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 14 Unsung Heroes.
Essendon: Joe Daniher
There has been an intense focus on Daniher after his trade request to Sydney last year went unmet and the subsequent groin and calf injuries that have prevented him from getting out on the field. But he reminded the entire football world of his supreme talent against the Hawks, shaking off a slow start to boot a match high three goals (and three behinds) and take 10 marks (three contested) in an amazing come-from-behind win against the arch rival.
Richmond: Jack Graham
The hard-at-it midfielder isn’t always as flashy as some of his more vaunted teammates, but his aptitude to apply pressure to the opposition would please coach Damien Hardwick no end. In a game full of pressure, Graham’s 37 pressure acts ranked as easily the best on the ground with Dustin Martin’s 24 the next best. Graham’s effort was clear for all to see as he played a pivotal role in downing the Eagles, gathering 16 disposals (eight contested) and kicking his first goal for the season.
Geelong: Tom Stewart
The two-time All Australian defender was absolutely crucial to Geelong’s win against the Western Bulldogs on Friday night. At key stages in the game, it was Stewart who was keeping his composure in a tight situation and his ability to fight and scrap for the footy when it was in dispute underlined just how important he is to the finals-bound side. Stewart finished with 22 disposals at 95 per cent disposal efficiency to underline his worth.
Port Adelaide: Darcy Byrne-Jones
Playing in his 100th match, Byrne-Jones was as dependable as ever across half-back. Renowned for his toughness, the defender consistently puts his head in the hole to win the footy and his defensive instincts are strong, time and again thwarting opposition from transitioning the ball effectively. He also provides important rebound, gathering 17 disposals (nine contested) against the Swans.
GWS Giants: Matt de Boer
Giants stopper Matt de Boer was given the hard task of manning dual Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe in their must-win game on Saturday. With finals on the line for the Giants, de Boer was off to a flying start, ensuring Fyfe well held in the first term. Fyfe finished the day with just 11 touches, while de Boer secured 14 of his own at 93 per cent efficiency and laid five tackles.
Melbourne: Trent Rivers
It was a must win clash for the Demons to keep their finals hopes alive and they brought the pressure to Alice Springs. Fifth-gamer Trent Rivers was a shining light in defence during the tight contest, with the 19-year-old amassing 16 disposals and taking six marks as he found his feet in Melbourne’s back six.
Collingwood: Mason Cox
In his second game back since returning to the side following a stint on the sidelines, Mason Cox showed the impact he can have on Collingwood’s forward-line. The Magpies looked more dynamic against Carlton with Cox supported by Mihocek, a firing Josh Thomas and the return of Jaidyn Stephenson. Cox had eight touches and kicked two goals, but it was his work creating a contest and bringing the ball to ground for the Magpies small forwards that made him imposing.
Gold Coast: Jarrod Witts
It was always going to be a tight ruck contest between Suns co-captain Jarrod Witts and in-form North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein. Coming up against this year’s potential All Australian ruckman, Witts battled willfully and clinched the win. Witts had 25 hit-outs to Goldstein’s 21 but was influential around the ground with 16 touches, eight score involvements and four clearances.
Byes: Brisbane and Adelaide