Best On Ground…Or Not

Best On Ground… Or Not.


I watched the Doggies vs Tigers last week. In a small butchering shed on a hill, just down my track.  It was a good enough game for two teams not quite anywhere, yet again.

Boyd played well for the Dogs, with pride. He reminded me of a pro. Half the team missing? A struggling club? Backed up by kids? Saddle up and do what you can.

I checked. Quite a few pundits gave him one vote for his game. Others not even that. I couldn’t help but think, if he was on the winning side, how much better they would have rated his game.


If he had a good team around him, if he was in a team that had a forward line, and he did the exact same things, I suspect his game would have been rated much higher. The superlatives would have been flowing.

It’s bugged me for years.

Footy is a team game, but votes are our way of separating the individual from it. Acknowledging their efforts. Our chance to make it personal, while showing our knowledge. To barrack for the man.

A week earlier, I watched the Dons cop an absolute hammering. Injuries are so vital to the fare of modern footy teams. The Bombers had a lot of players out and were copping a spanking. Not Jobe Watson, though. He fought against the tide. A lone hand. Got 4o-something possessions, more importantly, about half of them contested. Without the blocks. Without the support of strong bodies. Without fellow jets to take away the opposition’s focus on him. He killed it.

Yet a commentator on the radio thought he wasn’t worthy of a single vote.

When asked why, he said: “He led his team to a 100 point defeat.”

Dead set.

If Jobe was in a team with Geelong’s talent, the same bloke would have been calling him a genius.

Time and again over the years I have seen the best player get one vote or less, just because they were on a losing side. I understand effectiveness counts, good individuals turn games. They make others look good. But that’s also why ball getters should get more votes than carriers.  That’s why it’s about more than just stats.

Jobe. Got. The. Ball. He delivered the ball. Against the odds.

I wish I’d seen the game Abblett racked up 53 stats. So many people were so quick to talk it down, so ready to say Daisy Thomas played better. 53 in modern, accountable AFL? In a side getting hammered? The mind boggles. I wonder how much of the almost disdain for Ablett’s game was the tall poppy syndrome?

It’s funny that Boomer Harvey, and actual player, being interviewed on radio, had the same thoughts as I did.

Imagine if Ablett played an identical game in the winning Collingwood line-up, and Daisy did what he did for the Suns. They’d be calling Gazza God Jr,.

Then again, how often did Robert Flower prove himself best on with under 20 stats?

Damn, I wish I was there.

Too many people believe the hype, spout it, but ignore the real hero, the underdog. Voss, Buckley and Hird were meant to be the best players of their generation. The press said so, they must be right. Brad Johnson, I thought, was every bit as good as them, as commanding. As skilled, tough, game breaking.

But his team wasn’t as successful. His teammates not as good. His club not as fashionable.

Too often the full backs in winning teams get all the praise. The ones in Premiership teams. “Oh, look at how he attacks!” Of course. His midfield are winning. His fellow backmen have the quality to cover his charge. Teammates down the ground don’t turn it over, leaving him stranded. Good on the bloke, but how come backmen in losing teams never get votes? The ones who did well despite the tide? The Rutttens? The Lakes? The ones who play confident when they have no reason to be. Who defy.

Not enough backmen get votes.


Last Friday, Doggies versus Tigers, Cotchin got B.O.G from everyone. And, I thought, deserved it. He

a\ got the hard ball.

b\ smothered and tackled better than anyone else on the ground.

c\ when the game was up for grabs, seized it by the throat.

Force of character, of will, is the cornerstone of any great player. Cotchin is young, but looks to be on the way. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon yet, the next few years will tell. Boyd, though, is more a trooper. In the absence of Griffen, he did all he could, and deserved, I thought, second best on ground.

And as for Jobe, well, he’s welcome to come around to the butcher shed for a few beers any time.

In a thrashing like that? What a game! Three votes.


  1. Fully agreed Matt. Reading the paper this morning there was an article about Ben Rutten being able to consistently look after Jonathan Brown for the past 5 years or so. His stats for the year are something like 19 goals from 21 games. But the other bloke who is going alright is the young pup Talia(?) who has 21 against him from 17 games. I would suggest that while Dangerfield is a gun, having a tight defence makes one more gunnier.

    I reckon most teams acknowledge the blokes who do the team things, at least internally. But it should be emphasised more by the commentators if for no other reason than to encourage the 97% of kids who won’t make it to the gun stage, but can still contribute to a team.

    ps. We’re now back on the Sunshine Coast. Homeless, jobless and couldn’t be happier!

  2. Matt Zurbo says

    Haha. Great stuff, Gus. If I am heading that way this summer, I will try and hook up! Say G’day to ben Hudson for me.

  3. all too true Zurbs, Great teams have an even spread of fantastic players i think the breakdown of stats is starting to determine great players from just good, 35 possies with 3 hardball gets and 2 clearances at 64% or 26 possies with 24 hardball gets 9 tackles 5 clearances 78% josh kennedy matty boyd are all of the latter, more and more teams lack these types(but are now looking to recruit mature age who hold these qualities) its called “hunger” a will to win you want it its there to get it footy brains. doggies tiges melb all got caught up in the hype of recruits that are fast fit vertical too late its changed…. again!!, votes have always sucked. Expectation hype and individual peers overseeing what they want to happen against what really happens, pre concieved thoughts on individuals leading into games. Lets never forget its a team game, im with Gus internally at the top level im sure they give credit where its due to all concerned for a win, but the path to get to the top is all about indivdually being better than the bloke next to you. They are recruiting kids younger and younger these days lets just hope they teach them about real football before its too late, you will know its too late when the “shepherd” disappears for good.

  4. Always thought so. A team loses by a point and the votes shift from one team to the other and that point can hang on a flukey bounce,an unsighted ump(who give the votes too), or a player beaten till now who does just enough.Malthouse and his one percenters comes to mind,although he did have a team that taught him how hard a side could go,but that’s another matter entirely

  5. Malby Dangles says

    We need your viewpoint in the commentary box Matty. The best player in a team getting hammered deserves far more respect than he gets from commentators especially in terms of votes.

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