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 12 Unsung Heroes.
Sydney: Nick Blakey
Dropped last week after a poor run of form, Blakey returned to the Swans’ side against the Giants and was a key factor in the monumental upset. Blakey energised the Swans with two second-quarter goals and provided important run and carry in a new position in the midfield. Blakey ended the game with 18 disposals to turn in one of his best performances at AFL level in his young career.
Geelong: Cameron Guthrie
Geelong midfielder Cameron Guthrie is having his best season. If you looked at who was leading the Geelong Best and Fairest count, it would be highly likely that Guthrie is at the top-end. The Cats are no longer relying on week-in, week-out performances from the likes of Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield and Friday night was a prime example. Guthrie collected 27 touches, 22 pressure acts, was involved in six scores and laid five tackles as the Cats further solidified their top-four spot.
Brisbane: Oscar McInerney
It wasn’t the Lions’ finest performance for the season but the efforts of his big ruckman would have impressed coach Chris Fagan. With Stefan Martin sidelined, McInerney has taken a big leap forward in his development in recent weeks and broke even with Todd Goldstein on the weekend. The Lions big man had 24 hit-outs to Goldstein’s 23 and kept the AFL’s leading clearance player to just three on the weekend.
Melbourne: Christian Salem
The Dees jumped out of the blocks against a poor-performing Collingwood outfit and so did Christian Salem. Salem finished the game with 22 disposals at a staggering 96 per cent efficiency, took a game-high 10 marks – all of which were uncontested – and had five rebound 50s. Salem’s free-flowing performance summed up the Dees’ 56-point victory against a poor-performing Magpies side.
Carlton: Ed Curnow
Jack Newnes was the undoubted hero with his incredible after the siren goal, but it was the work of Ed Curnow (33 disposals and 10 clearances) who dragged the Blues back into the contest in the second half. Curnow played his best game for the season, and one of the best of his career, to keep the Blues in contention for the top eight.
Western Bulldogs: Lachie Hunter
Returning to the side after a leave of absence, Lachie Hunter did not miss a beat. In what was one of the more well-rounded team performances of the season, Hunter had 29 touches, nine score involvements, took six marks – five uncontested – and had four clearances. The Bulldogs are just outside the eight on percentage and if Hunter can continue to perform at this level and support the likes of captain Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Bailey Smith, another finals series is on the horizon.
St Kilda: Josh Battle
Josh Battle was having a breakout season before injury cut his 2019 campaign short and after being on the sidelines for the first part of 2020, he’s settled into the St Kilda side nicely in recent weeks. Against the Bombers, Battle was an important figure in defence, with 18 touches, including seven intercept possessions, nine uncontested marks, and five rebound 50s. Battle was also able to impact the scoreboard with a goal, showing how versatile he can be in St Kilda’s improved line-up.
West Coast: Tom Barrass
Adam Simpson couldn’t have asked for much more from Tom Barrass on the weekend. Supported by Jeremy McGovern in his return from a four-game stint on the sidelines, Barrass held up the Eagles’ defensive unit. The 24-year-old collected a game-high nine marks, to go with his 19 touches (eight intercept possessions), five rebound 50s and five one percenters, making it challenging for the Hawks to score, particularly early in the contest.
Richmond: Nick Vlastuin
Nick Vlastuin is going from strength to strength this season and on Monday night against the Suns Vlastuin was crucial in his role across the backline. Valstuin collected a game-high 10 intercept possessions to go with his 15 touches, seven marks and four rebound 50s. He might not have set the stats sheet alight but each possession was valuable to his teams 21-point win.