The Best The Mongrels Have Seen
Geelong, Port Adelaide, Richmond and West Coast
Though it’s been a fair while without footy, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be rapidly approaching, and with that, it seemed incumbent upon us to wrap up our series on the best teams we Mongrels have seen.
After a brief hiatus, over the coming week we will publish our best 22s from each club that the author in question has seen play. Due to the diversities in age groups across the group of us, different clubs have different parameters, and so your team may well be dissimilar to ours. That’s okay though, as these teams are meant in the main to promote discussion more than outright debate.
With that in mind, here are the best teams the Mongrels have seen from the Cats, Power, Tigers and Eagles.
GEELONG – Sam Marcolin (2006-)
B C Enright, M Scarlett, T Harley
HB A Mackie, H Taylor, T Stewart
C J Corey, P Dangerfield, J. Selwood (c)
HF D Menzel, C Mooney, T Varcoe
F S Johnson, T Hawkins, P Chapman
R R Ottens, G. Ablett Jr, J Bartel
Int. C Ling, J Kelly, D Milburn, M Blicavs
In the main the selection of this team was a no-brainer, and very few positions prompted too much consideration due to the limited timespan of the team itself. This is in part due to my interest in football piquing around age 10, and so the likes of Peter Riccardi and Max Rooke couldn’t quite be squeezed in.
The most controversial choices in this team, I feel, are Stewart, Menzel and Blicavs. The rest of the team speak largely for themselves. Looking at the contenders for their spots, though, this trio earned their places in my opinion. Firstly, a look at Tom Stewart, who could potentially have been usurped by triple premiership dasher David Wojcinski. While the latter does have those three flags on his resume, the talent of Stewart, who has slotted in to a team that has over the course of his three seasons consistently been one of the stingiest defences in the league, shines brightly. Ultimately, it was Stewart’s consecutive All Australian nods which really got him into this side.
Menzel may raise some eyebrows too, having been picked ahead of the likes of Mathew Stokes and Shannon Byrnes. Though Menzel did play just 73 games in the blue and white, his mercurial talent when he was actually on the park was clear to all who watched him, and it’s a genuine shame his knees didn’t hold up as well as they might have, given he could be a star of the game now but is instead lost to it.
Finally, Blicavs earns his spot on the bench ahead of a pack of worthy alternatives due to a combination of factors. The first is his versatility, being able to be deployed across the park in a number of positions, and while that may not necessarily be a criterion for All Australian selection, it fits in quite well with the parameters of this team. Secondly, Blicavs’ two Carji Greeves Medals shine brightly in comparison to a number of other contenders for his spot, and he has clearly become a core unit in Chris Scott’s planning, despite not using him in his primary defensive role in a preliminary final.
GEELONG- Nick Sluggett (2003-)
FB: C Enright, M Scarlett, T Harley
HB: A Mackie, H Taylor, T Stewart
C: P Riccardi, J.Selwood(C), C Ling
R: B Ottens, G.Ablett, P Dangerfield
HF: S Johnson, C Mooney, J Bartel
FF: M Stokes, T Hawkins, P Chapman
Int: J Corey, J Kelly, D Milburn, M Rooke
Very similar to Sam’s team, with a few minor tweaks. It’s hard not to be dominated by the golden era of the club between 2007-2011 which featured so many champions. My knowledge of the Cats is from about 2000 onwards. I feel like two of the most underrated players of Geelong’s great teams were Max Rooke and Matthew Stokes. I wanted to find room for Wocjinski and Byrnes, but that’s the fun part of these lists, I guess.
PORT ADELAIDE- Tom Basso (1997-)
B – Gavin Wanganeen, Darryl Wakelin, Michael Wilson
HB – Peter Burgoyne, Chad Cornes, Darren Mead
C – Kane Cornes, Travis Boak, Shaun Burgoyne
HF – Byron Pickett, Warren Tredrea, Brad Ebert
F – Robbie Gray, Justin Westhoff, Brendon Lade
R – Matthew Primus, Josh Francou, Roger James
INT – Ollie Wines, Chad Wingard, Dom Cassisi, Josh Carr
The timeline for this team is Port Adelaide’s entire journey in the AFL, the beginning of which was before my time (in football grandstands and on Earth). I have been a member now for the majority of Port’s AFL existence so am confident enough to have a crack at a greatest team ever. While I missed the late 90s and early 00s era I’ve watched more game replays than I would care to admit, so players of the early Power era have been considered just the same as those who play today.
The team does a pretty convincing impression of Port’s sole AFL premiership team in 2004, with 13 of 22 being on the field that day. Two of the remaining nine were in the coach’s box as a result of season-ending knee injuries; Josh Francou and captain Matthew Primus. Of that mighty premiership outfit Gavin Wanganeen, Warren Tredrea, the Cornes brothers and Brendon Lade were first picked.
Just one member of my selected team retired too early to taste the success of 2004; inaugural Power best and fairest winner Darren Mead. Before you feel too sorry for him he had his fair share of premierships for the Port Adelaide Magpies; three in a row in the ‘90s that secured Port’s place in the big time.
That leaves just six players without a premiership to their name in the team, all current day players. All of which could well have a flag to their name at the end of their careers – including Chad Wingard… but probably not for Port Adelaide. Current day Port Adelaide is represented by Robbie Gray, Travis Boak, Brad Ebert, Justin Westhoff and Ollie Wines. Gavin Wanganeen is Port Adelaide’s greatest ever AFL player but Travis Boak is the greatest ever captain and has been given that honour for my team.
RICHMOND- Jason Irvine (2004-)
B Dylan Grimes – Alex Rance – Joel Bowden
HB Chris Newman (VC) – Darren Gaspar – Bachar Houli
C Nathan Foley – Kane Johnson – Shane Tuck
HF Shane Edwards – Jack Riewoldt – Brett Deledio
F Nathan Brown – Matthew Richardson – Daniel Rioli
R Toby Nankervis -Trent Cotchin (C) – Dustin Martin
Int Dion Prestia – Ivan Maric – Shaun Grigg – Mark Coughlan
Emerg Josh Caddy – Troy Simmonds – Andrew Kellaway – Kayne Pettifer
I was born in 96 but didn’t take a great vested interest in the sport and competition until around 04/05 until sticking firmly with the Tiges shortly after. As such, the starting point for many of selections in the above team comes from a couple of years after the turn of the century. It means players such as Knights, Rogers, Cameron, Gale and even the best of Duncan Kellaway couldn’t find a way into the team as my memories were fleeting or non-existent.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in creating this team was the ruck position. You have a player who I remember vividly from my early days in Simmonds, a cult hero at the Tigers in Maric and a two-time premiership player who made an immediate impact since joining the club in Nankervis. Ultimately, one would argue Simmonds was a forward/ruck as the bulk of our ruck duties were taken by Pattison or Knobel so I’ve gone with Nankervis for premier ruck position with Maric in relief.
The backline was pretty steady with some classic early-mid 2000s players making the team in Newman, Gaspar and Joel Bowden MP. I wouldn’t have Astbury in there just yet from the current team but I’ve chosen Grimes, as he was the perfect cover when Rance went down early last year and has showcased that he deserves to be talked about highly, especially in regards to his steady workrate and hunger. I think Rance and Gaspar are equally good full-backs in their own regard, but Gaspar was moved to the centre-half-back position.
The midfield position was set in the rover and ruck rover positions with Cotchin and Martin easily making it into the side whereas former captain Johnson, the slick Foley and hard-working, in-and-under Tuck are all selected in the midfield. Grigg makes it into the side based on his ability to play anywhere around the ground and impact contests or the result and Coughlan was underrated but was a bull in the midfield, able to navigate his way around the ground and get into good positions to open the play, the same as Prestia.
The forward line selection of Richardson and Riewoldt were no brainers and 2004 #1 pick Deledio needed to be included so he’s on the flank. Brown was held scoreless in four of 82 games as his work up the ground and ability to present the ball inside 50 was impressive also. Out of the small forwards at the moment, Rioli is the most impressive and his speed and decision-making will see him go down as a great of the footy club, just like his family line before him. Fun fact: In his 78-game career, there’s just been one game where he failed to lay a tackle – his career tally is 252.
I needed to find a place for Edwards so he’s selected on the half-forward flank, his early 10s work and numerous goal assists an important asset. Pettifer was the outlier in the group of forwards, even after three consecutive seasons of 30+ goals with quite a few three-plus goal hauls and winning multiple Mark of the Week awards whereas Krakouer was in the mix too.
RICHMOND – HB MEYERS (1980- )
B Dylan Grimes – Francis Bourke – Joel Bowden
HB Jim Jess – Darren Gaspar – Alex Rance
C Dale Weightman – Geoff Raines – Maurice Rioli
HF Dustin Martin – Matthew Richardson – Brett Deledio
F Kevin Bartlett – Jack Riewoldt – Michael Roach
R Mark Lee – Trent Cotchin (C) – Robert Wiley
Int Barry Rawlings – David Cloke – Wayne Campbell – Chris Newman
Emerg Craig Lambert – Matthew Knights – Bryan Wood – Mervyn Keane
Five current Tigers make the grade, in the best I have seen from Punt Road, and Shane Edwards was agonisingly close to making it six.
I have a few years on Jason’s team listed above, so am able to play current players off against those who were there for the last Tiger reign of glory. I saw enough of KB, both in person, and on replay to recognise what he brought to the table. Would love to have seen more. Would also have loved to see Royce Hart in person, as many Tiger fans consider him the best the club has ever fielded. Sadly, he’d hung the boots up before I had the opportunity to watch in any meaningful way.
Went for Mark Lee in the ruck – I still reckon he was stiff in the 1980 Grand Final and have always loved the way Robert Wiley played his footy. Whilst many others got the accolades, he really hurt teams in the early 80s with his run forward and ability to accumulate.
A few made it on the basis of being ingrained in my memory as a kid – my Dad loved Bryan Wood and would rave about his clashes on the wing with Keith Grieg and Robbie Flower. He always said that Wood got nowhere near the credit he deserved.
I’ve thrown both Raines and Maurice Rioli in the side, even though the fact they played the same role saw Raines look elsewhere.
Francis Bourke was picked on the wing in the AFL Team of the Century, but my recollection of him was as a full back, and a damn good one. I moved Rance to the half back flank to both allow Bourke the key position, and to capitalise on Rance’s versatility.
Dusty on the flank due to his ability to hit the scoreboard and Cotchin as captain because he is the sort of person, not just the sort of player, I’d follow into battle.
Finally, David Cloke on the bench… I reckon his contributions have been a little lost as time has ticked by. Maybe it was because of his defection to Collingwood, but geez he had a great pair of hands.
WEST COAST EAGLES – Matt Passmore (1995-)
FB: D Wirrpanda, D Glass, A McIntosh
HB: J Worsfold (C), G Jakovich, G McKenna
C: C Mainwaring, M Priddis, Peter Matera
HF: C Lewis, J Darling, Phil Matera
FF: M LeCras, P Sumich, J Kennedy
R: D Cox, C Judd, B Cousins
Int: A Embley, S Hurn, D Kemp, D Kerr
As with the other two teams I’ve done, I’ve kept this one to the players I distinctly remember watching, plus one or two I felt needed to make the side on reputation- with the provision that they played alongside someone I distinctly remember watching play. Going through the list, there were plenty of options and plenty of questions I needed to ask: has Jack Darling done enough for the CHF spot? Can Sumich and Kennedy play in the same team for balance? And would you play McIntosh in the Back Pocket for Glass, or the other way around?
When I do these teams, I try to balance the list as you would an actual selected side- rather than just squeeze the best 22 players I know into spots that they don’t really belong in. But sometimes you do have to adjust that methodology a little bit. I decided on Darling on that spot, after toying with the idea of putting Lynch in. I used to love watching the Big Q Stick play, but in comparison, Darling is simply the better player.
Another selection problem was the full forward. Logically Sumich and Kennedy have to go in, and then there’s also Scotty Cummings. Cummings had to make way, and then it was a toss up on who would start as FF, and would I start the other on the bench or in the pocket. I decided the specifics didn’t really matter, and both deserved a spot on the field. I used the same logic for Glass and McIntosh. Wirrpanda’s name was first on the board- absolute no brainer that one- and Dean Cox was second. I wanted to squeeze Braun in, but I think Embley’s Norm Smith edged him forward.
The choice of Captain came down to Glass, Worsfold, and Hurn. All great players and leaders in their own right. Two were premiership captains, but I always admired Glass as both a player and a captain. Personally I was leaning towards Glass, I considered Hurn mainly because he always seems to miss out, but in the end there was no possible reason not to pick Woosha. Twice a premiership captain and then later a premiership coach is usually a good way to stand out from the crowd.
So there you have it. Obviously, this is more than anything a fun exercise, but how did we go? Who did we miss? And which Geelong side would win if they were to play one another at 1.10pm on a Sunday arvo at GMHBA Stadium? Stay tuned for our next instalment, detailing the final four best sides of Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Hawthorn.
Team logos designed by @whitingdesign and used with permission. Give him a follow on Instagram to check out his awesome work.