With Round 3 in the books, here are some of the standout performers in what was an intriguing round of footy.
The Bulldogs returned to form with a strong 24-point win over rivals GWS on Friday night, with physicality being the main theme throughout. While it was hard to single out a player in a strong team performance, special mention has to be made to Libba.
In his first game since last August, Liberatore brought a physical presence that was lacking in the Dogs’ two previous lackluster performances with hard-ball gets, pressure acts and tackles early in the contest. It helped the club return to the pressure football that has proved so successful for them in the past.
With the Dogs not out of the woods yet at 1-2, ‘Libba’ must keep these performances up if they can match their pre-season expectations.
The young North mid continued his exceptional start to the year despite North’s tough loss to Sydney on Saturday. Simpkin led the way for a North midfield that was without star Ben Cunnington, racking up 26 disposals, eight clearances and a goal.
The 22-year-old looks set to become one of the most damaging players in the league with a strong all-around game with grunt and a key eye for goal.
With Sydney facing a weakened forward line with Sam Reid and Buddy Franklin both ruled out, Isaac Heeney relished in the role of no.1 forward with 18 disposals and a goal in the Swans’ 11-point win over North Melbourne.
While not damaging the scoreboard with force, Heeney drew the focus of the North defence and allowed teammates Tom Papley, Nick Blakey and Will Hayward to have a greater impact on the contest, which is seen in Heeney’s game-high 7 score involvements.
In a season where key forwards have lacked impact so far, a mid-sized forward like Heeney could continue to be a match-winner for the Swans.
One of the standouts so far has been veteran Travis Boak, who is relishing having continued midfield minutes. He notched a game-high 26 disposals and kicked a goal in the Power’s 44-point win over Fremantle.
With Port looking to continue to push for premiership contention, a late career renaissance from Boak will be crucial to those hopes.
Few mids are able to match Neale’s impact across the ground and that was never more evident than on Saturday night.
With Lions captain Dayne Zorko a late withdrawal in the clash, Lachie Neale led the way for the Lions midfield with a game-high 32 possessions, 15 contested and two goals in a 30-point win over West Coast.
This talk was proven to be misguided as Grundy dominated the ruck contests with 30 hitouts as well as 20 possessions to help lead Collingwood’s midfield to win the clearance battle 32 to 21.
With the Pies undefeated and looking like early premiership favourites, Grundy’s continued ruck dominance could be the difference come finals time.
Cripps dominated early as the Blues accelerated to a 42-point lead. And despite almost letting the Cats hit the lead in the dying minutes, Carlton held on and Cripps finished with 24 disposals and 2 goals.
These stats may not jump out on paper but 17 of his possessions were contested and Cripps also had 7 score involvements as Geelong were unable to contain him in close contests.
What else can be said for this wonderkid? He’s had arguably the best three-game start to an AFL career ever. Rowell received another BOG for his 20 possession, two-goal performance in the Suns’ blistering 53-point win over Adelaide on Sunday.
Rowell continues to show poise beyond his year’s with his 10 tackles showing a tenacity that most veterans can’t match.
With performances like this from Rowell and fellow youngsters Noah Anderson and Ben King finding form, is it too early to talk about finals in the sunshine state?
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Only one week after Alastair Clarkson rated his midfield ‘fourth-rate’ after a drubbing by Geelong, the returning Jaeger O’Meara led the Hawks in a midfield masterclass in the first half of their 32-point win over Richmond.
In the first half alone, O’Meara gathered 16 disposals, with seven contested at a stunning 100 per cent efficiency as the Hawks effectively iced the game by the main break with a 32-point lead.
O’Meara finished the game with 23 disposals and a goal with 91.3 per cent efficiency as Hawthorn racked up their second win of the year over last year’s top four teams.
Expect many more wins like that from Hawthorn if O’Meara continues to lead the way.
Much was made of the off-season acquisition of Eddie Betts for Carlton, with some praising the move and others saying the veteran’s best days were well behind him.
After a disappointing start to the season, Betts silenced the critics with a match-winning performance for the Blues. Despite only gathering 12 disposals, Betts kicked two goals and had seven scoring involvements from those disposals, including three in the third term alone.
Betts was instrumental in bringing others into the game, including embattled forwards Levi Casboult and Mitch McGovern. And when things got tight in the dying moments, Betts produced a match-saving tackle on Jack Henry.
If Betts continues to bring that presence throughout the season, the Blues will continue to shock teams like they did to Geelong on Saturday night.