Fans and pundits alike enjoyed another stellar week of footy, and Aflplayers.com.au have found those who played an underrated hand in Round 15.
Sydney: Nic Newman
Nic Newman was continually an outlet for his side coming out of defence in their 35-point win over Melbourne. The left-footer gathered 28 touches, 17 of which were uncontested, eight marks and got away from his Demon opponent too often on a cold Melbourne night.
West Coast: Nathan Vardy
There wouldn’t have been a footy fan, outside of the Western Bulldogs’, who didn’t enjoy Nathan Vardy’s exploits on Saturday. He only touched the footy 12 times but the former injury-riddled Cat kicked a goal and took two vital contested marks in the final three minutes of the match to almost single-handedly send the result the Eagles way.
Adelaide: Rory Laird
Rory laird is beginning to dominate this segment as the competition’s true unsung hero. Continually flies under the radar and was at it again in Round 15, collecting 25 touches and nine rebounds as one of the best half-backs in the game. Laird is well and truly on his way to his maiden All-Australian selection.
Gold Coast: Ben Ainsworth
Prior to being drafted last year, recruiters marveled at Ben Ainsworth’s ability to hit the scoreboard quickly and flick the switch at any moment and that is exactly what he produced on Saturday afternoon. The former Gippsland Power captain produced a scintillating first half which included three goals to help the Suns to a 33-point lead at the main break. Ainsworth made the most of his opportunities inside 50, finishing the game with four goals and a goal assist.
Geelong: Cam Guthrie
In a game where so many moments affected the outcome, Cam Guthrie’s smother late in the contest proved to be one of the vital moments. The Geelong speedster’s timely smother on Matt de Boer as the Giants midfielder was deep in defence led to Heath Shaw’s deliberate out of bounds and eventually Tom Hawkins’ kick after the siren.
Richmond: Toby Nankervis
It’s hard to find a ruckman with more exquisite foot skills than Toby Nankervis. While he was convincingly beaten by Paddy Ryder at stoppages, it was around the ground where the Tigers’ big man dominated. 21 disposals, six clearances and six rebounds, the 22-year-old was everywhere as Richmond pulled off one of their best wins for the year.
Brisbane: Alex Witherden
In his second game of AFL, Alex Witherden produced a game of an established 100-game veteran. The 18-year-old provided plenty of poise down back for the Lions, collecting 29 disposals at 72.4 per cent disposal efficiency. Witherden looked a step ahead of his Essendon opponents making first-class decisions to help his side break the game open from the back half. He looks set for a long stint in a Lions back six.
Hawthorn: Blake Hardwick
While young star Ryan Burton recieves the majority of the accolades, another young Hawk is proving to be an important factor for the rebuilding side. Blake Hardwick took care of Eddie Betts last week and was equally important on Jamie Elliott in Round 15 — keeping the enigmatic Collingwood forward to 10 touches and a goal.
St Kilda: Jack Steele
After getting a recall to the senior team, laying 17 tackles, and preventing what appeared to be a certain goal late in the third quarter with a stirring rundown, it has to be Jack Steele, doesn’t it? Most St Kilda fans have voiced their displeasure at the fact the 21-year-old was dropped from the senior side, but he ensured he’ll remain in the Saints’ best 22 for the foreseeable future.