aflplayers.com.au has discovered the players that played an underrated hand for their side in week two of the finals. Whether it be a big moment in a close game, or an important role, these are the Unsung Heroes.
Geelong – Rhys Stanley
Stanley has been made to work for his spot in Geelong’s best 22 this year, playing 18 of a possible 24 games, but hit a timely run of form late in the season to cement himself as the Cats’ preferred ruck choice heading into finals. The 30-year-old repaid the faith on Friday night, too, combining 35 hitouts with 15 kicks, seven marks, 15 pressure acts and four clearances, while substantiating his influence with nine score involvements and a goal assist. Stanley hardly wasted a touch, with 16 of his 19 touches proving effective, while he turned the ball over only once. It doesn’t get any easier for the Cats’ big man as Melbourne’s Max Gawn and Luke Jackson loom for Friday night’s preliminary final, but Stanley’s confidence-boosting performance would have him relishing what is arguably the toughest ruck assignment in the league.
Geelong – Brad Close
Close was another Cat to play an underrated hand in the win, booting two goals from seven score involvements to go with nine contested possessions and seven kicks. The Demons’ chief Friday night focus might be on Geelong’s ‘three-headed monster’ — which features Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan — but the Cats’ fourth forward-line cog in Close will also demand attention after proving himself as a damaging small forward.
Western Bulldogs – Taylor Duryea
One-out with Charlie Cameron in the dying stages of a nail-biting semi-final. It’s likely a defender’s worst nightmare. But Taylor Duryea came to the fore, sticking by Cameron’s side in the foot race for the loose ball, applying a crucial piece of body work and forcing the ball — not deliberately — out of bounds. The Bulldogs would then hold onto their slim one-point lead as they drained the remaining 30 seconds to advance through to the preliminary final. It was a moment that capped off a brilliant second half from Duryea, who kept Cameron goalless after the Lions livewire booted three first-quarter majors.
Western Bulldogs – Alex Keath
Another defender equally as crucial to the Dogs’ fortunes was Alex Keath, who restricted Brisbane’s other major forward threat — Joe Daniher — to just six disposals and two marks. Since round 14, the former cricketer has taken on Tom Hawkins, Josh J Kennedy, Lance Franklin, Ben King, Charlie Dixon, Peter Wright and Daniher. Against Keath, those key forwards have combined for a total of just five goals. He’ll renew hostilities with Dixon on Saturday night in what could be the most important matchup of the preliminary final.