Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
With the home and away season in the books, it’s time for footy fans to turn their attention to important matters. Eight teams are about to embark on what should be a fascinating Finals campaign. With so much at stake, which players will take the next step and write themselves into AFL folklore? All who watch know the magic that gun players such as Dane Swan, Chris Judd, Adam Goodes, Buddy Franklin, Dean Cox, Joel Selwood and Nick Riewoldt are capable of week in week out, but what about the lesser lights who have hit some form at the business end of the season?
In this series, AFANA will focus the spotlight on players who might seemingly come out of nowhere to power their teams through September in a quest for Premiership glory. This is a chance to run the slide rule over each of the Finals' combatants by picking one player from each team, players who may just be the 2012 Finals X-Factors.
Dayne Beams (Collingwood)
While opposition coaches struggle to find a way to stop the dynamic duo of Swan and Pendlebury, they would be well served to spend some time thinking about how to put the brakes on the Magpies’ other midfield giant, Dayne Beams. The 29th pick in the 2008 draft has played only 14 games this season due to a broken foot, but one look at his numbers from the last few rounds suggests he is coming into career best form. Beams averaged 29 possessions over the last six rounds, while kicking 11 goals for an average of 1.8 per game. In last week’s surprise thrashing by a rampaging Geelong, Beams was one of the few Collingwood players to stand up, with 29 possessions, one goal and a handy seven tackles to his name.
James Kelly (Geelong)
Selwood, Bartel, Johnson and Chapman get all the kudos but don’t forget James Kelly. With Gary Ablett Jr plying his trade in warmer climes, Coach Chris Scott has rejuvenated the Geelong midfield by injecting the likes of Kelly into the action. The 27 year-old Kelly flies under the radar but gets the job done. With five 30 plus possession games to his name in 2011, Kelly is one to watch in September. His work rate on the defensive end is also impressive, racking up double-digit tackle counts in six contests this season, including bags of 12 and 13 against fellow Finals' contender Sydney and a whopping 14 tackles against the West Coast Eagles.
Jordan Lewis (Hawthorn)
While opposition teams have their hands full with the sublimely talented Buddy Franklin and Cyril Rioli, the Hawks have plenty of other weapons to deploy in the guise of Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne and Luke Hodge. Add in the developing talents of Isaac Smith, Luke Breust and Matt Suckling, and the Hawks will cause plenty of matchup problems for whichever opposition they come up against in the Finals. The one to watch here is Jordan Lewis. With 144 AFL games under his belt at just 25 years old, Lewis has the right balance of age and experience to cause chaos in big games. In 19 games this season, Lewis averaged 23 possessions and six marks. Amazingly, he has also racked up 60 hit outs for the year, sneaking under the radar as the third man in at many ruck contests. A skilful user of the ball, in his last three games Lewis has tallied 32, 30 and 27 possessions and looks ripe for a terrific performance in the Hawks’ Finals' fling.
Daniel Kerr (West Coast)
While excitement machines Nic Natanui, Andrew Gaff and Mark Lecras can turn a game on its head, the re-injection of West Coast stalwart Kerr is exactly what is needed for this young team in their Finals campaign. Kerr’s Finals experience and midfield nous will be invaluable as a complement to the young guns and the up and coming Matt Priddis in the middle. Kerr has managed 20 plus disposals against opponents who will feature in the Finals in 2011 (apart from an early season loss to Sydney when he managed 13). The addition of Kerr will take the attention of the opposition in the midfield, leaving the younger, less experienced Eagles to take the game on. Barring 2007, Kerr’s 24.1 disposals per game this season are a career best. Whilst injury is an obvious concern with this ten year veteran, if West Coast’s medical staff can patch him up for the Finals, the Eagles can once again soar in September.
Stay tuned to AFANA for Part Two of this series when we take a look at some Finals X Factor players from Essendon, Carlton, Sydney and St Kilda.
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - 6:20 AM EDT