22/04/2024
Marcus Windhager was one of the many standouts in Round Two. Picture: Matt Haug/The Inner Sanctum

Marcus Windhager was one of the many standouts in Round Two. Picture: Matt Haug/The Inner Sanctum

Two sides watched on as some matches got fiery, some teams fell to new lows, and some made big statements.

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.

St Kilda Vs Collingwood

St Kilda 

3. Marcus Windhager: What a game from this young man. 24 disposals, six tackles, seven clearances and one torn apart Magpies midfield. A definite breakout.

2. Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera: A player who continues to get better and better. 31 touches, eight intercept possessions, five score involvements and provided so much pace and poise down the wing.

1. Jack Higgins: Despite kicking a goal from AFL HQ at Docklands, Higgins deserves the plaudits for a terrific four-goal game. With the match there for the taking, the ex-Tiger stood up when it mattered and delivered the knockout blow.

Collingwood

3. Josh Daicos: The reigning Copeland Trophy winner was the Magpies’ best in another lacklustre performance. He finished with 29 touches, seven marks and three clearances.

2. Pat Lipinski: One of Collingwood’s better players this season has been the ex-Bulldog, who had 22 touches and two goals. Positives are always good.

1. Reef McInnes: Was brought into the side to kick goals. Kick goals is just what he did. With 12 touches, McInnes finished with three straight.

Adelaide Vs Geelong

Adelaide

3. Matt Crouch: It was almost a one-man show for the Crows. Crouch finished the evening with 37 disposals and nine clearances in a massive midfield effort.

2. Jordan Dawson: While his form hasn’t been that great, his teammates’ has been worse. Despite that, Dawson had 26 touches and 12 tackles in the loss.

1. Reilly O’Brien: The big ruck nearly caused the Adelaide Oval roof to collapse when he kicked the slowest motion goal ever seen, but his midfield work did a lot of good. 18 disposals, 47 hitouts and nine clearances for big ROB.

Geelong

3. Tom Stewart: Friday night was a comfortable night for the Cats’ star man down back, as all of the Crows’ plans to thwart him went wayward. Stewart collected a record-equalling 10 intercept marks and had 28 touches.

2. Tom Hawkins: With the game in the balance, the Cats’ Mr Reliable stood up and put Adelaide to sleep in a swift five-minute burst of three goals. Left, right, good night.

1. Gryan Miers: How he missed the All-Australian team in 2023 will remain a mystery, but Miers’ performance against Adelaide was phenomenal. Three goals, two assists and 26 disposals.

North Melbourne Vs Fremantle

North Melbourne 

3. Tom Powell:  It is going to be scary what the North midfield can do when all the youngsters fully develop.  Powell was instrumental in the Kangaroos early onslaught and kept trying valiantly in the second half, giving North supporters plenty to cheer for on Saturday and into the future.

2. Harry Sheezel: Anyone would think this kid has played 100+ games with his poise and ball-getting ability.  Sheezel was everywhere against Fremantle and his quality ball use was a large factor in the Kangaroos’ building an early five-goal lead. 

1. Bailey Scott: Unheralded Kangaroo forward Bailey Scott has started 2024 with a point to prove, and if his performances continue to be similar to the one shown against Fremantle, Roos fans will be happy for years to come.

Fremantle 

3. Luke Jackson: Sean who? Fremantle supporters may be keen to get something for Darcy, given Jackson’s start to the season as the lone ruck.  He was dominant against North Melbourne, amassing 21 hitouts, 24 disposals and kicking two goals.  Writing about his game does not do it justice – it needs to be seen to be believed how much of an impact he had. 

2. Caleb Serong: When the Kangaroos were up and flying, Caleb Serong helped keep the Dockers in the game.  His calmness under pressure and ability to break from stoppages was on full display once again against North.

1. Bailey Banfield: Perhaps a surprise inclusion among the Freo votes, Banfield’s game on close inspection was quite impactful.  It always felt as though in the key moments, be it stemming the North run or as part of the Freo onslaught in the third quarter, Banfield was able to make an impact.

Hawthorn Vs Melbourne

Hawthorn

3. James Worpel: A standout for the Hawks against Melbourne, James Worpel was able to create plenty of opportunities, and in a game where the side struggled to get much past the Demon backline, Worpel was the main threat in the midfield for his side and fans would be pleased with the work he has put in. 

2. Josh Weddle: Another player who looked consistently dangerous for the Hawks, Josh Weddle’s speed and aggression served him well as he was able to make an impact when others in the side struggled to do so.

1. Massimo D’Ambrosio: D’Ambrosio brought plenty of flair to a Hawthorn backline that struggled to rebound on Saturday afternoon. With the side opting for a possession-based game plan, D’Ambrosio’s speed and creativity suited well, and it will certainly shine through even more in games where the opposition is easier to break down.

Melbourne

3. Bayley Fritsch: Booting five majors and comfortably getting the better of one of the league’s most consistent defenders in James Sicily, Bayley Fritsch was outstanding on Saturday for the Demons and deserves plenty of credit after his performance.

2. Christian Petracca: Even with Finn Maginness being moved onto him later in the game, Christian Petracca was as impactful as ever on Saturday. With 29 disposals, 11 score involvements, eight inside 50s, and a goal, Petracca was able to show plenty of influence going forward in the exact kind of performance we have come to expect from him.

1. Alex Neal-Bullen: Playing a more expansive role than he has in past seasons, Alex Neal-Bullen was impressive for the Demons on Saturday. He was still able to have as much impact forward of the ball, with seven score involvements to his name, but contributed all over the ground in an underrated performance. 

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Sydney Vs Essendon

Sydney 

3. Tom Papley: The Sydney livewire was at his dangerous best against the Bombers, being a constant threat up against a tall Essendon defence and finishing with four goals for the night.

2. Errol Gulden: With clean entries made difficult through strong Essendon defence and pressure, Gulden’s pinpoint precision was critical from start to finish and two goals also helped keep the Dons at bay. 

1. Isaac Heeney: While maybe not as clear a standout as he was in the first two rounds, Heeney was still as crucial as ever, with several important possessions when the game was at its hottest. 

Essendon

3. Zach Merrett: A true captain’s performance from Merrett, who made his intentions known early, and kicked two goals late to try and will the Bombers over the line. 

2. Jade Gresham: Gresham was always a danger to the Swan defence, and his third goal got Essendon as close as possible early in the last quarter. 

1. Will Setterfield: A bit overshadowed in the wake of his captain, Setterfield showed how important he truly is to this Bombers midfield with a whopping 17 contested possessions. 

Western Bulldogs Vs Gold Coast 

Western Bulldogs

3. Cody Weightman: The Bulldogs livewire had a day out against the Suns, kicking six goals, four of which came in the first quarter in what was a fast start by the Bulldogs. Weightman’s six goals were an equal career-best and got the Bulldogs well clear of their rivals.

2. Marcus Bontempelli: A dominant performance once again by the Bulldogs skipper, not even a slight niggle could keep Bontempelli down. The 28-year-old had 32 disposals, 11 clearances and two goals, including the sealer.

1. Tom Liberatore: It was yet another strong performance from Tom Liberatore, with the match-up against Suns star Matt Rowell being one of the highlights of the game for a neutral supporter. Liberatore finished the game with 20 disposals, seven clearances and nine tackles.

Gold Coast

3. Touk Miller: The co-captain led from the front in what was a disappointing match for the Suns. Miller was often involved in their transition play across the ground which did look strong at times throughout the match.

2.  Matt Rowell: Yet another strong performance by Matt Rowell continues to prove that he’s one of the most exciting young guns in the competition. Going head-to-head with Bulldogs star Tom Liberatore, Rowell was one of the positives for the Suns, finishing with 25 disposals, eight tackles and six clearances. 

1. Sam Collins: Collins once again is putting his hand up as one of the premier defenders in the competition, keeping Bulldogs tall Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to just one goal for the game while being the steadier in defence at times.

Richmond Vs Port Adelaide

Richmond 

3. Shai Bolton: The Tigers star was making things happen. His blistering pace set the standard in the second quarter as his side began to run over the fancied visitors. He ended the day with two goals and 22 touches.

2. Liam Baker: You’d want to re-sign this bloke. Quickly. Baker is one of the most underrated players in the competition and showed just what he’s capable of. Two quick goals before three-quarter-time had Richmond well in the hunt. He had three majors for the day and 23 touches.

1. Tim Taranto: The main man in the Richmond midfield was terrific and nearly mimicked the performance in the identical fixture last season. Yet, only 1.2 this year and 26 touches, but still a big impact.

Port Adelaide 

3. Zak Butters: The kid is a gun. When Richmond was running rampant and looking to break the game open, Butters returned serve with a scintillating third-quarter performance that changed the game. 34 touches, seven clearances and a goal. Brownlow fancy.

2. Brandon Zerk-Thatcher: Not all games have to be pretty by numbers, but when, aside from the first minute of the game, you’ve held Tom Lynch to more biff with opponents than contributions, you’ve done your job.

1. Willem Drew: While everyone raves about the other Port midfielders such as Butters, Connor Rozee, Ollie Wines, Jason Horne-Francis, the list goes on, Drew does his job and well. A player who put in a four-quarter performance to use the old cliché, and finished with 27 touches and a goal.

West Coast Vs GWS

West Coast 

3. Elliot Yeo: Despite the scoreline, Yeo’s performance was vintage, handily the driving force of a midfield lacking inside grunt. Yeo’s 27 disposals were matched by eight clearances, seven tackles and a goal.

2. Jeremy McGovern: Like Yeo, it was a vintage performance from McGovern who helped keep the result from getting worse for West Coast. 10 rebound 50’s and seven marks kept McGovern busy.

1. Liam Duggan: Duggan closed out the game as West Coast’s leading ball-winner with 28 disposals and was a key cog of West Coast’s attempts to move the ball forward going at 78% efficiency.

GWS 

3. Kieren Briggs: Briggs made the most of an unheralded ruck combo at West Coast, finishing with 34 hitouts and 21 disposals, constantly giving his midfielders first use.

2. Tom Green: Green could be the Brownlow leader at this point, and a 34 disposal outing will help his case. Green was ever present in this game and was a core part of GWS’s ball movement.

1. Lachie Whitfield: Whitfield led all players with 36 disposals and was once again a key component of the ‘Orange Tsunami’ arguably the best gameplan in the AFL at the moment.

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