In this weekly segment I will be taking a look at the individual players who have performed well over the weekend’s action and nominate the three defenders, midfielders, ruckmen and forwards who I deem to have been the best in their respective positions. Whilst naturally the star players will feature, to avoid it becoming repetitive I will also try to reward some of the more unheralded players throughout the season, who might have played above themselves on any particular week.
3- Nick Malceski, Sydney
The injury prone Swans star continued his strong start to 2012 with a fine display against the Dockers on Saturday. Malceski was instrumental in the victory, providing superb run out of defence all day long, as highlighted by the impressive 10 rebound 50′s and 6 inside 50’s he amassed. He finished the day with 26 disposals, going at 81% efficiency and after an injury plagued 2011, swans fans will be hoping there is more of this to come.
2- Brendon Goddard, St Kilda
The Saints star was at his dominant best as his side put the young Gold Coast team to the sword to the tune of 92 points. Goddard was simply everywhere, particularly in the first half as he gathered some 33 possessions, 9 marks and 5 tackles and a goal. It was a vintage display from a man who had an underwhelming 2011 by his lofty standards. If the Saints are to be a force again in 2012 then this is the level of performance required from him.
1- Ben Reid, Collingwood
The defender of the week simply must go to Ben Reid though. Rated as one of the best young key defenders in the competition Reid showed exactly why by blanketing Tigers star forward Jack Riewoldt on Saturday Night. With Tarrant going down to injury early in the piece the pressure was on the Pies defence, but it was marshalled brilliantly by the outstanding Reid who kept Riewoldt goalless and to just 2 marks. Reid also found some of the ball himself, gathering 15 possessions, 10 marks and 4 rebound fifties.
3- Jimmy Bartel, Geelong
If there is a more clutch footballer in the league than Jimmy Bartel I would love to see him. The former Brownlow medallist was at his brilliant best for Geelong in their win over the Hawks. So often the man for the key games, Bartel once again showed his penchant for the big occasion as he turned it on with a brilliant display all around the ground. Regarded as a wet weather specialist, everything was set up for a typical Bartel performance and there is no doubt he delivered. 20 Disposals, 7 marks, 8 tackles and a pair of clutch goals capped off an afternoon in which he was everywhere from full forward, to effectively playing goalkeeper on the line in the dying minutes.
2 Gary Ablett Jnr, Gold Coast
It is not often that a player is the best on ground in a 92 point thumping but that is precisely what Ablett was in the Suns loss to St Kilda. The little genius was fighting a one man war at times and one wonders just how significant the defeat would have been if not for him. He finished with 40 disposals half of them contested, 8 clearances, 8 inside 50’s and 2 classy goals. Ablett is undoubtedly the best player in the competition and his form through the opening 2 weeks has been as good as it ever has, a legitimate Brownlow threat despite playing in such a poor side.
1 Marc Murphy, Carlton
Ablett was superb, but there was one player just better than him this week, and that was Marc Murphy. He absolutely put on a clinic at the Gabba on Thursday night to start off the round in scintillating style. Murphy took his game to the next level last season and the scary prospect is that he may have raised it even higher this year. His work around the stoppages was immense; with 20 of his 30 disposals contested and producing 10 clearances. He impacted the scoreboard directly too, with 2 goals, one of which was a sublime shot from the pocket and 3 goal assists to boot. It was a brilliant display from Murphy and supported by Chris Judd, together they might just be the leagues best midfield combination.
3- Hamish Mcintosh, North Melbourne
To be honest this wasn’t a week in which a great number of ruckmen stood out but I thought H-Mac showed enough to warrant inclusion with a promising display against the Giants. After missing most of 2011 through injury many questioned his role within the side in light of Goldstein’s emergence, but thus far he is showing that the two can work in the same side. His ability to push forward, which is key to them working in tandem was highlighted by the 3 goals he managed. It was otherwise a well rounded display, finishing with 21 hitouts and 20 disposals
2- Paddy Ryder, Essendon
It was another incredible showing from the enigmatic Paddy Ryder to help lead the Bombers past Port Adelaide on Saturday afternoon. With Hille going down to injury early in the game it was up to Ryder to ruck solo and he took to the task with aplomb. He dominated the ruck contests all day long and was the best man on the park, winning some 46 hitouts in addition to his 13 disposals, 5 marks and impressively for such a big man 5 tackles. It would seem Ryder is at his best again and that is very good news for the Bombers prospects in 2012.
1- Aaron Sandilands, Fremantle
Another dominant display from the 211cm giant, Aaron Sandilands was his influential self against Sydney and almost helped drag the Dockers over the line despite a lack of support from his team mates. With Shane Mumford out, Sandilands took full advantage, destroying Mark Seaby in the ruck duel, winning 55 hit outs, more than double what the Swans won all day. He also managed 19 disposals, 16 of which were contested and 7 clearances in a superb performance that highlighted his unquestionable importance to this Dockers side.
3- James Podsiadly, Geelong
The big J-Pod was a key for the Cats as they upset the Hawks on Easter Monday. He proved a fine target up forward all afternoon long and despite the adverse conditions he was one of the best players on the ground. He clunked 6 marks, all of which were contested and helped himself to 5 goals straight in a clinical showing. It was the final quarter, when the game was there to be one that Podsiadly really left his mark on the contest; kicking 3 of the 4 last quarter goals to help lead Geelong home.
2- Nick Riewoldt, St Kilda
A commanding performance from the Saints skipper, he led from the front and turned back the clock as he proved far too good for his opponent in Matthew Warnock. Perhaps what was the most encouraging aspect of his performance was the way he moved. His mobility was extremely restricted by his knee injury last season but thankfully it appears to be having no affect upon him so far this season. His speed and vertical leap was back and when coupled with his elite endurance it would seem he is poised to get back to his best football. Even his kicking issues seemed gone in this game, helping himself to 4 goals from the 21 disposals and 11 marks he managed.
1- Tom Hawkins, Geelong
Last week it was 2 Hawks forwards, this week it is their opponents Geelong with 2 of the top 3. Tom Hawkins is the obvious number 1 for this week after a heroic effort in the Cats dramatic victory over their fierce rivals. The boy who came of age in the finals series of 2011 has seemingly continued that form into 2012. For so long the heavily criticised underperformer, Hawkins has grown into the dominant power forward he was always expected to be. In wet conditions, hardly conducive to big men he tore the Hawks defence apart. 22 possessions, 12 marks, 5 of them contested, led to 3 goals in a powerful performance that was incredibly influential on the final result. The only knock on him was that his kicking is still unreliable, if he can sort that out then the sky is the limit for the 23 year old who is proof of the theory that you should give the big guy’s time to develop.