The Inner Sanctum has put together a team of the week, comprised of the best-performing players from Round 5 of the 2023 AFL season.
Defenders are rewarded for defensive play, midfielders receive accolades for their dominance, while forwards are praised for hitting the scoreboard and applying pressure.
You can read last week’s team here.
The selected side for round five is…
Tom Stewart looked like he returned to his usual form in his second game back from injury on Sunday against the injury-riddled Eagles. Playing his usual role as a loose defender, the Geelong vice-captain recorded 24 disposals, nine intercept possessions, eight rebounds 50s as he led the Geelong defence.
It’s not a coincidence Sam Taylor was named the All-Australian full-back last year, as the 23-year-old reminded people on Sunday in GWS’ thrilling win against Hawthorn why he is one of the best young key defenders.
Taylor found himself playing on the Hawks’ resting ruckman (either Ned Reeves or Lloyd Meek) which allowed the Western Australian to peel off and intercept, deterring the Hawks’ attacking forays. Taylor played a round game for a key defender, holding his opponents goalless and finished the match with 20 disposals, 16 intercept possessions, 13 one-percenters, and eight marks.
Often renowned for his run off the half-back flank, Nick Blakey showed his capabilities defensively on Friday night against the Tigers. Without Dane Rampe or the McCartin brothers in defence, the Swans gave Blakey more responsibility. The 23-year-old certainly proved he could combine his attacking display and play on tall or small, finishing with 30 disposals and helping Sydney restrict Richmond to a low score.
On Friday night, Liam Baker continued to show the football world why he is such a valuable player. Baker has continued to shine in his role in defence, a position he made his own in Richmond’s 2019 and 2020 premiership seasons. Against the Swans, Baker was everywhere, finishing the match as one of the Tigers’ best with 35 touches, six rebound 50s, and 586 metres gained.
Collingwood young gun Nick Daicos carried on his fire form on Sunday afternoon against St Kilda, finishing as one of the most influential players on the ground. Daicos recorded a career-high 42 disposals, seven marks, eight inside 50s, and nearly nine hundred metres gained, reminding the competition how damaging he is by foot.
It may be a little early season but stand-in St Kilda captain Callum Wilkie continues to put his name in the fold for a potential All-Australian jacket at season’s end as he put on another stellar performance in his side’s six-point loss to Collingwood. Wilkie cut off several Collingwood kicks inside 50, taking 11 marks (six intercept marks), he also finished the match with 24 disposals (10 intercept possessions), and 14 rebound 50s.
Sam Draper put on a show on Saturday afternoon as he helped Essendon upset Melbourne. Coming up against one of the premier ruckmen in Brodie Grundy, Draper took it up to the former All-Australian. Although Grundy had more hit-outs, the 24-year-old was able to even the contest around the ball, as well as defeating him in the air, taking four marks (three contested). Draper was also able to punish Grundy by taking him forward and kicking three goals.
Adelaide captain Jordan Dawson continued to flourish in his move to the midfield as he led his side to a dominant performance over Carlton to open Gather Round on Thursday night. The Blues’ midfield who are known for their contested football were smashed in the middle and Dawson played a massive part in that, finishing the contest with 32 disposals (10 contested), nine tackles, 10 inside 50s, and 11 score involvements.
After Brisbane’s reasonably slow start to season 2023, co-captain Lachie Neale put on a performance that would have put a smile on coach Chris Fagan’s face. Despite playing against a young Kangaroos’ midfield, the former Brownlow Medalist put his stamp on the contest, finishing with 37 touches (17 contested), 13 clearances, six inside 50s, and 13 score involvements.
Despite Fremantle’s poor start to the season, midfielder Caleb Serong has not put a foot wrong as he helped his side to its second win of the season against Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon. Serong did everything in his power to help the Dockers hold off the Suns, finding 14 of his 37 touches in the last quarter. He also finished with eight clearances, seven score involvements, and six tackles.
Port Adelaide’s Zak Butters stood up when Ken Hinkley and Port Adelaide needed him the most on Saturday night against the Western Bulldogs. The Dogs had the ascendency in the midfield for most of the night, but Butters’ second half was a major factor. In wet conditions, the 22-year-old finished the match with 32 disposals, seven clearances, five inside 50s, and kicked a goal that sealed the game for his side.
Chad Warner last year proved to be one of the best young midfielders in the competition, and on Friday night against Richmond, his power and burst from stoppage were clear. Warner finished among Sydney’s best with 26 touches (12 contested), seven clearances, five inside 50s, and eight score involvements. He could have finished with a bag of goals if not for some wayward kicking (one goal, three behinds).
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Michael Walters put on a vintage performance on Saturday against the Gold Coast Suns. The veteran small forward proved to be a match-winner, kicking four goals (two of which helped keep Fremantle in the contest in the first quarter).
Despite criticism in recent weeks, Joe Daniher put that behind him and put together a massive performance. Daniher took full advantage of Brisbane’s dominance, finishing with five goals, 18 touches, and 13 marks.
GWS captain Toby Greene was among the best players in his side’s win against Hawthorn on Sunday afternoon. The 29-year-old was the most damaging forward, finishing with three goals, 24 disposals, and 10 score involvements.
Sydney’s Tom Papley proved too much for the Richmond defence, putting on a second-half masterclass on Friday night. The energetic small forward kicked six goals in the second half after being held goalless for the first two quarters. Papley also finished with 25 touches and a game-high 13 score involvements.
Darcy Fogarty is continuing to highlight himself as one of the competition’s best young key forwards. Matching up against Carlton’s Jacob Weitering, Fogarty proved too strong, kicking five goals and grabbing 10 marks.
Cody Weightman‘s first game back from injury illustrated how important he is to the Western Bulldogs’ forward line. The small forward finished the contest against Port Adelaide with four goals and six marks.
St Kilda’s Brad Crouch continued his spectacular start to the season on Sunday against Collingwood. His work in the contest helped the Saints almost make a magical comeback late in the game but they ultimately fell short. The hard-nosed midfielder finished with 33 touches, two goals, nine clearances, and 10 inside 50s.
Rory Laird continues to demonstrate why he is considered among the best midfielders. Against the Blues, Laird proved to be too strong around the contest, finishing with a game-high 37 disposals, six tackles, nine clearances, 15 score involvements, and a goal.
Bombers captain Zach Merrett led by example in his side’s clash against the Demons. Merrett finished Essendon’s big win with 35 disposals, seven tackles, and nine inside 50s.
Darcy Moore stood tall in traditional fashion in his side’s win against the Saints. The Collingwood captain was an unstoppable force in defence, causing headaches as St Kilda went forward. The 27-year-old finished Sunday’s clash with 18 disposals (nine intercept possessions), seven marks, and holding his opponent Zaine Cordy goalless.
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