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 8 Unsung Heroes.
Western Bulldogs: Hayden Crozier
It was a thrilling finish on Thursday night and the composure of Bulldogs defender Hayden Crozier shone through as the Dogs clinched a five-point victory. In wet (and dry conditions, early in the game), Crozier played one of his best games for the Dogs, taking an equal game-high seven marks, to go with his 19 touches at 84 per cent, 11 intercept possessions, and eight one percenters. Crozier tends to fly under the radar but against the Suns he showed the football world why the Bulldogs faithful love him so much.
GWS Giants: Stephen Coniglio
It’s not often a captain is an ‘unsung hero’ but after a quiet run of form to start the year, Stephen Coniglio is starting to hit his straps entering the business end of the season. Coniglio gathered 24 disposals, laid seven tackles and had five clearances to be influential in the Giants’ victory against last year’s Grand Final combatants, Richmond, and his role will be crucial for the Giants heading toward finals.
Carlton: Lachie Plowman
Lachie Plowman is quickly becoming one of Carlton’s most important defenders. In a tight clash against North Melbourne, Plowman was prolific with nine intercept possessions, seven marks and five rebound 50s. The former Giant has worked hard on improving his disposal efficiency – running at 72 per cent in the wet from his 18 touches – and is becoming a reliable backman for the developing Blues.
Sydney: Dane Rampe
Dane Rampe’s performance on the weekend is best defined as a ‘Captain’s Game’. The Swans co-captain willed his team to the finish while managing a broken hand in the last line of defence. Rampe collected 25 touches, including 12 intercept possessions, six rebound 50s and took four marks as the Swans outpointed the Hawks to be seven-point winners at the SCG.
St Kilda: Paddy Ryder
A lot has been said about St Kilda’s ruck combination, but returning to Adelaide Oval to face his old side, Ryder showed why the Saints were so keen on bringing him to Moorabbin. Working closely with Rowan Marshall, Ryder had a game-high 29 hitouts to go with his 10 disposals. Not only important in the middle of the ground, Ryder was also able to impact the scoreboard kicking two goals and clocking five score involvements.
Essendon: Will Snelling
After almost coming off second-best in a crunching hit from Adelaide’s Tom Doedee, Snelling brought the heat to the Adelaide Oval on Sunday. A tight-contest throughout the day, Snelling led the way with a staggering 33 pressure acts and a game-high 11 tackles. He’s starting to find his feet in Essendon’s line-up after joining the club in last year’s mid-season draft and finished the game with 18 disposals, four score involvements and three inside 50s.
West Coast: Nic Naitanui
It was one of the hardest games this season to highlight just one player in a dominant team effort, but Naitanui’s efforts in the ruck to get the better of two-time All Australian Brodie Grundy won out. It was a tense battle between two of the games best, with both Grundy and Naitanui finishing the game with 24 hitouts. But ‘Nic Nat’s’ influence around the contest and ability to impact the scoreboard was monumental. Naitanui finished with eight disposals, four score involvements and a goal as the Eagles skyrocketed themselves into premiership contention.
Brisbane: Jarryd Lyons
The former Crow is having an impressive season and he continued his strong performances against Melbourne. While Lachie Neale again starred for Brisbane, he was ably assisted by Lyons who collected 22 disposals and 72 per cent efficiency and laid a team-high nine tackles to again demonstrate his credentials as one of the most underrated inside midfielders in the AFL.
Geelong: Brad Close
Close became the eighth-fastest goal scorer on debut when he nailed his set-shot straight through the big sticks in the first minute of the game. The 21-year-old was unperturbed by the monsoon-like conditions at Optus Stadium on Monday night, finishing the match with a game-high six score involvements, 14 disposals and four tackles. He was clean in slippery conditions and cracked in hard when he needed to. A very encouraging debut from the North Gambier product.