Another intriguing weekend of footy has been and gone with plenty of differing performances to dissect.
See who we feel stood out and who must improve across all 18 clubs.
Stand out: Taylor Walker
For all the negativity directed at Tex in recent weeks, it was nice to see him have an influence on the weekend. On what was a terrible day for the big forwards weather-wise, Walker sparked the Crows in their four-goal third quarter with a couple of snags and a much improved presence. He also contributed two goal assists and a team-high six score involvements. It was another dirty day for Adelaide who eventually went down to the Lions by six goals but the former skipper showed there’s some life left in the old legs yet.
Must improve: Reilly O’Brien
Brisbane were without their number one ruckman which provided a great platform for Adelaide’s prime big man to dominate the game. Up against second stringer Archie Smith and part-timer Oscar McInerney, O’Brien failed to make the most of the opportunity. He finished with 21 hit outs and nine disposals but at least provided a contest at ground level, laying five tackles. Matthew Nicks admitted O’Brien needs some assistance in the ruck and that is further evident after the weekend.
Stand out: Ryan Lester
Ryan Lester has been around the Lions for a long time now, but has never received many plaudits. He has worked hard to get himself back into the team after playing only nine in 2019 when the team was rocketing up the ladder.
He only had the 11 disposals, three marks and two tackles, but anyone watching the game could see the impact he was having defensively - especially when Adelaide made a small push in the third term. Lester took three contested marks and showed he is a key part of this Brisbane backline.
Must improve: Lachie Neale and Hugh McCluggage’s goal kicking
Brisbane had strong performances up and down on Sunday and were playing an opposition that, to quote Kane Cornes, “weren’t AFL standard”. So instead of saying a player needs to improve, we’ll take aim at the goal kicking of Lachie Neale and Hugh McCluggage.
The midfield duo had TWELVE shots on goal against the Crows and combined for ONE goal and 11 behinds. It didn’t matter against an Adelaide team nowhere near their level, but let’s hope they have their kicking boots on going forward.
Stand out: David Cuningham
Carlton fans have been trying to tell the world about David Cuningham’s potential for years now, but the young midfielder’s body has always let him down just as he’s started to put some continuity together.
He was unleashed in the midfield against the Bombers after years playing mostly across half-forward and he thrived on-ball in a game where Patrick Cripps and Ed Curnow were kept quiet offensively. Cuningham finished with 28 disposals, eight marks and was second on the ground for metres gained. Blues fans will be hoping it becomes a regular occurrence going forward.
Must improve: Jack Newnes
Newnes didn’t necessarily do anything wrong on Saturday night, but the Blues had 20 good performers on the weekend, an injured Jack Silvagni and a first gamer and so Newnes draws the short straw as the player who makes this list.
The ex-Saint has filled a role for the Blues on the wing and across half back, but has not had a great impact to date, averaging 10 disposals per game. If Silvagni is cleared to play this week, Newnes may find himself on the outer with Zac Fisher ready to return.
Stand out: Jordan Roughead
Jordan Roughead never really stands out and he didn’t do anything special in this game, but he deserves a mention regardless. You would be forgiven if you weren’t aware Harry Himmelberg played last Friday, as Roughead blanketed him to a scoreless, five-disposal game.
Roughead consistently beat him in one-on-one contests and had his number all night. He will likely match up on Shaun McKernan this week, a similar style player to Himmelberg.
Must improve: Mason Cox
That second tall forward spot for Collingwood is absolutely up for grabs, with neither Mason Cox nor Darcy Cameron grabbing it with both hands just yet. Coincidentally, Cox also struggled to grab the Sherrin out of the air on Friday night, dropping multiple marks he’ll clunk once he’s back in form.
Cox kicked a late goal from a contested mark inside 50, something the Pies will be hoping becomes more regular going forward. He picked up eight disposals, won eight hit-outs and took four marks as well in the loss to GWS.
Stand out: Jordan Ridley
On a night where not much went right for the Bombers, emerging defender Jordan Ridley’s poise and precision with the footy stood out.
Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker are now in their twilight of their careers so it was important for the Bombers to unearth their next generation of defenders and in Ridley, they’ve found a modern day defender who can hold down a key position if necessary but is also prepared to take a risk coming out of the back half to open up the play.
The 21-year-old had 18 disposals on Saturday night against Carlton, going at 94 per cent efficiency and took six marks as well.
It may have been a result to forget for John Worsfold’s side but Ridley’s continual progression was a shining light on Saturday night.
Must improve: David Zaharakis
The Bombers badly needed their midfield to step up in the absence of captain Dyson Heppell and their failure to do so was the reason why they were unable to make it three wins from three to start the season.
All eyes are now on veteran Don David Zaharakis, who has failed to fire so far in 2020 and would now be on the precipice of being dropped. After just six touches two weeks ago against Sydney, he had 13 touches and was part of the Essendon midfield group that was soundly beaten.
If Essendon are to prove themselves as genuine finals chances this year, they’ll have to find a midfield mix that clicks without their skipper present.
Stand out: Darcy Tucker
Unfortunately, not much is going right for Fremantle at the moment but they’ve found a genuine talent in Darcy Tucker, who is quietly continuing to make strides at AFL level. The 23-year-old, who landed at the Dockers with pick 27 in the 2015 draft, had 20 touches during Saturday night’s loss as well as kicking a goal. Finals are highly unlikely for the Dockers in 2020 but they’ve got to keep playing the next generation of players such as Tucker.
Must improve: Nathan Wilson
Fremantle badly need more out of their new recruits and none more so than Nathan Wilson, who had another underwhelming game against the Suns. He’s one of Fremantle best ball users but only had five touches on Saturday night. If the Dockers are to salvage something out of this season, they need to get the ball in the hands of their best ball users more often.
Stand out: Cam Guthrie
Cam Guthrie was pivotal in helping Geelong over the line in a dour affair against Melbourne. It was Guthrie’s best performance this season collecting 24 disposals, 10 marks, three clearances, four inside 50s along with a crucial goal late in the third quarter. Sam Menegola (25 and three clearances) was another key contributor in the three-point win.
Must improve: Gary Rohan
Gary Rohan failed to trouble the scorers and had six touches in Sunday’s low-scoring thriller. The former Swan struggled to assert himself on the contest and was well held by the Demons defence. Rohan has kicked multiple goals in a game just twice in his last 14 matches.
Stand out: Matt Rowell
Three games into Matt Rowell’s AFL career and his form is showing no signs of slowing down. Another two goals and 20 touches in a winning performance will likely see the talented younger gain more Brownlow votes and more praise along the way and he continues to form a central part of Gold Coast’s sudden resurgence.
Must improve: Hugh Greenwood
It’s hard to find any negative for the Suns after another dominant win but after a solid display against the Crows last week, Hugh Greenwood delivered his first real underwhelming game in 2020. The new Suns recruit will be looking to make a bigger impact on the game as the Suns continue their rise.
Stand out: Tom Green
Second-gamer Tom Green was close to the match-winner for the Giants against the Magpies with his assured presence at the death. The 19-year-old is a bullocking midfielder more synonymous with yesteryear who possesses the rare double of sparkling clean hands and calmness in the heat of a heavy pack. He finished the game with 13 handballs for 18 total possessions, 12 of which were contested and an equal game high seven clearances. Some of his clutch hard-ball wins late in the game, where he stylishly lifted the ball above his head, allowed his side to hold onto their narrow lead. He will be a joy to watch for years to come.
Toby Greene was the spark the Giants required to get the win, kicking three goals and picking up 19 possessions, but his direct opponent Brayden Maynard did have a heap of it himself.
Must improve: Harry Himmelberg
The Collingwood defence must be a difficult one to play against but a presenting key forward like Himmelberg needs to bring more to the table. He finished the night with just five possessions and two marks while having zero impact on the scoreboard. It wasn’t the easiest night for the big forwards, as has been this season to date, but you’d expect a bit more from a player of his ability who has now had two very quiet outings in a row.
Stephen Coniglio admits his game wasn’t up to the standard required. For some reason he was played as a deep defensive forward on Jeremy Howe but the experiment didn’t quite work as he had just 11 touches and didn’t kick a goal. Thankfully, the Giants won.
Stand out: Chad Wingard
The second-year Hawk is in All-Australian form right now. Wingard kicked another three goals in the narrow win over North Melbourne, taking his season tally to nine which has him just two off the pace in the Coleman Medal race. His scoreboard impact was further highlighted with a game-high seven score involvements and he was clearly his side’s most damaging player in a low-scoring affair. After four games in 2020, the 26-year-old is averaging 17.5 touches and 2.2 goals and is showing why the Hawks wanted him so badly.
Must improve: Oliver Hanrahan
Youngster Ollie Hanrahan has been serviceable for the Hawks in 2020 but his outing on Sunday was less than desirable. He had just seven touches at 42% efficiency and his impact was minimal. Hanrahan has not laid a tackle since Round 1 and for a team who had 69 tackles on the weekend, you’d want everybody to be contributing in that area. He is only 13 games into his career having first played at the level only last year, but the output is just not enough for a side who will be pushing for finals this season.
Stand out: Clayton Oliver
Melbourne may be struggling to recapture their best form at the minute but one of their most consistent performers is Oliver, who put in another composed performance despite the disappointing result for his side. 23 touches and six tackles followed up his best performance of the season two weeks ago and builds a solid platform as this unprecedented season continues to unfold.
Must improve: Tom McDonald
When Melbourne was in full flight two years ago, Tom McDonald was a potent target and provided the Dees with a strong contested marking option and relatively reliable kick for goal. While he may have kicked a goal during Sunday’s clash, he only had eight touches but more importantly, only took two marks. If the Dees are to climb up the ladder this year, they’re going to have to get the ball in McDonald’s hands more often.
Stand out: Jy Simpkin
Jy Simpkin is an A-grade midfielder in form as good as anyone in the competition right now. It’s as simple as that. In Ben Cunnington’s absence he has stepped up and filled the role as North Melbourne’s number one midfielder and looked every bit the part once again.
Simpkin finished with 23 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles, five score involvements and a goal - a stat line that is more or less what he’s averaging across the season to date. This will likely be his last appearance on this list as he’s becoming a regular stand out for the Roos.
Must improve: Ben Brown
Ben Brown has kicked more goals in the last three seasons than any other player in the competition and hasn’t started the season poorly whatsoever, but lowered his colours to the Hawks on Sunday night.
The key forward finished with three disposals and one goal late in the fourth quarter, blanketed by Ben McEvoy. Brown covered more ground than any player on the ground, but was not able to have any influence on the game and never managed to expose the inexperienced defender, be it deep inside 50 or up the ground.
Stand out: Charlie Dixon
Charlie Dixon is undoubtedly the in-form key forward in the competition. Dixon underlined his importance to Port Adelaide’s hopes in 2020 with a dominant six-goal haul against West Coast, capitulating him to the top of the Coleman Medal leaderboard. He monstered the Eagles defence taking six contested marks and contributing 12 score involvements.
Must improve: Sam Powell-Pepper
The hard-nosed inside midfielder had just two kicks and -22 metres gained in the win over West Coast on the Gold Coast. While you can’t question his tenacity and attack on the ball, it was a quiet afternoon for Powell-Pepper. Port Adelaide's unbeaten start to the season could see coach Ken Hinkley stick with the same side for this weekend’s clash against Brisbane.
Stand out: Toby Nankervis
Back in the side for his first game since the restart, Nankervis was Richmond’s best player in the loss to St Kilda. He was combative in the ruck in what was a competitive duel with Rowan Marshall and he lead by example in the way he attacked the ball. ‘Nank’ had seven tackles, the most by any Tiger on the day, provided five clearances and had 17 possessions, 13 of which were contested. His confident lead, strong mark and deadly finish for a vital goal late in the third quarter is a good lesson for key forwards Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt who have been wayward with their kicking of late. Nankervis is the heart of the Richmond team who must follow him if they want to bounce back in Round 5.
Must improve: Kane Lambert
He is certainly not the only dual premiership Tiger down on form but Lambert has been well short of his best in season 2020. For a player so vital to Richmond’s recent flags, his two kicks, nine handballs and one inside 50 in the loss to the Saints is simply not enough. Lambert’s gut-running ability usually helps the Tigers overlap and create forward of centre but he is failing to provide it as frequently. Along with that, he hasn’t hit the scoreboard in the three games since the resumption and has uncharacteristically fumbled on occasion. He is a quality player, however, and the Tigers will be keen for a response next weekend in his 100th match.
Richmond's discipline is also a worry. The Tigers are coughing up easy goals from ill-disciplined free-kicks which Damien Hardwick pointed to after the loss. Some of them are playing with a 'how dare you beat me' attitude which must change swiftly.
Stand out: Dan Butler
Coming up against his former club for the first time, off-season recruit Dan Butler shone in St Kilda’s stunning win over Richmond. Butler was a thorn in the side of the reigning premiers with 13 disposals, three goals and seven score involvements. The ex-Tiger won the Ian Stewart Medal after being adjudged best afield in Maddie’s Match.
Must improve: Ben Paton
Ben Paton is under pressure to hold his spot with the likes of Jimmy Webster and Dylan Roberton pushing for a senior recall and skipper Jarryn Geary a chance to return from injury. In a sign of the club’s improved depth, Paton could make way despite a solid, yet unspectacular performance in defence against Richmond.
Stand out: Tom Papley
Tom Papley played a lone hand up forward for Sydney in their loss to the Western Bulldogs. Papley kicked four of the Swans’ five goals as he single-handedly kept his side in the contest. The diminutive small forward sits second in the Coleman Medal race with 10 goals from four games.
Must improve: Lewis Taylor
Lewis Taylor’s impact since arriving at Sydney has been minimal. The former Lion went goalless and had just eight touches against the Bulldogs. Taylor, a former Rising Star winner in 2014, is averaging 8.5 disposals per game in 2020 and needs to increase his output to help ease the goal-scoring burden on Papley.
Stand out: Josh Kennedy
When you kick four of six goals, more often than not you will be one of your side’s very best. Kennedy played a lone hand for the Eagles and was one of the only players to give them any sort of hope in what was another display bereft of confidence. It wasn’t a classic Kennedy performance by an stretch of the imagination but at least he provided something for his flailing teammates.
Must improve: Eagles defence
Without Jeremy McGovern, the West Coast defence was well below their best on Saturday. Will Schofield and Tom Barrass in particular were put to the sword by Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff and Todd Marshall. Shannon Hurn was ok with 17 touches and five marks but was still well beaten in the air. It doesn’t help when your midfield is applying limited pressure but it just proves that this backline is crying out for the influence of McGovern.
Stand out: Laitham Vandermeer
At a glance, Vandermeer finished with seven disposals and a goal in his third game of football, but the Bulldogs have unearthed a very handy player. He took two contested marks inside 50, impressive given his 180cm, 77kg frame, and looked a viable target inside 50 both in one-on-one contests and at the feet of key forwards.
This will be particularly important going forward with injuries to Aaron Naughton and Sam Lloyd. The Bulldogs are going to need goals from different avenues and Vandermeer has shown he has the capability to be a regular contributor.
Must improve: Josh Bruce
Josh Bruce has only kicked two goals so far this season and one of them came on Thursday night from a Sydney clanger that landed on his chest 40 metres out directly in front. The key forward has struggled to have any kind of impact and clearly has not yet gelled with his new teammates.
As mentioned above, the Bulldogs’ reliance on Bruce has only gone up with injuries suffered to Naughton and Lloyd, but it doesn’t get any easier up against Robbie Tarrant and North Melbourne on Saturday night. The Dogs will be hoping to get a bit more out of their high-profile recruit.