Each week, aflplayers.com.au looks at the players who flew under the radar in their team’s victory. Whether it was a moment of impact or a four-quarter performance, these are the Round 15 Unsung Heroes.
Adelaide: Ben Keays
In an otherwise bleak season, former Brisbane player Ben Keays has been a shining light for the Adelaide Crows. In Tuesday night’s win against the Hawks, Keays was influential with 22 touches, nine score involvements and four inside 50s. Keays plays with flare and was willing to take the game on in critical moments, helping his side to their first victory of the season. He’s exceeded everyone’s expectations this season since being picked up as a Delisted Free Agent and is well placed to poll well in the Crows’ best and fairest award at the end of the season.
West Coast: Shannon Hurn
Question marks have surrounded the Eagles’ ability to win away from Perth this season, but a strong performance against Essendon has gone some of the way to dismantling those concerns. Former captain Shannon Hurn was influential for the Eagles in defence, taking a team-high 12 marks to go with his 20 touches at 95 per cent efficiency. Essendon’s taller forward-line struggled against Hurn’s intercept work as the Eagles clawed their way to a 15-point win at the Gabba.
Richmond: Jayden Short
Short has become an integral member of Richmond’s backline, with his ball use and ability to penetrate the opposition’s team defence a key asset. The long-kicking half-back flanker was one of the Tigers’ most influential players in a less than convincing win over Fremantle, setting himself apart with 23 disposals at 82 per cent efficiency. He also gained 439m on the night as Richmond’s ability to convert turnovers into scores underlined the difference between the two sides.
Sydney: Justin McInerney
The higher-placed Dees held a three-point lead at the quarter time break but going into the second term the young Swans burst out of the blocks, led in part by second-year Justin McInerney. The 20-year-old was dominant from the get go, kicking his first two career goals before the half-time siren to give the Swans a handy 28-point lead. McInerney finished the game with 14 touches, five marks and five score involvements, making a solid case to earn the Round 15 Rising Star nod.
GWS Giants: Lachie Ash
The momentum was against the Giants for much of the first three quarters against Carlton but despite this, first-year defender Lachie Ash played a key role in the defensive 50. Supported by All-Australian Nick Haynes, Ash collected 15 disposals, including five intercept possessions, and laid three tackles. It wasn’t his greatest output on the stats sheet but Ash’s value to the team with his ability to be calm under pressure and maintain a high disposal efficiency cannot be understated.
Brisbane: Darcy Gardiner
After a disappointing first term from the home side, the Lions leapt out of the blocks in the second quarter and kept their bogey side Collingwood to just four goals for the remaining their terms. When critical Lions defender Harris Andrews went down with a hamstring injury, Darcy Gardiner stepped up collecting 13 disposals, an equal team-high eight intercept possessions and four rebound 50s as the Pies struggled to impact the scoreboard.