The ﬁnals are here and each team is getting ready to battle for that last Saturday in September.
We know the likes of Patrick Dangerﬁeld, Taylor Walker and Dustin Martin will excel in the pressure that ﬁnals bring. However, it’s the players that shape as the ‘wildcards’ that need to rise to the challenge and help their team get to the grand final.
In 2013 that wildcard was Brian Lake as Hawthorn went on to win the flag with his dominance down back the diﬀerence in the Hawks’ September charge.
Last year, the likes of Clay Smith and Dale Morris assisted in the Western Bulldogs completing mission impossible and winning their ﬁrst ﬂag since 1954. So who will be the wildcards to look for in the 2017 playoffs?
Adelaide – Josh Jenkins
Jenkins has had a relatively quiet season after a very dominant 2016. However, the key forward has the ability to ﬂick the switch and become a ﬁnals X-factor. Jenkins can be a huge asset for the Crows freeing up space inside the forward 50 to help ‘Tex’ Walker do his thing, as well as getting some goals on the board for himself. The fact the Crows are at home in the ﬁrst week of the ﬁnals could help Jenkins get his ﬁnals campaign oﬀ to a good start and carry momentum over the coming weeks.
Adelaide key forward Josh Jenkins says a significant change to the playbook helped catapult the Crows to top spot. https://t.co/sMFgE3LwFl
— The Advertiser Sport (@TheTiserSport) September 5, 2017
Geelong – Daniel Menzel
Finally getting a couple of seasons under his belt after four knee reconstructions, the public has got the chance to see why Geelong have rated the 25-year-old so highly. Menzel’s pressure acts inside the Cats’ attacking half could be the key to stopping Richmond’s fast, free-ﬂowing game on Friday night. Menzel has a great goal sense and a couple of majors per game will go a long way to helping Geelong kick a winning score.
Richmond – Nick Vlastuin
Richmond’s ball use has been very eﬀective this season and the likes of Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin have had terriﬁc season, but the work of the half backs such as Vlastuin has been fantastic and could be pivotal during the ﬁnals. Vlastuin has been going at 86 percent disposal eﬃciency, which has allowed the team to move the ball up the ground. Add his work as a defender and spoiling marking contests, and the 23-year-old will be a great asset for Richmonds run in September.
— Richmond FC (@Richmond_FC) August 31, 2017
GWS – Brett Deledio
An old head amongst a young team in the ﬁnals could be the key for the Giants to make that next step and reach the grand ﬁnal. Deledio is also a great player and up forward could cause some damage – he has always been able to ﬁnd the goals during a 13-season career. In his four games this season the 30-year-old has averaged four tackles playing in the forward line, showing that he has a great ability to lock the ball inside the Giants’ forward 50.
— 7 News Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) August 29, 2017
Port Adelaide – Sam Powell-Pepper
It’s a lot of pressure to put on such a young player but this kid has the ability to make a real diﬀerence for a team that has only won two games against the top eight teams. Powell-Pepper is a pure ball-winner and goes hard for the Sherrin. This could be important for the Power as he can extract the ball from the pack and get his team moving forward. The 19-year-old could also play a shutdown role on an opposition player as he has great pressure around the footy.
— The West Australian (@westaustralian) September 1, 2017
Sydney – Isaac Heeney
A great asset for Sydney heading into the ﬁnals as Heeney can play anywhere coach John Longmire needs him. In last year’s ﬁnal campaign he was used as a goalkeeper-type player stopping opposition’s forwards movements, but expect to see him playing more as the outside midﬁelder moving the ball forward. Heeney is able to get his team involved in play, averaging six score involvements a game. Deﬁnitely one to watch in September.
— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) September 5, 2017
Essendon – James Stewart
A fast start is what the Bombers will need against the Swans this week and a player that can get the score on the board is Stewart. This season the 23-year-old has invariably started games strongly and kept the scoreboard ticking over, which will prove pivotal to the Bombers’ ﬁnals campaign extending past week one. Stewart can also help free up Joe Daniher, who has been double-teamed in recent weeks.
— AFL on 7 (@7AFL) June 10, 2017
West Coast – Jack Darling
Like Stewart and Jenkins, Darling can play the important role as the second key forward in assisting two-time Coleman Medal winner Josh Kennedy into space. However, Darling is also a great contested mark and could come up trumps in key times of the game where a big grab needs to be taken. The 25-year-old has the ability to play an absolute blinder every now and then – a quality that would come in handy this week in Adelaide.
Drew Petrie with a brilliant kick for Jack Darling.
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) June 15, 2017