aflplayers.com.au has discovered the players that played an underrated hand for their side in Round 17. Whether it be a big moment in a close game, or an important role, these are the Unsung Heroes.
Geelong – Tom Atkins
Tom Atkins has changed the complexion of Geelong’s midfield since moving there in Round 9. His uncompromising attack on the ball and on the man has added extra steel and allowed the likes of Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield to spend quality minutes in the middle, rather than carrying the mantle all the time. Atkins was enormous against the reigning premiers, laying nine tackles, amassing nine clearances and kicking one goal from 21 disposals. His ability to fight and scrap around the contest makes him a valuable commodity for the Cats.
Sydney – Joel Amartey
Consistent performances in the VFL saw Joel Amartey earn his chance in the senior side, and in just his third game for the season, he made that opportunity count. The young utility booted two majors in the Swans’ comprehensive victory over the Dogs and provided important ruck relief in the wake of an early injury to Peter Ladhams.
Collingwood – Jamie Elliott
The Magpies near doubled their average count for tackles inside 50 on Saturday afternoon, recording an impressive 21, with their pressure eventually wearing down a valiant Kangaroos outfit. Jamie Elliott contributed four of those tackles, leading the way for his side and finding reward on the scoreboard for his efforts. His two goals were crucial – particularly his second of the day, which kickstarted a five-goal final term onslaught, which was just enough to get the Magpies over the line.
Gold Coast – Charlie Ballard
There were almost too many outstanding moments in the dying minutes of the Suns’ clash with the Tigers, but none would have mattered had Charlie Ballard not prevented Jason Castagna from all but icing the game with six minutes remaining. Castagna was streaming into an open goal but was denied by Ballard, who never gave up on the chase, to smother the ball through for a behind. The heroic act set up the Sun’s comeback, with the result eventually sealed by Noah Anderson’s shot after the siren.
Fremantle – Brennan Cox
With Fremantle key defender Alex Pearce a late omission due to a calf complaint, Brennan Cox was delivered the news that he’d be matching up on St Kilda spearhead, Max King, just 15 minutes before the first bounce. Cox adapted to the challenge beautifully, holding King to two majors and three marks, while accumulating 20 disposals of his own (at 100 per cent disposal efficiency), nine marks and six intercept possessions.
Port Adelaide – Ryan Burton
Keeping Toby Greene on a leash is always an important factor in securing the four points against the Giants, and Ryan Burton did exactly that for the Power. Burton held Greene to a single goal, whilst also generating plenty of attack for Port Adelaide, with 20 disposals, seven marks and 506 metres gained. The young defender has recaptured his best form in recent weeks, playing an important role in the Power’s bid to keep their finals dreams alive.
Essendon – Jake Kelly
Essendon’s Jake Kelly was granted a reprieve after not being named in the Bomber’s Round 17 side, included late in the absence of Mason Redman due to health and safety protocols. Into the side and handed the daunting task of manning Charlie Cameron, Kelly was up to the job. The hard-running defender held Cameron to just 12 touches and one goal, in a selfless role for the Bombers.
Hawthorn – Jai Newcombe
One of the names frequently heard in Rising Star discussions, Jai Newcombe again had influence beyond his years for Hawthorn, in their five-goal win over the Crows. Newcombe racked up 25 disposals and led the way for clearances (eight) and contested possessions (13), putting his head over the ball and body on the line for the Hawks.
Carlton – Zac Fisher
Amongst the tall timber in the Blues’ forward line, Zac Fisher has been quietly contributing as the perfect complement at ground level. Fisher added another two goals in the Blues’ victory, ending the his side’s seven-game losing streak against the Eagles. With Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow receiving plenty of warranted attention, when the ball does hit the deck, Fisher can be deadly, with his two goals coming alongside nine score involvements.