Though footy is a team sport, every club has it's important individuals. The players who make the biggest impact on their own team. Come Finals, those players become even more crucial.

They are the barometers, the players who who'll be among the first on the team sheet. To be clear, these are not necessarily the guys who consistently dominate. They may not be the ones who put up big numbers. They may not be the biggest name. But then again, they might be.

These are the guys who most crucial to getting the win.

With this year's Finals upon us, these candidates from each club who will shape how September ends.


Hugh McCluggage

Despite what Rhys Mathieson reckons, he's not the barometer for this club. There's a few candidates at the Lions, however this year one has stood out.

Hugh McCluggage had a breakout season last year, elevating himself to borderline elite status. This season, with injury troubles limiting Brownlow medalist Lachie Neale, McCluggage has gone up another level.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Hugh McCluggage of the Lions celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 AFL round 10 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Brisbane Lions at Optus Stadium on May 26, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Not only is McCluggage the best long kick in the team (9.4% better than the league average according to Champion Data), but he's perhaps their most consistent player.

He's been named in their best 10 times out of 15 wins this season, with five of those being considered best on ground. He's averaging 25 disposals, 3.5 clearances and 4.5 inside 50's a match too.


Jake Stringer

This one may seem obvious but it's hard to ignore. Stringer was one of the most influential players in the competition after the bye.

His body of work suggests that when he fires, the Dons will win. This isn't just an eye test either. While it's easy to see that when Stringer is on, the entire team seems to lift, the numbers back it up as well.

In seven of their 11 wins this season, Stringer has hit the scoreboard with a goal and had more than three clearances. A closer look shows that when he's on, he's hard to stop.

Stringer has kicked multiple goals and had five or more clearances on five occasions when the Bombers won. The Dons' livewire will have a huge say on how deep the Bombers go in September.


Tom Hawkins

When you've won as many games as Geelong have this season, it's tough to pick just one player. The entire group has been a credit to itself.

However, it's hard to go past Hawkins. With Tom Stewart now out for the season, the Cats will need to rely on scoring heavily to get the job done this September.

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: Tom Hawkins of the Cats marks the ball during the round 21 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at GMHBA Stadium on August 10, 2019 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

This season, in 68% of Geelong wins, Hawkins has kicked two or more goals, highlighting his importance. It's not just the goals, but his presence, allowing the likes of Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan some freedom.

With the Cats well placed this year, the big Tomahawk looms as their most crucial player.

Greater Western Sydney 

Shane Mumford

The Giants are an interesting one, consensus would have Toby Greene as their most important player. However, it's hard to refute the impact Mumford has on this team.

This season he played in eight of their 11 wins, while also featuring in their draw against North Melbourne. The veteran ruck has only played 12 games this season, so in those 12 games, they've picked up premiership points 75% of the time.

In seven wins he had 20 or more hit-outs, while he had four or more tackles in six of those games as well. The big man is absolutely vital to the Giants' September campaign and if he stays fit, who knows how much damage they could do.


Steven May

After such a strong season, it's tough to pinpoint any individuals for the Dees. With that in mind, the focus is shifted to structure. Arguably, no player is as crucial to the Demons as Steven May.

The All-Australian full-back is capable of both shutting down opponents, and alongside colleague Jake Lever, intercepting opposition passes inside 50.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 30: Steven May of the Demons celebrates kicking a goal during the round 15 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Melbourne Demons at The Gabba on June 30, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

In 13 of the Demons' wins this season he's taken four or more marks. While the flip side of that is in their four losses, the opposition's forwards have gotten on top of the Melbourne backline.

May is the key cog in that backline, with both his leadership and form extremely influential to their chances of winning. He'll be keen to impact the finals for his club after such a long wait for September action.

Port Adelaide

Aliir Aliir

After such a consistently good season with few losses, it's hard to pick Port's key player. There are plenty of candidates but perhaps none as important to their structure as Aliir Aliir.

As highlighted by being awarded All-Australian honours, Aliir has proven crucial to Port's chances of winning. The key piece in their defense, he may prove to be the final ingredient to premiership success.

The numbers tell an interesting story, in all of Port's losses this season, at least one opposition forward has kicked three or more goals. If Port are to win it, they'll need the big man down back to be on his game.


Lance Franklin

There's no way around it, Sydney's finals hopes start and end with Buddy. The best kick under pressure (+29.8%) at the club and the best overall kicking efficiency (+12%), he is more than just a talisman.

His goals-to-win ratio is extremely interesting. In 15 wins he has kicked two or more goals ten times. In their three close losses this season, he kicked 15 goals and was named as the Swans' best each time.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 18: Lance Franklin of the Swans runs with the ball during the round 22 AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Sydney Swans at Spotless Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Simply, he keeps them in tight games. His presence and swagger are crucial to a young group who are dreaming of glory.

Western Bulldogs

Aaron Naughton

While it's tempting to go for Marcus Bontempelli here, the loss of Josh Bruce for the year makes Naughton vital. As the main target going forward, he will be crucial if they're a chance to repeat the heroics of 2016.

In ten of their wins this season, he took six or more marks, underlying his importance to their entire set up. While he's kicked two or more goals in 11 wins as well.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 07: Aaron Naughton of the Bulldogs celebrates a goal during the 2019 AFL round 03 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Gold Coast Suns at Marvel Stadium on April 07, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

However, the back half of the year has proven to be tougher for him, registering more than one goal just once since Round 15. How Naughton deals with the added pressure of being the focal point in attack shapes as season defining for the Doggies.

The old saying that form is temporary and class is permanent springs to mind here. The Bombers' backline will need to be alert this weekend.