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Mongrel Of The Year Award - Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fremantle

After 10 weeks of the season, we’ve begun to see the cream rise to the top of our new Mongrel of the Year Award leaderboard. Designed to give recognition to the lesser lights who are just as influential as any other, the Award is voted on by contributors to the Mongrel Punt, and each week the round’s votes are tallied up and shared on a Monday night.

With almost half the season gone, now seems as good a time as any to look back on all the votes, and tally each club’s leaders, where they won their votes, and a surprise bolter from each team. This article will give a wrap of the first six clubs alphabetically, with the rest of the competition to follow over the coming week.

ADELAIDE

Votes:

Alex Keath (8)

Brad Crouch (4)

Tom Lynch (4)

Matt Crouch (3)

Brodie Smith (3)

Rory Laird (2)

Rory Sloane (2)

Kyle Hartigan (1)

Elliott Himmelberg (1)

Lachie Murphy (1)

Leader: Alex Keath- 3 votes in Rds 6 & 8. 1 vote in Rds 4 & 5

In case you weren’t aware, Alex Keath was a cricketer before he was a footballer, but he has slotted into the Crows backline seamlessly this season, playing all 10 games in the absence of Tom Doedee after featuring just 12 times across the previous two seasons. His best performances have come in Round Six, against St Kilda, where his 21 disposals included 14 marks and eight intercepts, and in the Showdown in Round Eight, where he won the Medal for best afield for his 26 disposals, 12 intercepts and seven rebound 50’s.

Votes have also come in Round 4, in a loss to North Melbourne, in which he racked up 20 disposals at 85% including 14 marks and 10 intercepts, and in the Round Five demolition of the Suns, in which his 18 disposals went at 89% and included 12 intercepts and six marks.

Surprise Packet: Alex Keath

While Adelaide’s backline has probably flown under the radar in previous seasons, especially given the high profile of their forwards, it’s high time they received some recognition. After losing Jake Lever following the 2017 Grand Final, and his more than adequate replacement in Tom Doedee to an ACL in Round One this year, few would have expected Alex Keath to fit so well into that role, given his relative inexperience at AFL level.

However, he has been a vital part of a Crow defence that has conceded the third fewest points in the league so far this season, just behind the dour Fremantle and ladder leading Cats. Keath featured in the Mongrel’s rolling All Australian side after Round Seven, and it will be interesting to see whether he can hold his spot over the course of the year.

BRISBANE

Votes:

Lachie Neale (10)

Hugh McLuggage (6)

Harris Andrews (5)

Charlie Cameron (3)

Mitch Robinson (3)

Eric Hipwood (1)

Lincoln McCarthy (1)

Daniel Rich (1)

Leader: Lachie Neale - 3 votes in Rds 2, 3 & 6. 1 vote in Rd 9.

After crossing from Fremantle following the trade period last season, Lachie Neale has been even better than even the most optimistic Brisbane fan might have expected, as the Lions look to end a decade long exile from September football. After a solid enough debut in Brisbane’s Round One win over the reigning premier, Neale’s next two weeks, against North and Port Adelaide, were extraordinary, as he racked up 43 touches in each game, alongside eight clearances and eight score involvements in Round Two, and a massive 15 and 10 plus a goal in Round Three.

After two disappointing weeks for his club, he was back to his very best in the Pineapple Grapple in Round Six, combining six tackles with a goal and two goal assists from his 28 touches, which went at 82%. He was again tremendous in their one point win over the Crows in Round Nine, with his 39 disposals going at 85% and including seven score involvements and 12 clearances.

Surprise Packet: Hugh McLuggage - 3 votes in Rd 7. 2 votes in Rd 1. 1 vote in Rd 8.

It’s truly stunning to think that Hugh McLuggage had only played 40 games heading into this season, as his 10 games so far this year have been of such high quality. In a midfield that is heavily centred on Neale and Dayne Zorko, the former Pick Three has been hugely important.

His best performance came in their win over Sydney in the wet in Round Seven, showing his class with 24 disposals and two goals in amongst eight score involvements, alongside six tackles and nine inside 50’s in what may well have been his best career game to date.

However, he was also a significant factor in their Round One win over the Eagles, with 20 disposals at 85% including a goal, eight score involvements, five clearances and eight inside 50’s. In their loss to the Bulldogs in Ballarat in Round Eight, McLuggage looked like he was going to be the difference between the two sides, with 14 disposals in the first quarter, before finishing the afternoon with 26, a goal, seven tackles and five inside 50’s. McLuggage has been able to hit the scoreboard from midfield for the Lions, with 12 goals from 10 games, and looks a genuine star in the making.

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CARLTON

Votes: Patrick Cripps (5)

Sam Petrevski-Seton (3)

Harry McKay (2)

Caleb Marchbank (1)

Sam Walsh (1)

Jacob Weitering (1)

Leader: Patrick Cripps - 3 votes in Rd 8. 1 vote in Rds 1 & 5

The fact that Patrick Cripps only has five votes in this award is down to a combination of factors, including but not limited to his own high standards, and his side’s lack of success. Often, Cripps’ direct opponent features in the votes ahead of him as the midfield bull tries valiantly to carry his side on his back to victory.

His only best on ground performance this season according to this site came in their loss to Collingwood in Round Eight, where his 35 disposals included 19 contested, combined with a goal, a massive 14 clearances, nine score involvements and seven tackles as he did everything he could to get his side what would have been a famous victory.

In Round One in the traditional match up against the Tigers many outlets had him as best on ground, but his 32 touches, including 22 contested, eight clearances and six tackles weren’t enough to net him any more than one vote behind the bullocking work of Toby Nankervis and the midfield class of Trent Cotchin. Despite running rampant in losses to Port Adelaide, Sydney and Gold Coast, Cripps’ only other vote came in the Blues’ one win for the season, behind Petrevski-Seton and McKay, as he tallied 37 touches, with just five kicks, while going at 83%, with 11 clearances and seven score involvements.

Surprise Packet: Sam Petrevski-Seton - 3 votes in Rd 5.

Though much has been made of the apparent lack of assistance for Cripps in Carlton’s midfield, Petrevski-Seton’s performance in their solitary win so far for the season highlighted that there is plenty of talent yet to be developed at Princes’ Park. In just his 47th game, Petrevski-Seton racked up 35 touches and going at 89%, with 15 disposals coming in the contest, as well as a goal, seven clearances, and four inside 50’s. Though his form has tapered off in recent weeks, he was also quite handy in their narrow loss to Hawthorn, and he has showed glimpses of his immense potential that is sure to have provided a somewhat rare positive note for Carlton fans.

COLLINGWOOD

Votes: Brodie Grundy (7)

Scott Pendlebury (7)

Brody Mihocek (5)

Steele Sidebottom (5)

Adam Treloar (5)

Darcy Moore (4

Levi Greenwood (3)

Jeremy Howe (3)

Brayden Maynard (1)

Jordan Roughead (1)

Jaidyn Stephenson (1)

Co-Leader: Brodie Grundy - 3 votes in Rd 4. 2 votes in Rd 9. 1 vote in Rds 6 & 10

The All Australian ruck spot was a fierce battle between Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy last season. Thus far in 2019, it has been decidedly less competitive, as Grundy has made claims to being not just the best ruckman in the competition but potentially even the best player. While that hasn’t necessarily been reflected in the votes, this has been in part due to the prevalence of other midfielders who reap the rewards of his ruck work.

His only three vote performance so far for the season came in Round Four, on Friday night against the Bulldogs, as on the main stage he dominated but in the ruck battle, with 58 hitouts, and around the ground, with 23 disposals at 74% and including 18 contested, eight score involvements, six clearances and eight tackles.

He was also tremendously influential in the Magpies’ win over St Kilda in Round Nine, with 24 disposals, 49 hitouts, seven clearances and six tackles. On ANZAC Day in Round 6 he was a big factor in his side’s tight win, with 24 touches, 39 hitouts and six tackles again, while in Round 10 against the Swans he simply dominated against Cal Sinclair, with a career high 64 hitouts added to 18 disposals, seven clearances and eight tackles. Somewhat surprisingly, in what was probably his best performance, against Carlton in Round Eight, he didn’t get a vote in spite of his dominance.

Co-Leader: Scott Pendlebury - 3 votes in Rds 6 & 7. 1 vote in Rd 2.

2019 is Scott Pendlebury’s 14th year of AFL football, and yet somehow time seems to not be a factor for him as he takes his game to new heights in search of a second Premiership Medal. His performance on ANZAC Day, footy’s biggest home and away game, was nothing short of superb, netting him a third ANZAC Day Medal for best on ground, demonstrating just how classy he can be especially in pressure situations. Against the Bombers he had 38 disposals, his biggest tally since 2013, while running at 74% efficiency, with six tackles, 566 metres gained and eight intercept possessions to comfortably take home the three votes.

He followed that up in Round Seven against Port Adelaide, where he finished with 36 disposals at 81% with eight score involvements and 11 inside 50’s to have back to back best on ground performances. Against the Tigers in Round 2, while other players had more of the ball, Pendlebury’s ruthless efficiency (31 touches at 84%), with a goal and 11 score involvements, saw him take home one vote.

Surprise Packet: Brody Mihocek - 3 votes in Rd 2. 2 votes in Rd 5.

While this should count as no disrespect to Mihocek, he is clearly the odd man out when looking at the Magpies’ top five in this award. Grundy, Pendlebury, Sidebottom and Treloar are integral parts of what many had declared to be the greatest midfield the game had ever seen. It is a testament, though, to the hard work of the mature age recruit that he should be mentioned in the same breath.

His three vote performance came in the Preliminary Final rematch in Round Two against Richmond, where he took five contested marks out of 12 total, sent the ball inside 50 10 times from his 20 possessions, and all up was involved in nine scores including two goals of his own as his side repeated the dose to their rivals.

In Brisbane in Round Five he had another excellent performance, kicking 4.2 with 12 score involvements from 18 disposals, while also managing eight marks as he both linked up at half forward and finished off goals too. He sits third at Collingwood for goals, behind the more heralded de Goey and Stephenson, and will be a big factor in Collingwood’s quest for vengeance.

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ESSENDON

Votes: Zach Merrett (8)

Dylan Shiel (5)

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (3)

Darcy Parish (3)

David Zaharakis (2)

Mark Baguley (1)

Orazio Fantasia (1)

Kyle Langford (1)

Leader: Zach Merrett - 3 votes in Rds 5 & 9. 2 votes in Rd 4.

It should come as no surprise really that Zach Merrett’s best games have correlated with Essendon’s wins. While there has been talk of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti as the Bombers’ barometer, Merrett’s performances are probably a better way of analysing his side as a whole, as he averages just under 27 touches in losses, compared to just under 34 in wins.

He has polled votes in three out of the Dons’ four wins for the season, with what would have to be considered his best game coming on Good Friday in Round Five against North. Merrett had 39 touches, with 12 score involvements, seven clearances, six inside 50’s and nine tackles to be clearly the most influential player on the ground in a win in which his side’s midfield fired on all cylinders.

He was also outstanding in a scrappy Round Nine win over Fremantle, with his 35 touches including involvement in eight out of Essendon’s 20 scores for the evening, as well as six tackles as he willed his side home to an important victory. In their impressive victory over Brisbane, he received the nod as second best on ground, after McDonald-Tipungwuti with his bag of seven, but Merrett was almost as important, with 35 disposals at 86% including a goal, nine score involvements, seven clearances and six tackles. What is abundantly clear from this is that when Merrett plays well, Essendon often play well too.

Surprise Packet: Darcy Parish- 3 votes in Rd 3.

While it may be unfair to suggest a top 10 draft pick playing well is a surprise, the fact remains that Darcy Parish started this year apparently on the outside of Essendon’s best 22. His three vote performance came in Essendon’s first win of the year, against Melbourne at the MCG in a Friday night shootout, when he had 24 touches, and kicked 1.3 to go with 11 score involvements, 522 metres gained, seven clearances and six inside 50’s. In truth Parish has been good all season, and he was one of the Bombers’ best again on Saturday night against Richmond in their loss, and it has become hard to see him being dropped again.

FREMANTLE

Votes: Brad Hill (8)

Nathan Fyfe (6)

Luke Ryan (5)

Joel Hamling (3)

Brandon Matera (2)

Cam McCarthy (2)

David Mundy (2)

Rory Lobb (1)

Matt Taberner (1)

Michael Walters (1)

Nathan Wilson (1)

Leader: Brad Hill - 3 votes in Rds 1 & 10. 2 votes in Rd 6.

After playing just 10 games last year, the ability to get Brad Hill on the park this season has been the difference between them being in the top 8 as it currently stands, or finishing somewhere between 9th and 13th. The Premiership Hawk has been excellent in a number of his side’s victories thus far in 2019, and never moreso than against North Melbourne in Round One, where he translated his 28 touches into 13 score involvements, including a goal and a goal assist, to just edge out Cam McCarthy, who kicked 5.0, and superstar captain Nathan Fyfe, who had 32 touches, as best on ground.

He was also exceedingly influential in their last gasp win over the Lions in Round 10, with nine touches in the last quarter out of his 31 for the match ensuring Freo squared their ledger at 5-5 and sat inside the top 8 after 10 rounds. In their Round Six win over the Bulldogs at home he was also more than handy, racking up a significant amount of ball across half back and sending his side inside 50 six times. He ended the night with 30 touches, six score involvements and 586 metres gained to finish just behind key defender Joel Hamling in the votes for the night. When Hill plays well, it is very, very rare that Freo lose, and he is shaping as one of their most important players in their push to return to September action.

Surprise Packet: Luke Ryan - 3 votes in Rd 3. 2 votes in Rd 7.

As much as Fyfe, Mundy and Hill deserve a significant amount of credit for Freo’s year so far, it is their defence that has been the most significant factor in their improvement. The Dockers have conceded the second fewest points so far this season, and that is in large part thanks to Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling, and Luke Ryan, who has taken his game as a rebounding defender to a new level in his third season of football.

Against St Kilda, he was like a wall, and was clearly the reason Fremantle got home with a win in that Round Three game, with 32 disposals at 91% including 13 marks, 13 intercepts, 677 metres gained and nine rebound 50’s to be clearly the best player on the ground. He was also better than a number of other players in their tight and scrappy Round Seven loss to Adelaide, with 34 disposals at 88% in a game in which both sides went at around 65% as a whole. He also had 10 intercepts in that game and likely would have been best on ground if his side had gotten up.

Against Brisbane on Sunday he was also influential without receiving a vote, with half of his 32 touches coming from intercepts as he continuously provided drive from defence in an important win for his side.