There was only one debutant in Round 8, Buku Khamis, as teams start to figure who their best young talent is.
Another round is in the books with a few superstars underperforming, leading to the unheralded heroes getting their dues.
Adelaide – Jake Kelly
From being the son of a gun to the guy known as the one Patrick Dangerfield knocked out, Kelly has been put through the ringer in 2021 and has come back from his concussion in fantastic form.
The Crows were witches hats and overwhelmed at times and the defence was put under insane amounts of pressure but Kelly gets a tick with 23 touches at 86 per cent efficiency with seven rebound 50s and four marks.
Brisbane – Joe Daniher
Daniher cops a lot of flack and sometimes rightly so but what’s becoming frustrating is the lack of credit when he plays his role at a good level.
Daniher finished with 17 touches (15 kicks), seven score involvements, seven marks (two contested), six inside 50s and two very good goals, including a 55-metre bomb. You’re going well, Daniher, and the Lions are cranking into gear.
Carlton – David Cuningham
It was an unreal return to form for the much maligned Cuningham, who is judged as someone as not quite a forward and not quite a midfielder. But he was unbelievable on Sunday afternoon.
He had 25 disposals including nine contested possessions, eight score involvements and five inside 50s and he kicked two goals. He can use some work on the ball use but the pressure is off at Carlton for the moment after a great win and that’s what matters.
Collingwood – John Noble
The Pies only really had one winner on the ground, which was Brody Mihocek, but when it came to endeavour, Noble worked his guts out.
He finished with 20 touches and a goal on Saturday afternoon, took four marks, had four rebound 50s and had three inside 50s, along with 80 per cent efficiency.
Essendon – Archie Perkins
He is somewhat forgotten about since he claimed he didn’t want to leave Victoria and then Nik Cox swept the footy community but this young man looks unreal.
His 18 disposals showed he could find the footy but what he touched turned to gold with a dozen (yes, 12) score involvements. He put his head over the pill with four tackles, took six marks, had 17 pressure acts and had 357 metres gained. He looks like a beauty.
Fremantle – Blake Acres
The former Saint has been inconsistent with his body and form since crossing over to WA but he was far from disgraced in a very poor performance by the Dockers.
He had 24 disposals at 79 per cent efficiency on Sunday (ten contested), took six marks, laid four tackles and worked hard both offensively and defensively, with three inside 50s and three rebounds, along with 13 pressure acts.
Geelong – Jack Henry
This young man is putting together a very fine season and on Saturday night, he was fantastic in the tight loss.
Henry added to his season with 23 disposals (seven contested) at 86 per cent efficiency, eight marks, three score involvements, three inside 50s and even five hitouts.
Gold Coast – Stuart Dew
Heaps of Suns deserve this but having watched all of the game, the commentary was all about Collingwood and the fallout. It wasn’t until the last quarter that the Suns started getting credit for their performance and the main man got none.
The Suns were wiped off the park in the first half against the Dogs but in the next ten quarters, they’ve won seven (including a one-point loss in the first quarter against the Pies) but the game plan of quick ball movement, elite kicks in the back half and a firing forward line means that Dew deserves credit.
GWS – Tom Green
Do not discount this man from the Rising Star in 2021. In his draft year he was named the next Patrick Cripps and he put in a very mature performance on Saturday afternoon.
With his more experienced teammates taking centre stage, Green had 22 touches at 77 per cent (12 contested), kicked two classy goals, had 11 score involvements and had three inside 50s. This kid is a gun.
Hawthorn – James Cousins
Hawks fans needed to know what kind of AFL player Cousins will be and they got a good show on Saturday.
His ball use needs some work but 27 disposals (ten contested), seven inside 50s, five clearances, five score involvements, four tackles and three rebound 50s was a tick for the 23-year-old.
Melbourne – Kysaiah Pickett
Let’s park the 3.2 and the highlight reel just for a moment if we can. This young man had a dozen contested possessions among 19 touches, went at 70 per cent efficiency and had nine score involvements.
Let’s add the highlight reel back in. There’s a premature comparison to Cyril Rioli but what they have in common is the ability to make neutral fans smile, team fans giggle and opposition fans worry. He is a genuine gun and his work inside 50 is a joy to watch.
North Melbourne – Jy Simpkin
Something I’m noticing among commentary teams is guys who kick more than handball get infinitely more praise than those who don’t.
With Simpkin’s 30 touches, he had 17 handballs but had an elite battle with Clayton Oliver and won plenty of it, took eight marks, had six score involvements, had four clearances and kicked a snag. This Roos team is getting competitive and are close to a win.
Port Adelaide – Willem Drew
It was a career-best night for the red-headed gun and Port have got plenty of guns. In 2018, Port Adelaide got Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma but this young man from the North Ballarat Rebels was Pick 33 in 2016 and he was fantastic at the Gabba.
He increased his PB in disposals by seven when he had 32. He had an equal career-high dozen contested possessions. He had nine score involvements, took six marks, had five clearances, laid four tackles and was one of only five Power players to hit the scoreboard.
Richmond – Nathan Broad
The Tigers could have one of the more unheralded lists in memory with just Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt, Tom Lynch, Dylan Grimes and Trent Cotchin seemingly taking all of the headlines.
Broad is one of the least celebrated players. Alas, on Friday night, Broad gathered 25 disposals (ten contested) at 80 per cent efficiency, took 11 marks, had six rebounds and had 352 metres gained in a great performance.
St Kilda – Callum Wilkie
I could’ve chosen one of a dozen here but Wilkie was given multiple opponents throughout the day and not only beat them but got the footy as well.
On a clinical day for the Saints, Wilkie had 21 touches at 90 per cent efficiency, took seven marks (two contested) and had five rebound 50s. He’s an unheralded star at St Kilda. The 25-year-old was taken in the rookie draft and is the 250-game fan favourite type.
Sydney – Jordan Dawson
One of the smoothest movers in the Harbour City, Dawson is a young Swan who goes under the radar compared to other youngsters such as Nick Blakey, Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney as well as the experience of Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy. But on Saturday night, he was wonderful.
He had a cheeky 20 touches at 80 per cent efficiency but it was his elite ten rebound 50s that set up many an attacking chain for the Swans. He was outstanding as well with 535 metres gained, third on the ground for the night.
West Coast – Jake Waterman
This isn’t Waterman’s fault but the next time someone describes him as a good athlete or a workhorse, I might go insane.
Anyway, in a dominant display from the Eagles, Waterman was overlooked at times but he had 15 disposals, eight marks, eight score involvements and five inside 50s. He should be lauded by Eagles fans and neutrals who tuned in to see the bloodbath.
Western Bulldogs – Patrick Lipinski
Other clubs need to be looking at Lipinski, who is a genuine gun but seemingly the 20th to 26th player on the list. After dominating in the VFL, he returned on Friday night and on a disappointing evening for the Dogs, he was good.
He had eight contested possessions among 23 touches at 86 per cent efficiency. He had a fantastic 16 pressure acts, five marks, five score involvements, five clearances and worked at both ends of the ground, with three inside 50s and three rebound 50s.