The Best The Mongrels Have Seen…
Adelaide, Fremantle, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs
It’s quite fair to suggest that the times we are living in are entirely unprecedented, and not solely because of the lack of footy on our screens and in our stadia in April. Easter Weekend will hardly feel the same without Geelong and Hawthorn battling it out on Easter Monday.
To deal with our withdrawal symptoms, the Mongrel Crew have set out to identify our best club 22’s we’ve seen over our football watching lives. We’re a diverse bunch, ranging from early 20s to late 40s, and so these teams reflect the different eras to which we’ve borne witness. Some of us wouldn’t remember a second of the 1990s, while others would have particularly fond recollections of the 1980s. These teams are entirely subjective, and we welcome any feedback in the comments.
Over the next fortnight, we’ll reveal our best club 22’s (excluding Gold Coast and GWS; their short existence doesn’t especially lend itself to these kinds of reflections). We begin today with part one of four, covering Adelaide, St Kilda, Fremantle and the Bulldogs.
ADELAIDE – Matt Oman. 2000 onwards.
B: B. Hart, B. Rutten, N. Bassett
HB: B. Smith, D. Talia, A. McLeod
C: S. Goodwin, S. Thompson, R. Douglas
HF: M. Ricciuto, T. Walker, T. Lynch
F: E. Betts, J. Jenkins, S. Welsh
RK: S. Jacobs, P. Dangerfield, R, Sloane
INT: M. Bickley, B. Vince, N. Smart, T. Edwards
This was a relatively easy team to select, as this side basically represents the consistent team of the early 2000’s, as well as the dominant power stance team of 2016 and beyond. These are the eras I’ve watched the Crows most intently and, as such, are the eras I’ve focused on.
I couldn’t find a place for another ruckman, as neither Clarke nor Biglands did enough to warrant selection.
Five players in this team captained the Crows, but for this 22, I have gone with Ricciuto as captain, with Bickley his deputy. I desperately wanted Tyson Edwards to start on the field, but despite Edwards’ consistency over 321 games wasn’t enough to push aside the brilliance of Thompson, Dangerfield and Sloane.
FREMANTLE – Matt Passmore. 1996 onwards
B: Johnson, Pearce, Grover
HB: Hayden, McPharlin, Kickett
C: S. Hill, Mundy, McManus
HF: Walters, Pavlich (C), Hasleby
F: Farmer, Modra, Ballantyne
R: Sandilands, Fyfe, Bell
Int: Crowley, Neale, Barlow, Cook
Freo’s best 22 is surprisingly difficult, partly because they’ve not been the most successful side, and partly because, as a long term fan, there are so many cult heroes I wanted to select. But they are one of those teams who have managed to have plenty of pretty handy players- maybe just not managing to get them all playing at the same time.
I tried to squeeze Heath Black in there, who was a personal favourite, but it just wouldn’t work. I also couldn’t decide between Grover and Parker, who were both tremendous defenders in their own right. I finally elected Grover, because I think he was an underrated defender of his time. Alex Pearce may be somewhat controversial, as he’s played so few games because of injury, but he’s one of the elite defenders in the game at the moment, and should he have not missed so much footy, he’d well and truly have the credentials for selection.
Modra didn’t play many games either, but his influence over the Dockers in a few short seasons left a lasting effect. I had Ibbotson in at one stage, but Kickett forced him out. I was also considering Duffield, Medhurst, Norrish, and of course Clive. Cook had to be included as a personal favourite of mine. When in doubt, I erred on the side of those who had won a B&F.
I’ve also tried not to create a carbon copy Freo’s best 25 from 25, which they released last year.
ST KILDA – Trent Adam Shields. 1980s onwards
B: Burke, Barker, Frawley
HB: Goddard, Fisher.S, Montagna
C: Winmar, Burns, Jones.A
HF: Riewoldt, Loewe, Owen
F: Milne, Lockett, Gehrig
R: Everitt, Harvey, Hayes
I/C: Heatley, Dal Santo, Steven, Thompson
EM: Baker, Hudgton, Hamill, Schneider
The Saints have always possessed prodigiously talented players as highlighted by eight of the selected 22 having experienced the darkest years through the 80s. Greg Burns was a rugged but skilful player, perfectly equipped to excel in the treacherous conditions commonplace at Moorabbin throughout his tenure. Beside him on the wings were two rare talents, the high leaping, long bounding Winmar, and the electric pace and sublime skills of Aussie Jones, each good enough to both receive two All-Australian guernseys in their distinguished but controversial careers.
The revered Trevor Barker, although undersized, edges Frawley for the key back post through sheer weight of career highlights and after consulting the famous Mark Twain anecdote, ‘it’s not the size of the dog in the fight’ – both were fine players, and importantly superb leaders.
The forward line meanwhile has plenty of firepower, the mercurial Rod Owen, although always just one game away from injury managed two goals per game in a career when his team never finished higher than ninth and competing for air-time with some all-time greats, Buckets Loewe forces six-time Best & Fairest Riewoldt to a flank as one of the greatest exponent of the overhead mark the game has seen. His incredible gift may have something to do with a ginormous set of mitts that once held 23 eggs for a Sunday Age pictorial. Joining them are prolific Milne, a four-time leading goalkicker, each with over 50 for a small forward, and the powerful Fraser Gehrig, who is the second to last player to top the ton. Of course there is no doubt on the bloke in the goal square, as the Coodabben Champions so eloquently sang, “some might say he looks a little overfed, but he could bag a sausage roll while standing on his head’, simply a given.
Long-suffering Saints fans bemoan the untimely injury to their star ruckman before the ‘97 finals series, and it’s highly likely that heartbreaking loss may never have occurred if the brilliant tap ruckman Spider had faced off against Rehn instead of Cook. Sharp-shooter Heatley, and disciplined Thompson deservedly made the bench ahead of some other prominent names just to miss out.
WESTERN BULLDOGS – Matt Passmore. 1990 onwards
B: Griffen, Morris, Hargrave
HB: Gilbee, Lake, Johannisen
C: R Smith, West, Eagleton
HF: Picken, Grant, Hahn
F: Johnson, Darcy, Giansiracusa
R: Wynd, Cooney, Liberatore
INT: Bontempelli, Murphy, Cross, M. Boyd
I’ve always enjoyed watching the Bulldogs play, so selecting their best 22 was no chore- although, it was a little harder than I expected. Being born in 1989, my memory of the Dogs is mostly during the mid to late 2010s and then their premiership in 2016, but that seemed too short a time span in which to pick a best 22. So I’ve settled on the 22 players I remember watching play. In one or two of the earlier cases, I’ve leaned towards research to select a player based on his reputation, and who played alongside one that I remember.
There were a fair few other players I tried to squeeze in. The Dogs have had plenty of champs in the last 30 years, and at one stage I was wondering if Bontempelli would get in at all. I shuffled a few pieces around, because I don’t like to lean too much on nostalgia to the detriment of current players. I also think, given the Dogs’ lack of premiership success, a Norm Smith squeezes JJ in over a few other options.
So there you have it. Obviously this is more than anything a fun exercise, but how did we go? Who did we miss? Stay tuned for our next instalment, detailing the best sides of Brisbane, Melbourne, North Melbourne and Sydney.