SOME lower order draftees stood tall in Round 18 of the AFL, while other top-end picks continued their incredible season for this week’s Keeping Tabs.
Higgins once again provided the Richmond forward line with even more energy, which was highlighted by his four tackles (two inside-50 tackles) and 16 pressure acts. Incredibly prolific as a junior, Higgins’ ball winning ability has transferred over to the biggest stage with 18 disposals (seven kicks and 11 handballs), 10 of which were won in contested situations, four clearances and a goal. Look for Higgins to spend more stints on-ball in future games where his ability to find an abundance of the ball, apply a stack of pressure and win the clearances. The Premiers have found another star small forward.
Whilst St Kilda’s miserable season continues to roll on with the loss to Richmond, Hunter Clark played one of the best matches of his young 13 game career. The former Dandenong Stingray found more of the ball than in previous weeks and once again looked composed and clean with ball in hand from his role along the Saints backline. Clark found 20 disposals (12 kicks and eight handballs at a sound 70 per cent disposal efficiency), took six marks and rebounded from the half-back line on three occasions. The 2017 first round draftee will be aiming to finish off the season strongly, with four of his sides next five games coming at Etihad Stadium.
Now the clear Rising Star favourite, Jaidyn Stephenson just keeps on playing his role in the Magpies lineup, once again having a significant impact on the scoreboard booting three majors in the win over North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. Stephenson collected 11 possessions (eight kicks and three handballs) at an improved 82 percent disposal efficiency, three marks and a pair of strong tackles. His speed and leap make Stephenson a nightmare match-up for his direct opponent and a valuable asset in the Pies forward line.
Bailey Banfield has played a prominent role in the Dockers on-ball brigade so far this season. In the 29 point defeat at the hands of the Bombers, the Claremont boy was able to get his hands on the ball 22 times with 14 kicks and eight handballs playing an inside/outside balanced role through the middle. Banfield, an imposing figure at 189cm and 86kg, was dominant particularly around the stoppages and in the contest, collecting six clearances and eight contested possessions. Banfield’s 398 metres gained was also a strong aspect of his performance.
The number one draft pick flew and took a massive hanger close to goal from four deep, then converted the set-shot in what was one of the highlights of the night up at the Gabba. Rayner has impressive strength through his legs which allowed him to launch into packs often. It is only a matter of time before he starts to clunk these grabs more consistently. The highly touted forward/midfielder seems to have created a bit of a presence for himself when the balls in his area, a terrific sign for an 18 year-old. Rayner, who has featured in every game for the Lions in his rookie year, managed 14 disposals, seven kicks and seven handballs at an 86 per cent disposal efficiency. He spent considerably more time on-ball last weekend, matching up on All-Australian Crow Matt Crouch at the stoppages on occasions.
Tim Kelly must now be recognised by most as an A-grader of the competition despite it being just his first year in the big league. The silky Western Australian midfielder has brushed off speculation regarding a potential return to his home state, and is beautifully complimenting established stars in Selwood and Dangerfield. Kelly ended the game with 32 disposals, 18 kicks and 11 handballs at a 59 per cent disposal efficiency, six marks, five clearances, a goal and 506 metres gained. Kelly’s stoppages and evasiveness on the run are particularity noticeable. His efforts in the Cats incredible fourth quarter comeback went a long way to getting his side over the line.
The blonde-haired onballer played the best game of his career in the smooth-sailing victory over Carlton. Worpel collected the majority of his career-high 32 disposals (12 kicks and 20 handballs) across the wing area. Worpel managed to balance his game out nicely, winning 14 contested possessions and three clearances, but also send the ball inside-50 five times and collect a handful of intercept possessions. Also impressive was his disposal efficiency at 88 per cent, is a significant improvement on some of the numbers Worpel put up last season in the TAC Cup. The Geelong Falcon graduate will no-doubt gain plenty of confidence and belief from this encouraging performance as he and the Hawks look to launch themselves into another finals series.