The players who stood out and those who must improve from Round 3

Another intriguing weekend of footy has been and gone with plenty of differing performances to dissect.

See who we feel stood out and who must improve across all 18 clubs.

Adelaide club banner

Stand out: Tom Doedee

There were very few shining lights for the Crows once again. The defence had plenty of opportunities given the ball was hemmed inside Gold Coast’s forward 50 an awful lot and at least Tom Doedee tried hard all day. He finished with 20 possessions, eight marks and had 10 intercept possessions. It certainly wasn’t his best performance but he was well above the vast majority of his teammates who appear to be badly struggling at present. Paul Seedsman bounced back from his subpar Round 2 outing to be one of his side’s better few.

Must improve: The entire team

The Crows are at rock bottom. Sunday’s performance was fairly embarrassing, especially on the back of an insipid Showdown display.
Coach Matthew Nicks says his side is in a “world of hurt” and what they are producing is “not acceptable”. “There are too many areas at the moment to be angry with one and not the other,” he also said, highlighting that the issues are all over and not just isolated to certain parts of the field. It would be unfair to pick out anyone in particular for the second week in a row. The Crows must improve across the board otherwise it could be the year from hell for this proud club.

Andrew Slevison

Brisbane club banner

Stand out: Jarrod Berry

Jarrod Berry doesn’t get mentioned as much as Brisbane’s other young stars, but he has a bright future as a key part of this Lions team. He’s not a huge ball-winner, but has an impact with his disposal and provides run and carry on the outside of stoppages. He showed what he’s capable of against the Eagles, kicking three goals and having five shots on goal for the match to go with 13 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s.

Must improve: Daniel McStay

Daniel McStay has always been a role player for the Lions and is not a player to judge based on his stat sheet, but he was particularly quiet against the Eagles coming off a poor Round 2 performance against Fremantle. He kicked a goal, but only took three marks and also finished with three clangers. McStay simply needs to provide a contest down the line and be a marking target inside 50 for the Lions, but has been particularly quiet across the last fortnight.

Nic Negrepontis

Carlton club banner

Stand out: Marc Pittonet

Marc Pittonet has been the story of the reason restart for the Blues. He’s not only filled Matthew Kreuzer’s shoes, he’s thriving to the point where the starting job might just be his by the end of the year. He held his own against Max Gawn last week and had complete control of Rhys Stanley, a player who has dominated Carlton in the past, finishing with 36 hit-outs. Watching him closely, his instructions are clearly to hit the ball in the direction of Patrick Cripps at all times and given the co-captain finished with 12 clearances, he clearly did that well.

Must improve: Lachie Plowman

Lachie Plowman remains an enigma. He doesn’t have the speed to guard the majority of small forwards, but also doesn’t have the size to take on the bigger players. He struggled greatly in the second half against Geelong playing on Gary Rohan, who beat him in multiple one-on-one contests, kicked two goals and was a big reason the Cats were able to turn the game in the final quarter. He finished third in Carlton’s 2019 best and fairest and so the coaching staff obviously are big fans of him, but he has struggled with defensive assignments when the match-up isn’t quite right.

Nic Negrepontis

Collingwood club banner

Stand out: Steele Sidebottom

Finishing with 31 disposals, six score involvements, six tackles, five marks and a goal from the wing is a fantastic effort in 20-minute quarters, let alone 16. Steele Sidebottom was dominant for the Magpies in their win over the Saints, covering the ground and being a link in the chain between the arcs. St Kilda has its fair share of quality outside midfielders with Brad Hill, Jack Billings, Jade Gresham and others, but Sidebottom showed them all up with another dominant performance.

Must improve: Darcy Cameron

Collingwood was incredibly impressive all afternoon against St Kilda, but Darcy Cameron had a particularly quiet afternoon. He only had the two disposals and three hit-outs in the win and didn’t hit the scoreboard, though he did lay five tackles. The issue for Cameron is Mason Cox got through Collingwood’s practice match on Saturday afternoon and will be coming for that spot in the side in the next few weeks. The Pies would be happy with Cameron’s defensive efforts, but he’ll have to get more of the ball going forward.

Nic Negrepontis

Essendon club banner

Did not play

Fremantle club banner

Stand out: Nat Fyfe

Nat Fyfe continues to lead the way for the winless Fremantle Dockers. Fyfe put up 23 touches, four tackles, three clearances and a goal in the loss to Port Adelaide in torrid conditions on the Gold Coast. The dual Brownlow Medallist and superstar teammate Michael Walters are putting this young Dockers team on their backs and will require greater support with the rejuvenated Gold Coast Suns their next assignment.

Must improve: Andrew Brayshaw

That support must some from the club’s young brigade and Andrew Brayshaw is a player Fremantle need more from. Brayshaw had just three kicks and 45 metres gained against the Power and is averaging a modest 15 disposals from three games in 2020. The No.2 in the 2017 draft has been a solid performer in his first two seasons at senior level but will need to elevate his game to help out the likes of Fyfe and Walters.

Alex Zaia

Geelong club banner

Stand out: Mitch Duncan

Geelong’s second-half comeback was instigated by Mitch Duncan. Duncan’s final quarter was enormous but proved in vein as the Cats slumped to a first loss against Carlton in Geelong since 1996. The midfielder was certainly one of Geelong’s best collecting 24 touches, three clearances and 380 metres gained.

Must improve: Jack Steven

Jack Steven’s Geelong debut was a forgettable one. Returning after suffering a stab wound to the chest in May, the Cats recruit had just six touches and looked short of a gallop against the Blues. The former Saint will be better for the run ahead of Sunday’s match against Melbourne.

Alex Zaia

Gold Coast club banner

Stand out: Connor Budarick

Gold Coast as a whole stood out, as did several players, but Connor Budarick is a more unknown player who really caught the eye during his side’s big win over Adelaide. He finished with 16 disposals playing across half-back and shutting down Crows small forward Lachlan Murphy in the process. His run and dash was vital all afternoon and he also kicked an important goal late in the day. You could very easily throw Matt Rowell or Ben King in here, but those two will likely appear in this section all year and Budarick deserves some praise.

Must improve: Noah Anderson

Suddenly, there’s competition for spots in this Gold Coast side and especially through the midfield and across half-forward. This is obviously not a crack at number two draft pick Noah Anderson, who is only in his third game, but it’s hard to see how he remains in the side ahead of the likes of Brayden Fiorini and Sean Lemmens. Anderson finished with nine disposals and made a few mistakes by hand and foot across the afternoon. He’ll obviously need time to develop, but the Suns have a big chance to go on a run of wins and must pick their best 22.

Nic Negrepontis

GWS Giants club banner

Stand out: Harry Perryman

Perryman has been his side’s best player in two of the three games this season. Remarkably, he currently leads the racefor the Coleman Medal with eight goals having tallied just four total before this season. The 21-year-old is also racking up disposals. He had another 22 on Friday night with a match-high 481 metres gained plus eight marks, six score involvements, two majors and a goal assist. On top of that he had four inside 50s and four rebound 50s meaning he is working hard both ways from his main position on the wing.

Captain Stephen Coniglio tried everything he could to get his side back in the game without the likes of Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield (concussed during the game) and Toby Greene around him. He had 24 touches and five clearances.

Must improve: Mind games/physical approach

The Giants tried plenty of things to put the Bulldogs off their game but none of them worked. Sending Nick Haynes to toss the coin with Marcus Bontempelli was peculiar in itself before they took a clear physical approach. But it’s no good showing manufactured machismo if you aren’t actually going to play the game the same way. It was the Dogs who were harder at the ball and wanted it more and it was so evident throughout.

From an individual viewpoint, Zac Langdon spent the night trying to pick fights and forgot to get the ball, finishing with only four possessions.

Andrew Slevison

Hawthorn club banner

Stand out: Isaac Smith & Jaeger O’Meara

Isaac Smith absolutely cut Richmond to ribbons. The veteran Hawk did as he pleased out on the wing, picking up possessions at will and running the Tigers ragged. He finished the night with 29 touches and was a key architect for the triumph. Closer into the contest, Jaeger O’Meara showed his importance to the brown and gold with a dominant midfield display. He had 23 disposals at 91% efficiency, highlighting his class and composure and showing Hawthorn what they missed against Geelong in Round 2.

Must improve: Tim O’Brien

O’Brien is now 65 games into his AFL career and he still hasn’t quite put it all together. There’s no denying he has talent but he just needs to build on his consistency. On Thursday night he managed just five possessions and had very little impact, apart from one goal. It still remains to be seen where his best position is so until that happens, it will be difficult for him to really flourish.

Andrew Slevison

Melbourne club banner

Did not play.

North Melbourne club banner

Stand out: Jy Simpkin

Jy Simpkin showed signs of being a classy midfielder early in his career, but he is now flourishing and quickly becoming a key part of North’s on-ball brigade. In the absence of Ben Cunnington, Simpkin finished with a game-high 26 disposals, eight clearances, five inside 50s and a goal. He is exactly what the Kangaroos need, providing outside run and polish and looks to have a big future ahead of him.

Must improve: Shaun Higgins

Shaun Higgins has all the runs on the board and is allowed to have a stinker, but he was comfortably beaten by George Hewett on the weekend. He finished with 11 disposals and had no impact through the midfield which was particularly damaging for North Melbourne given Cunnington was a late withdrawal. Higgins is a star and will bounce back, but Hewett took all the points in Round 3 for his tagging job.

Nic Negrepontis

Port Adelaide club banner

Stand out: Travis Boak

Travis Boak has carried his stellar 2019 form into this season. Fresh off a Showdown Medal-winning performance against Adelaide, Boak was once again Port Adelaide’s best against Fremantle finishing with a team-high 26 disposals, seven tackles, six clearances, 495 metres gained, two goal assists and a goal to help the Power maintain their 100 per cent winning record.

Must improve: Steven Motlop

Inconsistency has plagued Steve Motlop throughout his career. The enigmatic talent was outstanding in the Showdown win but struggled against Fremantle. Motlop had just five touches and failed to hit the scoreboard in the rain-soaked contest at Metricon Stadium. The former Cat needs to bridge the gap between his best and worst.

Alex Zaia

Richmond club banner

Stand out: Nick Vlastuin

If it wasn’t for Vlastuin (plus David Astbury and Dylan Grimes), it may have been an even heavier defeat for the Tigers. The premiership defender mopped up almost everything in his area to finish with 22 disposals, six marks and 10 intercept possessions. In typical Vlastuin fashion, he used the ball efficiently, going at 81%, and got forward enough to chime in with a handful of score involvements. Astbury and Grimes were also critical in keeping the Hawks at bay before rebounding from defence and giving the Tigers some sort of attacking recoil.

Must improve: Daniel Rioli

Rioli has been barely sighted in the two games back since the season restart. Against Collingwood in Round 2 he had just six touches and in Thursday night’s disappointing loss to the Hawks, he was again extremely quiet with just six disposals. He doesn’t usually get a heap of the ball but offsets that by being busy with the defensive side of his game. At the moment, that is missing as well. Rioli has failed to score in the last eight quarters of footy he has played and badly needs to find a spark, much like many of his teammates.

Andrew Slevison

St Kilda club banner

Stand out: Dan Butler

St Kilda’s decision to nab Dan Butler from the Tigers is looking like a shrewd piece of business. The small forward added another two goals in the loss to Collingwood and looked the most threatening forward of centre for the Saints. Butler has contributed 18 tackles, 17 score involvements and four goals in his first three games for his new club.

Must improve: Dan Hannebery

Considering the size and length of his contract, St Kilda would expect more from Dan Hannebery. The midfielder was solid in the Round 2 win over the Bulldogs but his impact against the Magpies was minimal registering just four kicks as the Saints were completely dominated in the midfield battle. The former Swan still looks some way off his All-Australian best.

Alex Zaia

Sydney club banner

Stand out: Isaac Heeney

After a quiet outing against Essendon, Isaac Heeney showed his class in Sydney’s deserved win over North Melbourne. Heeney was a constant threat on the ground and in the air, hauling in eight marks and booting a goal to help the Swans to a sixth victory in their last seven against the Kangaroos.

Must improve: Will Hayward

The highly rated Swan has struggled for form so far in 2020. Hayward had just six disposals against the Roos and is averaging 6.3 touches from three games. The 2016 first-round draft pick signed a four-year contract extension last year and will hope to repay the faith showed by the club.

Alex Zaia

West Coast club banner

Stand out: Nic Naitanui

Naitanui was his side’s best player in the loss to Brisbane. He was fairly dominant in the ruck winning 34 hit-outs only to see his midfield badly beaten by the tenacious Lions. Apart from his aerial prowess, ‘NicNat’ had 12 disposals, a game-high nine clearances, six inside 50s (second most for the game), laid five tackles, kicked a goal and provided a goal assist in an accomplished all-round display.

For the second week in a row, Andrew Gaff did his job on the wing with 30 disposals only to see the Eagles go down heavily again.

Must improve: Tim Kelly

Everyone thought he would be the player to take the Eagles midfield into the next stratosphere. But Kelly has been underwhelming since the resumption of the season. In Round 2 he had 24 disposals but went at just 45% efficiency. Against the Lions, he had the ball only 17 times at 29% efficiency. He also had just one clearance despite his ruckman’s best efforts. That’s just not good enough for a player who many rate as elite.

Andrew Slevison

Western Bulldogs banner

Stand out: Toby McLean

Bulldogs fans would still be scratching their heads as to how Toby McLean was unable to break into the side for Round 2. He had an immediate impact across half forward, a key cog in the huge pressure they put on GWS, who could not move the ball freely all night. He finished with 17 disposals at 82 per cent disposal efficiency and four inside 50s. McLean didn’t hit the scoreboard but he ticked every other box.

Tonm Liberatore also showed how much the Dogs missed him. He sparked the midfield and was influential in the win. His pure effort around the ball is second to none at the club.

Must improve: Josh Bruce

Josh Bruce has had a poor start to his career as a Bulldog having kicked one goal in three games. He was particularly quiet against the Giants, finishing with six disposals, two marks and no scoreboard impact. He is too talented a player for his main contribution to be as an enforcer around the ground when fights break out. While he wasn’t necessarily needed on Thursday night, with the Dogs getting the majority of their goals from midfielders, his lack of form remains concerning.

Nic Negrepontis

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