Eight of the best: Stand-out individual performances in 2017

Sam Staunton Roar Rookie

By , Sam Staunton is a Roar Rookie

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    While many of us are heavily engrossed in the AFL finals after an intriguing opening week, I want to reflect on some of the home-and-away season’s most impressive individual displays.

    In no particular order (you can be the judge of that), here are eight examples of AFL superstars that left nothing in the tank and did everything they could for their teams in season 2017.

    Hold your head high, Dayne
    Round 16: Dayne Zorko versus Geelong Cats
    It was a bleak night for the Brisbane Lions, who were overrun by a formidable Geelong outfit at the Gabba by 85 points. The Lions battled hard in the first quarter, but couldn’t sustain their efforts as the Cats mauled them in a dominant second quarter.

    Contrasting with an impressive team effort by Geelong, it was one warrior who stood out and never put his head down for the Brisbane Lions. Dayne Zorko soldiered through the entire contest, gathering a team-high 36 disposals, 12 tackles, and was matched only by Tom Hawkins on the scoreboard with four goals.

    His highlight reel was topped in the first quarter with a stunning 60-metre bomb, on the run, that sailed through the big sticks. It was a debilitating loss for the Lions who were coming off a feel-good win, but Zorko should cop no blame for the smashing.

    Dayne Zorko of the Brisbane Lions AFL

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    No left leg? No worries
    Round 17: Patrick Dangerfield versus Hawthorn
    The 2016 Brownlow Medallist’s name could easily feature in here multiple times, but one performance, in particular, is the standout. In a blockbuster game against an in-form Hawthorn at the MCG, the Geelong Cats were seemingly dealt a huge blow in the opening quarter.

    Patrick Dangerfield came off second best in a heavy collision with Hawthorn utility Jarryd Roughead, and appeared a long shot to play out the game after writhing in pain with an injured foot. However, the Geelong superstar bravely returned to the field shortly after, and as a result of his injury, was thrown inside 50 as a deep forward.

    Put simply, Hawthorn had no answers; they tried everything they could to stop Dangerfield, but not even the legendary Luke Hodge could prevent the onslaught. Stunning leaps and cutting leads helped Dangerfield produce a five-goal haul, taking 12 marks and gathering 20 disposals in the process.

    Hawthorn failed to snatch the game in the last 30 seconds with an errant Isaac Smith shot on goal sailing right, bringing back haunting memories from last year’s finals series. But in the end, Dangerfield’s brilliance brought the Cats home in one of the games of the season.

    Bouncing back with a vengeance
    Round 15: Michael Walters versus St Kilda
    The Dockers came agonisingly close to a miraculous win against Geelong in Round 14, with Michael Walters failing to capitalise on a goal attempt in the dying seconds that would’ve sealed the victory. Walters was distraught following the miss, but more than redeemed himself the following week.

    Fremantle went into battle against St Kilda looking to bounce back from the heartbreak of the previous week, and Walters looking to make amends. He did just that, with a scintillating six-goal, 32-possession performance – 18 of his touches being contested.

    Attempting to quell his influence, St Kilda assigned Koby Stevens to Walters in a crunch last quarter, but he was unable to negate the lively midfielder-forward, who produced two clutch goals late in the game. Had the Dockers held on and prevailed, it would’ve undoubtedly been on the back of Walters’ career-best outing.

    Michael Walters Fremantle Dockers AFL 2014

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    A contentious half-century
    Round 9: Tom Mitchell versus Collingwood
    Tom Mitchell’s 50-disposal display occurred against Collingwood in Round 9, when Hawthorn was eventually overrun by 18 points despite a convincing early lead. He managed to collect 22 kicks and 28 handballs, breaking a club record for the most touches in a game.

    This outing from Mitchell is certainly a controversial inclusion, given it divided the football community. In one camp, critics slammed Mitchell, claiming that racking up 50 disposals is meaningless if it has no significant impact on the game. On the other side of the debate, admirers praised Mitchell for his efforts, arguing that any player who can win the ball 50 times is special.

    What bodes well for Mitchell is that he committed a magnificent 32 pressure acts, and while not being an elite metres-gained player, he is elite in assisted metres gained.

    Since parting ways with Sydney, Mitchell has brought his game to a new level for Hawthorn in 2017, becoming a more damaging midfielder rather than just an accumulator. Whichever camp you sit in, this game was undeniably a standout in a fine season for the boom recruit.

    Glorious night out on the Gold Coast
    Round 13: Bryce Gibbs versus Gold Coast
    Carlton Blues head coach Brendon Bolton has an unspoken rule. He doesn’t like condoning an individual player’s performance when speaking about the game, a rule that he broke for this performance from Bryce Gibbs, calling it a “huge” display. Carlton survived a late charge from Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium to hold on and prevail by ten points, and they can thank the efforts of Gibbs for the result.

    The heroic midfielder put on an extraordinary display, collecting 43 disposals – 31 of which were kicks – and keeping the pressure high with ten tackles. Most importantly, Gibbs iced two goals in the fourth quarter when the heat was on, including a go-ahead major from 40 metres out.

    When Gold Coast were starting to look threating in the final period, it was Gibbs’ cool head that led the Blues to victory.

    Vintage Gary at his best
    Round 6: Gary Ablett versus North Melbourne
    It’s been a difficult year for Gazza, having to deal with the constant speculation about his future, and being riddled with niggling hamstring injuries. Subsequently, we only got to witness the superstar 14 times, yet he still managed to claim Gold Coast’s best and fairest award.

    The little master was at his Brownlow-winning best in Round 6 against the Kangaroos and did all but win the game for the Suns who fell short by 13 points. His stat sheet featured a blistering 45 disposals, nine tackles, ten inside 50s and four goal assists, but most impressively, a career-high 18 clearances.

    Ablett had the ball on string, and his masterful display was undeniably his best for the season.

    Suns player Gary Ablett takes on Kangaroos

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Buddy’s brilliant ten ambushes Kennedy
    Round 23: Lance Franklin versus Carlton
    Who doesn’t love a bit of Buddy magic? Even Hawthorn fans couldn’t help but admire their former hero, who put on a ten-goal masterclass and decimated the lifeless Blues.

    Franklin began the game strongly, booting three impressive first-half goals, and the rest was history as the superstar forward toyed with the Blues in the second half. During the fourth quarter, Buddy attracted the ball like a magnet and overpowered defender Liam Jones with four goals.

    The incredible outing saw Franklin chase down Eagle Josh Kennedy and snatch the Coleman medal, capping a famous night at the SCG. Alongside his ten goals, Franklin notched up 25 disposals and clunked ten marks, and kicked truly with just two behinds.

    It wasn’t quite as special as his unforgettable 13-goal display in Tasmania during his time in the brown and gold, but his Round 23 performance certainly is among the best of the 2017 season.

    Bursting out of the blocks
    Round 1: Dustin Martin versus Carlton
    It wouldn’t be fair to ignore the 2017 Brownlow favourite Dustin Martin, who has just produced the greatest season of his career. Martin has been consistent throughout his 2017 campaign, and it’s difficult to select his best display with so many to choose from.

    Given Martin faced a lot of speculation during the off-season about his future, his Round 1 performance against Brendon Bolton’s men was a courageous and marvelous one to say the least. Martin rotated through the midfield at times, also spending time as a deep forward-line target.

    He set up multiple goals in a clutch fourth quarter, as well as booting four himself for the game. Martin also collected 33 touches and sent the ball inside 50 six times. The fend-off king set a high standard in his opening game, one to which he adhered to for the rest of the season.

    In an incredible home-and-away season for the AFL, there were some magical individual efforts, the aforementioned being only the tip of the iceberg. Which superstar performance would you add to the list?

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