‘The Ghost of Jack Darling. Basically, it was a piece lamenting what could’ve been to that point in his career. I expected so much more, and I wanted to see him fulfil the potential he showed when he was taken 26th overall in 2010, but for a number of reasons, when the opportunities arose for Darling, they slipped through his fingers… kind of like the football in the 2015 Grand Final.

Ouch. I was days away from publishing it – I would’ve looked like a total dick if I had, huh? Even more so than usual!

Here’s Darling’s numbers from Round 1-9 in 2018. He had 3.11 goals per game, whilst averaging 15.88 touches and 7.44 marks per game. How good is that as a modern forward? Well, the leaders in marks per game for the season were Michael Hurley, Tom Jonas, Jake Carlisle and Shannon Hurn with 7.8 per game. I reckon they get a few of those marks easily across half back.

His start to the season was punctuated by a 15-mark, 6-goal demolition of the Tigers in Round 9 where he got the better of every defender thrown at him, including two highly respected defenders who were included in the previous article in our Power Rankings.

As impressive as those numbers are, my favourite Darling number in those first nine rounds was 3.33. That’s how many contested marks he was taking per game. He was monstering defenders on a regular basis. Whilst he would be overtaken by teammate, Jeremy McGovern in this stat by season’s end, Darling finished with 2.6 contested marks per game in 2018.

For the first half of the 2018 Grand Final, I started to think I should’ve published that damn article. Darling was nowhere to be seen, and was conjuring images of his 2015 Grand Final effort. But in a startling third quarter, Darling reminded everyone just how good he was. He took six marks and had seven disposals, breathing life into the Eagles as Collingwood mounted their challenge. Watching the game again, in that quarter, Darling kept the Eagles afloat.

Whilst many will remember him for the goal-line fumble that could’ve cost West Coast the game had things been a little different, I choose to focus on the positive effects he had on 2018. When the Eagles needed him early in the season, he stood up, took on the number one forward role and led the team to a 9-1 record before crashing to the turf with an injured ankle. When they needed him in the 2018 Grand Final, he stood up again with a withering blast of power football in the third quarter.

And that is what great players do. When they’re needed, they stand up. Welcome to #17, Jack Darling.

 

16 – Luke Shuey (West Coast)

I can sense it right now… there are non-Eagles supporters getting a little sick of seeing West Coast players at the pointy end of these rankings. Sorry, you’ll have to deal with it - they’re the premiers, after all. We like to reward success, and I’m not sure there is a more successful player in this bunch than Luke Shuey.

Often tagged to within an inch of his life prior to this year, Shuey has found a knack of breaking the shackles right when the Eagles need him most. And there has been a couple of moments over the past two seasons where they’ve put out the call for a hero.

And Shuey has responded.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind people of his late-game heroics against Port Adelaide in the 2017 finals series. It was a game Port was supposed to win at home. With moments to go in overtime (how weird is it to write that about footy?) the ball was in Shuey’s hands. He drew a high tackle and broke the hearts of Power supporters as he slotted the game winner. It was as big a finals play as we’re likely to see outside of Dom Sheed slotting his Grand Final goal in 2018.

Speaking of 2018, there’s this medal they hand out to the best player on the ground in Grand Finals. Some regard it as the highest playing achievement you can garner – being the best player on the biggest day of the year. I’m inclined to agree. Bartlett, Ablett, Hodge, McLeod, Archer, Hird, Buckley, Judd, Ayres, Matera… and now Shuey. Quite a list of names.

Shuey had 34 touches, eight tackles and 19 contested disposals in the biggest game of the year to be adjudged best on ground. In a game where many big names get stage fright and fail to fire a shot, Shuey was a man toting a machine gun.

Cometh the moment… cometh the man.

Over the past two years, his finals statistics have been excellent. He’s averaged 29 touches, a goal, and 13.75 contested disposals. The Mongrel loves a player who makes a name for himself in September, and gives them reward commensurate with their finals efforts. Shuey deserves his spot on this list. He has enhanced his reputation over the past couple of years to the point where he is producing at a high level consistently, and it’s not as though he is stat-padding across half back. He is hurting the opposition. With the Eagles looking likely to be in the mix again in 2019, he may have the chance to build on a finals legacy that is starting to look as though he may be the current incarnation of Mr. September.

Like our West Coast coverage? This ebook contains every article we wrote about the Eagles during the 2018 season. Check it out! This is the epub version. There is also a mobi version for kindle.

Like our West Coast coverage? This ebook contains every article we wrote about the Eagles during the 2018 season. Check it out! This is the epub version. There is also a mobi version for kindle.

 

15 – Angus Brayshaw (Melbourne)

Surprise again!

With the Dees improving to become a top team in 2018, I got to watch plenty of their games, and one thing kept jumping out at me – when was someone going to go and stand next to Angus Bloody Brayshaw at centre bounces?

With Jack Viney on the sidelines, and Clayton Oliver often the target of negating mids, Max Gawn continually tapped the ball straight down Brayshaw’s throat. I don’t often yell at the TV (OK, sometimes when the remote isn’t working, or a game won’t load, I get a little pissed at it) but a couple of times I looked across at whomever was unlucky enough to be close by and would ask “Why won’t someone man him up?”

Sadly, my missus didn’t know what I was talking about, and would largely ignore my question, so I’d repeat it and direct it at the TV.

2018 was Brayshaw’s fourth year in the game, and the leap he made was significant. He was +7.09 in disposals, averaging 26.09 for the season, and jumped to 4.27 clearances per game. That’s +2.87 from 2017. In one stretch, he had 6+ clearances in eight out of nine games.

We’re catching a star in the making, here – a young man who hasn’t sat back and waited for opportunity; he created one and has made the most out of it. As he enters year five of his AFL career, Brayshaw has already shown the ability to capture the attention of the umpires. He took home third place in the 2018 Brownlow, with 21 votes. Was it a surprise? I’d say it was, since he wasn’t even in attendance. I’d also say that the AFL won’t make that mistake again.

In their Preliminary Final loss to West Coast, Brayshaw was one of the few to truly stand up. He collected 29 touches to be the most effective Demon on the ground – a great sign as he continues to develop.

So much of what Melbourne is, and will be in 2019, relies on Max Gawn, but the development of players like Brayshaw, Oliver, Petracca (maybe) and Viney in the middle is paramount to the Demon surge toward a flag.

Where do we see the ceiling for Brayshaw? Whilst a fit Viney takes a lot of the heat in the guts, and Oliver’s presence will continue to draw a lot of attention, Brayshaw as a third midfielder is an absolute luxury, and as a result could see him get off the chain again in 2019. An improvement on his 26 touches per game may be enough to elevate him into the conversation for All-Australian selection in 2019, and could a better result in the Brownlow be a reality?

 

14 – Jeremy McGovern (West Coast)

The highest rated defender of the poll, and for good reason. For the second consecutive year, Gov destroyed opposition attacks, taking a record number of intercept marks. When you look at that stat, McGovern completely owns it. In the last three seasons, he has three of the top four amounts of intercept marks recorded. He had 77 in 2018, and 75 in both 2017 and 2016. Only Easton Wood of the Bulldogs prevents the McGovern trifecta, with 76 in 2015. It’s crazy how good Gov is at reading the ball in flight.

But the legend of McGovern is still growing. There were moments in the 2018 season where he stood head and shoulders above the competition in the air, whether he was crashing into packs to make a spoil, or flying over the top of them to clunk marks.

There are moments that will long be remembered by footy fans. Leo Barry’s mark. Shuey’s overtime goal against the Power, and then there was McGovern’s mark that set the Eagles off and running in the dying stages of the 2018 Grand Final.

Playing on perhaps the most dangerous forward on the ground, Gov made the gutsy decision. With Jordan de Goey a chance to sneak out the back and get a free run at goal if he failed, McGovern took the bull by the horns, left de Goey and attacked the contest. With internal bleeding and cracked ribs from the week before undoubtedly affecting him, Gov hit the contest hard. He marked it – one grab. And just like that, the Eagles were off and running, on their way to hoisting the flag. Yes, it was Dom Sheed with the clutch shot at goal. Yes it was Nathan Vardy taking a mark and kicking to Liam Ryan to glove a difficult mark on the wing that gave Sheed the opportunity, but it all started with Jeremy McGovern. And it all started with him backing himself in. It’s the way he plays.

There was another moment, much earlier in the season that grabbed my attention as well. Richmond v West Coast in Round 9 saw the Eagles flex their muscles. The heat was on early, and McGovern built a one-man wall across half back. He completely stifled Richmond’s forward forays, and provided the ultimate springboard for the Eagles into attack.

Whilst the Tigers would compose themselves in the second quarter, the way McGovern ruled the skies in the first 30 minutes of football was as good a quarter by an attacking defender as you’ll see. If you want to witness a power defender in full flight, go back and watch that first quarter - it’s incredible.

Gov now has three consecutive All-Australian blazers to his name. To think he won’t add a fourth in 2019 (injury permitting) would be unwise.

 

13 – Luke Breust (Hawthorn)

Similar to Jack Gunston, the return to form of Luke Breust was a huge factor in the Hawthorn renaissance of 2018. As a small forward, Breust was just one tackle away from becoming the first man to ever join the 50/100 club.

His return of 54 goals and 99 tackles, I’m certain, was done to both tease me, and piss me off, as I was pulling for him to get to that mark all season.

Breust’s first half of 2018 was amazing. It was exactly how a small forward should perform in the modern game. Through the first eight weeks of the season, Breust averaged 2.87 goals, 15.87 disposals, and 4.75 tackles. Had he kept those numbers up, the 50/100 mark would’ve been achieved easily.

When people talk about all-time great small forwards, I reckon Breust is one more year away from not just being in the conversation, but staking a legitimate claim. He has now topped 40 goals in six of the last seven seasons, and is deceptively good overhead. His ability to fend off, with the ball tucked under one arm, is probably third in the league in terms of effectiveness behind only Ben Cunnington and Dustin Martin. He has a career goal-kicking accuracy of 67.9%. When chances come his way, he converts.

Whilst Breust is an opportunist, he will now be playing alongside another who has similar traits. With Chad Wingard in brown and gold in 2019, the Hawks boast three genuine small to mid-sized goalkicking threats. Whether Breust can continue to get his hands on the ball so deep with both Gunston and Wingard wanting their share of the pill will be interesting, but I guess he did it with Cyril hanging about inside 50, huh?

2018 saw Breust take the most amount of shots at goal he has in his career, with his best return of 6.2 coming against the Western Bulldogs in Round 16. For the Hawks to contend in 2019, they require Breust to be in contention for his third All-Australian blazer, and that could mean another 50 goal season is what’s expected.

Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker - click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker - click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

 

12 – Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

It’s difficult to believe at times that Clayton Oliver has just finished his third year in the league. Just three years. It seems like he’s been around forever – that’s because he plays like he has been around forever.

Already, in his young career, Oliver is one of three players to ever rack up 400 contested touches in a season. He’s in good company. The other two are Patrick Dangerfield (twice) and Josh Kennedy (three times). It took both of those guys until their fifth season to reach that mark.

Oliver did it in his third season. The bar is now set very high for him. It’s a big call, but he could end up being rated one of the best inside mids of all time with those sort of numbers.

He did not miss a game in 2018, despite a crash-and-bash style, and earned his first All-Australian berth with impressive numbers. He topped 29 touches per game for the second consecutive season and had a 16.20 contested touches per game, behind only Patrick Cripps’ 17.25. When the ball is in dispute, Oliver is at his best.

He learned how to deal with a tag in 2018. I watched intently as North’s Ben Jacobs put the clamps on Oliver in Round 3. He went forward late in the game and kicked two goals to help steer the Dees home, but dealing with Jacobs would hold him in good stead for the remainder of the season. He would dip below 20 touches just once for the rest of the year.

Many lament that Oliver lacks skill by foot, and therefore is a threat to turn the ball over. He ran at 71% disposal efficiency in 2018, which was down from 76% in 2017, but when we isolate his kicking, he travels at just 56.9%. It’s not too far removed from fellow Demon mids (Brayshaw 59.6% and Viney 60.9%), and seems to be around the mark for many inside-mids. Numbers don’t indicate that he is significantly worse than many playing similar roles.

So where does Oliver take the next step? He is a tackling machine, averaging 6.72 in 2018, and is a top ten player in clearances as well. He hit the scoreboard a little more in 2018, taking 23 shots for a return of 12.11, eclipsing his combined output from the previous two years. If we can improve on that again, Oliver becomes a threat inside 50, and with Hogan gone, the Dees may need more avenues to goal.

 

11 – Ben Brown (North Melbourne)

God damn it, Ben – I was really pulling for you to win the Coleman in 2018! He looked to have it sewn up two thirds of the way through the season, but the lack of a second option to draw the defence away from him at times, really allowed defences to collapse on him.

The amount of times I saw two or three players around him as he flew for marks inside 50 in the second half of the season really made it apparent just how much North missed Jarrad Waite whilst he was injured.

And now he’s gone.

Alas, North are going to have to find a way to get Big Ben the space and support he needs. So much of who they are, and where they want to get to, relies on him being one of the most effective forwards in the competition.

Brown is currently the only player to have 60+ goals in each of the past two seasons, making him the most consistent threat in front of goals for the duration of this ranking period. After a slow, water-logged start to his 2018 in Cairns (playing there in wet season is idiotic and looking back, may have cost him the Coleman), Brown rattled off five games of footy that saw him average 4.6 goals per game.

It set North on a trajectory not many thought they’d be on – a chance to play finals. Actually, let’s look at that a little closer for a moment. “Experts” tipped North to finish dead last. It sometimes makes you wonder how they get the title of experts, huh? I urinate often – it doesn’t make me a urologist! Having played the game means very little when predicting the future, yet these blokes spout predictions like the prophets of doom, and get paid for it.

Yes, I’m angry that I’m not getting paid for it.

Anyway, back to Brown. What was remarkable about that stretch of goalkicking was his efficiency. Through those first six rounds, he kicked 23 goals and just five behinds. That’s over 82% accuracy!

But what happened after that?

Well, that kind of accuracy is difficult to maintain, particularly when you’re being forced further away from goal to get your hands on it (a result of Waite being out and defences being able to double team Brown he was forced to search far  and wide for space). Brown still finished with a respectable 67% accuracy rate, but it highlights just how important a good second marking option is in regard to stretching defences and freeing up space in the forward 50.

So after two 60+ goal seasons, can we expect another from Brown? Off-season hip surgery could be an issue, but if managed well, Brown should be up and running close to full fitness by Round 1. I’d love to see him win a Coleman. It would be an absolute fairytale after the journey he was on to be hailed as the best full forward in the game.

That said, I’m trying not to let sentiment overshadow common sense. The negatives are that he’s lost his other marking target to retirement. He’s reliant on Mason Wood to step into the void and perform at a level he never has before. The positives are that North has added midfield depth that should provide more opportunity. Like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m a little torn.

I’d say 50 goals for Big Ben would be a great result. 60+ for a third consecutive year would be spectacular. A Coleman… that’s a dream come true.

Keep an eye out for the top ten very soon. 

 

If you want to give us a Like on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter, we’d really appreciate it.

And hey... if you'd like to support us, you could head over to our Mongrel Shop and purchase one of our hideously overpriced hoodies or notebooks. We even have a place for donations now.  ORRRRRR, get one of the more moderately priced stubby holders or bumper stickers. Click the links below. Keep The Mongrel alive in 2019