See below who stood out and who must improve from Round 17.
Stood out: Lachlan Sholl
The Crows youngster had by far the best outing of his seven-game AFL career. In the win over Carlton, coincidentally the club his father Brett played 35 games for, Sholl had the ball 24 times in a damaging display off a wing. He put up a massive 627 metres gained, pumped the ball inside 50 five times, provided eight score involvements, had three clearances and polished off his game with a couple of goals. It was close to a best on ground display from the 20-year-old.
Must improve: Chayce Jones
The top-10 draft pick has struggled in the last two weeks after a fairly strong game in Round 15. In the win over the Blues he had just two kicks for six touches total. Jones has gone through the hard times this year, playing in 11 of Adelaide’s losses, but didn’t quite get amongst as Matthew Nicks’ side won its third game on the trot. Jones managed to kick a goal but had just 21 metres gained in a fairly quiet showing.
Stood out: Daniel Rich
There are few players you would want to lead the team in disposals more than Daniel Rich. The Lions comfortably handled Sydney and Rich was the general across half-back, finishing with 23 disposals and 10 marks. He went at his trademark 82 per cent disposal efficiency and also gained 623 metres. Despite a few injury issues, Rich has once again had a strong season for the Lions.
Must improve: Cam Rayner
Cam Rayner is prone to a quiet one and it doesn’t get much quieter than four disposals. Strangely, Rayner had one inside 50, one clearance and one rebound 50 among those four touches, showing he covered the ground but struggled to find the ball. Come finals, Brisbane will need their impact players to show up and despite Rayner’s five tackles, they will want much more from him when it matters.
Stood out: Harry McKay
Carlton’s ball use going forward in the second half of the year, and particularly in the last month, has been far below standard and has wasted their general control of field position. Despite that, on the few instances where they have kicked the ball well to Harry McKay, he has looked tough to stop. Playing against an inexperienced key defender, McKay looked dominant, kicking four goals and taking five contested marks. He could have had a few more too with one shot touched and a mark on the goal line taken off him because of a soft free kick.
Must improve: Lochie O’Brien
A top-10 draft selection from 2017, Lochie O’Brien has spent the entire season in the reserves, with the Blues picking the undrafted Matt Cottrell and delisted free agent Jack Newnes over him for most of the season. The wingman has not shown form that warrants selection in the twos, but Carlton opted to give him a look at this late stage of the season. Unfortunately, O’Brien did not show much in his opportunity, finishing with seven disposals and going mostly unsighted in the loss to Adelaide. He and Paddy Dow (pick three in 2017) have not had any impact in 2020 and that would have Blues fans nervous.
Stood out: Jordan De Goey
Collingwood’s forward line certainly needed a boost after a season struggling to work out what their best group looked like. In a tight game where the Magpies needed everything to go right to beat Gold Coast, De Goey’s presence was the difference. He kicked four goals, had seven score involvements and had a goal assist himself. With Mason Cox also finding form in the last month of the season, Collingwood’s forward half suddenly looks a lot more potent.
Must improve: Brodie Grundy
Brodie Grundy’s impact this season has been well down on previous years and that was epitomised on Monday night. The star ruckman was beaten in the middle and around the grounds by Jarrod Witts and only managed the two clearances. Quarters are shorter, but Grundy is averaging six fewer disposals than 2019 and half the score involvements. It’s hard to be too critical of players given the difficult circumstances of the 2020 season, but Grundy is someone Collingwood will be hoping picks it up in finals.
Stood out: Essendon's start
It was another dismal showing for the Bombers in Round 17 but at the very least, they started the game against ladder-leaders Port Adelaide well and even lead at quarter-time. Essendon was switched on early, kicking two of the game’s first three goals. It’s unfortunate for them that they only kicked another two for the rest of the match, while the Power piled on another 10 goals after quarter-time in the driving rain.
Must improve: Jake Stringer
There’s no use sugar-coating it, Jake Stringer is badly out of touch and his downturn in form has negatively affected Essendon’s forward output. After suffering a syndesmosis injury against Collingwood in Round 5 – in a game where he kicked three goals – he’s booted just four more majors from his five games back. Essendon’s best comes largely off the back of an in-form Joe Daniher and Stringer and the side’s struggles this season can largely be put down to their two most important forwards largely being absent for most of it.
Stood out: Nat Fyfe
Fremantle fans would be rapt to see how influential their skipper has been of late and at Metricon Stadium on Saturday, he put in one of his best performances of the season in their dominant win over North Melbourne. The likes of Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra and Caleb Serong have all made progress this playing largely on ball but in Round 17, it was Fyfe who led the way alongside four-goal forward Jesse Hogan in a best on ground performance. 24 touches at 87 per cent disposal efficiency, seven marks (including four contested) and six clearances saw him dominate the game and get back to the sort of form which saw him win the Brownlow Medal last season.
Must improve: Minairo Fredrick
It’s been pleasing to see Justin Longmuir continue to play first-year forward Minairo Frederick, even if he was quiet on Saturday. With Rory Lobb, Jesse Hogan and Matt Taberner all showing good form in the forward line in recent weeks, Frederick’s role may not solely rely on getting the ball but he’d be intent on making more of an impact moving forward. The exciting youngster will no doubt be be looking to finish off his debut season strongly by hitting the scoreboard against the Western Bulldogs next Sunday.
Stood out: Tom Stewart
Tom Stewart was resolute in defence with Geelong under the pump for three quarters in their loss to Richmond. Inaccurate goalkicking (7.15) from the Tigers kept the contest alive with the final margin of 26 points flattering the Cats. Many of Geelong’s big guns were down on the night but Stewart stood tall with a game-high 25 disposals, eight marks, six intercepts, four score involvements and 564 metres gained – also a game-high.
Must improve: Plan B
Geelong never got going against the reigning premiers who had the game on their terms for most of the night. Richmond’s pressure and organisation without the ball meant the Cats’ possession game was stifled. Damien Hardwick got the better of Chris Scott in the tactical battle with the Tigers making it five wins from their last six against Geelong. With Coleman Medal leader Tom Hawkins well held the Cats lacked another avenue to goal which could be a problem come October.
Stood out: Wil Powell
The lightly built Wil Powell has had a breakout year for the Suns and is showing no signs of slowing down as the season draws to a close, even as Gold Coast continue to struggle. He was one of his side’s best players in their loss to Collingwood on Monday night in his 22-disposal and six-mark game. After 20 games across his first two seasons, Powell has proven himself to be one of many up and coming stars at the club with 14 consistent games under his belt in 2020.
Must improve: Critical errors
The Suns would be ruing the missed opportunities of Monday night, where a lack of composure and some poor decision-making saw Collingwood nullify their threat and eventually win with relative ease. The game’s defining moment came when Nick Holman marked in the goal square after a pin-point pass from Alex Sexton on the boundary. Unfathomably, he played on and was immediately tackled. Collingwood went down the other end and kicked a goal, which effectively saw the end of Gold Coast’s chances of winning. The young Suns are clearly tiring after a shortened season but it’s those type of lapses in concentration which they’ll need to address if they are to secure a maiden finals berth in 2021.
Stood out: Brent Daniels
The busy small forward produced his best game of the season in GWS’ narrow defeat to Melbourne. Daniels played almost a lone hand up forward, finishing with three goals including a Goal of the Year contender which bent its way back from both a ridiculous angle and a long way out. The 21-year-old also provided two goal assists and seven score involvements form his 16 possessions. If the rest of his teammates had have shown the same intent, perhaps the Giants may have beaten the Demons and currently be sitting in the eight.
Must improve: Toby Greene
We usually reserve high praise for Greene when he plays well so it’s only fair that it comes the other way when he doesn’t. On face value, his numbers from the Round 17 loss look ok, but it was an untidy game from the normally composed star. Greene kicked three behinds, which proved costly in a five-point defeat, while going at just 33% efficiency from his 15 disposals. His effort and willingness to compete never eludes him, evidenced by five tackles, but in a tight game the Giants required his calmness to help get them over the line. Expect him to have a massive game against the Saints this weekend.
Stood out: James Cousins
Cousins has been fairly sold since his return to the Hawthorn team in Round 13. He was better against St Kilda last game but his contribution in the loss to the Western Bulldogs was also significant. He had 19 possessions, four centre clearances and four tackles in a strong midfield showing. It was another down day for the Hawks but Cousins showed a bit of resistance in the engine room.
Must improve: Sam Frost
The 36-point defeat to the Doggies was certainly not Frost’s most accomplished game of the year. He had just two kicks for six touches total and went at 33% efficiency. Frost failed to have much of an impact on the contest, providing little in the way of defensive rebound evidenced by just 84 metres gained, well below his season average of 180.
Stood out: Trent Rivers
The Perth-born teenager may only be less than 10 games into what he and the club would hope is a long career, but he’s already helped himself to a crowning moment that he’ll remember forever. The smooth-moving Trent Rivers was fantastic against GWS on Saturday night and stood up for his side in a game that really mattered, kicking the match-winner to seal a pivotal five-point win. What really stood out was his composure with ball in hand, going at 75 per cent disposal efficiency from a career-best 17 touches.
Must improve: Fundamental skills
It was a point that was well made by AFL Nation’s Terry Wallace in commentary on Saturday night – Melbourne all too often let themselves down when they’re on top in matches by giving up soft goals through simple skill errors, two of which came in the second quarter against the Giants. Finals are still firmly on the agenda for Melbourne and as the pressure goes up leading into the biggest matches of the year, they won’t be able to get away with basic skill errors against the best sides in the competition.
Stood out: Luke McDonald
In a season where the Kangaroos have limped to the line, Luke McDonald has been a shining light. Playing more through the midfield at stages and freed up across half-back, McDonald has averaged 20 disposals per game at 79 per cent disposal efficiency. He has played tagging roles when required and rarely puts in a poor game. The same was true against the Dockers, where he had 19 touches at 90 per cent efficiency, 10 intercept possessions and six marks.
Must improve: Jared Polec
If Jared Polec is leaving North Melbourne at the end of the year, he is doing so without a great deal of momentum. The Kangaroos were belted by Fremantle in Round 17 and seem completely checked out as a team. Polec finished with 13 disposals, mostly on the wings, but he lacked impact. Polec finished with one inside 50 and three score involvements from his possessions and only took the one mark.
Stood out: Tom Rockliff
Tom Rockliff has responded well after he was dropped for three games earlier in the season. Port Adelaide’s midfield supremacy in the victory over Essendon was down to Rockliff’s work at the contest. He had 31 touches against the Bombers – the second match in a row he has notched over 30 disposals – to go with seven score involvements, six tackles and a goal to top off an excellent display. The former Lions captain has cemented his spot ahead of the Power’s finals campaign.
Must improve: Starts
Port Adelaide are all but assured of a top-two finish after comfortably beating Essendon. The Power trailed by five points at quarter-time and were challenged early against an inexperienced Bombers side. The ladder leaders shook off an indifferent first quarter to cruise to a 50-point win, but coach Ken Hinkley will demand a quicker start against Collingwood and especially with finals around the corner.
Stood out: Dylan Grimes and Jack Riewoldt
All-Australian defender Grimes returned to action after a hamstring strain and had an immediate impact in Richmond’s impressive win over Geelong. He was almost an impenetrable wall in defence, helping Noah Balta do a job on Tom Hawkins while taking intercept marks with seemingly consummate ease. He finished the night with 16 possessions, six marks (four of which were contested), and 12 intercepts. It was Grimes doing the defensive work at one end of the ground while his premiership teammate Riewoldt did all the attacking at the other. He had seven score involvements, took six marks and kicked four goals in the 26-point victory. A couple of the pack marks Riewoldt took reminded us that he still has a fair bit to offer.
Must improve: Finishing
It was a full team effort from the Tigers with everybody in the 22 playing their role so no individual gets singled out here. However, the finishing in front of goal left a little to be desired. If Richmond had have kicked straight, it could have been over by half-time. They finished with 7.15 of which just two behinds were rushed. The Tigers would want to put that right ahead of the upcoming finals series so that another inaccurate outing does not cost them an important match.
Stood out: Hunter Clark
Hunter Clark showed he is more than capable of spending big minutes through the midfield. Clark has been mostly deployed off half-back but has started to push into the middle more in a breakout 2020 season. He finished with 24 disposals with 10 of those coming in the third quarter, five clearances and 346 metres gained in St Kilda’s loss to West Coast. The 21-year-old’s development continues to excite Saints fans.
Must improve: Applying scoreboard pressure
St Kilda were left to rue a missed opportunity to seal a finals spot against an undermanned West Coast side. Inaccurate goalkicking (6.14) cost the Saints with Max King and Brad Hill squandering gilt-edged chances at crucial stages during the last quarter. 0.4 in the third quarter was a poor return given their territorial dominance with the seasoned Eagles defence holding firm. St Kilda must be more clinical and efficient with their season on the line against GWS.
Stood out: Luke Parker
Sydney champion Luke Parker continues to lead from the front. Parker has had another ultra-consistent season and he was again a strong contributor in the loss to Brisbane. The Swans co-captain had a game and season-high 33 disposals (18 contested), five clearances, five score involvements, two goals and 397 metres gained.
Must improve: Scoring
Sydney weren’t able to hit the scoreboard enough against the Lions despite having more disposals, clearances, contested possessions and four less inside 50s. Scoring has been an issue for the Swans all season without spearhead Lance Franklin with Tom Papley the only real threat inside attacking 50. While John Longmire’s young side have been competitive for much of the year they are the third lowest scoring team in the competition.
Stood out: Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff
Without a number of key midfielders including Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, Jack Redden and Mark Hutchings, the Eagles needed their experienced on-ballers to stand up. And that was definitely the case in the courageous win over St Kilda with Kelly and Gaff both sublime throughout. Kelly delivered arguably his best game in Eagles colours, racking up 30 possessions with nine clearances, nine score involvements, two goal assists and a goal. He was huge in the second quarter, helping turn the game for the Eagles after a slow start. Gaff’s contribution was also significant, finishing with 33 touches and a goal, and providing Kelly with a much-needed sidekick in the must-win contest.
Must improve: Brayden Ainsworth
It wasn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but if Ainsworth is to cement his spot in this Eagles side ahead of finals, he would want to give a bit more. The 21-year-old finished the win over the Saints with six touches, only 49 metres gained and gave away three free kicks. It’s not his job to get heaps of the ball but with some quality players expected to return to the team in the coming weeks, Ainsworth needs to give Adam Simpson reasons to keep him in the 22.
Stood out: Inside 50 efficiency
While quite a few teams struggle to convert forward half control into shots on goal, the Bulldogs showed just how efficient they can be. They scored on 50 per cent of their 42 inside 50s on the weekend, with their star midfielders all quality users of the ball. Marcus Bontempelli dominated, with eight inside 50s and six score involvements and after a quiet start to the season, he is peaking when it matters. Caleb Daniel had seven inside 50s himself and there is no better kick in the game. The Dogs get the ball into the right hands.
Must improve: Matthew Suckling
On a day where most of the Bulldogs players feasted on Hawthorn, Matt Suckling was quiet playing a floating role between half-forward and half-back. The long-time defender has been used mostly in attack this year to take advantage of his good ball use, but he finished with eight disposals, 69 metres gained and only the one score involvement. The Dogs will be hoping Suckling can get more involved in chains of play going forward in Round 18.