Welcome readers to a new series we’re launching. The Mongrel Drafts. The way this is going to work is that a question has been posed to 3 of our writers, they have each then drafted 5 players in a snake draft order. After their pick, each Mongrel will give justification as to why they picked who they did. Now that that’s out of the way, today’s question is “Which AFL personalities would you like to go to dinner with?” Mongrels drafting are: HB Meyers, Jimmy Ayres and Matthew Passmore.

HB will begin the draft.

 

Round 1:

 

Pick 1. HB Meyers. Malcolm Blight:

He reminds me of a warped genius. You could sit with him, look at the sky, state it’s blue and he’d squint a little, strain his eyes and then tell you there’s a slight tinge of green to it as well. I like someone who thinks outside the box, even when his thoughts don’t necessarily match-up with my own.

Blight is a visionary and a man who walks to the beat of his own drum. Flags as a player, flags as a coach and one of the most respected men involved in the game, Blight is still a footy head – he watches every game of every week. To pick his brain would be an education – not just in footy, but in the process involved in walking off the beaten track and being a success at it.

 

Pick 2. Jimmy Ayres. Kevin Sheedy:

The ultimate football personality. Pioneering, charismatic, outspoken and unique. Who better to take out for a meal than a bloke who’s all but done it all from every aspect of our game. From his playing days at Richmond tallying 251 games, to representing Victoria on eight occasions as player and four occasions as coach, to coaching Essendon for 27 seasons to four premierships and 634 games in total, to being the inaugural coach of GWS for their first two seasons, to the inner workings of the Essendon Football Club and eventually a member of the board; there’s not much in football that Kevin Sheedy hasn’t done or overseen. He has been regarded as ‘”Football’s greatest thinker” and has been a huge advocate for Indigenous Australians and their place in football, he famously pioneered the Anzac Day football tradition and the Dreamtime at the ‘G game.

This is one of those dinners that you’d be hoping for a banquet of courses, just to keep soaking up all the football knowledge, tales and lore of which very few others could compare.

“Where would our game be without Kevin Sheedy? We’d be 20 years behind where we are now, that’s for sure” – Malcolm Blight.

 

Pick 3. Matthew Passmore. Dennis Commetti

There’s no bigger name than Dennis Commetti. There have been few who have seen or done more around the game than the great man. If we’re having dinner as a group, he’ll bring the laughs and he’s the kind of bloke who loves it when you pick his brain. Also, I can ask him exactly what he meant when he called Paul Hasleby a pancreas.

Assuming this is a home-cooked meal, who better to commentate on my cooking?

I’d also get an honest opinion of some of the people he’s worked with, and that’s worth a seat at the table by itself.

 

Pick 4. Matthew Passmore. Will Schofield

A bit left of field this one, but if you’ve ever listened to Schofield on radio or in an interview, he’s one funny bloke. The right amount of self-depreciation yet humoured cockiness that I admire in any person.

His conversation insight wouldn’t be limited too. Everyone wants the stories from the Gun players, but it’s the battlers who really know how things work. That’s why they become better coaches.

He also takes me as the type of guy who’ll help with the dishes and probably bring enough quality beer for everyone; an important asset in any guess when the host is broke and hates housework.

 

Pick 5. Jimmy Ayres. Neale Daniher

A man whose life has been echoed through highs and lows. Regarded by those that knew him best, including former coach Kevin Sheedy, as being the best of the elite four Daniher brothers. Neale’s playing career was tragically cut short at 82 games due to injury on the eve of being named captain of his football club. He then went on to coach Melbourne to 223 games over 10 seasons. But his ultimate achievement may have come after his heartbreaking diagnosis of the incurable motor neurone disease (MND). Neale has selflessly dedicated the remainder of his life to raising funds and supporting fellow MND suffers in their battles. To date Neale Daniher’s FightMND charity has invested just shy of $50 million into research to find treatments or a cure.

This is a man who I’d be honoured to let take my last slice of pizza out at dinner. Not just as a recognised football personality, but as one of the greatest, most inspiring Australians I’ve ever seen.

 

Pick 6. HB Meyers. Sam Newman

I have a feeling that the Sam Newman in public life is very different to the one behind closed doors and this would be my way of finding out.

I had an ulterior motive here, and Matt Passmore cocked it up. I wanted Sam and Adam Goodes at the same table, but Matt royally botched that idea with some intelligent drafting… and I hate him for it because he then offered to trade me Goodes for the number one overall pick, Blight. Who does he think I am – Fremantle?

Newman is a showman and, like him or not, has had an amazing career. 300 games, Geelong captain, AFL Hall of Fame, Media personality and a lightning rod for controversy – I doubt there would be too many lulls in the conversation.

 

Pick 7. HB Meyers. Steve Hocking

Why?

That’d be the question I’d ask time and time again as Steve outlined the rule changes he’d implemented over the last few years. “Yeah, Steve… but why?”

Would we get the same generic answers he usually gives, or would he open up behind closed doors and let us know who is pushing the changes, why they’re pushing the changes and which ones he doesn’t agree with?

And if he is tight-lipped about that, we could always move across onto the topic of how he smashed Leigh Matthews following the Neville Bruns incident. Not many put one on the chin of ‘Lethal’ and remained standing.

 

Pick 8. Jimmy Ayres. Eddie McGuire

You either love him, or you hate him. There’s absolutely no middle ground with Eddie McGuire – and he wouldn’t have it any other way. But I can guarantee you one thing; if you’re a Collingwood supporter, or biased Victorian football supporter that can think somewhat outside the box, then you will be entranced by his admiration and passion for furthering our great game, especially in the state of Victoria.

When it comes to pushing the envelope for AFL football, few can rival Eddie McGuire. The Collingwood President of the past 22 years and former Footy Show host has held multiple iconic roles throughout the Australian Media, and despite an ever-growing list of controversies he finds himself entangled with, Eddie McGuire’s love of football and knowledge of the media would be the catalyst for a memorable dinner conversation.

 

Pick 9. Matthew Passmore. Dermott Brereton:

I am one of the few people who are a big fan of Dermie’s commentary. As a special comments commentator, he knows his role and his analysis is usually accurate, if with some odd wording- he once compared the ruckman to the sun and his midfielders to the solar system, yet it still made sense!

Dermie is the guy who loves talking about the old days, but still enjoys the game, unlike some others from that era. A great player who I’d love to get to know better, but what I could learn from him is limitless, and he’d be happy to appreciate the conversation from a pleb. Plus, he’d have some good travel recommendations from that one time he hosted a travel show.

 

Pick 10. Matthew Passmore. Adam Goodes:

A controversial choice. HB had plans to pair him with Sam Newman, and had I known that, I’d have not picked him up. I want to be a fly on the wall there, too! Still, I offered some fair and reasonable trades, but HB called on his inner Dodoro and now no one is overly happy.

Still, Goodesy would be good for a chat. I’m a lover of culture and indigenous culture, so that conversation would be fantastic. He’d be quietly spoken, too, which is fine because after myself, Demie, Dennis and Will, I’m not sure he’d get much of a word in anyway.

He takes me as a wine drinker. So, I’ll happily share his bottle.

 

Pick 11. Jimmy Ayres. Neil Balme:

Let me just say for those who may be unaware of Neil’s football history, wherever this bloke goes, success soon follows in the way of Grand Final appearances. That is a fact.

Neil started his career playing for Richmond in the 70s. He was a hard, agile player who left nothing on the field and wound up a two-time premiership player. After retiring young at age 27, Balme went on to coach Norwood in the SANFL, winning another two premierships as coach. Leaving Norwood to coach Melbourne back in the AFL is the only exception to the ‘Neil Balme success factor’, Melbourne struggled on and off the field in this time to which many blame the proposed merger with Hawthorn. Leaving Melbourne for a position as football operations manager at Collingwood in the late 90s, Balme helped steer Collingwood to the unsuccessful 2002 and 2003 premiership campaigns.

At the end of 2006 he was sent packing by Collingwood and accepted a job offer for the same position at Geelong for the 2007 season. After now seeing Geelong win three Grand Finals (2007, 2009 and 2011) as well as the losing side of 2008, Neale had a brief stint back at Collingwood before setting his sights on a return to his original club: Richmond. Since 2017, Balme has been the General manager of the Richmond Football Club and helped oversee their drought-breaking dynasty of three premierships in four seasons. Wherever the man goes, may the premiership odds be forever in their favour.

I tell you what, let Neil pick the restaurant you dine at. If you don’t have any luck chatting to him over dinner about all of those Grand Finals, at least with his unquestionable knack for backing the right horse, you know your dinner will be a winner.

 

Pick 12. HB Meyers. James Hird:

I want the truth and I want it straight from the horse’s mouth.

A lot of you know, I am a Hawthorn man and we’re not supposed to admit this about an Essendon bloke, but as a player there were few better to watch on their day than Hird. Great in the dry or the wet, he was as cerebral as any player in the game and I would love his take on his heroes, who he patterned his game on, what he learnt from Sheedy and a detailed account of the saga that hurt the Bombers so badly.

Who supported him? Who sold him down the river? And in his heart of hearts, how much responsibility does he take for the situation? If any…

 

Pick 13. HB Meyers. Jason Akermanis

Never short of an opinion, Aker would be a beauty. I get the feeling he might get a little rowdy after a few beers, so maybe he is on mid-strength for the evening to make sure things don’t go awry.

The highs – winning flags and a Brownlow – would be mixed with the lows – the departures from both Brisbane and the Bulldogs. It is the latter I am most interested in, and I would love to drill down a little on the way he left the Western Bulldogs. I thoroughly enjoyed his Open Season book, but there are questions I’d love to ask and honest answers I’d love to get from Aker around his Bulldog “mates” who were quite content in letting him go.

 

Pick 14. Jimmy Ayres. Jack Jones:

Let me start by saying that this draft selection has a hint of corrupt draft practices behind it in the form of insider trading. I was actually privileged enough to have a sit down meal with the great gentleman Jack Jones on more than one occasion.

So take it from experience, if Australian history, football history or war history are of any interest to you, then this dinner selection will be up there with the best that you could consider.

A veteran of WWII, Jack Jones was a member of the 24th Battalion when his marking prowess and sublime kicking skills were noticed in a friendly game whilst serving in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville. Upon returning to Australia, in 1946 his childhood dream of playing alongside his hero Dick Reynolds for his beloved Bombers was made a reality. Jones went on to play 175 games, including 3 premierships (1946, 1949, 1950) from 6 consecutive Grand Finals as well as the famous 1948 draw. Jack wore the number 24, a personal request to honour his mates and fallen comrades from the 24th Battalion. I was lucky enough to hear stories of the war, how his canteen on his waist saved his life by taking a bullet from a Japanese soldier, how of the 98 games the legendary John Coleman played for Essendon – 97 of those were alongside Jack, to seeing Dick Reynolds win his 3 Brownlow Medals, to his early days as an apprentice butcher.

Perhaps I’d trade the dinner for a meat pie in the stands on Anzac Day alongside Gentleman Jack. For that’s where he will be most remembered. He would march at the dawn service proudly wearing his Essendon tie, he would be honoured pre-game for his service to our country and lead groups of junior players to ceremonies at the Shrine of remembrance. But once that siren sounded to signal the start of the game, you can rest assured Jack would have left the coterie groups, left the chairman’s functions and made his way to a seat in the stands amongst the Essendon faithful to cheer on his beloved Bombers. Jack passed away from cancer on the 24th March 2020.

Jack Jones isn’t a household name, but those that knew him, those that met him or those that heard him speak will never forget the impact he had on this game and this country.

“Here I am, 95, married and I have got 36 in my family. There’s poor buggers still up there in their graves in New Guinea and Port Moresby. They never got home. They never saw their parents again. Poor buggers.’’

 

Pick 15. Matthew Passmore. Tony Modra.

I had a plethora of options with the last pick here, but I decided my party may become a bit too serious, even with the antics and humour from Will. I decided I needed a bit of a character, and was tossing up between him and Dane Swan, who I decided may be a little bit too much fun. He won’t bring any beer, but hey, that’s why I invited Will. I’d get him around early to convert my wife into a footy fan and also teach my kids how to take a grab! Or at least catch.

 

And that wraps up the first draft on what will be an ongoing series here at the Mongrel. We have plenty to look forward to. Have a topic you’d like us to draft? Leave it in the comments and we’ll see what we can do.

As always folks, Stay Mongrel.