With most footy accolades begrudgingly coined a ‘midfielder’s award’, The Sporting Landscape’s Player of the Season is shaping to provide an alternative.
No midfielders feature in this week’s top three and just one in the top five, as key forwards, ruckman, and intercept defenders all get recognition.
10. Brodie Grundy (COLL)
Although Grundy’s own coach bought the value of hit-outs under fire, and his point was justified by the game’s outcome, it’s not often you see a ruckman dominate like Grundy did.
There’s a fair argument that Nic Naitanui deserves a spot on this list ahead of Grundy on the basis of influence and result (it is worth keeping in mind the Pies lost to a goal after-the-siren). But Grundy put the Lions inexperienced ruck duo to sword, amassing 54 hit-outs, 21 to advantage, in his 28 disposal display whilst Brisbane’s Tom Fullarton and Connor Ballenden managed a meek four hit-outs between them for the night.
9. Rory Sloane (ADEL)
The Crows skipper was influential in his side’s big win over the Suns, taking last year’s cellar dwellers to 2-1. The 31-year-olds 34 disposals, 19 contested possessions, 11 clearances, and 10 score involvements no doubt warming the hearts of the Crows faithful.
8. Sam Walsh (CARL)
8th spot was a 50-50 toss up between Batman and Robin, aka Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps. Cripps earnt an honourable mention having silenced his critics with a commanding 34 disposal, two goal display.
Walsh played one of the best games of his stellar career so far, with a personal best 37 disposals, on top of 13 contested possessions, nine score involvements, and game-highs for goal assists (3) and inside 50s (8); he was hard to ignore.
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7. Zach Merrett (ESS)
Merrett just pipped fellow Bomber Darcy Parish – who deserves an honourable mention having shifted to an on-ball role in Dylan Shiel’s absence – with 34 disposals at 82% efficiency, seven inside 50s, three goal assists, and 490 metres gained. Merrett looked the goods, and Ben Rutten will be craving his signature more than ever.
6. Taylor Walker (ADEL)
17 goals in the first three rounds for Tex. Who would’ve thought?
Although he equaled last week’s bag of six with 6.3, Walker slides from 2nd to 6th as key forwards continue to shine in their competition-wide resurgence.
5. Harry McKay (CARL)
Speaking of key forwards, Harry McKay was able to turn potential into performance with a career-best showing. The 23-year-old has been building for some time, and having kicked 4.0 against the Pies and Darcy Moore last week, he took it up a notch bagging 7.5.
The only concern of McKay’s game was his accuracy. He had the same amount of scoring shots as Josh Bruce who kicked 10, and that wasn’t including his kicks that went out-of-bounds on the full.
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4. Cam Guthrie (GEEL)
Career-best displays seemed to be a theme of the round, the Cats midfielder racking up an eye-watering 43 disposals with 15 contested possessions and 10 clearances in their Easter Monday win over Hawthorn.
3. Liam Jones (CARL)
McKay may have stolen the limelight, but Jones was arguably more central in the Blues commanding victory over Freo. The intercepting machine picked off the Docker’s attacks at will, totaling a whopping 16 intercept possessions from 20 disposals, as well as three contested marks and 605 metres gained.
2. Max Gawn (MELB)
Gawn wasn’t just strong in the ruck but around the ground, coupling his 28 hit-outs (13 to advantage) with 2.2, 24 disposals, and game-highs in score involvements (9), and contested marks (5). Lead from the front and proved an aerial threat.
1. Josh Bruce (WB)
Key forwards are back. Spearheaded the Bulldogs’ Good Friday annihilation of North Melbourne with 10.2. Was one of the most criticised players of last season, but looked as fit and as potent as he has in a Dogs jumper. The real test will be to back it up against stronger opposition.
Player of the Season
An accumulative award based on each round’s Player Rankings, with players being awarded points correlating with their ranking. 10 points for 1st, 9 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd and so on, all the way through to 1 for 10th.