30/05/2024
Club MVP: Gather Round

Isaac Heeney is seen during the Sydney Swans Training at Tramway Oval, March 27, 2024, Sydney AUS © Joshua Davis 2024

it was Heeney who put the Swans on his back and helped steady the ship to victory.

All round to Gather Round, as four clubs trail, while three sit undefeated as the season’s first quarter nears an end.

The Inner Sanctum makes their picks for the Best On Ground in Club MVP each week, to highlight the best-performing players each round of the 2024 AFL Season.

Adelaide Vs Melbourne

Adelaide

3. Jake Soligo: In a year where the remainder of his teammates have dropped off dramatically, Soligo has been the shining light. He had 27 touches and eight tackles and looks right at home in the Crows’ engine room.

2. Rory Laird: Not the biggest night from the usually reliable Crows midfielder, but 24 touches and a goal is a decent performance. The former defender also added six tackles and three clearances to his stat sheet.

1. Mark Keane: While Adelaide’s defence is notoriously undermanned, the former Magpie has been holding his own. Keane had 23 touches and 10 marks down back.

Melbourne 

3. Christian Petracca: The Dees’ Rolls Royce was in fine form after a quieter than usual match the week earlier against Port. Petracca had eight clearances, 29 touches and a goal in a dominant performance.

2. Steven May: Down back and despite an early return from injury, May was terrific. Tex Walker only landed one blow on the Dees, while May took nine marks and had 19 touches.

1. Bayley Fritsch: Even with his early yips this year, the dangerous Dees forward has found his form and produced a terrific performance in Adelaide. After sinking the Power a week earlier, Fritsch did the same to their crosstown rivals with a three-goal performance.

Brisbane Vs North Melbourne 

Brisbane 

3. Hugh McCluggage: The leading ball winner on the ground, McCluggage was everywhere for the Lions. He found a way to be both effective on the inside, especially given the in-close conditions, but also was able to make things happen on the spread. With 10 score involvements, McCluggage was a real driving force for the offence.

2. Joe Daniher: Joe did everything he is paid to do, take marks and kick a bag of goals. He was able to expose an inexperienced Kangaroos defence and showcase his creative best inside 50, with five goals.

1. Josh Dunkley: The main strength of North Melbourne, their midfield, was completely negated by Dunkley at Norwood. He put himself everywhere the ball was, allowing him to not only rack up possessions but also feed it out to his teammates.

North Melbourne

3. Harry Sheezel: It seemed as though he was the only Kangaroo to use the football effectively, particularly in the first half. Often viewed as a non-contested ball winner, Sheezel showed plenty of defensive nous this afternoon and perhaps saved the scoreboard from looking worse.

2. Charlie Comben: A dirty day for the North Melbourne defence was softened by the flourishing of the forward-turned-defender. Comben grew in confidence as the game went on, finishing with six marks and 17 disposals in the second half alone.

1. Tristan Xerri: Affectionately known as ‘Helmet Xerri’, the big man gave everything of himself again to help his side out in the ruck, leading the game with 41 hitouts. with his tenacity at ground level standing him out from the rest.

Port Adelaide Vs Essendon

Port Adelaide

3. Connor Rozee: If we could give all six votes to the Port captain, we would. Rozee was massive with 36 touches and three goals. The Power’s midfield is going to be nearly impossible to stop in a few years.

2. Jason Horne-Francis: A full pre-season under his belt is a very, very scary thing. The former Roo amassed 31 touches and had 10 clearances on his return to the Power line-up after missing with injury. Dominant.

1. Darcy Byrne-Jones: Byrne-Jones keeps producing in his new role up forward, and this week was no exception.

Essendon 

3. Ben McKay: One of the main players on the Dons’ side that could hold his head up high. McKay held Charlie Dixon goalless and made the former Sun frustrated towards the end of the game.

2. Zach Merrett: While Port’s midfield dominated, Merrett was the sole survivor of the engine room massacre for the Dons. He had 36 touches, seven clearances and five tackles in a losing side.

1. Jade Gresham: It was difficult to find a third player for the Dons, but Gresham gets the chocolates purely for his three goal effort, two of which came in the opening term.

Sydney Vs West Coast

Sydney 

3. Isaac Heeney: Staring down the barrel of an embarrassing upset, it was Heeney who put the Swans on his back and helped steady the ship to victory. 26 disposals at 92% shows the efficiency that he was running at in a tough encounter. 

2. Errol Gulden: While still relatively scrappy in the encounter, Gulden got down and dirty to will the Swans over the top of a tough Eagles midfield with an equal team-high six tackles. 

1. Nick Blakey: With the Swans struggling to break the lines of the West Coast defence, Blakey often took it upon himself to get things going, and was effective in his efforts, with 96% disposal efficiency from his 25 touches off half-back. 

West Coast 

3. Liam Duggan: The Eagles lifted in a big way against Sydney and their captain led from the front from the outset, taking a game-high 12 marks, cutting off numerous forays by the Swans inside 50. 

2. Jeremy McGovern: The Eagles just look more secure with McGovern down back, and he once again showed why with a strong showing consisting of 26 disposals as a key defender, and showing why he’s still the lynchpin of the Eagles defence. 

1. Harley Reid: Welcome to the future. Reid had perhaps his best game to date against Sydney, showing the class that will soon cause nightmares for opposition sides. Reid lay seven tackles for the Eagles and also kicked his first goal in blue and gold. 

Fremantle Vs Carlton

Fremantle 

3. Andrew Brayshaw: 38 touches and seven tackles: the Dockers mid was everywhere. Some more midfield time for Brayshaw was certainly a key factor in the Dockers leading for most of the day. 

2. Jeremy Sharp: The Sun-turned-Docker put in his finest performance for his new club, running up and down the Adelaide Oval wing and providing his side with great options heading forward. finishing with 29 touches and a classy goal. 

1. James Aish: Much maligned for much of his career, Aish has developed into a dependable half-back. collecting 27 touches and seven marks against the Blues. What was most pleasing was his disposal by foot, as this has been an area of concern in the past. 

Carlton 

3. Patrick Cripps: The Blues captain, whilst only collecting 20 disposals, was a clear standout in the midfield. His ball use and decision-making were second to none and critical in the close finish.

2. Matthew Cottrell: In a low-scoring game, Cottrell’s contribution was vital. 2.2, including the late goal to put them in front, as well as some great forward pressure and tackling, meant he stood out as a great contributor. 

1. Charlie Curnow: The best forward on the ground, he had a tough day with the poor supply, yet still managed to take key contested marks and kick the goals needed, finishing with 3.2.

Geelong Vs Western Bulldogs

Western Bulldogs 

3. Tom Liberatore: In a clear best-on-ground performance, Libba was one of the main reasons the Dogs stayed in touch throughout the night. He had a huge 19 clearances, often giving his runners first use, and almost willed his side over the line single-handedly.

2. Marcus Bontempelli: If it wasn’t Libba, it was the Bont dominating around the ball, and he stood out as the best ball carrier in the game. 35 touches and 10 tackles would see three Brownlow votes normally, but maybe Libba pips him?

1. Sam Darcy: Darcy continues to grow in confidence each week, and against the Cats, it felt as though he was the most likely type-up forward for the Dogs. Three goals was a super impressive output from the youngster. 

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Geelong 

3. Gryan Miers: Some teams should consider tagging Miers, such is his impact on the game. His ability to find a teammate with precision and link up the back with forwards was on full display against the Dogs, and two goal assists and eight score involvements speak of the great connection he has with his teammates. 

2. Jeremy Cameron: Cameron was instrumental in kicking goals, setting up goals and finding the football with ease. He often burst from stoppages and led the Cats well with 27 disposals and 2.4. 

1. Jack Bowes: In arguably his best game for the club, Bowes had 23 touches and kicked two goals, with his ability to extract from clearances and find a target that was most impressive. More midfield time awaits with performances such as this. 

Gold Coast Vs GWS 

Gold Coast

3. Noah Anderson: Did all he could to help the Suns get over the line, with a goal in the last quarter to keep the Suns alive, and 32 disposals, the best return on the ground for both teams. 

2. Sam Flanders: Deployed onto the half-back line at Mount Barker, Flanders continued his prolific start to 2024 with 29 disposals at 82% efficiency, to break tough Giant lines. 

1. Mac Andrew: A breakout performance? Andrew stood tall against arguably one of the best forward lines in the competition, with 24 disposals, and 10 marks, the most on the ground, giving the Giants forwards plenty of trouble all game. 

GWS

3. Toby Greene: A high five for the Giants captain who imposed himself on the contest early with two first-quarter goals, and always seemed to be ready with the settler to keep the Suns at bay. 

2. Stephen Coniglio: From the current captain to the former captain, Cogs was ever-present around the contest all day, with 28 touches and two important goals in the third quarter when the game was there to be won. 

1. Jesse Hogan: A minor vote for the Giants spearhead, who continued his hot start to the season with four goals, two to start and two to cap off a strong showing by the Giants. 

Richmond Vs St Kilda 

Richmond 

3. Shai Bolton: An unbelievable individual performance from the star Tiger as he amassed 19 touches but kicked four goals, including a Goal of the Year contender from the pocket.

2. Dustin Martin: The Tigers veteran was in everything early and had 20 touches to half-time. He had his colours lowered in the second half, but the impact in the first was terrific.

1. Maurice Rioli: While Tim Taranto or Toby Nankervis could’ve easily fit here, Rioli gets the nod for his efforts. The small forward produced two of the most bone-crunching tackles seen and also slotted two majors.

St Kilda

3. Brad Hill: The impact Brad Hill’s speed and tenacity had in the third quarter turned the game for the Saints. While he was unable to hit the scoreboard, the former Hawk and Docker was terrific with 27 touches and 10 marks.

2. Rowan Marshall: After Toby Nankervis dominated the first half, Marshall got around the ground with a lot more impact and turned defensive interceptor. Marshall finished the day with 23 touches, 24 hitouts, seven marks and seven tackles.

1. Jack Steele: A captain’s performance in the second half with the game in the balance. Steele was massive around the contest with seven clearances, 10 tackles and 33 touches.

Hawthorn Vs Collingwood

Hawthorn 

3. Karl Amon: When Hawthorn needed a spark in the second half, one of those who stood up was Amon. His 25 kicks for the match included 19 in the second half, giving Hawthorn the drive inside 50 it needed. 

2. Blake Hardwick: A spark-up forward, it took until his fourth second-half goal for Hardwick to get any attention, by which time the Hawks were well and truly back in the contest. 

1. Lloyd Meek: Worked over by the premiership-winning duo of Cameron and Cox from the outset, Meek was one of Hawthorn’s bright lights in the first half and followed up his hard work in the ruck with 18 disposals as well. 

Collingwood

3. Jordan De Goey: De Goey made his intentions clear early with a long-range goal for Collingwood and stayed busy all game, eventually finishing with a game-high 31 disposals.

2. Josh Daicos: The reigning Copeland Trophy winner has been back in good form so far in 2024, and was one of the best in the first half, amassing 22 first-half disposals on the wing, eventually finishing with 30. 

1. Darcy Cameron: Just when it looked like Hawthorn were going to snatch the win from Collingwood, Cameron stood up late, with around half of his 19 disposals coming in the final quarter, including critical intercept possessions. 

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