AFL 2019: Semi Finals: The Big Perfomers

Who were the players who earned ‘Big Hitter’ status after their performances in Week 2 of the Finals?

The semi-finals promised two ferocious encounters, and for the most part that is what we received – brutal, high intensity contested football that explodes at us – every tackle, ruck knock, blow of the whistle, kick and bounce seemingly vital as teams fight for life in 2019, and a berth in a Preliminary Final. Here are the men that exemplified the effort this weekend.

Joel Selwood played the ultimate skipper’s game

Joel Selwood, Geelong

Hemophilia is a rare, inherited bleeding disorder that can range from mild to severe, depending on how much clotting factor is present in the blood. Because blood does not clot properly without enough clotting factor, any cut or injury carries the risk of excessive bleeding.

I’m not sure if Joel Selwood is a Hemophiliac, but I do know that on Friday night at the MCG Joel Selwood went all Julius Caesar and Veni, vidi, Vici’d a spluttering West Coast Eagles outfit. With his signature head bandage and blood seemingly pouring out from most cavities in his face, Selwood provided a captain’s classic, notching 26 disposals, 7 clearances and a captain’s goal in a dominant last quarter. But it wasn’t his stats that underpinned his performance, it was his willingness and desperation to get to, and then impact each contest, his body thrown in and bashed around like a pinball.

He’s animated, he wears his heart on his sleeve, pleading with umpires, pointing and directing players. He leads from the front, and the 21 other blokes obviously listen – “grow some balls!” he reportedly asked of his charges, having had a commanding lead whittled down before half-time. Apparently, his teammates listened and sprouted said appendages, running out 20 point winners at the final siren.

The Human Clamp

Matt de Boer, GWS

Machine. Blue-collar. Gritty. Opportunistic

Four words that sum up Matt de Boer as an AFL footballer. Lachie Neale has similar traits, but is also a prolific ball-winner. Well, he is normally, but as expected on Saturday night Neale ran into the de Boer Machine.

I remember here in WA when the Giants gave de Boer his AFL lifeline. A lot of people were surprised. I for one was surprised that he was leaving, he seemed every bit the role player that Lyon so often showed a fondness for, he was at the very least, excellent depth – his WAFL exploits were bordering on ridiculous (huge clearance, contested possession numbers). Nevertheless, he took off to Sydney and has been a mainstay in the GWS 22 as a tagger – and arguably the best one in the league.

Saturday night he was at his frugal best, limiting Neale to 17 touches, while having 18 himself. Try as he may, Neale could not escape the clutch of the machine, shadowed constantly, made to earn every centimeter, hassled, dumped and shoved at every turn, the machine had won.

Special Mention: GWS Backline

The final quarter of Saturday night’s game between the Lions and the Giants was an absolute ripper. It was football’s Barbarossa. Time and again the Lions forayed into their 50, only to be repelled by a back six that functioned like a Toyota Corolla – reliable, resolute and wonderfully efficient.

Nick Haynes reads the play very well, he also cannot be faulted for his repeat efforts and the constant pressure he applies to the ball carrier. He recorded 8 rebounds out of the Giant’s defensive 50, and was every bit the backline marshall.

Zac Williams also recorded 8 rebounds, and provided a link out of half-back with his pace and piercing, raking kicks into attack, with 14 kicks at a remarkable 100% disposal efficiency. He also slotted a goal, showing his ability to push up when needed.

Phil Davis produced his usual dour performance, giving away little and making life hard for opponents, with a game high of 9 one percenters.

If you showed me a picture of Sam Taylor (who?) I would say he is a graduate accountant. He’s not though, he’s a defender for the Giants, one that didn’t get a lot of the ball but performed admirably. Setting up, zoning, applying the spoils and shepherds that were required of him as the game evolved, by no means a standout performance, but one that was akin to the Corolla, and one to keep your eye on in the future.

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