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 18 Unsung Heroes.
West Coast: Shannon Hurn
The former captain was dependable as the day was long in a tough slog against North Melbourne on the Gold Coast on Thursday night, gathering 23 disposals, nine intercept possessions and nine rebound 50s. In greasy conditions, the West Coast defenders played their role and Hurn was as solid as they come. He again shapes as the glue that holds the Eagles’ backline together come finals time.
St Kilda: Dan Hannebery
Questions were raised pre-game about the Saints’ decision to select Dan Hannebery following a 13-game stint on the sidelines following a hamstring injury. But it was a risk that paid off for the Saints. Although he started slowly, Hannebery proved how pivotal he is to the Saints’ engine room with his on-field leadership an added bonus ahead of the side’s first finals appearance since 2011. Hannebery finished the game against the Giants with 13 touches, four score involvements and four inside 50s.
Melbourne: Mitch Brown
It was fitting that playing against his former side, Melbourne recruit Mitch Brown played his best game in the blue and red. The former Bomber, who was delisted at the end of the 2019 season, collected 20 touches, an equal game-high 13 marks and six score involvements. While he didn’t convert his two shots on goal, the 30-year-old may have done enough to earn himself one more years at the Dees.
Richmond: Jack Graham
It’s been an indifferent season for the hard-at-it Richmond midfielder, but against the Crows Jack Graham continued his resurgence leading into finals. While Graham’s disposal efficiency could do with some work – he had 21 touches at 52 per cent – his pressure (31 pressure acts, eight tackles) and ability to impact the scoreboard (five score involvements) will be critical for the Tigers ahead of their fourth consecutive finals series.
Brisbane: Brandon Starcevich
He’s become a mainstay in Brisbane’s defense this year and on Saturday night against Carlton, Starcevich continued to impress. The 21-year-old had 16 disposals, took five marks and three inside 50s, but it was his nine intercept possessions that were most critical. While Starcevich’s disposal efficiency was slightly down as a result of the poor weather, his ability to apply pressure and create turnovers would have left Lions fans impressed ahead of a second consecutive finals series.
Hawthorn: Ben Stratton
It was one of the feel good moments of the round and a fitting way for Hawthorn captain Ben Stratton to finish his career at the elite level. After spending his 202-game career in defence, Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson swung Stratton to full-forward for the final five minutes of the match and the move gave the opportunity for Stratton to finally hit the scoreboard. Stratton didn’t waste any opportunities, quickly kicking a goal to double his career tally. Mobbed by teammates, it was a fitting finish to a great career in the brown and gold.
Geelong: Mark Blicavs
After trailing for much of the game, Geelong hit the front late in the final term and looked to have the game, and a top-four spot, sewn up. But young Swan Justin McInerney kicked a brilliant running goal with just 30 seconds remaining to give the Swans hope. After winning a centre clearance and pumping it into the forward line, the Swans had one final chance off the boot of James Rowbottom to tie the game. But Blicavs’ outstanding outstretched smother prevented that from happening and ensured the Cats’ double chance in the finals.
Mark Blicavs saved Geelong's double chance with this smother 👏 pic.twitter.com/E4fzE7vwVj
— 7AFL (@7AFL) September 20, 2020
Western Bulldogs: Tom Liberatore
Liberatore sometimes doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a player he is. While the limelight inevitably extends to Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter, Liberatore’s role for the Bulldogs is vital to the team’s success. Liberatore delivered with 25 disposals (15 contested), seven clearances and 41 pressure acts against Fremantle, leading the Bulldogs to a well-deserved finals berth.
Port Adelaide: Brad Ebert
The Port Adelaide veteran has been in and out of the side this season but on Monday night against the Pies, Ebert showed why he’s been such an integral part of the Power for over 250 games. With spearhead Charlie Dixon kept to just one goal, Ebert, along with his fellow forwards, made sure to impact the contest and make it as difficult for Collingwood’s defenders as they could. Ebert finished the game with two goals from his 16 touches, along with five score involvements and three marks.