It was close finishes and upsets galore over the Easter round. aflplayers.com.au discovered the players that played an underrated hand for their side. Whether it be a big moment in a close game, or an important role, these are the Unsung Heroes.
Brisbane – Hugh McCluggage
As the Lions were staring down the barrel of a 0-3 start to the season, midfielder Hugh McCluggage produced a monumental final quarter effort to keep them in the contest. The 23-year-old had 11 touches and three rebound 50s, asserting his dominance as one of the best young wingmen in the competition. McCluggage finished the game with 28 touches, eight marks and 552 metres gained – the third most of the Lions’ squad.
Western Bulldogs – Bailey Dale
It’s mighty difficult to nominate an ‘Unsung Hero’ in a 128-point thrashing, however Bulldogs defender Bailey Dale is very understated in his role for the quality of football he is producing. Dale was again terrific against North Melbourne, gathering 23 disposals at 72.7 per cent efficiency. Dale has become a key part of the Bulldogs’ defensive group after spending time forward and on the wing in previous years.
Adelaide – Reilly O’Brien
After a quiet start to the season following his best-and-fairest winning 2020 campaign, Reilly O’Brien returned to his ruck dominance against the Suns on Friday night. When Gold Coast ruckman Jarrod Witts was subbed out of the game with injury, O’Brien took charge and was influential in the Crows’ comeback. He finished the game with 34 hit-outs and 19 disposals but most importantly was critical in the Crows securing their second win of the season.
Sydney – Sam Wicks
Not too many people would have thought Sydney could have caused a major upset against last year’s premiers. And not too many would have suspected Sam Wicks to be one of the most damaging players on the ground. But the Swans youngster deserves a heap of credit for his 21 disposal, three goal game, which also included 13 marks as he continually found space on the wide expanses of the MCG.
Essendon – Aaron Francis
Much has been made of Essendon’s poor start to the season, but on Saturday afternoon against the Saints, the Bombers burst out of the blocks. With injuries to key defensive posts Michael Hurley and Patrick Ambrose and the need to swing Cale Hooker forward, Aaron Francis was pivotal in his side’s success. Francis kept St Kilda young gun Max King – who stands 9cm taller – to just one goal from eight touches while gathering 20 of his own at a staggering 100 per cent efficiency to go with 10 marks, eight rebound 50s and four tackles.
West Coast – Luke Shuey
It was a frustrating end to the night for the West Coast captain when he injured his hamstring in the final quarter against Port Adelaide, but prior to that he demonstrated exactly why he’s such an important player in West Coast’s finals and premiership hopes. Shuey gathered 26 disposals, laid six tackles and collected seven clearances to be one of his side’s best players in a rout of Port Adelaide.
Carlton – Liam Jones
With so many moments of individual and team brilliance, it was hard to narrow down just one standout performance from Carlton’s dominant victory over the Dockers. An impressive start from defender Liam Jones set the tone for the day with his sheer desperation at every contest on display. Jones had 20 touches, a game-high 15 intercepts – seven more than the next best – and nine marks in what was one of Carlton’s best performances in years.
Melbourne – Ed Langdon
It’s Melbourne’s best start to a season since 2005 and midfielder Ed Langdon has been a significant part of the Dees’ success. Against a depleted Giants outfit, Langdon 27 touches (eight intercepts), a team-high 10 inside 50s, an equal team-high nine marks and 903 metres gained – 303 more than the next best and 16th on all-time records. If Langdon can continue his current run of form, he’ll be an important cog in Melbourne’s quest for a return to finals.
Geelong – Jack Henry
With Geelong needing another marking target forward of centre to assist Tom Hawkins, Henry was swung forward to provide a contest and in the end he was the ‘match winner’. The usual defender booted two goals, and set up the game’s defining goal after intercepting an attempted Hawthorn pass into the middle and carrying the ball the length of the field to set up a brilliant Jordan Clark goal.