Adam Saad. Picture: carltonfc.com.au

We've heard about all the stars across the AFL this season, but who have been the players to fly under the radar this campaign?

We’ve heard about all the stars across the AFL this season, but who have been the players to fly under the radar this campaign?


Paul Seedsman 

Seedsman is putting together a career best season, with the midfielder being a consistent key contributor for the Crows. 

Teammates Ben Keays and Rory Laird have got their plaudits, whereas Seedsman has been quietly going about his business.

The 28-year-old has been a serviceable acquisition for the Crows since coming across from the Magpies in 2016, but has really come on in his sixth season at the club.

He is currently ranked above average for disposals (25.5) which is a career best. He is also ranked above average for marks (5.7) while being ranked elite for kicks (15.7).

Having broken into the Crows best 22 playing predominantly off the half back, Seedsman has now proven he can be impactful in the midfield.

Giacomo Bruno 


Lincoln McCarthy

Often overshadowed by the likes of Charlie Cameron and Zac Bailey in the forward half, McCarthy has been one of the most impressive small forwards in the competition. 

He’s a pure one-touch player, grabbing the football below his knees and in the sky as well as anybody in the league, and retains his keen goal-sense from his tenure at the Cattery. 

He managed just 29 games for his old club, but has played 59 in just three seasons up in Brisbane. 

McCarthy is averaging 4.6 ground ball gets and 15.1 pressure acts as a small forward, and kicks 1.4 goals and provides nearly a goal assist per contest for the Lions. 

McCarthy is the Lions’ X-Factor leading into September.

Jasper Chellappah 


Adam Saad

Often lumped in the conversation with fellow big name recruit Zac Williams given the stautre and contract he arrived at Princes Park with in the off-season. 

But remove all the fanfare and sensationalism, Individually, Adam Saad has had a brilliant first season in Navy Blue.

Saad has played every game this season, some of the season under duress and produced, averaging 19.6 disposals, providing Carlton with his customary run and dash out of defence, averaging 4.3 rebound 50s a game.

While Carlton’s defence has been shaky and largely held together by their key pillars in Jacob Weitering and Liam Jones, 

When Saad has been required to play 1v1 in defence, and apply pressure in the defensive half this year, he has well and truly held his own. 

Constantly getting himself in positions to lay a hand to deny a goal or get to a contest for a spoil, and his ability to win the ball in a contested 1v1 situation and send the ball back into attacking motion for the Blues has slipped under the radar this season.

Jono Baruch


John Noble

Noble has come leaps and bounds since being drafted in 2019, with the medium defender not only cementing his spot in the best 22, but also propelling his game to another level this year. 

The surrounding cast of Collingwood defenders have hindered his exposure but the 24-year-old has been as efficient as ever, ranking above average for disposals (19.3), marks (5.4) and handballs (7.1) whilst also ranking elite for tackles.

In a season where the Pies have struggled with consistency, his kicking efficiency (76 percent) has provided stability to this rebuilding Collingwood side. 

This percentage also places him in the top 30 of all players in the league. Noble’s ability to move the ball through the corridor has worked wonders, and his midfield dash on the transition has given opposition teams headaches.

Six-out-of-seven career best stats have been set this season, which included a brilliant 31 disposals against North Melbourne in round eight. Currently contracted until the end of the season, Noble among others will be looking to put pen to paper for 2022 and beyond. 

Steven Zois


Jayden Laverde

There were doubts from AFL pundits and Bombers fans alike when it was signalled pre-season that injury-prone forward Jayden Laverde was set for a move to defence.

For the first time in his career, Laverde has played every game possible in a season. 

He was subbed off late in last weekend’s clash with the Swans with a shoulder issue, but could be available against the Bulldogs dependent on a fitness test.

Laverde is building towards becoming one of the strongest intercept markers in the competition, averaging 5.6 intercept possessions and 2.2 intercept marks a game. He also ranks nearly elite for marks a game at 5.9.

What’s been most impressive about Laverde’s game outside of his intercept marking and defensive one on one ability has been assisting the likes of skipper Dyson Heppell, Mason Redman and reigning best and fairest Jordan Ridley in setting up the play from defence. Laverde averages three rebound 50s and 13.5 disposals at 81.6% efficiency.

Still only 25, Laverde seems to be turning his career around from an inconsistent, injury-riddled forward to a key part of the Bombers backline for the future.

Alex Catalano


Lachie Schultz

The small forward has been showing what he is capable of this year, in a forward line often plagued by injury and inaccuracy. 

One thing Fremantle has been promoting in 2021 is their future, with players like Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra and Caleb Serong at the forefront of its advertising. Schultz looks to be the future of Freo’s forward line in just 42 games. 

Schultz is rated above average in, and going at 52.6 percent in goal scoring accuracy, kicking 20 goals in 18 games. This is well above Freo’s team average of 47 per cent.

Some other strengths include intercepting and marking, in which he is rated above average in both intercept possessions (1.6), marks (3.9), and marks on the lead (1.2).

While he may not get a lot off the ball, it’s what he does with it and off the ball that matters. He plays the role of a pressure forward to perfection, with an average of 16 per match to show. 

Many career best games have come out of 2021, including the two-point win against Sydney in round 20 (16 disposals, two goals, eight goals, five tackles). 

Rebecca Ruthven 


Cam Guthrie

Transitioned from playing off the halfback to an inside midfielder, Guthrie has been in career best form, taking his game to another level.

Part of a star studded midfield group spearheaded by Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield, Guthrie leads the Cats for disposals and is ranked as an elite ball winner of the competition.

He has been a workhorse in the midfield being ranked above average in kicks (15.4), handballs (14.6) and clearances (5.4) in addition to being ranked elite for marks (5.9).

Having previously averaged 19 disposals per game throughout his career, Guthrie’s positional change has seen a rapid increase in his disposal numbers now averaging 29.9 disposals per game.

His career best performances have also come in 2021, having amassed a career high 43 disposals against Hawthorn, and his second personal best of 36 disposals on two occasions.

Giacomo Bruno


Jack Bowes

The medium sized defender has made a big leap in 2021, being one of the few shining lights in another trying season for the Suns.

Bowes has been immense with his run and carry off the halfback, standing out in a Suns backline which has been shaky for most of the season. 

He is ranked above average for disposals (22), marks (5.3) and meters gained (401). Additionally he is also ranked elite for kicks (16.8).

Having begun his career as a midfielder, Bowes has taken off playing as an intercept defender in addition to launching counter attacks across halfback.

Giacomo Bruno


Harry Perryman

The 22-year-old adds a fresh spark to the midfield that hasn’t been seen in a while at the Giants. 

This year, enough talent has circulated through the midfield that doesn’t always require Perryman’s presence; but when he’s named, he plays to show why he deserves his position. 

Although a midfielder, Perryman has the ability to be used as a utility – and that’s not because the Giants just try to slot him into the team, it’s because his precision and clean football proves him able of the position. 

Perryman is averaging 23 touches a game, above average currently in the league, including five marks and at least two tackles per game. By far this has been his greatest season since being drafted in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft.

Tricia Mifsud


Dylan Moore

At the end of 2020 you may have been forgiven for thinking that Dylan Moore had played his last game in the brown and gold.

Delisted initially, he was picked up again by the Hawks and was given a lifeline in 2021.

Moore has booted 29 goals to date this season and played in every game of Hawthorn’s campaign, doubling his career games total this coming weekend. 

Despite his success, he is never one to be put in the spotlight with much of the attention placed on who will be Hawthorn’s tall forward of the future.

Moore has gone about his business quietly and quickly filled the void left by retired premiership player, Paul Puopolo. 

His frontal pressure has been immense and he is becoming a proven difference maker having kicked multiple goals in four of Hawthorn’s five wins. 

He ranks in the elite category for his position in tackles inside 50 (1.5), kicking efficiency (71.7 per cent) and effective disposals (11.5) showing he has the polish to go with his pressure. 

Currently out of contract at season’s end, rumours are beginning to swirl of a multi-year deal for Moore, extending his stay at hawthorn. 

Given his outstanding performances this year, it would be a just reward for persistence and hard work.

Ben Lennon


Trent Rivers

The entire Melbourne back six has been outstanding in 2021. 

A club expected to remain somewhere in the middle will be there at the pointy end of the season in large part to these key cogs, and second-year Demon Trent Rivers is one of them.

The second-round pick has played every game this season, and kept his spot safe and secure with an insatiable appetite to defend, and a run-and-gun approach on the counter. 

The West Australian is averaging 1.6 intercept marks for a small defender to go with his 15.5 touches a game. His reading of the play is exceptional, as well as his IQ to play off his opponents when the time comes. 

With Christian Salem the main creator from half-back, Rivers often gets one of the best small forwards and has contained them with a certain casual nature that offers flashes of the Corey Enright’s of yester-year.

At just 20 years old, he looks to be a sure-fire 200-game player for the Dees, who will use Rivers as a key component of a back six looking to lead its side to the premiership.

Jasper Chellappah


Jy Simpkin

After a breakout season in the midfield last year, Simpkin has taken his game to new heights for the Roos, but probably hasn’t received the same level of plaudits. 

The hard-nosed midfielder has formed a potent contested duo with Ben Cunnington, able to play inside but also on the outside where his fitness comes to the fore and he can link up with young guns Tarryn Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson with regularity. 

Simpkin is averaging 26.8 disposals with 10.8 being contested and 3.8 tackles. He’s also elite at stoppages, averaging 5.3 clearances and enjoying 4.9 score involvements for North.

The club has recognised his ability on the field, having been named a vice-captain of the club this year. 

The rest of the football world is still to catch on to just how good Simpkin has been this year.

Jasper Chellappah


Willem Drew

While Ollie Wines and Karl Amon have taken the plaudits this season in an All-Australian like season, Drew’s season has been unbelievable.

Drew has flown under the radar for most of his career, highlighted by the fact he debuted in the same game as Xavier Duursma, Connor Rozee and Zak Butters in Round 1, 2019.

The 22-year-old averages the sixth most tackles in the AFL with 6.47, with his career-high coming in round one against North Melbourne with 11.

The tackling machine has been a valued addition in Port’s line-up since returning from injury which saw him miss the entirety of 2020.

Jack Hudson


Jack Graham

Jack Graham may be a two-time premiership player but he still goes largely unnoticed by many opposition players, coaches and fans and this allows the 23-year-old to perform his gameday role to great effect.

Taking his defensive game to a new level in 2021, Graham is currently leading the league in pressure acts (497, average 26.16 per game) and tackles (105, 5.53 per game).

In a testing season for Richmond’s midfield, Graham has exemplified his workrate and hunger for the ball, and the opposition as an inside player, and a running player who can drift forward to get on the scoreboard.

During 19 games this season, at Richmond, he’s third for inside 50s (70) and sixth for clearances (31), again highlighting his ability to win a contested ball (seventh at Richmond with 112).

It’s this in-and-under type of player that Graham allows himself to be that sees him as an important member of the Tigers line-up and in helping generate plays and scoring progressions (fourth in goal assists at the club) in a season where it’s been difficult to come by as the Tigers’ struggles have been identified.

Jason Irvine


Jack Sinclair 

Since his debut back in 2015, Sinclair has been trialed in various positions but is now starting to play his best footy as backman.

After initially struggling to cement a spot in the side in his early career, the 26-year-old is now beginning to blossom as a medium sized defender.

In what has been an underwhelming season for the Saints, the running machine has been a shining light with his run and carry off halfback and defensive work. 

He’s been pivotal for the Saints in 2021, sitting amongst the top five ball winners at the club in addition to being ranked above average for disposals (20.9), tackles (2.4) and meters gained (331).

Giacomo Bruno


Tom McCartin

Once earmarked to become the future of the Sydney attack, Tom McCartin now looks set to become the future of the club’s defence. 

McCartin has had his first full season as a key defender in 2021, and ranks above average in one-percenters, contested and intercept possessions (including intercept marks) and ground ball gets. 

Most importantly he is also ranked elite for contested defence one on ones, a sign of him being rarely beaten by his opponents.  

On three occasions this season, McCartin has taken a personal best 10 marks. Against the Western Bulldogs, four of them were contested, an equal game leader. 

McCartin, who is still only 21, looks at home in defence now, and won’t be under the radar as a key defender for much longer at this rate. 

Thomas Grattan


Josh Rotham

Since 2016, Josh Rotham has been toiling away behind the scenes to break into a backline containing seven All-Australians blazers, five premiership players and 953 games of experience. 

In 2021, he finally became a regular inclusion in the playing 22, playing in all games but one this year.  

Despite being ranked second in average marks (8.5 marks) and above the likes of Harris Andrews and Darcy Moore, remarkably, few people are familiar with the 23 year old and his safe hands. 

Additionally, he is rated above average in disposals and kicks, and rated elite in effective kicks, averaging 10.7. 

Has been a pillar of consistency among West Coast’s wavering form, and is often one of the better performers in losses, with his best game for the season against the Bulldogs in round 15 (23 disposals, 12 marks, three rebound 50s). 

Rebecca Ruthven


Bailey Dale

After struggling to find a place in the Bulldogs side over the last few years, Bailey Dale has turned into a key player in their rise up the ladder 

Dale has averaged 24.4 disposals across the season and has played that rebounding half back role, with a career best game in the Bulldogs’ massive win against St Kilda back in Round 10, having amassed 34 disposals. 

With speed one of his best assets, he is easily able to transition from defence to either hitting up a target inside 50 or apply that scoreboard pressure having kicked nine goals for the season. 

With Alex Keath out with a hamstring injury and Taylor Duryea missing last week fans are starting to see how important he’s become to the Western Bulldogs side. 

Elly McNerney

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