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Unsung heroes — Round 20

With the top eight only slightly closer to being decided, have found the performances that went under the radar in Round 20.

Sydney: Kieren Jack

While the Swans continued their form over the Cats, winning their fifth match from six encounters, their former co-captain’s form has been a highlight in recent weeks. Kieren Jack collected 21 touches and five inside 50s in Friday night’s clash but it’s the way he’s moving which would please John Longmire the most, with his intensity a stark contrast to the start of the year.

GWS: Devon Smith

He didn’t do much in the first half but you can’t question Devon Smith’s endeavour. The Giants’ half-forward only collected the nine disposals but laid 11 tackles while also hitting the scoreboard twice in the third term to help put the result beyond doubt by the final change.

Essendon: James Stewart

While Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti stole the headlines with a fine final quarter performance, James Stewart provided perhaps the most pivotal moment. On a day where the Dons struggled with their efficiency inside 50, Stewart came up big with a contest on centre wing with close to a minute to play. Locked in a duel with Caleb Marchbank, the ball hit the deck after Marchbank’s dropped mark and Stewart was quickest to his feet, before hitting McDonald-Tipungwuti with the perfect kick, resulting in the sealer.

Western Bulldogs: Toby McLean

The young Dogs’ positive form continued against the Lions, as Toby McLean collected 28 disposals and kicked a goal. The 21-year-old had 23 effective disposals and ran all day, even when it appeared the reigning premiers were going to be overrun in the second half.

Collingwood: Matthew Scharenberg

You could take your pick of the Collingwood 22, with the majority having some sort of impact, but the form of Matt Scharenberg has Magpies’ fans excited. The 21-year-old defender collected 27 touches, eight marks and six rebounds on Saturday night as the Magpies comfortably accounted for North Melbourne. It was the fourth consecutive week Scharenberg has collected 20 touches or more.

Fremantle: Luke Ryan

For the second week in a row, Luke Ryan responded in the best possible way after an off-field misdemeanour which saw him suspended. Every time the Gold Coast Suns went forward, Ryan was there, finishing the game with a club record nine intercept marks alongside 28 disposals at an impressive 85.7 percent disposal efficiency. He was a brick wall in defence and appears to be quite the find for the West Australian outfit.

St Kilda: Jack Sinclair

With eight minutes remaining in the first half, West Coast had kicked away to a 22-point lead and looked as though they were going to take the game away from St Kilda’s grasp. What transpired next was pivotal in the Saints’ revival, with a couple of instinctive moments from Jack Sinclair helping them to bridge the gap back to three points by half time. The No. 35 was in the right spot at the right time to cut it back to 16 points, before roving the pack and finding space to draw a clever pass to Nick Riewoldt, who kicked truly. Then, Sinclair played an important hand as Blake Acres kicked St Kilda’s third goal in a row before the main break.

Richmond: Corey Ellis

In a game the Tigers never looked like losing, youngster Corey Ellis showed promising signs. When the game was there to be won in the first term, Ellis bobbed up in the forward 50 and kicked two goals as the Tigers secured a 25-point lead at quarter time. Now into his third season, it was encouraging signs from the left-footed half-back.

Adelaide: Hugh Greenwood

Hugh Greenwood has made quite the impression since making his debut earlier this year – and that form continued to rise in the Crows’ 84-point thumping of Port Adelaide. In the wet and wild conditions at Adelaide Oval, Greenwood finished the clash with 15 disposals, 13 of which were contested. By the end of the game, Greenwood had worked his way into the record books with 13 tackles — equalling Dom Cassisi’s Showdown record.