We’re eight rounds in to the inaugural count of The Mongrel Punt’s Mongrel of the Year award, and we’re beginning to see the cream rise to the top as the year’s best players have begun to consistently poll votes. Each week, contributors to the site give votes on a 3-2-1 basis based predominantly on players whom they deem to have had the biggest influence on the game. It’s not necessarily meant to be indicative of who we think will take out the Brownlow, but more who we think has been the most impactful player at their club, though there is of course going to be some sort of correlation.
Having said that, key backs are just as likely to poll votes as a high half forward or a midfielder. Here’s the votes from Round Eight.
Sydney v Essendon
3 George Hewett (Sydney)
2 Dane Rampe (Sydney)
1 Luke Parker (Sydney)
There has been a little bit of controversy surrounding taggers so far this season, but George Hewett gave Dylan Shiel an absolute bath on Friday night at the SCG, while also managing to impact offensively, without any real scandal surrounding his performance.
Shiel was kept to just 17 touches at an abysmal 41% efficiency, with only 5 touches coming in the first half. For a star recruit to have had so little impact on the contest is a credit to Hewett, who was shifted to the rampant Merrett in the last quarter and managed to minimise his influence too. In the meantime, he managed 19 touches going the other way, at a much better 73% efficiency, and with five clearances of his own. If any player managed to keep Sydney’s midfield in the game, it was Hewett.
While absolutely nothing will ever explain what on Earth Dane Rampe was thinking as David Myers lined up from 70 to win the game after the siren, it shouldn’t take away from what was an excellent game from the Sydney co-captain. Despite having only 13 touches for the game, nine of those came from intercept possessions as he and Aliir Aliir time and time again managed to repel Essendon’s entries in to their forward 50. Especially in the last, the defensive pairing were huge, as the Bombers managed just 4 scores from their 20 entries. Rampe probably hasn’t been at the level he has been in the past so far this season, but his return to form this weekend was critical to the Swans’ success.
Though Rampe hasn’t been to the standard he has been in previous years, Luke Parker shouldn’t escape criticism. In part he has been played out of position so far this year as a half forward, but after finishing second in the Brownlow to Patrick Dangerfield in 2016 he simply hasn’t reached those same lofty heights in the seasons since. On Friday night though, he hitched his team on his back. It looked a conscious effort from the Swans’ three co-captains, in Rampe, Parker and Kennedy, to take a stand for their proud club, and Parker played his best game for the season, finishing with 33 touches at 73% including 12 contested, six clearances and five tackles. Kennedy was maybe unlucky not to receive votes, though he did waste the ball occasionally when he had it, while for the Dons Merrett, Heppell and McGrath all battled hard in a tight yet deflating loss.
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane
3 Jackson Trengove (Western Bulldogs)
2 Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs)
1 Hugh McLuggage (Brisbane)
When Tim English was a late out for the Dogs, given his rise in form over the last couple of weeks, Stefan Martin was my tip to be best on ground, with seemingly no genuine opposition to quell him. Enter Jackson Trengove, who was excellent in keeping Tom Lynch goalless last week then neutralised Martin and McInerney in the ruck this weekend. He was huge in handing the Bulldogs’ midfield, and especially Dunkley and Bontempelli, the ascendancy, with 21 touches, 27 hitouts, six clearances for himself and six tackles to be the dominant big man on the ground.
There are other midfielders who get a lot more recognition at the Dogs than Dunkley, and maybe rightly so, given the prominence of the Bont, Macrae and Hunter, but Dunkley was huge against the Lions and will certainly receive best on ground votes from some media outlets. As it stands, he’ll have to settle for two Mongrel Votes for his display, with 36 touches, 22 of which came in the contest, 11 clearances, eight score involvements including a goal and eight tackles in what was certainly a defining reason as to why the Bulldogs got up in the end. Apologies here to the three aforementioned midfielders, who were all excellent in keeping Footscray’s momentum rolling.
It’s entirely possible that the top three from the 2016 Draft, of McGrath, Taranto and McLuggage, will come to be as good as the one from the Superdraft, of Hodge, Ball and Judd. That’s not where the comparison ends between Judd and the Brisbane youngster though, with the latter a balanced, classy runner who never looks out of his depth at AFL level. While the much touted midfield duo of Neale and Zorko were fantastic against the Dogs, McLuggage is the one who gets vote for his 26 touches (14 contested), with a goal and seven tackles.
Carlton v Collingwood
3 Patrick Cripps (Carlton)
2 Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood)
1 Adam Treloar (Collingwood)
In what was maybe Carlton’s best performance for the season, their newly named co-captain turned in what was also probably his finest performance so far, in amongst 8 games of outstanding quality. He probably hasn’t received the plaudits he deserves from this page, and this is in part due to the fact that Carlton have only won one game, but despite the loss on Saturday, Cripps was almost certainly the best player afield. Ended the game with 35 touches, including 19 contested possessions, and with a mammoth 14 clearances, seven tackles and a huge team-lifting goal in the last quarter. He also had 9 score involvements as he looked like single handedly dragging his team over the line.
The Pies’ midfield has been highly touted thus far this season, and despite the absence of Taylor Adams and Dayne Beams on Saturday, the other big names managed to step up, especially given the silver service they received from Brodie Grundy. Sidebottom probably hasn’t been as good as he was throughout the finals series last year, which is no disgrace given how exceptional he was in September, but against the Blues he managed to get his team over the line, with an equal team high 34 touches, including 16 contested, seven score involvements, six clearances and seven inside 50’s. It’s an absolute luxury for Collingwood that they can lose two midfielders of such high quality and yet still have players the likes of Sidebottom to step up.
Treloar has been an excellent ball winner for his side this year, and matched Sidebottom with 34 touches, 16 of which were contested. He kicked a goal of his own, to go with six score involvements and eight clearances to earn his place on the podium. Grundy was very harshly done by to not feature in these votes, given his prominence both in the ruck contest and with ball in hand, while Pendlebury was close to best on ground in the first half before falling away a little.
Gold Coast v Melbourne
3 Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
2 Darcy MacPherson (Gold Coast)
1 David Swallow (Gold Coast)
The Demons’ under-par beginning to the season shouldn’t be pinned on Clayton Oliver, who more often than not has kept up his high standards throughout the beginning of this season and dominated, in what was for the most part a lone hand. Though he had more of the ball against Geelong in an 80 point loss in Round 2, he hasn’t been more influential than he was on Saturday evening, with 38 touches, 22 of which came in the contest, eight clearances and eight inside 50’s to lead his side in every category. If there was any doubt about his commitment to the cause, he also laid an astounding 15 tackles, and if Melbourne are to revive their season then Oliver looms as critical in doing so.
Though the Suns managed to absolutely bottle this game, the Gold Coast midfield battled hard, and a young man in Darcy McPherson was at the forefront of that. He managed 27 touches, 14 of which were contested, with a goal and two direct goal assists, as well as eight tackles in amongst 29 pressure acts to get his side devastatingly close to victory. MacPherson is another player the Suns will be hoping they can hang onto as he provides the grunt their young group needs.
Swallow and Witts have been handed what can really only be described as an undesirable task, replacing the former leadership duo of Lynch and May. However, they have both been as good as Stuart Dew and Gold Coast supporters could hope for so far in 2019. While Witts leads the League for hitouts, and engaged in an entertaining ruck duel with Max Gawn, Swallow was huge for his young side and cannot in any way be blamed for the devastating loss. Matched Oliver for contested ball, and finished with 35 touches, and game highs in clearances (13), and metres gained (624).
St Kilda v West Coast
3 Shannon Hurn (West Coast)
2 Dom Sheed (West Coast)
1 Josh Battle (St Kilda)
The Eagles again haven’t been anywhere close to their best so far this season, and yet they still sit in the top 8 and have managed to make a habit of winning in Melbourne. If anyone deserves credit, at any club, for maintaining high standards and arguably even improving on them thus far this year, it’s the rightful All Australian Captain in Shannon Hurn. The Eagle managed his second best on ground performance for the year, with 25 touches at a typical 88% accuracy, in combination with nine marks, 387 metres gained and 4 score involvements. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that no player in the league matches skill with grunt quite like Hurn, who continues to go from strength to strength.
Dom Sheed’s best performances this season have come when the Eagles are missing one of their first choice midfielders. At the start of the year Sheed was excellent in the absence of Andrew Gaff, and on Saturday night without Chris Masten Sheed dominated again. He ran out the night with 29 touches, 12 of which were contested, at 71% efficiency, combined with a goal, six clearances and four inside 50’s to be the best midfielder on the ground. Also amongst considerations for the victors would have been Gaff, who continues to rack up uncontested ball off a wing, and even arguably Liam Ryan, who would certainly have been up for votes had he converted instead of finishing with 1.4.
Josh Battle’s rise to prominence as a defender for St Kilda thus far this season has been great to watch for supporters and headline writers alike. However, his vote here is no gimmick, as he clearly won the contest against Jack Darling defensively while providing excellent offence from the backline. Ended the night with 21 touches at 95% which included seven intercepts and six rebound 50’s, and kept Darling to just one goal from 13 touches. Dunstan, Ross, Savage and Billings were all quite handy in defeat.
Port Adelaide v Adelaide
3 Alex Keath (Adelaide)
2 Tom Lynch (Adelaide)
1 Lachie Murphy (Adelaide)
Alex Keath has been an absolute breakout player at the Crows this year, was a deserving Showdown Medallist and currently sits on the Mongrel podium after polling votes in 4 of his last 5 games as Adelaide have managed to revive their failing season. He was the lynchpin of the Crows’ stingy defence on the night, which has also conceded the equal fewest points so far this year, and he killed off a number of Power forward forays, with 12 intercepts and 14 contested possessions in amongst his 26 touches on the night, with seven rebound 50’s to boot. Keath was named in our Mongrel rolling All Australian side recently, and though there were questions over whether he could maintain his spot, his form so far this year has been excellent.
When the Crows rode a wave of high scoring footy to a Grand Final two seasons ago, Tom Lynch was a critical factor. Though he was by no means excellent last year, his game in the Showdown showed he, like Keath, can still be the lynchpin (sorry) of the Adelaide forward line. It was almost the ideal game from him on Saturday night, with his 20 touches translated into three goals, two direct goal assists, a total of seven score involvements and six inside 50’s. Lynch is the kind of player who can genuinely trouble opposition defenders given the lack of natural match up, and he showed his class in Adelaide’s biggest game of the season so far.
The Adelaide forward line has, admittedly, regenerated in a number of ways since the 2017 Grand Final, and while the addition of Himmelberg in place of Jenkins has been notable, so too has the addition of livewire Lachie Murphy. He had eight tackles inside 50 against Port, a number unmatched by any player in the league so far this season, and finished the night with 11 tackles total to go with 11 disposals, a goal and two direct goal assists. If forward pressure is the defining factor in football at the moment, then Lachie Murphy is one of the most proficient exponents of one of footy’s most important stats, and though Laird, Brad Crouch and Sloane all had great nights with ball in hand, it was Murphy’s work off the ball that earnt him a vote. For Port, as they have done all season, Rockliff and Boak found mountains of the ball, while Jarrod Lienert was impressive with the most metres gained of any player on the ground.
North Melbourne v Geelong
3 Tim Kelly (Geelong)
2 Mitch Duncan (Geelong)
1 Gary Ablett (Geelong)
It truly would have been unthinkable to imagine Geelong grinding out wins like this without their skipper even a year ago, but that’s exactly what the Cats did against a plucky North side, and it was in large part thanks to a young West Australian who is firming strongly into Brownlow contention despite missing out on the Mongrel’s All Australian side. Back to back best on ground performances for him have seen him jump into top spot on this leaderboard, and probably add a substantial amount to his next contract. As good as he was against Essendon, he was even better against North, with 21 of his 36 touches coming at the contest, with two goals and three direct goal assists in amongst his 10 score involvements, alongside 11 clearances, eight inside 50’s, a game high 667 metres gained and seven tackles. It was almost the complete performance from Kelly, in a game that could only otherwise be described as scrappy.
Mitch Duncan had, by his standards, a lacklustre start to the season, but has certainly lifted over the last three weeks when the Cats have needed him to. Chris Scott clearly rates his ability to use the ball on the outside, with just seven contested possessions among his 29 for the afternoon, but he went at 79%, with 12 marks, six score involvements, five clearances and 8 tackles to be the second best player on the ground.
Gary ‘Randy “Macho Man” Savage’ Ablett continues to combine reckless disregard for his own elbows with exceptional displays of forward craft, polling votes for the fourth consecutive week. Against North he returned his biggest bag of the year so far, matching Tom Hawkins’ return with four goals alongside eight score involvements and five inside 50’s. While Ablett doesn’t particularly run defensively, his ability to hit the scoreboard and create goals for his teammates more than makes up for it, shaping up as critically important to Geelong’s continued success and looks a lock for the All Australian forward pocket position. Ben Brown shaped as the match winner for North, but loses points for his ungainly display running into an open goal, and Cunnington and Higgins were both prolific but couldn’t get their side over the line.
Hawthorn v GWS
3 Ben McEvoy (Hawthorn)
2 James Frawley (Hawthorn)
1 Ricky Henderson (Hawthorn)
The loss of Shane Mumford for this game shouldn’t be understated. McEvoy and Ceglar ran rampant against the Giants, and the former gets the nod as best on ground due to his dominance in both the ruck, with 33 hitouts, and around the ground, managing 15 touches with 8 marks, 4 clearances, 4 tackles and 7 score involvements. Interestingly, the former Saint has polled the most Mongrel votes of any ruckman this year, ahead of Brodie Grundy, and it is in large part due to his ability to clunk contested marks around the ground as much as it is due to his ability to win ruck contests. All that was missing from his game on Mother’s Day was a goal, but scoreboard impact was provided by Ceglar, who kicked two goals alongside 16 hitouts, 13 touches and six marks to be arguably the unluckiest player in the game to miss votes.
Jeremy Cameron has been by far and away the dominant forward of this season, and given he still looks unbackable odds to win the Coleman, Frawley’s feat in keeping him goalless should not be overlooked. Frawley was cited for shoving his opponent into the advertising around the ground, and the Giant did manage to kick 4 behinds, but the Hawk also managed to impact offensively in addition to shutting down his opponent, with eight marks in amongst his 17 touches for the day.
Ricky Henderson has continued to fly under the radar this year, but after being the standout Hawk in losses to the Dogs and the Cats, he finally managed to dominate in a win. He has been consistently amongst the best Hawks in all of their games this year and would no doubt be in the All Australian squad of 40 at this point, if not in the 22. Had a season-high 36 touches against GWS, alongside 10 marks, seven inside 50’s and a game high 642 metres gained to be the last player to receive a vote in this one. GWS looked truly insipid in a rare display, but Heath Shaw cracked in all day and was their best player.
Fremantle v Richmond
3 Shai Bolton (Richmond)
2 Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle)
1 Bachar Houli (Richmond)
Since Dustin Martin dominated the league in 2017 and polled a record number of Brownlow votes, Richmond’s performances have become a lot more balanced, with players often being given the nod for votes as much for their work without the ball as with it. Against Freo, this was again the case, as despite a number of standouts young West Australian Shai Bolton gets the nod as best on ground. Kicked two goals in the first ten minutes to give the Tigers their dream start interstate, before running out the day with four goals from 16 disposals, with nine score involvements, three inside 50’s and, just as importantly, seven tackles, as the Tigers’ forwards shut down the Fremantle rebounders. It was the complete small forward effort from Bolton in an important return to form for the yellow and black.
Nathan Fyfe’s statline was a little misleading, as though he finished with three goals from 33 touches, two goals came in the last five minutes when Richmond had already locked in their victory. However, he isn’t receiving votes for that. It is bordering on insanity as to how much better Fremantle look when Fyfe has ball in hand. He had six clearances in the first half as his side drew close to level, including a goal gifted to him by Toby Nankervis’ dimwittery. He gets two votes as much for how bad Freo looked when he was off the ground as they looked with him on it, but he certainly deserved it as the player who most looked like he was going to drag his team over the line.
In the absence of Nick Vlastuin, Bachar Houli’s already important role became even more critical. Luckily for the Tigers, Houli so rarely has a bad day, and Sunday evening was no exception, as he finished the day as his side’s leading ball winner. While the Richmond defence was flattered a little by inaccurate Docker finishing, Houli was excellent across half back, with 30 touches at 80% efficiency including seven intercepts, 10 marks, six rebound 50’s and 515 metres gained to lead his side in that important metric. Truly there were a number of Tigers who could have been considered here, with Grimes and Astbury resolute down back, Lynch strong up forward but inaccurate in front of goal, and Caddy, Ellis, Lambert, Menadue and Martin again showing how even the Tigers’ spread can be.
1. Tim Kelly (10)
2. Lachie Neale (9)
3. Travis Boak (8)
3. Alex Keath (8)
5. Gary Ablett (7)
5. Marcus Bontempelli (7)
5. Scott Pendlebury (7)
8. Patrick Dangerfield (6)
8. Nathan Fyfe (6)
8. Shannon Hurn (6)
8. Josh P. Kennedy (6)
8. Ben McEvoy (6)
8. Hugh McLuggage (6)
A fair bit of movement in and around the top 10 again this week. Tim Kelly’s back to back 3 vote performances have seen him jump into the outright lead for the first time this year, after sharing top spot with Scott Lycett and Alex Sexton after Round 2. Neale and Boak both performed admirably again this weekend, but missed out on votes due to their team’s losses.
The absolute bolter is Alex Keath, who records votes for the 4th time in 5 weeks, and gets the nod as best on ground for the second time in the last three weeks to jump into the top 3 as the most prominent key defender of the season. Meanwhile, Gary Ablett’s run of form has seen him jump further up the leaderboard, with votes for the fourth consecutive week. Hurn and McEvoy continue their so far excellent seasons with best on ground performances vaulting them into the top 10, while Fyfe’s 2 votes have seen him jump up into the top echelon too.
The surprise is McLuggage, who was best on ground last week and receives a vote this week in a loss to join superstar teammate Neale in the top 10.
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