The finish to the home-and-away season proved just as dramatic as we dreamed it would be, and now that the dust has settled we finally know for certain just what the makeup of the 2019 AFL Finals series will be.
Some sides flexed their muscle, while others fluffed their lines as we look at Round 18’s best players in team of the week.
Back pocket – Liam Jones (Carlton)
The exciting Blue was outstanding on Saturday against Gold Coast, repelling a high number of opposition attacks to finish with 19 possessions, 11 grabs, seven of them intercepts and five contested. He also got his fist to the ball plenty of times, totalling nine spoils for the afternoon.
Full back – Nathan Brown (St Kilda)
The premiership defender has been in good form and it continued on Sunday against the Western Bulldogs, taking the dangerous Aaron Naughton and keeping him to just two marks and one behind. Brown managed eight spoils, which was the best by any player on the field.
Back pocket – Christian Salem (Melbourne)
Generated a lot of drive from the back half for Melbourne on Sunday against West Coast, totalling 572 metres gained from his 26 disposals, which went at 88 per cent effectiveness. He also took eight marks and laid seven tackles to be one of his side’s best.
Half back – Brodie Smith (Adelaide)
Spent a bit more time up the field than normal on Friday night and it saw him finish with a career-high three majors from 31 touches. Also had 604 metres gained, six inside 50s, seven marks, four tackles and a game-high eight score involvements. Close to the best game he has ever played.
Centre half back – Joel Hamling (Fremantle)
The former Dog was resolute in a stingy Dockers backline that let through only seven goals on the night against the Swans. Finished with 18 touches, seven grabs, four of them contested and four intercepts, four rebound 50s, three tackles and five spoils.
Half back – Dan Howe (Hawthorn)
Came into the side at the last minute to replace Grant Birchall, with the often-maligned youngster playing arguably the best game of his career to date. Finished the match with 23 possessions at 91 per cent efficiency, ten marks, with four of them intercepts, three tackles and five rebounds from defensive 50. His tackle on Patrick Dangerfield with three minutes to go in the last term helped seal a memorable victory for the brown and gold.
Wing – Lachie Whitfield (Greater Western Sydney)
Was outstanding as the Giants returned to top form on Saturday against a stuttering Collingwood outfit. The former No. 1 draft selection amassed 29 disposals, using it at 79 per cent efficiency and gaining 623 metres. Also took four marks and laid five tackles in a dominant display.
Centre – Jarryd Lyons (Brisbane)
Another week, another sterling game from the ex-Sun and Crow. Was the best player on the ground in an enthralling contest between Brisbane and North Melbourne on Saturday night, finishing with 30 touches, a monster 23 of them contested, 13 clearances, 480 metres gained and two important goals.
Wing – Dustin Martin (Richmond)
After a couple of quiet weeks Martin returned to some of his best form on Saturday against Port Adelaide, collecting 30 possessions at 80 per cent efficiency while gaining a game-high 581 metres, kicking a goal and delivering the ball inside 50 on eight occasions. With four wins on the trot, the Tigers are rocketing up into premiership contention.
Half forward – Bayley Fritsch (Melbourne)
The second-year Demon was superb against the reigning premiers in Alice Springs on Sunday, picking up 22 touches, taking a whopping 14 grabs, four of them inside 50 and three contested, gaining 449 metres and slotting four goals from his ten score involvements. Still can’t quite believe that he was dropped for that preliminary final last season.
Centre half forward – Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney)
His stranglehold on a first Coleman Medal got even stronger after a brilliant six-goal haul against Collingwood on Saturday. Not only did Cameron convert every opportunity he got in front of the big sticks, but he also worked tirelessly up the field as well, collecting 20 touches for 514 metres gained, delivering the ball inside 50 on eight occasions and taking nine grabs, with four inside the forward line.
Half forward – Toby Greene (Greater Western Sydney)
From mischievous bad boy to the captain of the Giants, Saturday was a pretty good day for Greene, who filled in for injured duo Phil Davis and Callan Ward. Followed on from his outstanding game last week with 27 disposals against the Magpies, while he took six marks, laid four tackles and kicked two goals.
Forward pocket – Jack Lonie (St Kilda)
Was understandably rusty playing his first game in two and a half-months last weekend, but on Sunday we saw the difference a fit and firing Lonie brings to the St Kilda outfit. The pint-sized 22-year-old had 20 touches, took eight grabs, four of them inside 50, and kicked 4.3 from his 11 score involvements. It was the second time from eight games this year that Lonie has had at least seven scoring shots in one match.
Full forward – Tom Lynch (Richmond)
He’s had bigger days in front of the big sticks this year, but Saturday afternoon was arguably Lynch’s best game in the yellow and black colours. For a second time this season he terrorised the Port Adelaide defence, winning 19 disposals, taking nine grabs, four of them contested and five inside 50, delivering the ball inside the forward arc five times and kicking a wasteful 3.4. Has now kicked three goals in each of his last four games. The result for the Tigers in all of those matches? Wins. He’s the barometer.
Forward pocket – Mitch Brown (Essendon)
Speaking of barometers, this guy is it at the Bombers. From discarded first-round draft pick at the Cats to being a top-up selection during the Essendon ASADA scandal, Brown is one of the feel-good stories coming out of Tullamarine. He was incredibly important in his side’s come-from-behind win on Friday night against Adelaide, slotting four big second-half goals to go with his 23 possessions at 95 per cent efficiency, while he took eight grabs with three of them inside 50.
Ruckman – Ben McEvoy (Hawthorn)
Controversial selection here, but McEvoy’s ability to find his teammates when in the ruck was crucial to Hawthorn knocking off the ladder-leading Cats on Sunday. Had 13 touches at 92 per cent efficiency, took four grabs and won 44 hit-outs, with 13 of them to advantage. Brodie Grundy is very stiff, but more on him later.
Ruck-rover – Liam Shiels (Hawthorn)
The man they call ‘Pup’ celebrated his 200th milestone on Sunday, and didn’t he celebrate in style. Shiels collected 29 disposals, 13 of them contested, won seven clearances and 442 metres gained, took five marks, laid eight big tackles and kicked two goals in what will go close to being the best game of his career.
Rover – Zach Merrett (Essendon)
Seemed like he was everywhere on Friday night as the Bombers overcame the Crows at the Adelaide Oval, finishing with 31 touches, 11 of them contested, 692 metres gained (ranked No. 2 on the field) five marks, three tackles and 2.3.
Interchange – Dom Sheed (West Coast)
Did his best to stem the tide as Melbourne threatened to pull off an upset win in Alice Springs on Sunday, with the grand final hero collecting 34 possessions, 16 of them contested, winning a game-high 654 metres gained, delivering the ball inside 50 six times, taking eight grabs and booting a crucial goal late in the match.
Interchange – Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
Another great performer in the Northern Territory on Sunday was the red-headed Demon, who amassed 34 disposals, 20 of them contested, won nine clearances, laid six tackles and kicked a goal.
Interchange – Ed Curnow (Carlton)
Continued his outstanding recent form with a superb game against Gold Coast on Saturday, collecting 32 touches, 15 of them contested, winning six clearances, taking nine grabs and laying five tackles. Has been the biggest beneficiary of David Teague’s appointment as caretaker coach, averaging 115.8 ranking points since he took over (discounting Round 13 against the Western Bulldogs when he failed to play out the match due to injury).
Interchange – Jack Darling (West Coast)
Fresh from inking a five-year contract extension with the Eagles, Darling continued his charge up the Coleman Medal leaderboard with another four goals against Melbourne on Sunday. Also had 16 touches and nine grabs, four of them contested and three inside 50. Is the most in-form forward in the competition right now with 16 goals from his last four matches.
Emergency – Mark Blicavs (Geelong)
Was one of Geelong’s best on a disappointing day, holding down the backline with 18 touches, nine marks, three of them intercepts, four tackles and 12 spoils.
Emergency – Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs)
Not sure what odds you could have got on Bailey Dale kicking five snags on Sunday against St Kilda, but that’s exactly what he did. Not sure why we’ve seen so little of him under Luke Beveridge, to be honest, have always liked him as a player.
Emergency – Brodie Grundy (Collingwood)
Yes, I know he had over 30 touches and a massive 48 hit-outs playing against the GWS tag team of Shane Mumford and Dawson Simpson. Yes, I know he won ten clearances and laid nine tackles while also getting forward to kick a goal. But from his 48 hit-outs, only eight were to advantage. That’s only 16.6 per cent of his total hit-outs. Compare it to McEvoy, who had 29.5 per cent of his taps to advantage. Grundy’s game was still massive though and deserves serious recognition.
Emergency – Tim Taranto (Greater Western Sydney)
Desperately unlucky not to get a berth in the starting 22, but some strong midfield performances across the league pushed him out. Had 31 disposals, 13 of them contested, won six clearances, delivered it inside 50 six times, took five marks and laid a monster 14 tackles.
FB: Liam Jones (Carlton), Nathan Brown (St Kilda), Christian Salem (Melbourne)
HB: Brodie Smith (Adelaide), Joel Hamling (Fremantle), Dan Howe (Hawthorn)
C: Lachie Whitfield (Greater Western Sydney), Jarryd Lyons (Brisbane), Dustin Martin (Richmond)
HF: Bayley Fritsch (Melbourne), Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney), Toby Greene (Greater Western Sydney)
FF: Jack Lonie (St Kilda), Tom Lynch (Richmond), Mitch Brown (Essendon)
R: Ben McEvoy (Hawthorn), Liam Shiels (Hawthorn), Zach Merrett (Essendon)
IC: Dom Sheed (West Coast), Clayton Oliver (Melbourne), Ed Curnow (Carlton), Jack Darling (West Coast)
EMG: Mark Blicavs (Geelong), Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs), Brodie Grundy (Collingwood), Tim Taranto (Greater Western Sydney)
Adelaide: Smith (1)
Brisbane: Lyons (1)
Carlton: Jones, E.Curnow (2)
Collingwood: Nil (0)
Essendon: Brown, Merrett (2)
Fremantle: Hamling (1)
Geelong: Nil (0)
Gold Coast: Nil (0)
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Cameron, Greene (3)
Hawthorn: Howe, McEvoy, Shiels (3)
Melbourne: Salem, Fritsch, Oliver (3)
North Melbourne: Nil (0)
Port Adelaide: Nil (0)
Richmond: Martin, Lynch (2)
St Kilda: Brown, Lonie (2)
Sydney: Rampe (1)
West Coast: Sheed (1)
Western Bulldogs: Nil (0)