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 this article will show each club’s leaders, where they won their votes, and a surprise bolter from each team. Today’s article will give a wrap of the second set of six clubs alphabetically, with the final segment to be released before this weekend’s games.
Tim Kelly (13)
Gary Ablett (7)
Patrick Dangerfield (6)
Mitch Duncan (6)
Gary Rohan (3)
Joel Selwood (3)
Rhys Stanley (3)
Cam Guthrie (2)
Tom Stewart (2)
Mark Blicavs (1)
Luke Dahlhaus (1)
Leader: Tim Kelly- 3 votes in Rds 7, 8 & 10. 2 votes in Rds 1 & 2.
The fact that Tim Kelly is only in his second season of AFL football is frankly staggering given both his class and increasing importance to a side that has established itself as the best in the competition over the first 10 weeks of 2019. His best games this season have come in the absence of Joel Selwood (Rounds 7 & 8) and Patrick Dangerfield (Round 10), as he had continued to fill gaps wherever they have shown up.
Against Essendon, he was outstanding, with his 30 touches including two goals and two goal assists, eight total score involvements, 10 clearances and 567 metres gained to be clearly the best player on the ground, and yet somehow he got better. Against North in Round 8, he was very clearly the difference between the two sides, with his statline reading 36 touches, 21 contested possessions, two goals, three goal assists, 10 score involvements, 11 clearances, seven tackles, eight inside 50’s and 667 metres gained in what could well have been the most impressive individual game from a midfielder for the season.
Opposed to the Gold Coast in Round 10 he was also hugely significant in his side’s runaway win, with 35 touches, 10 score involvements, eight clearances and 670 metres gained, playing almost a lone hand in midfield as he carried his side to victory.
He also started the season exceptionally, polling two votes in each of his first two games, with 31 touches and nine clearances against the Magpies in Round 1, though he was just beaten for best on ground honours by Rhys Stanley, who was significant in nullifying the impact of the always important Brodie Grundy, and 30 touches, a goal and 12 clearances against the Demons in Round 2, just being beaten by Patrick Dangerfield who played close to his best game in two years, to lead the award by two votes from Travis Boak at this stage.
Surprise Packet: Gary Rohan - 3 votes in Rd 9.
While Rohan hasn’t polled votes in many games, he has been a significant factor in Geelong’s restructured, suddenly effective forward line. He’s a player who doesn’t need many touches to have a scoreboard impact, and additionally provides pressure beyond the level provided by some of the forwards Geelong used in 2018.
Thus far in 2019 he’s kicked a goal in every game bar two, and has been deadly accurate in front of goal, kicking 20.6 in 10 games to sit equal second in the Cats’ goal kicking. His vote winning game came against the Bulldogs in Round 9, where he kicked three goals from 14 touches, with seven marks including four contested and having 11 score involvements in a ruthless display of efficiency forward of centre.
David Swallow (6)
Brayden Fiorini (5)
Jack Martin (5)
Alex Sexton (4)
Touk Miller (3)
Jack Bowes (2)
Darcy MacPherson (2)
Jarrod Witts (2)
Ben Ainsworth (1)
Leader: David Swallow - 3 votes in Rd 2. 2 votes in Rd 10. 1 vote in Rd 8.
After the departure of both captains in the form of Tom Lynch and Steven May in the player movement period last year, the installation of Jarrod Witts and David Swallow could well be the best decision the Gold Coast have ever made in regards to their playing group over their short existence. While Witts leads the league in hitouts, Swallow has been extraordinary in a Suns midfield that has been significantly more competitive than many may have expected.
Though some suggested his side wouldn’t win a game this season, Swallow was best on ground in their first and seminal victory in Round 2 over Fremantle. With 30 touches at 70% and with 16 contested possessions and five tackles, Swallow provided a big bodied presence through the middle, as he also racked up nine clearances, a goal, two goal assists and eight score involvements.
His performances in recent weeks, in games in which his side has been competitive but just collapsed late in the game, have been excellent nonetheless. In their game with Geelong in Round 10 he was close to the best midfielder on the ground for a significant patch of the game before being pipped by Tim Kelly. Nonetheless, Swallow deserves a lot of credit, with 19 of his 29 touches coming from the contest, plus a goal and a mammoth 13 clearances as he was a constant thorn in the Cats’ side.
His performance in Round 8 against the Dees was another big one in a game his side absolutely should not have lost. 22 of his 35 possessions were contested, with another 13 clearances, 624 metres gained, three tackles, three inside 50’s and four rebound 50’s as he provided a presence across the ground. The Suns’ competitiveness thus far in 2019 has been predicated a lot on the impact of players who actually want to play for the club, and at the forefront of that is their leader in Swallow.
Surprise Packet: Brayden Fiorini - 3 votes in Rd 1. 2 votes in Rd 9.
Though I have just sung the praises of David Swallow as the leader of Gold Coast, the impact in midfield of young gun Brayden Fiorini, now in his fourth season of AFL football, should not be underestimated. He leads his club for disposals despite missing a week, with five of his best eight performances in that metric coming in the first 10 rounds of 2019.
The Suns looked to make a statement in Round 1, that they would be significantly more competitive than many expected them to be, and Fiorini was best on ground in their narrow loss to St Kilda that has provided the impetus for a season that has been nothing less than a step in the right direction. With 30 touches, including 13 contested, two goal assists, seven score involvements, six clearances and six tackles, it’s fair to say Fiorini did make a statement in a game his side easily could have won.
Though he has scarcely had a bad game this season, the Suns’ lack of wins on the board has cost him more votes. However, against Port Adelaide in Round 9 it would have been simply ridiculous to leave him out, with a career best 38 disposals coming in a loss in which the Suns troubled their opposition more than they would probably care to admit. He also kicked a goal, had a goal assist, five clearances, five tackles, nine inside 50’s and gained 674 metres in a truly influential game out of midfield.
Tim Taranto (8)
Lachie Whitfield (6)
Stephen Coniglio (5)
Matt de Boer (5)
Jeremy Cameron (4)
Nick Haynes (4)
Jacob Hopper (3)
Josh Kelly (3)
Zac Williams (3)
Jeremy Finlayson (1)
Lachie Keeffe (1)
Leader: Tim Taranto - 3 votes in Rds 6 & 9. 2 votes in Rd 1.
In a side which is absolutely packed to the brim with talent in the middle of the ground, it’s Tim Taranto who gets the chocolates as GWS’ most influential player thus far this season. Many, many times in Giants’ wins there are six or seven players who could genuinely be considered the most influential player on the ground, but Taranto’s ability to play forward and run defensively in the middle has him on top of the pack.
While arguably his best performance came in a game in which he didn’t receive the three votes, his game in the Battle of the Bridge in Round 6 was hugely significant in a comprehensive win for his side. He had 30 touches, with 17 contested, a goal and a goal assist inside nine score involvements, six clearances, seven inside 50’s and 10 tackles in a game in which he was more than worthy of the Brett Kirk Medal, in a game in which so many of his teammates were also important.
Many outlets, rightly, sung the praises of Lachie Whitfield following their Round 9 decimation of Carlton, following his three goal, 40 disposal game. However, at the Mongrel, Tim Taranto was considered best on ground given his impact on the game when it was actually there to be won and not just a training run. With 38 touches, a goal and 11 score involvements, 12 marks, six clearances, seven inside 50’s and four tackles, Taranto was hugely influential in a game those in navy blue would prefer not to look back on.
After their narrow semi final loss to Collingwood in last year’s finals, some may have expected GWS to fall away, especially after losing Dylan Shiel in addition to the wealth of talent they’ve lost over the last few seasons. Taranto has stepped into the void though, and made his presence known in Round 1 against Essendon. While Coniglio was best on ground, in an excellent performance, Taranto was also significant in a statement victory. His 30 touches included two goals and two goal assists, with two further score involvements, alongside seven clearances, seven inside 50’s, 10 tackles and 558 metres gained.
Surprise Packet: Matt de Boer - 2 votes in Rds 4 & 10. 1 vote in Rd 9.
Though GWS have built their success this season on a number of factors, both offensive and defensive, it’s fair to suggest that they wouldn’t be going as well as they are without the presence of a man who at this stage is an All Australian lock in Matt de Boer. Though taggers do not traditionally poll Brownlow votes, we here at the Mongrel see them as just as critical as any other player across the park, and it’s somewhat staggering that some teams simply refuse to engage the services of one through the middle.
de Boer has hardly been beaten by any midfielder in the league in 2019, with scalps including Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield and Tim Kelly in combination, Brad Hill, Jade Gresham, Jaeger O’Meara, Clayton Oliver, and Patrick Cripps. He has been critically important to a number of significant GWS wins this season, and it is in these games he has polled votes.
In the Giants’ first win in Geelong in Round 4, de Boer was close to the most important player on the ground, just behind Jacob Hopper. In the only game the Cats have lost so far in 2019, de Boer managed to shut down both Brownlow Medalist Dangerfield and Mongrel vote leader Kelly whenever he was opposed to them, with a combined 26 disposals between the two midfield stars the difference in a game that was decided by less than a kick.
GWS have apparently had an MCG hoodoo since their inception as a club, with just two wins at the ground in their existence, and their loss to Hawthorn in Round 8 at the home of footy was one of their worst performances in recent memory as they managed just five goals. Though de Boer was not necessarily at fault in that game, managing to shut down O’Meara, his next two weeks have been outstanding. In Round 10 against Melbourne, as the Giants won their first game at the MCG since Round 2 last year, de Boer managed to not just shut Clayton Oliver down, restricting him to just 17 disposals, but also got under his skin so effectively that the Demon gave away four free kicks.
His best performance, though, in terms of two way running, came against Carlton in Round 9. In response to their woeful performance against the Hawks, de Boer managed to restrict Brownlow fancy and midfield bull Patrick Cripps to a meagre 12 touches, while racking up 27 disposals of his own in a masterful display.
Ricky Henderson (6)
Ben McEvoy (6)
Jack Gunston (5)
Jaeger O’Meara (5)
Daniel Howe (3)
James Worpel (3)
James Frawley (2)
James Sicily (1)
Leader: Ricky Henderson - 2 votes in Rds 2 & 10. 1 vote in Rds 5 & 8.
Henderson leads Hawthorn for disposals, ahead of James Worpel, and has been a constant feature in the votes. Two of his better performances have unfortunately come in Hawthorn losses, however. On Easter Monday in Round 5 he almost single handedly dragged his team over the line against the Cats, and certainly kept them in the game for extended patches. He won 33 disposals, kicked two goals including a beautiful curling set shot from 45, took 10 marks and gained 575 metres as his team challenged for a long while.
In Round 2 against the Dogs he did everything he could to earn a victory for his side, before the opposition ran over the top in the last quarter. Importantly, though, he had 29 touches including a career high 14 contested, with a goal and two goal assists, 608 metres gained and six inside 50’s while distributing at 72% in a game the Hawks should have won.
Henderson’s other two vote winning performances have come in wins. In their comfortable win over Port Adelaide in Round 10 he was unlucky to have been pipped for votes by Jack Gunston, who kicked six goals, but he was still tremendous. He had 37 possessions, with 11 marks, 10 inside 50’s and a mammoth 810 metres gained in what may have been the best display by a wingman this season.
In their Round 8 match with the Giants, Henderson was again one of the best players on the ground, pipped by big men in James Frawley and McEvoy. However that should take nothing away from what was another excellent display, with 36 touches, 10 marks, five score involvements, seven inside 50’s and 642 metres gained.
Ben McEvoy - 3 votes in Rd 8. 2 votes in Rd 1. 1 vote in Rd 3.
While discussions on ruckmen in the AFL rightly are centred on the big two, in Gawn and Grundy, a discussion which is probably equally intriguing is who is the third best in the league as it currently stands. On the basis of form, not just in ruck contests but also around the ground, McEvoy has to be firmly in the frame. He is currently third in the competition for contested marks, despite missing effectively two games with injury, while his hitout stats are certainly quite favourable.
In Round 8 against the Giants he, in tandem with Jon Ceglar, was a huge contributing factor to his side’s underdog win in the absence of regular GWS ruckman Shane Mumford. Dawson Simpson simply had no answer for McEvoy, who had 33 hitouts, 15 disposals, eight marks including two contested, four clearances, four tackles and seven score involvements to be the most impactful player on the ground.
In Adelaide in Round 1, though Sam Jacobs won the hitouts, it was again McEvoy’s dominance around the ground that saw him in the votes just behind James Worpel. The former Saint had 18 touches at 78%, kicked two goals from six score involvements, and had two clearances, but arguably the most defining stat of his afternoon was five contested marks from eight total in a display of aerial strength that got his side off to the best possible start.
His final game in the votes came in Round 3, opposed to North Melbourne and the former best ruckman in the league, Todd Goldstein. While his opponent won the hitouts, Hawthorn broke even in the clearances, and McEvoy was a significant factor in that as his side overcame a slow start to run out winners. His 16 disposals and 22 hitouts included two goals, six score involvements, four contested marks from nine total, and five tackles in what was a steadying win for the brown and gold. It’s clear that when McEvoy can clunk contested marks and kick goals, Hawthorn are a significantly better side, with able support coming from Ceglar.
Surprise Packet: Ricky Henderson
In the absence of Tom Mitchell, many expected Jaeger O’Meara to step into the void and become the Hawks’ most important midfielder. However, instead of a former Sun taking over the reins, it’s been a former Crow, with Henderson’s form as a wingman so stunning that he is shaping as an All Australian roughy.
It’s probably fair to say that no Hawthorn supporter would have seen Henderson as their most important midfielder after Mitchell broke his leg, but he has almost certainly become that, with O’Meara now the primary focus of the opposition and with the decline in form of Isaac Smith. After missing just two games last year, the former Crow has played every game for the Hawks this year, and is second in the league for marks, with 82, and 13th for total metres gained, second for his club behind James Sicily.
With his best performance of the season coming in Round 10, it’s fair to say that Henderson is starting to hit his straps, and if Hawthorn are to push for September action then the wingman will almost certainly be the most important player in brown and gold.
Max Gawn (4)
Clayton Oliver (4)
James Harmes (3)
Nathan Jones (3)
Christian Salem (1)
Leader: Max Gawn - 2 votes in Rds 4 & 9.
The Demons’ season has certainly been a disappointment thus far, with the second fewest votes in the league ahead of last placed Carlton. However, if there has been one bright spot it’s the form of Max Gawn, who though down on previous years has been certainly their most consistent performer across the season. Brodie Grundy has essentially locked down the All Australian ruck spot at this point with his exceptional performances but Gawn is definitely not far off the boil, ranking second in the league for hitouts.
In the Demons’ first win of the season, the big man was close to best on ground, finishing just behind skipper Nathan Jones who kicked three goals. However, Gawn commanded the ruck battle against Cal Sinclair as Melbourne won the clearances 44-37. The Demon won six clearances of his own, had 55 hitouts, sent the ball inside 50 four times and rebounded it from defence three times, while totalling 19 disposals with five marks, including two contested, in what has probably been the best non-Grundy ruck display of the season.
In Round 9, his votes came in slightly more disappointing fashion, as Melbourne came close, but ultimately failed, to exorcise their Preliminary Final demons (see what I did there) against West Coast on Friday night. Gawn gave the Eagles’ ruck tandem of Hickey and Vardy an absolute bath in the contest though, with his 56 hitouts translating to a 38-34 ascendancy in the clearances. The Dee had seven clearances of his own, laid four tackles and sent the ball inside 50 four times, along with taking two contested marks as he willed his side as close to victory as he could take them.
Clayton Oliver - 3 votes in Rd 8. 1 vote in Rd 2.
Melbourne’s midfield has been one of the prominent aspects of their downfall this season, as 2018’s best contested ball side has hardly fired a shot. Though Clayton Oliver has been at the forefront of that, his raw numbers have in large part been an improvement on last season, and he has had two exceptional performances this year that have reminded the competition just how good a player he will be.
In Round 2 in Geelong, as Melbourne looked to recover from their shock loss to Port Adelaide the week before, Oliver was clearly one of the best players on the ground in a game his side lost by 80 points. With a career high 44 disposals, Oliver was one of the few Melbourne players to put in a four quarter effort, with some of his lightning quick handballs a feature as he constantly tried to bring his teammates into the action. 25 of his disposals were contested, a huge number, with an equally massive 13 clearances, eight inside 50’s and six tackles as he did everything he could to keep his side in the game against a team they beat in the finals last year.
Against Gold Coast in Round 8 he was clearly his side’s best player as Melbourne scored seven points in the last 40 seconds to win the game. Oliver had 38 touches, 22 of which came in the contest, with eight clearances, eight inside 50’s and 536 metres gained. Just as significant, however, were his 15 tackles, a huge number as he showed his defensive capabilities. Though the Demons certainly do need more from their stars, the 2018 All Australian is not solely to blame.
Surprise Packet: James Harmes- 3 votes in Rd 7.
In a season in which only five Demons have so far polled votes, it was difficult to pick a surprise packet, and it may in some ways have been easier to criticise some players for not providing the impact that may have been expected of them. That is not what this column is about, however, and so credit here instead goes to James Harmes, who showed last year how much of an impact taggers can have, especially throughout September.
At times this year, Simon Goodwin has seemed reluctant to send Harmes to the opposition’s best midfielder. This was evident in their Round 3 loss to Essendon, as he played predominantly forward of the ball. Though he kicked 3.2 from 21 touches, it’s fair to say his impact was marginal given how prolific the Bombers’ midfielders were on the night.
In the Finals last year, Harmes showed how damaging a player he could be by shutting down the opposition’s best while having a big offensive impact, and he hasn’t achieved that more notably this season than in Melbourne’s narrow Round 7 win over Hawthorn. With Jaeger O’Meara running rampant in the first quarter, racking up 12 touches and a goal, Harmes was shifted onto him in what was almost certainly the match winning move. O’Meara had just seven touches for the rest of the afternoon, while Harmes had 27 in the last three quarters after having just four in the first. He also had 10 score involvements, six clearances and sent his side inside 50 eight times as he became comfortably the best player on the ground.
Shaun Higgins (5)
Ben Cunnington (4)
Robbie Tarrant (3)
Todd Goldstein (2)
Nick Larkey (2)
Jack Ziebell (1)
Cam Zurhaar (1)
Leader: Shaun Higgins - 3 votes in Rd 4. 2 votes in Rd 3.
Shaun Higgins’ undoubtable class was a significant factor in North Melbourne’s ninth place finish last season, as they pushed hard for, and just fell short of, a return to September action. While he hasn’t quite reached those heights again in 2019, he has still shown glimpses of his best in a Kangaroos’ side that has fallen away significantly, having topped 30 disposals in every game bar two.
While some of his best performances have come in losses, Higgins was huge in North’s first win of the season, in Round 4 against Adelaide. Having started the season in fine form despite his side’s winless record, he flipped the switch against the Crows. He finished the night with 30 disposals at 80%, with an all round display of a goal, seven score involvements, five clearances, three tackles and seven marks to be the best player on the ground.
He was also more than handy the week before, against Hawthorn at the MCG, as the Roos were run over despite holding a 27 point lead at one point in the second quarter. Higgins had the most touches of any player on the ground, with his 36 touches coming at 78% and including a goal, nine score involvements, nine inside 50’s and 746 metres gained in a display that was certainly not far off the best on ground. Higgins, in combination with Ben Cunnington, have been good in just about every game for North this year and, if they do embark on a rebuild, are the kind of players likely to have currency elsewhere.
Surprise Packet: Nick Larkey - 2 votes in Rd 10.
Of the five players to have polled more than one vote for North this season, four of them have won each of the five Syd Barker Medals since 2014, while of all seven players to have polled votes for the Kangaroos this year, only two of them have played fewer than 100 games, which highlights a couple of things. Namely, it shows the divide between youth and experience at North, and how reliant they have become on their older heads to win games while their younger players take longer to develop. As Brad Scott discussed at his exit conference, they haven’t had a high number of top end draft picks, so they have to make do with what they have.
What this does for this article is make naming a surprise packet a little difficult, but the rise to prominence of Nick Larkey would please a number of Kangaroos supporters. Following the loss of Jarrad Waite, the answer as to who would provide tall support for Ben Brown up forward had become a particularly pertinent one. However, with goals from Zurhaar and now Larkey, it seems that that has become less of a concern. Larkey has kicked bags of three twice this year, against Port Adelaide and in his vote winning game against the Bulldogs in Round 10, while providing occasional support for Goldstein in the ruck. He also seems willing to crack into the contest, and has averaged two tackles and six score involvements a game across his five games thus far in 2019, as he has become one of the brightest and most promising lights for the Roos.