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Struggle Town - Which Players Have Disappointed Most In 2019?

Disappointment.

How often have you ever been in a position where someone thought you were angry, and you just pulled on those heart strings by saying “I’m not angry… I’m just disappointed"?

Anger is easy to deal with. It’s often reactionary and emotion-driven. It is rarely thought out, and can be dismissed pretty quickly once cooler heads prevailed. An apology, a nod and all is forgiven. But disappointment… that’s a different kettle of fish.

I’m not sure how many times my father was angry at me. I’d like to think it wasn't too many, but the times he was disappointed in me – I reckon I could name them all.

At times I wonder whether coaches break that line out when disciplining a player, or even when they’re breaking the news to a player that they’re about to be dropped. “I’m not angry at your performance… I’m just disappointed.”

It stings.

Looking at the AFL this season, there have been several players who fans, members of the media, and perhaps coaches have been disappointed in. Taylor Walker has had his name dragged through the mud over the past couple of weeks, and really, only some of it is justified. However he is not on an island (an island of disappointment?) when it comes to poor form, poor decisions, or poor results.

Plenty of others have failed to deliver in big ways. Some have failed to deliver at all, but we’ll leave Dan Hannebery out of this until he has a chance to redeem himself. As a matter of fact, we’ll avoid him, Walker and josh Jenkins in this column.

So, after eliminating them, here are some The Mongrel has been disappointed in this season.

 

BRYCE GIBBS

This has been a huge fall from grace from the man who was supposed to be the cherry on top of the Adelaide cake. Jake Niall wrote in The Age that Gibbs was dropped from the side due to a lack of defensive running, and an aversion to body contact. They are damning accusations.

He has been added to the team for Round 11, and along with Josh Jenkins, and has more than a bit to prove. A former number one overall pick, Gibbs would have a lot of pride in the way he’s carried himself over the journey, and looking at his last game as a Crow, I couldn’t really see what Pyke was so upset about. This, however, may be his last chance to make an impact in 2019. Another failure, and there may be a hungrier, younger player ready to usurp his place permanently.

With Gibbs out of favour, you have to wonder if there is something other than on-field issues going on?

 

CAM RAYNER

So there are two second-year players on this list, and Cameron is the one with the highest profile.

He had a very good first season, but has fallen away dramatically in the sequel. He is -4.2 disposals per game and has gone long stretches without being sighted on the field. His season boasts… if that is the right word, games with stats such as five disposals against Port Adelaide, seven touches against Essendon, and a paltry three touches against Adelaide.

Rayner was touted as a Dustin Martin clone, but Dusty’s numbers went up across the board and Rayner’s are going the wrong way. The potential is still there, but he needs to reverse a trend that would be a much bigger deal if the Lions weren’t winning.

 

MITCH MCGOVERN

He was a highly-regarded recruit, but he has looked absolutely lost as part of the Blues… which kind of fits in with the rest of the team.

His numbers are down across the board. -4.59 disposals, and -1.17 marks on his 2018 marks with the Crows, and has had double figure disposals in just three of the ten games he’s played this season.

I could do my homework and find out an approximate amount of what Carlton are paying him, but whatever it is, I can safely state that based on his 2019 output, it’s way too much.

He is injured this week, and will sit out the game, but truthfully, after a back injury in the pre-season, he hasn’t looked at all fit. Being ripped to shreds is not a McGovern trait, but being completely out of the game as often as Mitch McGovern is, isn’t a family trait either.

 

CHARLIE CURNOW

So, can you cast your mind back to last season when Charlie Curnow took his big hanger on the wing and everyone was comparing it to Alex Jesaulenko?

Now we’re comparing him to Jezza… at St Kilda.

How about when Dermott Brereton went and had his coffee with him, declaring that Charlie would be one of the best forwards in the game in no time.

How soon is “no time”?

Curnow is coming off his best game of the season, so things might be moving in the right direction. Maybe they’re getting better? I’m channelling Paul McCartney here, but I have the nagging voice of John Lennon on my ear stating “they can’t get no worse!”

He kicked two last week but has just six goals in his seven 2019 games. In the games I’ve watched, he’s looked to eager to wait out the back of a contest for an easy one, and hasn’t been using that much-vaunted “tank” of his at all.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. To date this year, Curnow simply has not worked hard enough, and the results are evident.

 

JORDAN DE GOEY

Controversial, I know, and probably a victim of his huge potential and match-winning capabilities, but how much were you expecting from de Goey this season? If it is anything like I was expecting, I thought he might be capable of winning the Coleman.

Alas, that won’t be happening in 2019.

He has had a slight improvement on his 2018 goal kicking numbers, but I don’t think it’s unfair to state that 60-65 goals felt as though it was realistic for de Goey rolling into the season. 

We got a taste of it as Collingwood rolled Richmond in round two, and JDG slammed home five goals, but he hasn’t been that dominant presence we expected… yet.

Coming off two games on the sidelines, de Goey still has time on his side. He finished with 48 goals in 2018, and with 19 to his name as we near the half-way point, he’d really have to hit his straps and start kicking set shots to match it. I have to say… I expected more.

 

ZAC CLARKE

You know the old saying that if you can’t say something nice about someone, you shouldn’t say something at all? Well, this would be a pretty short column if I adopted that mantra.

Clarke has been a liability for Essendon when he’s been on the park. He has managed just 35 hit outs in his three games, fluffed goals, missed or ignored teammates, turned the ball over and largely been a large human who is in the league simply because he takes up a fair bit of space.

He is struggling to get his hands on the footy, and when he gets it he looks all at sea. Out of contract at the end of the season, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Clarke in an AFL team after this year.

Having said that, of course Essendon have added him to their side for Round 11…

 

ORAZIO FANTASIA

This is in here more out of frustration, because the most impact he’s had in 2019 has come from the debate as to how to pronounce his name.

That’s pretty sad considering he’s got a couple of four-goal games to his name as well.

Many people have pointed to Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti as the Essendon barometer, but I reckon they’re wrong. Fantasia is the one that sets them alight. Coming off 13 games in 2018, the Bombers needed him to be right for 2019 in order for them to push into the top eight, but as we enter Round 11, Fantasia is looking at missing his fourth game of the year already.

He has a million dollar football brain and a ten cent body at the moment.

His numbers in Essendon wins? 17.66 touches and 2.66 goals.

His numbers in losses? 11 touches and 1.33 goals.

 

JESSE HOGAN

Maybe I’m being too harsh on new recruits? McGovern and now Hogan? Maybe it just takes time to adjust and find your niche in a team?

However, when you go from 2.35 goals per game down to 0.89 from one season to the next, Fremantle supporters would be asking how long it takes to find that role.

Unlike Curnow at Carlton, Hogan is not coming off his best game of the season. In fact, he is coming off his worst, having been destroyed by Brisbane’s Harris Andrews. His eight goals in nine games is hardly what Freo fans would have been expecting, and as he returns to the MCG for the first time not wearing blue and red, the pressure is suddenly on Hogan.

How they have been winning with him playing such an impotent role is a credit to Freo, but at some point Hogan has to break the shackles and start having some scoreboard impact. Taberner is gone for the year and Cam McCarthy probably used up all his good performances in Round One.

Fremantle needs Jesse Hogan to be more than he currently is. Only Hogan knows if he’s capable of that.

 

ZAC SMITH

I went hunting for some info on Smith, expecting to see him on the injured list, but nope… he’s played six games in the VFL this season. Remember when he was this great prospect at Gold Coast? Remember when it was a coup for the Cats to get their hands on him?

Now he plays behind a bloke who was meant to be a part time ruckman in Rhys Stanley (in Stanley’s defence, he has worked his ass off to be better, and thoroughly deserves his spot), Darcy Fort, Esava Ratugolea and Ryan Abbott.

What a fall from grace.

He has managed to get his name in the votes in two of the last three weeks in the seconds, so maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but this is a bloke who could have been a great ruckman in the league. Now, he’s a pretty good one in the VFL.

 

COREY ELLIS/JORDAN MURDOCH

I’m throwing these two in together, because I reckon they were brought into the young Suns team to add leadership, good decision making, and experience.

Well, in Murdoch’s case, he is giving them one of three. In Ellis’ case, he hasn’t even had the chance as yet.

Murdoch’s decision making has been deplorable at times, looking more like a panicky 19 year old than any of the Suns’ kids. Watching him play, it is evident as to why Geelong was ready to end his time at Kardinia Park.

Big things were touted for Ellis upon moving away from Tigerland, but we are yet to see him fire a shot. His teammate and fellow former-Tiger, Anthony Miles has been a great pick up, but Ellis… not so much. Hampered by a groin injury pre-season, Ellis is yet to fire a shot for the Suns at a time in the season his veteran leadership would be highly valuable.

 

ISAAC SMITH

It’s interesting that the stories are now surfacing about the Bulldogs’ interest in Smith, as it is coinciding with the most disappointing run he’s had at Hawthorn in quite a while.

Whilst not having a howler at all, he has hovered around the 20-21-22 possession mark in every game he’s played. As someone who was considered to be a potential captain of the club, a bit more is required.

But it’s not just numbers. Those who have watched Hawthorn games would have seen how little a factor Smith has been in games. Yes he’ll get his low 20-something touches, but that trademark Smith burst, run and carry have has been missing.

Perhaps a change of scenery late in his career is the right thing to do. Alastair Clarkson has not been shy about moving a player on if he thinks it benefits both the Hawks and the player individually. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and unless Smith is able to respond with significant improvement in his on-field performance, another three-time premiership player might be wearing different colours next season.

 

TOM MCDONALD

Interestingly, I listened to Garry Lyon on SEN this morning suggesting that maybe Tom McDonald really isn’t as good in the forward line as his purple patch of 2018 indicated. Lyon mused that TMac’s form may have been reflective of how well Melbourne were playing as a whole, and with the midfield not delivering the ball to him lace out, he’s struggled.

With career-low disposal counts, and three games in single digits, McDonald as the number one option, has looked overwhelmed. The Dees pinned a lot of hope on Sam Weideman providing support, but at the time of writing, this has not been forthcoming, and the youngster has spent the last four games in the twos.

McDonald has eight goals in his ten games this season, and had his best game when moved back to play in defence in Round Six against the Tigers. Maybe that’s where he should be until Jake Lever and Steven May get back?

 

ANGUS BRAYSHAW

Sticking with the Dees, how far has this bloke fallen away? If not in stats in general, then in his impact on the game?

Much has been made of his third place finish in the 2018 Brownlow, but Brayshaw looks like a different player this season. He is hitting the target just 56% of the time by foot, and for someone responsible for getting the ball inside 50, he is giving his forwards very little chance.

Brayshaw, and his captain Jack Viney, have been horrible users of the footy this season, and though they win plenty of the ball, wasting it immediately doesn’t exactly make them great players.

Brayshaw needs to find some space, lower his eyes and stop slamming the ball onto his boot in hope. He has the ability to turn this around in a hurry, but it looks as though he is feeling the pressure of being a highly rated mid this season. How he handles it for the remainder of the year will be indicative as to whether his 2018 Brownlow finish is something Dees fans can look forward to seeing more of, or an outlier.

 

CHRISTIAN PETRACCA

Three from the one team, huh? Yeah, well… I am pretty disappointed with the Dees, as most of their fans are. I mean, I haven’t even started on May as yet, and given he’s low-hanging fruit, I may leave that one.

Petracca… he’s also low-hanging, but I cannot for the life of me understand how he hasn’t torn a game to shreds yet. He looks like the most physically dominant player on the ground at times – built like a bull, but playing like a dairy cow.

Against the Giants, he walked away with respectable stats – 19 disposals, five marks and a goal. Not bad, right, as a forward?

Wrong!

Petracca’s numbers are the stat-padder’s wet dream, racking them up hand over fist once the game was decided. His last quarter was everything the Dees want to see from him when the game is there to be decided. Sadly, it was out of reach half an hour before Petracca showed up.

He needs to start fulfilling that potential in a hurry, and not filling the stats-sheet when the game is ostensibly over.

 

AARON HALL

One of the big three (four if you count Dom Tyson… which I don’t) the Kangaroos recruited in the off-season. While Polec has had his moments, and surprisingly, Pittard is the pick of the bunch, the biggest disappointment has been Aaron Hall.

Out of the tea since Round Six, Hall was impressive in the Kangaroos’ VFL loss to Collingwood, notching 30 touches and nine tackles, but was left out of the Round 11 side.

What have the Roos learned about Hall? There wrap on him was that he was a one-way runner in his time at Gold Coast, and they seemed less than upset when he wanted to leave. They’re alarm bells, right there, yet his VFL form, particularly last week, speaks of a man desperate to play top-level footy.

Hall has time on his side. At 28 years old, he still has time to re-establish himself as a very good midfielder, but with his contract up at the end of 2019, he may want to start getting a move on.

 

STEVEN MOTLOP

I really don’t know what to make of this bloke. He has the capacity to be a complete game-changer, but that is heavily mitigated by his penchant for going missing for long periods in a game, only to bob up, shirk a hard ball, and look for the easy one outside.

Is his upside worth tolerating his downside?

He is producing his worst statistical season since 2012, and has just four goals to his name entering Round 11.

Geelong fans are smiling. They know what Port fans are now experiencing. Motlop is an impact player, but the problem is that he just doesn’t have that impact often enough. If anything, he is a non-impact player. The concerning part about that is that non-impact players usually have consistency and reliability as part of their other attributes. Motlop has none.

So what is an impact player who doesn’t have an impact? Contracted until the end of 2021, the answer is – a liability.

 

DANIEL RIOLI

Interesting to see him dropped this week, confirming a lot of my own thoughts about his season to date.

In a side that has fought hard against the odds, Rioli has been the anomaly. He hasn’t been great, and with his numbers down on 2018, perhaps a week in the VFL is the remedy for that form? Personally, I’ve never understood how being dropped can help someone find confidence, but you know… there’s a lot of things I don’t know.

Rioli has just six goals to his name in 2019, and his tackles per game are down from 3.83 to 2.50 per game this season.

Richmond will be fine without him. Hey have a plethora of really good small forwards to take his place. Higgins, Castagna, Butler, and now Liam Baker… maybe this is a kick in the pants Rioli needed?

 

BEN RONKE

Hasn’t looked like it at all this season.

It’s probably difficult to top coming out on debut and kicking a bag on Friday night, winning the rising star nomination and being the toast of the footy world after one game. You’d be thinking “how easy is this footy caper?”

But Ronke is finding out it ain’t easy at all, and hasn’t played a senior game since Round Six, when he was recalled to the side after being dropped earlier in the week.

His statistical returns look like mine if I were thrown into the Sydney forward line. In four of his five games this season, he’s failed to hit double figures in possessions, with the only 10+ game coming against the Dees in Round Three. He’s failed to hit the scoreboard, with just two goals to his name, and he has dropped from 3.94 tackles per game to 1.90.

If this is a case of second year blues, it is a pretty big one.

 

JACK DARLING

Harsh, but I reckon even Eagles supporters would say it’s fair.

He may have delivered small flashes (like my mate Joe Ganino lurking in a park) but Darling is on track for the worst statistical season of his career at this point.

He is averaging 10.9 disposals, 3.6 marks and 1.8 inside 50s – all career-low numbers. He does have four games in which he has kicked 3+ goals, but it his contested marking that has fallen away dramatically.

After 2.57 contested marks per game in 2018, Darling now sits at 1.0 per game.

He has been a blessing at times for the Eagles, and a curse at others. In order for them to accomplish back-to-back flags, a better version of Jack Darling is required. He may not get to 2018 levels, but he cannot remain at 2019 levels.

 

JOSH SCHACHE

And finally we get to Josh.

This bloke was recruited from Brisbane as a key forward, but switching Aaron Naughton from defence to the goal square has not just stepped on Schache’s toes… it’s crushed them.

Despite four goals in Round Two against the Hawks, Schache has become a forgotten man in the Bullies’ forward half. He is toiling away in the VFL, getting his 1.2 goals per game, but showing nowhere near enough to be considered as an option for key forward in the big league.

This is his second season at the Dogs. The retirement of Tom Boyd has unfairly hastened expectations of Schache doing a bit more. Out of contract at the end of 2020, the Dogs will want to see Schache as a regular contributor in their best 22. He’s 21 years old, and the big fellas need time (similar to Todd Marshall at Port Adelaide), but with Tim English and Naughton playing good footy as big, young blokes, the Dogs need Schache to catch up.

 

So, evidently all teams aren’t represented here. I legitimately had some problems with some of them. Who has disappointed from GWS? Looking at their list, I couldn’t pick one. That bodes well.

If you have someone I missed, or you can point me in the direction of a disappointing Giant, by all means, go right ahead.

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