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The Mongrel Mailbag - Volume 1

Howdy all, and welcome to the first instalment of the Mongrel Mailbag. This may work, or fall flat on its backside… I guess we’ll soon see, but the intention is to give readers the opportunity to have direct input into a column, and have the issues they’re interested in answered as best as I can.

Or at least glossed over. It won’t be ultra-serious unless the topic warrants it, and it’ll probably offend someone at some point.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

 

Several people thought the following question was topical, given Paddy McCartin’s departure from the second JLT game on the weekend after a head knock. We received a few questions all surrounding McCartin’s repeated concussions, so I have condensed them into one.

Should Paddy McCartin hang the boots up?

Usually I’d look at this and say that he should do his due-diligence, make sure he gets right, and work his way back into the team at his own pace. However, I watched this game on delay, and knowing that Paddy copped a knock to the head and went off, I waited to see a significant collision.

It never really eventuated.

What I did see was a guy in a marking contest that kind of got a bit of a jolt, fell down, went off and never returned. I heard Jonathon Brown questioning whether McCartin had the “resilience” required to play at the top level if he couldn’t handle those sorts of knocks, and whilst I think his question was a little clumsy, I get what he’s saying – the incident was something that happens a dozen times in any game and play goes on. But with McCartin, any knock that jolts him is anything but innocuous.

Of course, we haven’t seen the eventual results of all the head knocks Browny took over the years, and he may not be the best judge as to whether McCartin is best suited for the modern game, but maybe he has a point.

Given my extensive medical training… ahem… I’ll do a little speculative diagnosis. McCartin might be at the point right now, where what we’re seeing is residual effects from previous blows. The knocks he is copping now – if they’re like the one sustained on the weekend – are the sort someone would normally be bouncing up from and continuing to play after. But not Paddy.  

With eight concussions in five years and counting, we might be at the point where whether he can continue to play isn’t the question that should be asked. Whether he should continue to play may be the one that needs to be asked – not of him, but of the club, and of the AFL.

We’re getting into murky waters here – in the wake of all the drama surrounding injuries in American football, the sports world is very jumpy about the subject of concussion, and in particular, multiple concussions. Could McCartin be the first player forced to retire by the league, or by his club as a preventative measure?

There’s a lot of old school about the Mongrel, and in a way, I like to see a bit of biff in the game. I like to see players not just get knocked down… I like to see them get up. I loved Yeats running through Dermott, but I loved Derm getting up more. I loved when Scott Burns cleaned up Michael Voss in the 2002 Grand Final, but to see Voss bounce up and be involved in the play that led to a Simon Black goal… it gave me chills.

I want to see Paddy bounce up when he gets knocked down. I want to see him beat this and fulfil his potential.

But my fear is that he won’t bounce up. My fear is that the next one will be a bigger knock, and it’ll be lights out. I’m all for blokes getting up off the canvas, but not if it means they’ll be knocked down permanently the next time they’re hit.

It might be time for Paddy to stay down, unfortunately.

 

What’s going on with the Western Bulldogs ruck situation?

The loss of Tom Boyd, seemingly for three out of every four weeks over the last couple of years, has really hurt the Dogs, but I reckon both them and the Cats are in a similar boat with their ruck stocks. Or they were. Geelong seems to have taken steps to rectify their issues. The Bulldogs… not so much.

Remember when having mobile ruckmen was the in-thing? Mike Sheahan declared that the ruckmen were dead at one point I believe. It wasn’t all that long ago. Geelong went the route of having Mark Blicavs emerging as their potential number one ruck. He could run all day, provided defensive pressure, and could contest around the ground. Teams were looking for that additional runner – the bigger guy with the ability to play more than just in the ruck.

Then the AFL took away the third man up rule, and the big ruckmen became more prevalent again. That screwed the Cats over. It also screwed over the Western Bulldogs, who had an ageing ruck division, and recruited this potential power forward who could also play ruck, in Boyd. They were going mobile with an eye on the future when the AFL turned sharply in a different direction.

Man plans, and God laughs.

God, in this case, was the AFL, and they seemed hell-bent on putting the ruckmen back at the forefront of contests. In doing so, monsters like Max Gawn, Brodie Grundy and Todd Goldstein have become more prominent, whilst a further rule change incoming this season – allowing these monsters to muscle their way to clean possession in ruck contests without fear of being penalised for holding the ball, only swings the advantage further their way.

Meanwhile, the Cats and Dogs are left behind, throwing undersized first rucks at the game’s true big men, and even less-equipped backup rucks to give the first bloke a break. They gambled. They lost.

But all is not bleak for the Dogs. While we get to see Jackson Trengove toil away at times, I’m hopeful that 2019 will usher in the era of Tim English in the ruck. He’s still a kid, and will be out-bodied at all stoppages except for the centre bounce, but what he offers overhead is a real bonus. I don’t think we’ll see him amassing 30 hit outs, but we could see him take 7-8 marks around the ground, and hurting opposition teams in the process.

I think the Dogs’ young big men combination of English in the ruck and Naughton down back (yes, I know they’re playing him forward, but isn’t that what they recruited Schache for?) will be the best pair of young big men in the league over the next couple of years.

Jordan Roughead might’ve been handy to have this year, too,

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

 

Should AFLW play curtain raisers for the AFL mens competition?

This is complicated, and I don’t think there is an easy answer to the real question – when should the AFW season take place?

The arguments for? It’s a winter sport and these women are almost killing themselves in, at times, 40 degree heat. It’d be a nice tie-in with the men’s games, particularly given all AFL clubs will have a women’s team in the next few years.

Unfortunately, they’re about the only positives I can think of.

And the negatives? It’ll more or less kill the VFLW, which is a particularly strong league, with most of the current crop of upper-echelon women competing in it. The move leaves plenty of dead air over Summer when the AFL are still attempting to maintain a foothold in the hearts and minds of sports-lovers, and it’ll prevent the proposed second-tier men’s competition from acting as the curtain raiser at those games.

The most important part is that it basically kills any AFLW television rights being included when the AFL has the chance to negotiate their next broadcast rights deal. With how tight the AFL TV schedule is right now, there is no way AFLW gets the coverage, or audience, if it is in direct competition with the men’s competition.

Sadly, for the time being, the women will need to play in the heat if they want the coverage. Even now, I don't think it'd be getting anywhere near the coverage the JLT series got in the media, which is indicative. 

 

How bad is the bias of Vic media toward the Melbourne teams?

I really think it’s as bad as you allow it to be. I confess, I am a Victorian, but really, I think it’s a little archaic to hate a particular team just from they are from a different part of the country. I get that Freo hate West Coast, and Port Adelaide hates the Crows, and so on… but I’m not so sure AFL fans in general hate interstate teams.

The media, though… they do play it up a little. I remember the front page of the Herald Sun last year with captains (and Jack Riewoldt) all huddled around the premiership cup, and the headline read “It’s ours!”

It was one of the dumber things I’ve seen the Herald Sun print, and that’s saying something.

I think that there is a bit of geographical bias on Fox Footy shows, inasmuch as the studios are based in Melbourne (on the same street I work on, actually) and therefore, Melbourne-based players and coaches are much easier to have as guests or regular panel members. I get that can come across as favouritism, but I think it might actually be convenience.

The last thing on this; you cater to the market you’re in. I’m not sure there is a front or back page spread in Western Australia when Collingwood and Essendon play, but there damn sure is in Melbourne. When there’s a Derby in WA, it gets nowhere near the coverage it deserves in Victoria, but I’m sure it gets saturation coverage in Perth. So Melbourne papers cover events of the Victorian teams to within an inch of its life, and the print media (and Fox Footy) follow suit.

All that said, I like to think we give all teams a fair shake at The Mongrel. Maybe you guys should all jump on our Patreon when we launch it and make sure we’re around to cover footy equally for all, huh?

 

How many games will Carlton win in 2019?

More than last season, you’d hope.

I’ve got the Blues pencilled in for 5-6 wins, but I’d be incredibly surprised if they get any more than that. If you go by their bottom six in their best 22, there is a significant drop off, and I just don’t trust that defence.

You’ve got Charlie Curnow up forward, looking like he could be anything, but then there’s Harry McKay sneaking in there and looking more likely at times. I really like Marc Murphy as the third-string midfielder, and I think he’ll probably get under the guard of a few this year.

What worries me about the Blues is that I think you need all cylinders firing to get a win. That means the mids have to be on top, Jones and Weitering have to coordinate to the point they’re not running into each other, or Caleb Marchbank, Cripps and co. need to have a big day, and one of the forwards has to get hold of his opponent too. Some teams can win when they get one, or two of those things happening, but Carlton need all three, and it’s difficult to get that.

I reckon there’ll be a game or two they’re not supposed to win that they’ll cause an upset in, but there may be a few very winnable games where we’ll see them fall apart, such as they did against Gold Coast last season.

That’s what happens in a young developing team.

 

Is Robbo’s top 50 a crock of shit?

Yes, indeed it is. So would any list thrown together by anyone in the media, or in fandom. There are so many things to consider, and so many variables when it comes to a list of “the best”.

Keep in mind that Robbo’s list is a predictive list, so he is speculating on who will have a great year – not on who has had a great year prior.

That said, it’s not like he’s gone out on a limb at all, particularly with his top ten. Fyfe, Dusty, Danger, Gawn, Grundy… for someone who is predicting how the season will pan out, he’s basically looking like he’s thinking it’ll go the same as it did last year, only without Tom Mitchell… and that was because he was gifted that change due to injury.

So yeah, I’d be making your own 50… it’d have just as much merit with me. Matter of fact, if you do it, and provide reasoning and detail, we’ll publish it on the Mongrel. How’s that?

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.

 

Why did you pick Tom Hawkins to win the Coleman? Are you a lunatic?

Two very good questions. I’ll answer the second one first, if you don’t mind.

I write articles for free on the internet, and spend as much time doing it as I do at my actual job, so yes, I am a lunatic. But the good sort, right? Not the sort that will check your IP, track you down, stalk you and eventually kill you, right?

PS – I like what you’re wearing.

Onto Hawkins. There aren’t many of the big forwards coming into 2019 who aren’t under an injury cloud. Ben Brown was going up and down in one spot during the JLT series, but at least he was out there. Buddy is doubtful for round one, as is Josh Kennedy.

The big blokes are underdone, and then there’s Jack Riewoldt, who at some stage, will be forced to share the forward spotlight with a bloke named Tom Lynch. Which leaves… Tom Hawkins.

He played in the JLT series, looks fit, and is coming off a career-best season in several categories. I think 70 goals wins the Coleman this season, and Hawkins has the tools, and the pre-season to get there.

But it’s a prediction, and sometimes you get them wrong. I’ll live with it if I do.

 

Will Gold Coast win a game?

This was a question a couple of people posed. I can’t see them going winless. Yes, they’re young. Yes, they’re inexperienced, but what the club has done is clean out those who didn’t want to be there.

Lynch – barely got on the park last season. May – has already cocked up at Melbourne. Aaron Hall – one way runner. Jarryd Lyons – malcontent.

Goodbye to bad rubbish.

When you have players at a club who are infecting the culture with negativity, it’s best to let them go. They may have had very valid reasons to be disappointed with the club, but where was that going to get them as part of the club?

The Suns have had as close to a complete reboot as we’ve seen in… forever. There will be a lot of pain. There will be a lot of losses, but at some point this season, boys will become men. And when that happens, the AFL will get a glimpse into what is possible with the Suns.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the Suns take on St Kilda in round one. It might be very interesting.

 

So there you go, the first… and possibly last ever Mongrel Mailbag. If you want to ask the old Mongrel a question or two, there’s a couple of ways you can do it. Email direct at hbmeyers@themongrelpunt or give us a message on our Facebook page, which you’re probably aware of. And if you’re not aware… become aware.

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