Mundy on the rise
David Mundy was in a bind. “What should I do, mum?”
That was the question a confused Mundy posed to his mother, Karen, over the phone after months of fruitlessly trying to weigh up whether to stay at Fremantle or return to Victoria.
He was genuinely in search of any advice that would make one of the defining decisions of his AFL career easier.
Mundy had come to love Perth since being drafted to Fremantle in 2003, but he also had plenty of reasons to return home.
His parents and sisters, Laura and Rachael, still lived in Seymour, where Mundy was born and bred, while older sister Kate also remained in Victoria.
Then there was the close band of school mates he had remained close to since he moved west, but didn’t get to see anywhere near as much as he’d like.
Adding to his conundrum was a Perth-raised girlfriend, who vowed to support him whatever his decision, but made no secret of the fact she wanted him to stay in the west.
It’s history now that Mundy remained loyal to the Fremantle Dockers, but what might surprise Victorian football fans is that that phone call to his mum took place after the 2008 season, not last year.
Although conjecture over Mundy’s future never quite reached the level accorded Gary Ablett, it was indeed a talking point in the latter stages of the 2010 season.
And while the popular consensus was that he’d return home at the end of last season, Mundy didn’t come as close to leaving as he had the previous time he was out of contract.
“It was a harder decision the first time (end of 208) because it was the first time I’d been in a position to seriously consider going back to Victoria, so I had a lot of new things to consider,” Mundy said.
“The lure to go home was strong, but the hardest part of the entire process was coming to terms with the fact I could actually be leaving the club.
“In the end, it was just too hard a decision to leave as a 23-year-old knowing I’d only just started to feel a part of the side.
“This time around, it was more of a life decision – where do I want to live and where do I want to finish my career?
“No matter where I played, I was going to get a four-year deal, which would take me through to 29, so it was more about where I wanted to live, where I thought I’d enjoy my football most and how that would impact my family.
“As hard as it gets living so far away from home and missing out on so many things at times, in the end, it was all just too hard to leave. Fremantle winning as many games as we did last year basically made my decision for me.”
As such, Mundy will almost certainly retire a Fremantle player – and the way his career is tracking, he might end up a club great.
Mundy turns 26 in July and is about to enter the prime of his career. After three matches this season, he sits in 15th spot on the list of games played for the club, with 133.
Remarkably, he played the first 124 consecutively from debut (round seven of 2005), a feat bettered by only three players in League history (Jared Crouch, who played 194 matches for the Sydney Swans from 1998-2006, John Murphy, who featured in 158 consecutive games for Fitzroy from 1967-74 and Melbourne’s Dick Taylor, who played 127 in a row from 1922-29).
Mundy, who spent his first year in Perth playing for Subiaco and was a part of the Lions’ WAFL premiership team, made an early impact at AFL level.
He finished third behind Tiger Brett Deledio and Bulldog Ryan Griffen in the 2005 NAB AFL Rising Star award and won the Beacon award as Freo’s best first-year player.
Last season, he became the first Beacon winner to go on and win the club’s highest honour – the Doig Medal – as best and fairest, 19 votes ahead of ruckman Aaron Sandilands.
Not a bad effort from the young man who grew up as a Geelong supporter in Seymour, 95km north of Melbourne. Mundy started playing with Seymour and District Junior Football League superpower St Mary’s at the age of eight before graduating to the Murray Bushrangers’ under-16s squad.
He spent 2001 with the Bushies as a ruckman before earning a spot on their under-18 list.
Coach Xavier Tanner considered his poise and precise disposal perfect for full-back, which is where he played the bulk of the 2002-03 seasons.
Mundy played alongside the likes of Troy Chaplin (now at Port Adelaide) and Colin Sylvia (Melbourne) for Vic Country in the 2003 NAB AFL Under-18 Championships and had his first taste of finals football at the MCG for the Bushrangers in the TAC Grand Final against Calder Cannons.
He had little rest that day, occupying full-back in the game the Andrew Welsh-led Cannons won 16.14 (110) to 2.6 (18).
Fremantle selected him with pick 19 in the 2003 draft. That was before the days of televised drafts, and it would surprise few Freo fans that the laid-back Mundy was asleep when the draft was being conducted.
He vividly recalled how he found out a new life was waiting for him 3200km away.
“I was asleep and got a message from Kane Tenace (Bushrangers teammate) congratulating me on heading to Fremantle with Ryley Dunn, who we also played with at the Bushrangers,” Mundy recalled.
“I went out and told dad (John), who was in the kitchen trying to listen to the draft on the radio, and he was as proud as punch, and mum (a nurse) had worked nightshift the night before, so she was stil in bed, but I woke her up and told her and she started crying.”
More than seven years on, a mother’s tears still often flow when Mundy heads back to Perth after a few days back in Seymour.
And they may do so for many years to come as, last October, Mundy became engaged to girlfriend of four years, Sally, while holidaying in Fiji. They plan to get married in November.
Popping the question capped a memorable couple of weeks for Mundy, who in early October became only the fourth individual winner of the Doig Medal in the past decade.
Two standout finals sealed the award for Mundy. He was best-on-ground in the second elimination final against Hawthorn and was one of the Fremantle Dockers’ few shining lights with a 30-touch performance in the forgettable second semi-final loss to Geelong at the MCG.
Mundy, who trailed Sandilands by one vote at the end of the regular season, finished with 190 votes, with captain Matthew Pavlich (160) third.
He said the Doig Medal win was further proof he made the right choice at the end of 2008.
“Towards the end of 2008 was when the club and coaches had the foresight to send me into the midfield, at a time when I was still seen as a half-back flanker,” he said.
“Had I gone somewhere else after that 2008 season, I probably would have been playing off half-back, but by staying, I got to continue in the midfield. That development no doubt helped with the best and fairest win, but the most important thing is I’m also now playing in a successful team.”
The best and fairest result had no bearing on Mundy’s decision to stay – he had signed a deal three weeks before – but reaffirmed his belief he’d made the right decision.
Mundy’s rise to a place among the AFL’s elite midfielders played no small part in Fremantle achieving their best result since a preliminary final appearance against the Sydney Swans in 2006, something he predicted they could better in 2011.
The off-season wasn’t kind to Fremantle, with promising youngster Anthony Morabito already ruled out for the season after undergoing a knee reconstruction, and important defender Roger Hayden suffering a foot injury that will keep him out of the first half of the year.
But Mundy said Freo had the artillery to cope with the setbacks.
“The core group that helped get us to the preliminary final in 2006 was aged in the high-20s and were guys who had played for a long time and were coming to the end of their careers, but, at the moment, we’re driven by guys in their second-to-fifth seasons,” Mundy said.
“Our improvement last year came from guys who had come into the Fremantle system the last two years. We’ve got a hugely talented young group, and while it was obviously a massive disappointment to lose Anthony, we’ve got so many other young guys eager and keen to step in and fill those shoes.
“We’re lucky we’ve got so many guys with freakish ability and it’s scary how much improvement they’ve got coming.
“There is a really good, professional, elite culture driving everyone on the training track and in the gym. As long as we maintain that drive and desire to knuckle down, things can only be positive.”
Born: July 20, 1985
Recruited from: Seymour/Murray U18
Debut: Round 6, 2005 v Melbourne
Height: 192cm Weight: 89kg
Games: 133 Goals: 52
Player honours: best and fairest 2010; All-Australian nominee 2010; International Rules Series 2006; NAB AFL Rising Star nominee 2005
Brownlow Medal: career votes 9