aflplayers.com.au has discovered the players that played an underrated hand for their side in round 21. Whether it be a big moment in a close game, or an important role, these are the Unsung Heroes.
GWS Giants – Sam Taylor
Taylor was simply outstanding against Geelong, turning in one of the best defensive performances of a player this season. Opposed to reigning Coleman medallist, Tom Hawkins, Taylor collected 21 disposals, took 12 marks and finished with 17 intercepts to be the best player on the ground and play a pivotal role in keeping the Giants’ season alive. His ability to position himself in the right spot time and again emphasised why he is one of the best young defenders in the competition.
Gold Coast – Brayden Fiorini
The ball-winning midfielder found it tough to break into Gold Coast’s side at the start of the season, but has shown over the course of the last six weeks that he belongs at AFL level. Fiorini’s work ethic is a hallmark of his game and he was working over time against the Blues, finishing with 23 disposals and 11 tackles. Fiorini also had six score involvements, one shy of overall leader Touk Miller.
Richmond – Sydney Stack
Since returning to Richmond’s line-up in Round 17 following a lengthy suspension and initially struggling to break into the side, Sydney Stack has looked right at home. In a much-needed victory for the Tigers, Stack had 22 touches, took nine marks and delivered the ball inside 50 five times. The 21-year-old is starting to recapture some of the form that saw him become an important part of Richmond’s 2019 side.
Port Adelaide – Aliir Aliir
Aliir continues to go from strength to strength, this time playing a critical role in the Power’s four-point Showdown win over Adelaide. The Port defender won his first Showdown medal and was sensational against the Crows, finishing with 21 disposals, 11 marks and 16 intercepts. Port Adelaide’s ability to recruit a player of his Aliir’s calibre in last year’s trade period from Sydney deserves a high level of praise.
St Kilda – Jack Higgins
It’s unusual to have one of the best players on the field named in the Unsung Heroes but after struggling in front of goal the last time the Saints and Swans faced off in Round 12, it seemed fitting for Higgins to be recognised for his significant turn of form. Higgins was one of the better players on the ground with 16 disposals, an equal career-high four goals and five score involvements. The 29-point victory against the top-four fancied Swans kept the finals door ajar for the Saints.
Essendon – Tom Cutler
Cutler has been given an extended run in Essendon’s side in the last six weeks and the former Lion was a key contributor in the Bombers’ upset win over the Western Bulldogs on Sunday. Cutler finished with a season-high 22 disposals and led all players on the field for metres gained (636m). Cutler’s ability to repeat run is one of his key attributes and utilising that trait to his advantage was clear for all to see with how it translated into his contested work against the Dogs.
Hawthorn – Dylan Moore
Unsure where his career trajectory lay ahead of the 2021 season, Dylan Moore has come on in leaps and bounds in recent weeks. The 22-year-olds form has steadily improved and he’s become a dynamic player in the Hawks’ offensive half. Against the Pies, and with a wooden spoon on the line, Moore helped his side to victory with 20 touches, 11 score involvements and kicked two goals of his own.
Brisbane Lions – Nakia Cockatoo
After a wretched run with injury, it was inspiring to see Cockatoo find some spark in his second game back for the Lions. Prior to Round 20, Cockatoo had not played AFL since early 2018 and it was clear to see what being back on the field meant to the 24-year-old. Whilst he didn’t set the stats sheet alight, Cockatoo did manage eight touches, laid six tackles and was involved in five scores. Most pleasingly, it was his two goals that put a smile on the faces of fans and his teammates as they flocked to him to celebrate.
Melbourne – Alex Neal-Bullen
In a wild game on Monday night, Neal-Bullen was electric (see what we did there) for the Demons. Playing in his 100th game, the half-forward booted two goals, collected 19 disposals and laid eight tackles in a contested slog in the west. Neal-Bullen continues to be a consistent contributor for Melbourne, with eight score involvements, one shy of team leader Christian Petracca, emphasising his importance.