AFL 2019: The Big Dance’s Big Performers

Hank Ryan takes us through who stood tallest on the AFL’s grandest stage this year.

Absolute dominance

As far as terrible grand finals go, last Saturday’s could just about take the cake, were it not for Port’s performance in the 2007 version – but one thing is startlingly clear; Richmond are a force to be reckoned with. The first quarter filled us with hope that we would be in for a thriller, one for the ages – unfortunately the Giants left the MCG at quarter time apparently, and we were left with a Tiger’s Masterclass, with these blokes setting the standard..

Marlion Pickett

It’s mar-lee-on. Debutants in grand finals are as rare as the proverbial, but tell me that a 27 year old former prisoner from Manjimup picked up in the mid season draft would be making his league debut in the grand final this year and I would’ve laughed. Add to the seemingly fictional story that he would come off the bench and then STRAIGHT INTO THE MIDDLE to have an impact for Richmond from the outset, playing a pivotal role in getting them over the line (wasn’t much of a line left at the end, to be fair ) and you’d think someone stark raving mad for conjuring such an outlandish yarn.

But this is a bloke that has overcome more than most, especially those that have been in the glitzy, disco-ball bubble of the AFL for their entire working lives, this is a bloke that knows how to get things done – it’s second nature. I made note in a previous article that he is set to have an impact, he is just made of that stuff.

At one point midway through the third I had him as taking the Norm, but another bloke’s brilliance is hard to ignore, more on that later. Pickett seemed to be involved in everything (gee, doesn’t Bruce love a good story, ay?) and that spin juke move was something else, something borne of a supreme belief in one’s ability and skill as a footballer debuting on the big stage, just pure balls. He finished third for the Norm Smith, amassing 22 touches and a goal, with 569m gained including a game high 8 inside 50’s.


Be sure to check out what Monkey learned, liked and disliked on Grand Final day.

Dustin Martin

Freak. Barometer. Class. Foreboding.

Every time this bloke goes near the Sherrin you just feel like something big is going to happen, and normally it does. This sense of impending brilliance is heightened on the big stage – Dusty seems to thrive on the energy and the expectation.

He can be immediately impactful in the middle whether it be clearance work, or dont’-arguing and bullocking his way clear towards goal, or setting up shop in the forward 50 where he is an absolute menace, outbodying bigger opponents and taking grabs he has no business taking, the fact that he can do both of these things, and do them extremely well must be an absolute nightmare for match-day committees, and even worse for the bloke running out to mind him!

He was his usual enigmatic self on the weekend. Dangerous in front of goal with 4 majors and 8 score involvements, and effective in the middle with 3 clearances to go with his 22 touches – his winning of the Norm Smith putting him in elite company of dual winners.

Just an excellent bloody footballer

Bachar Houli

Bachar was his usual self. Creative off of half back and always moving in order to provide an outlet and a surge forward. Houli flies under the radar a bit, he’s a half back, sure – and he racks up touches wantonly, but it’s the creative zeal with which he gathers.

Numerous times he presented an option on Saturday with gut-run and nouse; his positioning and reading of the play on display. He was efficient by foot, running at 77% disposal efficiency, cool-headed under pressure and decisive in forays forward. He finished with 26 disposals and 6 tackles, and 6 i50 rebounds. The evergreen Houli also finished 2nd in the Normie, testament to his impact on the game.

Tim Taranto

There wasn’t to much to like about the Giants on Saturday, but the future is still bright. People bang on about the Coniglio’s, the Whitfield’s, the Kelly’s and the Greene’s but this young bloke that put his hand up on the day, and there wasn’t many others that could hold their head as high as his on the day

Desperate in his defensive efforts, determined in working to the contest, and adept at providing an outlet when needed, Tim Taranto was a maniac. 30 disposals, 15 of them contested, 5 clearances and 7 tackles. But it just wasn’t enough, he was a lone hand in any sort of momentum building play and it showed.

Paul Kelly

Dead -set, Dylan Lewis is a very talented man. I think though, there would have been a few sheepish looks around whatever corporate box the honchos in charge of entertainment were in when he was part-way through his performance. It was glum, It was unexciting and it was almost morbid when considering the occasion.

But then, all was right in the world, because Paul f**king Kelly. Ageless, dylan-esque and Aussie-dapper, he wiped away the cringe and glib in the opening line ” I’m high on the hill, looking over the bridge, to the MCG”.

Australia’s Bob Dylan with 100,000 mates.

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