Three teams skipped away to an unbeaten start in round four as the ladder begins to take shape. aflplayers.com.au discovered the players that played an underrated hand for their side. Whether it be a big moment in a close game, or an important role, these are the Unsung Heroes.
Sydney- Justin McInerney
Lance Franklin stole the headlines by haunting the Bombers yet again, while other attention was directed at Luke Parker’s starring role in the midfield. But Justin McInerney’s line-breaking speed was pivotal to Sydney’s fortunes in a thrilling finish. The 13-game dasher also showed his class with a snap from the pocket in the last term to tie the lead. McInerney finished with 14 disposals at 86 per cent efficiency, eight contested possessions and two goals.
Port Adelaide- Aliir Aliir
In an entertaining duel with Jack Riewoldt, Aliir, under the Friday night lights, showed he is much more than merely a lockdown defender. The recruit from Sydney was seen blocking Richmond’s surges, taking six marks (two contested) and intercepting the ball on five occasions. But he also knew when to attack. Aliir had 23 disposals, and through his eight rebound 50s, constantly set up play for the Power.
Western Bulldogs- Aaron Naughton
The Bulldogs’ star-studded midfield dominates talk around the premiership hopefuls, while Josh Bruce’s 10 goals in round three and Tim English’s performance in round three have captured recognition in the forward line. Prodigious talent Aaron Naughton, meanwhile, has somewhat flown under the radar. Inaccurate goalkicking (two goals, five behinds) kept Naughton out of headlines this week, but the spearhead still took eight marks (four contested), had 11 contested possessions and laid four tackles to go with 22 pressure acts.
St Kilda- Jack Bytel
Better-known Jacks — Steele, Billings and Higgins — were notable drivers in St Kilda’s remarkable turnaround win, but Jack Bytel, who was brought back into the team for the Eagles clash, laid a crucial seven tackles. Coach Brett Ratten lauded his players’ hunt on the ball post-match, so the efforts of Bytel, who also had 19 disposals, should not be left unnoticed.
Carlton- Jacob Weitering
The spotlight rightfully belonged to defensive partner Liam Jones, but Jacob Weitering’s shutdown role on Ben King was just as important. Weitering kept the young star to only eight disposals and a single goal, which restricted Gold Coast’s attacking options. It also allowed Jones to play freely, who hurt the Suns with 11 marks.
GWS Giants- Shane Mumford
Unsurprisingly, Toby Greene was the star of Saturday night’s Giant show at the ‘G. But veteran ruckman Shane Mumford, swung in for his first game of the season, was crucial in the Giants’ upset win over Collingwood. Tasked with taking on Brodie Grundy, the 34-year-old laid six tackles and had eight clearances as well as 17 disposals (13 contested) at an efficient 82 per cent.
Adelaide- Tom Doedee
The defender has been forgotten by many after a breakout 2018 season was followed by injury-ravaged campaigns in ’19 and ’20 as the Crows sunk down the ladder. But Doedee is back to his intercept-marking best in 2021, and his role in Adelaide’s climb back up the ladder should be noted of. On Sunday, the 24-year-old took five contested marks (nine total), laid three tackles and was even involved in six scores. His 18 disposals also went at a handy 83 per cent efficiency.
Melbourne- Adam Tomlinson
With Steven May substituted out of the game before half-time, Adam Tomlinson had to step up, suddenly presented the challenge of playing on Tom Hawkins. And he did. Tomlinson kept the reigning Coleman Medallist to only two goals, which forced Geelong to search for alternative options going forward. Tomlinson, despite only touching the Sherrin eight times himself, was as important as any Demon on the ground.
Fremantle- Heath Chapman
Fremantle’s first pick in last year’s draft, Heath Chapman demonstrated his composure in only his second game at AFL level. The 19-year-old had 18 disposals at 83 per cent efficiency, took four marks and drifted forward to kick a goal. Chapman will play an important role within Fremantle’s young-gun brigade as the men in purple look to charge back up the ladder.