The Fremantle Dockers finished 11th on the ladder in 2021 with ten wins and 12 losses.
With some ripping games and some real poxy and ripping performances, a few brilliant displays went under the radar but now they’re getting the write-up they deserve.
Adelaide – James Rowe
‘Ya Boat’, as he was christened on a podcast, deserved his shot at AFL footy and took the Showdown pressure in his stride and then some, showing composure and toughness all at once.
A bakers’ dozen touches and a good finish, he went at 92 per cent efficiency, had five score involvements, laid three tackles and kept himself busy all night.
Brisbane – Mitch Robinson
Robbo will never be the best kick in the side but he could be one of the longest and as far as ‘tough as nails’ goes, he could be No.1.
However, on the wing, he gathered 24 touches, five clearances, five rebounds, four score involvements, a dozen contested possessions and a dozen pressure acts. It was a fantastic effort and he ranked fourth on the ground (and second for Brisbane) for metres gained, with 515.
Carlton – Ed Curnow
Forever overshadowed by Patrick Cripps from the start of his career and now Sam Walsh as well, Curnow has been a good footballer for a very long time and even now with the criticism of Carlton’s top flight misfiring, he’s going about his business the right way.
Against the Dogs, he applied his trade for 27 disposals (11 contested), took five grabs, had 312 metres gained – which, for an inside mid, is a tick – and four inside 50s, but most pleasing: a dozen score involvements.
Collingwood – Jack Crisp
The man who’s basically known as ‘The Steak Knives’ for the rest of his career didn’t feature in AFL.com’s best list and that’s criminal.
A second high for Collingwood with 31 disposals (nine contested) at 70 per cent, nine marks, eight inside 50s, three rebounds and led Collingwood with metres gained, with 665. Fantastic performance.
Essendon – Mason Redman
It wasn’t quite like Malcolm Blight but Redman’s booming goal was a beautiful sight and the ‘devil horn’ celebration was brilliant, as well.
For the rest of the Bombers, this young side is full of promise and Redman’s goal wasn’t the only good thing he did on the day; 23 disposals at 78 per cent and had eight rebounds. He’s not the most popular Bomber among opposition fans but he’s well-respected among those who watch him.
Fremantle – Nathan Wilson
With a horrific injury list, Freo need their second-tier players to find form for when they hit the back end of the year with home games to charge towards the eight, and Wilson down back is certainly one of those.
Needing to run 20 and kick 40 as much as he can, he led the Dockers with 650 metres gained, 19 kicks among 24 disposals at 79 per cent, had seven score involvements and an elite eleven rebounds.
Geelong – Shaun Higgins
Wasn’t bad for the old fart getting back on the park after a month out but on a night where seemingly every Cat shone, the former Dog and Roo was a shining piece of the demolition puzzle.
His night read 23 disposals at 82 per cent, five score involvements, three clearances, three inside 50s, three marks and even a couple of tackles. Kicked a very classy goal from 48 out, as well.
Gold Coast – Hugh Greenwood
For the 25 games that the former Crow has put together for the Suns, he’s been genuinely outstanding, averaging just under 18.5 disposals but leading the league in tackles and being a contested beast, which is helping a youthful Suns midfield.
In a loss that should’ve been a win against the Saints, Greenwood had 20 touches (14 contested), seven clearances, six tackles, five inside 50s and went at 70 per cent efficiency.
GWS – Harry Perryman
The man who was leading the Coleman after a few rounds of 2019 who went to a wing and defence later in the year. He has almost disappeared into anonymity again but is still a brilliant footballer.
Port Adelaide chased him last year and with a stat line of 24 disposals at 75 per cent efficiency, six grabs, five rebound 50s, four score involvements and 362 metres gained, who can blame them?
Hawthorn – Chad Wingard
The Chad had a week off with general soreness but slotted straight back in and showed something not a lot of his teammates did with ball in hand: composure.
Zero clangers from his 19 disposals while going at 84 per cent efficiency, he took five marks, had four score involvements, laid three tackles and had three rebounds, as well as a couple of a clearances.
Melbourne – James Jordan
Ball use was a touch of a problem for the young man but another from the super draft of 2018 is developing into a nice player, with an emphasis on his defensive side coming to the fore.
A career-best 23 touches so far but it was the eight tackles and 28 pressure acts that is just ticking an exponential amount of boxes for the Demons and he adds another tinge of depth to the undefeated squad.
North Melbourne – Tom Campbell
Nathan Brown from Triple M thought this bloke retired four years ago, but alas, he played big for a big bloke, which has been a problem with him in the past.
Nineteen touches at 84 per cent with nine contested touches, eight marks with two contested, kicked a goal and had four score involvements as well. North fans need to enjoy moments since they can’t get a win.
Port Adelaide – Tom Clurey
Agreeing with Kane Cornes is something that seldom happens with me and taking nothing away from Travis Boak, who is a genuine superstar, Clurey was my pick for the Showdown Medal, as well.
He brought sponges for Taylor Walker, such was the bath he gave the Crow. Clurey had 17 touches, went at 88 per cent, took seven grabs and had four rebounds. A lot of Port’s defenders are unheralded and he’s a gem, this man.
Richmond – Bachar Houli
A fan favourite among Richmond fans and the broader football community, but on a night Richmond need to put behind them quickly, Houli held his own and then some.
He had 20 on the night, kept his hands and feet when others didn’t, went at 80 per cent, had four marks and four tackles but this was a story about the team, not the individual.
St Kilda – Callum Wilkie
Isn’t this man having a genuinely fantastic season? He’s been the Saints’ man two weeks in a row – surely the people getting paid on media outlets will get the message at some stage. Surely.
Top-five for the Saints in disposals with 25, made a game-high 14 marks, had 16 kicks, went at 96 per cent efficiency, had five score involvements and 404 metres gained. This man is in fantastic form.
Sydney – James Rowbottom
Another from the 2018 draft, this kid could be the most underrated from that class but on Saturday night, it was all about the contested and defensive aspects of his game.
Twenty-two disposals (nine contested) with only 64 per cent game time shows how he can find the footy but a game-high dozen tackles and 16 pressure acts for the young man was fantastic and just like Jordan with Melbourne, it showed the great depth at a good side.
West Coast – Brad Sheppard
Fighting with Shane Edwards for most underrated player in the competition is Sheppard, who is a bona fide star and gets zero credit from the media in Victoria, barring Mark Howard and Nick Riewoldt.
On Sunday, even though the Hawks’ talls were heavily inexperienced, Sheppard was the quarterback for sure, taking a dozen grabs as well as 27 disposals at 88 per cent efficiency and half a dozen intercept possessions.
Western Bulldogs – Taylor Duryea
The former Hawk seemingly got out at the right time, as the Dogs look to be one of the teams to beat in 2021 and although he has struggled for consistency in 2021, he was very good on Sunday afternoon.
Doc had 17 kicks among his 23 disposals and went at 86 per cent efficiency, had five score involvements, five inside 50s and five marks to keep things consistent and was one of four Dogs to have over 500 metres gained.