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Brook Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia

After looking at potential catalysts for Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn and West Coast in Part 1, today AFANA turns its attention to the remaining four Finals' combatants, Sydney, Essendon, Carlton and St Kilda. Who are the “under the radar” players to watch out for as Week One of the Finals approaches?

Josh Kennedy (Sydney)
Sydney has once again made the cut for September action, and once again it is the evergreen Adam Goodes receiving all the plaudits. Goodes is an exceptional player, and along with veteran midfielder/forward Ryan O’Keefe, he has been the nucleus of solid Sydney teams over a sustained period. This year there has been a quiet achiever having a profound influence on the Swans’ results, and his name is Josh Kennedy. Since crossing from Hawthorn where he managed only 13 games in two seasons, Kennedy has slotted in to become an integral part of the Swans midfield. With his 21.5 disposals per game in 2011, he is second only to O’Keefe. He comes in at an average of 5.91 tackles per game, second only to Jude Bolton. Kennedy’s defensive pressure comes with the added bonus of being in the top four for the Swans for inside 50s. Kennedy also ranks fifth in the AFL for clearances, highlighting what a well rounded performer he has been since his move north. A 23 possession, seven tackle game against St Kilda in Round 22 will have given Saints’ coach Ross Lyon plenty of food for thought this week.

Adam Schneider (St Kilda)
Schneider, an ex-Sydney Swan himself, knows all about Finals. Since debuting for the Swans in 2003, he has appeared in 22 finals matches including five Grand Finals. Schneider moved from the Swans to St Kilda in 2008 where he has enjoyed extra time on the ball. This has seen his disposal count rise from an average of just over 15 per game to 17.2 this season. A solid mark for a small forward, his bread and butter is as a goal sneak, tallying 39 majors last season with 28 to his name this year. While Steven Milne is the most explosive small forward in the Saints’ line-up, his record has been lukewarm in previous Finals appearances for the Saints. Schneider is coming off a 21 possession, two goal haul against Finals aspirants Carlton. He looks to be peaking at just the right time to do some damage against his former team this week.

Kade Simpson (Carlton)
He may not have the sublime skills of Chris Judd, the freakish goalkicking ability of Eddie Betts or the powerhouse midfield grunt of Marc Murphy, but Kade Simpson is vitally important to the success of Carlton in the upcoming Finals series. The slightly built 27 year old is the highest ranked player at the Blues for entries inside the 50 meter arc, outgunning both Judd and Murphy. Simpson also ranks fourth in goal assists behind Judd, Betts and the injury-plagued Jarrad Waite. With 15 goals to his name, he can also hit the scoreboard, important if Betts is shut down by the opposition. Simpson has been in great late season form, averaging 28 possessions over his last five contests. In Round 22 he racked up 27 touches against a strong Hawthorn line-up, then backed it up in the final round against St Kilda with a sensational game-high 40 possessions, including a goal.

David Zaharakis (Essendon)
The former All-Australian under-18 is the “go to” guy in the Bombers’ line-up. Second on the goalkicking list at Windy Hill with 31 this year (behind Stewart Crameri who scored 34), the 21 year old midfielder has been a revelation for the Bombers this season, leading the team in entries into the 50 meter zone while averaging 21 possessions a game. With Crameri sidelined through injury for the rest of 2011, Zaharakis will need to be at his best if the Bombers are to move any deeper into the Finals’ series. Last time the Bombers met Carlton, Zaharakis managed 25 touches including a goal. With consecutive 25 plus possession outings in his last three contests, he is in career best form.

This wraps up the Finals X Factor series heading into the first week of the Finals. AFANA is looking forward to bringing you stories all the way through to the Grand Final on the first Saturday in October.

Article last changed on Friday, September 09, 2011 - 4:41 AM EDT


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