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Unsung Heroes — Round 20

With only three rounds to go until finals, highlights the players who played an understated role in their side’s Round 20 victory, whether it be a pivotal moment or a four-quarter performance. 

North Melbourne: Ben Cunnington 

On a night where North Melbourne were celebrating their 150th anniversary, midfielder Ben Cunnington exemplified the Roos’ ‘Shinboner’ spirit. While the All-Australian hopeful didn’t have his biggest numbers for the season, he led the charge for North’s comeback after the Roos’ midfield group were shown up by the Hawks in the first quarter. Cunnington finished the game with 21 touches and eight clearances.

Port Adelaide: Xavier Duursma 

After receiving significant media criticism for his goal celebration in the Power’s loss to Richmond two weeks ago, Xavier Duursma returned to the Marvel Stadium firing. Duursma collected 26 disposals and celebrated his only goal with his trademark bow and arrow, as the Power kept their finals hopes alive with an important victory over Essendon.

GWS Giants: Toby Greene 

The Swans continually challenged the Giants in Sydney Derby XVIII on Saturday but Toby Greene, supported by Brett Kirk medalist Jacob Hopper, stepped up in the midfield. Greene is back to his ball-winning best this season, collecting 34 touches, 10 clearances, seven inside 50s and kicking a goal, as the Giants edged out the Swans by two-points. Named stand-in skipper against Collingwood two weeks ago, Greene continues to show how important he is to the Giants’ tilt at an inaugural premiership.

Fremantle: Sam Switkowski

The young forward may have only had 13 disposals but it was his pressure and contest work that stood out the most. Switkowski laid a game-high nine tackles against the Cats, with a terrific smother on Tom Atkins in the third quarter summing up his desperation. A top performance for a player who has had to fight hard for his spot in the side.

Richmond: Dion Prestia

Dustin Martin was best afield, but Dion Prestia was again outstanding in wet conditions at the MCG. Prestia is having a career-best at Richmond and his ability to be clean, even when the ball was greasy, was on full show on Saturday night. Had seven inside 50s and 31 disposals, acting as a key link up man through the midfield.

Adelaide: Bryce Gibbs

Gibbs has not had the season he might have anticipated, but the veteran midfielder recaptured some of his best form against St Kilda on Saturday night. Ended the game with 29 disposals, six clearances and five tackles in his first senior game since round 15 to show that he is far from a spent force.

Collingwood: Will Hoskin-Elliott

One of Collingwood’s five multiple goal kickers on Sunday with a game-high four majors, Will Hoskin-Elliott recaptured the form that made him a pivotal cog in the Magpies’ 2018 side. After being a swingman against Richmond with injuries to key position players, Hoskin-Elliott returned to the forward line against Gold Coast and proved a challenge for the Suns’ young group. Hoskin-Elliott finished the game with 11 marks and and 17 touches.

West Coast: Liam Ryan 

Without Liam Jones as a pillar in defence, Carlton had their hands full trying to contain the dynamic West Coast forward line. Despite never letting the Eagles off the leash, Liam Ryan was a constant threat all day, proving too much for the young Blues defenders. Ryan kicked an equal game-high four goals and had 16 touches and four marks, including a courageous Mark of the Year contender.

Brisbane: Noah Answerth 

Since making his AFL debut in Rond 6 against the Gold Coast Suns, 19-year-old Noah Answerth has become a mainstay in Brisbane’s side. In a close contest with the Western Bulldogs, Answerth collected 18 disposals, including seven intercept possessions, and took six marks. With finals approaching, Answerth is building nicely and finding his feet in the Lions’ back six.