JUST eight teams remained last week with finals commencing, but it did not stop a number of first-year players standing out on the big stage of AFL Finals.
The talented ball winner was at it again on Thursday night, gathering another 20 disposals (14 kicks, six handballs) at 70 per cent efficiency in the reigning premiers Qualifying Final triumph over Hawthorn. Higgins managed 10 contested possessions, four marks, one goal and one behind, eight score involvements, six inside 50s and three tackles, playing predominantly as a small forward with limited bursts through the midfield. The 2017 first round draftee has looked at home all year and will continue to be an integral part of the forward and midfield rotations for the potential premiers.
Having endured a terrific start to his AFL career in the latter parts of season 2018, “The Worpedo” is now a fan favourite at Hawthorn. In his first final, the midfielder looked a bit shaky early on, as would be expected, with some of his possessions missing their targets. However he cracked in hard as he always does, winning 17 disposals (59 per cent disposal efficiency) and applying 33 pressure acts to go with four tackles and three inside 50s. He played a more outside role, finding most of his possessions across the wings of the packed Melbourne Cricket Ground. It will be interesting to see how the former Geelong Falcon handles the pressure on Friday night against an up-and-about Demon outfit.
The athletic winger/half-forward didn’t impact the scoreboard and had just the 12 disposals, however Frtisch was still able to influence the game with his pin-point ball use by foot. Finishing with a disposal efficiency of no less than 100%, the 21-year-old recruit from VFL side Casey also impressively laid five tackles, showcasing the defensive side to his game. Bayley was able to use his strong aerobic capacity to push down into defence, where he produced three rebound-50’s. Interestingly, 92 per cent of his touches came in the defensive half of the ground.
On a bad night for the Geelong Football Club, Tim Kelly hit the scoreboard yet again and was one of his sides best. A hefty loss was a poor way to end what has been an incredible debut season for the mature-aged Tim Kelly, who has produced one of the best first seasons in modern memory. Kelly amassed 18 disposals in what was one of his lowest totals for the year – an amazing statistic considering his AFL level immaturity. Whether or not he stays in Geelong or returns to his native Western Australia remains to be seen, however the quality he has been able to produce this season will fill many mature-agers in the state leagues with confidence.
With Mason Cox struggling to assert any dominance up forward, Collingwood’s mature-aged recruit Brody Mihocek stood up when it mattered, bagging two goals and at-times keeping his side in it. His aerial prowess and strong overhead marking ability was integral when the Pies looked for a target across half-forward, with the former Port Melbourne VFL star constantly presenting himself up to the ball carrier. At-times, particularly in the first quarter, Brody looked the most dangerous player on the ground. He finished the game with 13 disposals (69 per cent efficiency), six marks (including two contested and three inside-50 grabs), 414 metres gained and five inside 50s. However he will likely rue his three behinds, considering the close final margin.