Footy’s long-awaited return didn’t disappoint, and standout performances went hand-in-hand with thrilling matches across the opening round.
Following their big win over North Melbourne, Port Adelaide were the only team to have multiple players feature in the round’s top-ten, whilst some big premiership contenders were left unrepresented.
10. Jack Bowes (GCS)
A name few would be expecting to see on the list, but the 23-year-old sneaks in due to his astounding 100% efficiency rate from 30 disposals – 28 of which were kicks – against West Coast.
9. Matthew Flynn (GWS)
Could be another surprise selection, but the sixth-year debutant did a number on St Kilda debutant Paul Hunter. The only ruckman to feature on the list, it was a marginal call between him and Tom Hickey; but Flynn’s 34 hit-outs, 18 disposals, five clearances and game-high three contested marks in undesirable conditions prevailed.
8. Orazio Fantasia (PA)
It would’ve pained Essendon fans to see the small forward light up his Port Adelaide debut, kicking four goals from 14 disposals. It could’ve been a big bag for Fantasia had his accuracy improved, with four behinds accompanying his majors.
7. Steven May (MELB)
The Demons defensive pillar was the pick of the round’s key backmen with eight marks, five of those intercepts, and four spoils. Also tallied a notable 24 disposals and 578 metres gained.
6. Travis Boak (PA)
Although a corkie kept him out of action for most of the last quarter, Boak was pivotal in Port’s comfortable win over the Kangaroos. His statline included 27 disposals, 13 contested possessions, 12 score involvements, two goals, and seven clearances. All from just 71% time on ground.
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5. Callum Mills (SYD)
Mills starred in the Swans shock upset over Brisbane having been best afield for disposals (29) – at 86% efficiency – and uncontested possessions (21). Recorded three clearances, two score assists, and two goals as John Longmire reaped the rewards of the 23-year-old’s midfield switch.
4. Bailey Smith (WB)
The fan favourite’s star only continues to rise, with the third-year Bulldog racking up 36 disposals, taking eight marks, laying three tackles, and kicking two goals in a dominant display against the Pies.
3. Tom Mitchell (HAW)
Despite a limited pre-season the Hawks ball-winner was pivotal in their emphatic come-from-behind win over the Bombers. With 39 disposals, 14 contested possessions, nine score involvements, and five tackles; the Brownlow Medalist looked as good as he has since suffering a broken leg.
2. Taylor Walker (ADEL)
The Former Crows captain was a 30-year-old going on 25 in a clinical display that saw him slot 5.2 with seven marks from 18 disposals. Tex was crucial in Adelaide’s monumental upset over Geelong and can count himself unlucky to miss the number one spot.
1. Dustin Martin (RICH)
What a player. He finished 2020 with a Norm Smith Medal and began 2021 with another clear best-on-ground showing. Coach Damien Hardwick described Martin’s pre-season as “incredible”, and it was easy to see why. With the game reverting back to 20-minute quarters in 2021, it appears Dusty – already playing in his own stratosphere – could rise further above the pack. With 31 disposals, 619 metres gained, and two goals from 12 score involvements; Martin was influential when fatigue set in late in quarters, and played a big role in Richmond staving off a valiant Blues side.