Sport AFL An Ode To Mummy, last of the dinosaurs

An Ode To Mummy, last of the dinosaurs

Former teammates Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke go head-to-head.
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Oh, Mummy. The Swans’ marketing department may not love you, but I do.

You’re an old-school footballer, a one-man antidote to all fluorescent boots, ludicrous hair and identikit abs that have left your peers looking like a cross between a Bonds promo shoot and Universal Soldier.

Your transition from a pie-loving, sausage-fingered country lump to arguably the best ruckman in the competition brings a tear to the eye of anyone who’s ever parked by the boundary fence and honked for the winning goal. I’m sure your post-match routine involves more ice baths and electrolytes than pies and foaming beverages, but please don’t ruin this for me – I’m having a moment, ok?

Given the central space they occupy in the narrative of an AFL match, the exploits of ruckmen remain weirdly under-appreciated and under-examined.

Mummy racked up a massive 45 hit-outs, feeding his young midfield brigade like a doting mother pelican.

We tend to only celebrate the ones who least resemble ruckmen – anomalies like part-time playmaker Polly Farmer, part-time goal-kicking genius Paul Salmon, and part-time superhero Nic Natanui. Meanwhile, real ruckmen toil away in the blaze of obscurity, condoned rather than celebrated, daggy, faintly embarrassing relics from a bygone era.

Shane Mumford is one of those relics, a triumph of graft in an age of carefully sanded edges and elite talent pathways. He joined Geelong’s VFL side in 2007, having dominated the Ellinbank and District Football League for hometown club Bunyip.

In 2008, he joined the senior side as a seriously raw 21 year-old rookie. He flitted in and out of a dominant Geelong side as Brad Ottens’ injuries and Mark Blake’s form dictated.

Once was a Swan. Picture: Getty
Once was a Swan. Picture: Getty

After a solid 2009, though, he was lured to Sydney on a lucrative three-year deal. Geelong rated him, but felt re-signing their midfield stars was the greater priority. After all, a ruckman’s a ruckman, right?

Well, four and a bit years later, and Ottens and Blake are gone, and none of Hamish McIntosh, Dawson Simpson, Nathan Vardy and Mark Blicavs have filled the Mummy-shaped void.

Up in Sydney, Mumford was busy filling a Jolly-shaped hole in the Swans’ stoppage-centric gameplan to great effect. He went close to All-Australian selection in 2010, and played a key role in their 2012 Premiership. The Swans rated him, but felt that signing a(nother) marquee key forward was a greater priority (sensing a pattern here?).

You get the sense that history won’t be repeating at the Giants.

There are few more valuable commodities in footy than big blokes who relish slamming into other big blokes, and nowhere is this more true than at a talented but callow Giants outfit.

While Buddy spent much of Saturday’s game loitering on the 50-metre arc, waiting for a handball and the chance to launch a million-dollar bomb, Mumford was busy muscling the Giants to a historic victory from the heart of the contest.

Mummy racked up a massive 45 hit-outs, feeding his young midfield brigade like a doting mother pelican. Led by Adam Treloar, Callan Ward and Stephen Coniglio, the Giants’ on-ballers managed 57 clearances, 20 more than the Swans’ vaunted midfield unit. And all this against the excellent Mike Pyke, who put in the sort of performance that should see the dreaded epithet ‘Rugby Union convert’ (read: not a real footballer) removed from his bio.

And the best bit? Mumford provided all the intimidation and physicality without the fuss. There was no aggro about his game on Saturday, no malice, he just quietly got on with the business of putting one over his former employers. Sweet, improbable revenge, Mummy-style.

Don’t ever change, big fella.

Shane Mumford displays his finesse and subtlely in GWS colours. Picture: Getty
Shane Mumford displays all his finesse and subtlely for the Giants. Picture: Getty