aflplayers.com.au has discovered the players that played an underrated hand for their side in the 2021 AFL Grand Final. Whether it be a big moment in a close game, or an important role, these are the Unsung Heroes.
Melbourne — Angus Brayshaw
While there may have been more accomplished players on the night, none were more courageous nor determined than Brayshaw. The wingman was vital for the Demons as they snapped their 57-year premiership drought, with his willingness to provide defensive cover, be composed with the ball and bravery to put his body on the line all key features of his game. Brayshaw finished with 25 disposals (11 contested), eight intercepts (an equal game-high) and seven inside 50s. His performance was also recognised with one vote in the coaches’ award, such was his impact on the night.
Melbourne — Luke Jackson
Jackson’s athleticism was on display all night through his ability to burst out of stoppages after ruck contests, but his effort in the final 30 seconds of the third term was particularly notable. The 199cm big man chased the loose ball out of the centre bounce, collected it with class and dished off the perfect handball to the running Clayton Oliver. Oliver, streaming into the forward 50, then converted Melbourne’s second goal in about 10 seconds. Aside from putting the Demons four goals up at the last break, it was surely deflating for the Dogs, whose 19-point lead suddenly counted for very little. The Rising Star winner finished the contest with a goal, 13 disposals (at 92 per cent efficiency), five tackles and four goal assists.
Western Bulldogs — Marcus Bontempelli
It might seem strange to count a player of Bontempelli’s status as ‘unsung’, but his efforts through the middle of the game were nothing short of heroic, and despite them, he was not recognised in Norm Smith Medal voting. The Bulldogs skipper took a statement-making contested mark midway through the second term and converted the goal to cut the margin back to only four points, before adding another major in the shadows of half-time. Then, in the third term, Bontempelli booted a third to gift his side a 19-point lead. Melbourne’s midfield recaptured the ascendency in emphatic fashion thereafter, but the captain continued to work hard defensively with six tackles and 30 pressure acts.
Western Bulldogs — Taylor Duryea
Taking on Kysaiah Pickett must shape as a daunting assignment for any defender, particularly when the ball is being sent in at the speed at which it was on Saturday night. But Duryea played his role perfectly, restricting Pickett to only four touches and keeping the dangerous Demon scoreless. Duryea amassed 16 disposals of his own — 15 of which were effective — and intercepted the ball on five occasions.