The Roar
The Roar


The crucial cogs of AFL's Round 3: Which players need to be the difference makers?

The Magpies look dejected after losing the round one AFL match between Collingwood Magpies and Sydney Swans at Melbourne Cricket Ground. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
27th March, 2024

It’s Round 3 and the reigning grand finalists clash to start things off, with both still winless. Gold Coast and GWS have the bye in this round. We will be taking a look at one player from each of the other 16 teams who will need to make a difference.

Brisbane v Collingwood


Josh Dunkley was brought to Brisbane to help them win a premiership. The former Western Bulldogs best and fairest winner has averaged 8.5 tackles per game in his first two games of the season. Being a competitor, expect to see Dunkley up for the grand final rematch.


Darcy Moore needs to lead from the front as the premiership captain has been out of form, giving away cheap turnovers. The 28-year-old must lift his game and switch on in key moments if Collingwood are any chance of beating Brisbane, given he will be up against Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood, which is a tough task at the best of times.

The Magpies look dejected after losing to the Swans

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

North Melbourne v Carlton


North Melbourne

Zac Fisher possesses a lethal left foot and has worked hard defensively as the former Carlton player has averaged the most intercepts per game of any North Melbourne player in the first two games of their season with eight. It will be a game that Fisher has pencilled in his diary; he will want to prove that Carlton made the wrong decision not giving him enough game time.


Tom De Koning will have a tough task up against an emerging ruckman of the competition in Tristan Xerri. Both ruckmen are good around the ground and it could be a match-up that decides the team that gets on top in the game.

Fremantle v Adelaide


Caleb Serong has arguably been the best midfielder in the competition thus far in season 2024. The 23-year-old will face off against one of the best midfields, comprising of Matt Crouch, Rory Laird and Jordan Dawson. Serong has averaged 40.5 disposals per game in his opening two games of season 2024, which means that Adelaide will find it tough to stop him from having an impact on the game.



Reilly O’Brien faces a challenge, given the Adelaide ruckman will be up against the in-form Luke Jackson. The 28-year-old has averaged the most hit-outs of any player in the AFL in 2024, with 46. The next best is Oscar McInerney with an average of 33. Despite O’Brien dominating the hit-outs, Adelaide lost the centre clearances by one against Gold Coast in Round 1 and won that stat by just two against Geelong in Round 2. Adelaide need to capitalise on his domination of the hit-outs.

Essendon v St Kilda


Jade Gresham will be fired up for this game, with the Essendon small forward desperate to prove that the change of clubs in the off-season was the right move. The 26-year-old is going to take plenty of confidence into Round 3 because he kicked three goals and had 11 score involvements against Sydney in Round 2, so St Kilda could find it tough to quell his influence.


St Kilda

Sebastian Ross kept Jordan De Goey to 13 disposals in a tagging role against Collingwood in Round 2, where St Kilda were too good for Collingwood and Ross was a big part of that. Internally Ross is appreciated, given he’s in the St Kilda leadership group. It seems an obvious choice that Ross Lyon sends him to Zach Merrett; Lyon should know that if you stop the Essendon captain, it could mean St Kilda have a chance of winning the game.

Port Adelaide v Melbourne

Port Adelaide

Zak Butters was made cice-captain of Port Adelaide, which shows that he’s not only a good player, but an emerging leader. The 23-year-old has averaged the most disposals per game of any Port Adelaide player in their opening two games of the season with 30.50. The young gun isn’t just an accumulator of the footy, given he has averaged the equal most score involvements per game of any player in 2024, along with his teammate Jason Horne-Francis with 12.


Blake Howes is an unsung hero, having been a part of the Melbourne back six in their first three games of the season. The 20-year-old has the equal most intercepts of any Melbourne player with 22, which is the same amount that Trent Rivers has had. As Steven May will be unavailable and Jake Lever may not play against Port Adelaide, it puts more onus on Howes to perform to his optimum level.


Western Bulldogs v West Coast

Western Bulldogs

Ryley Sanders adds another string to the bow of the Western Bulldogs team, having averaged the third-equal most stoppage clearances per game of any Western Bulldogs player in the opening two games, with three, which is the same amount that Sam Darcy has averaged. The No.6 draft pick was subbed out by Luke Beveridge in their 45-point loss to Melbourne in Round 1, but played the full game against Gold Coast in Round 2, which the Western Bulldogs won by eight goals.

West Coast

Jeremy McGovern is a pivotal part of the West Coast team; he’s like a brick wall, you’d love to have two of him. Despite West Coast losing by a 65-point margin to GWS in Round 2, McGovern polled one coaches’ vote. The 31-year-old has averaged eight intercepts per game in West Coast’s first two games of the year. There’s no disputing that McGovern will need to be at his best should West Coast be competitive against Western Bulldogs.

Richmond v Sydney



Liam Baker displayed why he was added to the leadership group in Round 2 against Port Adelaide when he kicked two goals within the space of a minute and a half late in the third quarter, which made it a seven-point deficit for Richmond at three-quarter time. Unfortunately, Richmond faded away, but Baker was a key part of them being competitive. He is arguably the most important player for Richmond and a highly regarded, talented utility that never shirks a contest.


Isaac Heeney has been a revelation in his first three games of season 2024 and could well be leading the Brownlow after Round 2 with nine votes because he’s leading the AFL Coaches Association award by seven votes. It will be intriguing how Richmond go about curtailing his influence, because he is the talk of the town.

Hawthorn v Geelong



Cam Mackenzie is an up-and-coming youngster in the second year of what should be a stellar career. The 20-year-old needs to stay in the team and be given games so he can develop and increase his belief and confidence. The midfielder needs to play well against Geelong if Hawthorn are to be competitive in the midfield battle.


Oliver Henry has kicked three goals in the first two games of the season. Along with that, he has averaged five score involvements per game in the first two rounds of the season. It will be intriguing whether Henry gets the role of negating James Sicily.