26/02/2024

Jake Stringer, Marcus Bontempelli and Tim Kelly have had some of the best individual performances of 2021. Photos: Essendon FC, Western Bulldogs FC, West Coast FC

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at who your club's best individual performance of the season has been so far.

In round 14, we saw some of the great individual performances of the year.

Tom Stewart proved to be a brick wall with 10 intercept marks on Friday night, Ollie Wines dominated with 43 disposals, and Jake Stringer rounded out the weekend with a remarkable 29 disposal, four goal performance against the Hawks.

It got us thinking about some of the other mesmerising performances of 2021. Consideration has been given to match-winning efforts so Tom Mitchell’s 44 disposals and Josh Bruce’s incredible 10-goal game are very unlucky omissions.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at who your club’s best individual performance of the season has been so far.

Adelaide

Taylor Walker – Round 3 vs Gold Coast

Many thought that 2021 would be a footnote in the career of former Adelaide Crows captain, Taylor Walker.

If a five-goal haul against Geelong in round one was not enough to prove otherwise, his round 3 performance had the footy world on board with a Tex renaissance.

He was talismanic for the Crows, who endured a tough 2020 campaign and was instrumental in his side’s 10 point victory at home against the Suns. 

Walker kicked six majors and had 12 score involvements, making him the difference between the sides as Friday night footy returned to the Adelaide Oval for 2021. 

He took nine marks and had a whopping 24 disposals, including 15 kicks and over 500 metres gained. 

It was arguably the best version of Taylor Walker that Crows fans have seen across his 200+ game career. 

Ben Lennon

Brisbane

Mitch Robinson – Round 11 vs GWS

The heart and soul of the Brisbane Lions team, Mitch Robinson showed every part of why he is so valuable to the Lions outfit and their Grand Final hopes with a stunning performance in round 11 against the Giants.

Robinson collected 30 disposals, of which 24 were kicks as well as 12 marks, 10 score involvements and a massive 689 meters gained. Most impressive was the four goals he kicked, highlighted by his third which he launched from 55 meters out after the three-quarter time siren. 

Robinson was not done wowing the Gabba crowd, kicking his last major with a snap from the pocket in the final term to cap off a brilliant performance.

Leading into the game, Robinson had not kicked a goal for the season, but made sure to save them for one of his best performances in Lions colours.

Ben Filosi

Carlton

Harry McKay – Round 3 vs Fremantle

McKay has become Carlton’s most consistent and important forward in 2021, which was certainly realised as he had an absolute day out in round three. He booted 7 goals and five behinds against the Dockers in what was a completely dominant performance. 

He also gathered 17 disposals and ten marks, and amassed a game-high 14 score involvements, leading the Blues to their first win of the season which was a commanding 45-point win against the Dockers. 

McKay’s seven-goal haul – a career best – has certainly set the tone for his 2021, as he leads the Coleman Medal race by four goals after round 14, and equalled his previous season-high goal total in just round seven.

Will Cuckson

Collingwood

Jamie Elliott – Round 12 vs Adelaide

Without Elliott since Round 2 due to a broken leg, the dynamic forward bounced back into the beleaguered Collingwood side in a massive way at the Adelaide Oval, inspiring his Pies to a ship-steadying win.

The mid-sized forward did maximum damage in the first half, kicking four goals in the opening term before backing up with his fifth in the second. Having averaged barely 50 points in their previous month of footy, Elliott’s return had an immediate impact on the struggling Magpies forward line. 

But his best work was yet to come. Despite helping Collingwood to a handy buffer against Adelaide, he then had to switch into the midfield when the Crows snatched back the lead in the late stages of the match. His sixth goal – a booming shot on the run from the arc – split the middle to give Collingwood a gritty five point win that temporarily saved the graces of their 2021 form slump.

Sean Mortell

Essendon

Darcy Parish – Round 6 vs Collingwood

Parish announced himself to the footballing world on Anzac Day, and he hasn’t looked back since. The prolific midfielder obliterated the Pies on his way to claiming his first Anzac Day medal in the Dons’ win.

The 23-year-old amassed 42 disposals in just one of his first games as a pure midfielder. 17 of those were contested, and included nine clearances, seven inside 50s and nine score involvements.

Parish also kicked two fantastic goals on the day, utilising his contested craft from inside 50 stoppages. The first was to get Essendon into the ball game after a quick start from Collingwood, whilst his last quarter beauty put the result beyond doubt and sent the majority-Bombers crowd of 78,000 spectators into raptures.

Since that performance, Parish has established himself as one of the premier accumulators of the AFL and sits firmly in the Brownlow Medal conversation.

Jasper Chellappah

Fremantle

David Mundy – Round 2 vs GWS

In an injury riddled Docker side, David Mundy wound back the clock to deliver a classic performance. The veteran led a youthful but classy midfield against GWS – a side with some huge names – to a 31 point win.

With his 35 disposals, he moved the ball with precision, carving it up in the middle, so much so that coach Justin Longmuir felt comfortable leaving dual-Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe in the forward line until he was subbed off with concussion. 

To accompany his disposals, Mundy laid 9 tackles, has 15 score involvements, six clearances and 15 contested possessions. 

This was the moment that made the football world notice the Fremantle midfield, and acknowledge Mundy’s timeless form after flying under the radar for so long. 

Rebecca Ruthven

Geelong

Jeremy Cameron – Round 13 vs Port Adelaide

If there is pressure attached to being a star recruit and wearing number five at Geelong, Jeremy Cameron has not shown it. Other Cats might have had better statistics in games this year but for impact, Cameron’s five-goal haul against the Power is the best of the year.

He opened the scoring with a long bomb from outside 50 and kicked a vital snap in the final quarter, roving a Tom Hawkins tap to finish on the run.

The 19 touches and 12 score involvements go some way to illustrate his impact. But beyond the statistics, Cameron was a presence throughout the game and all over the ground. It was the first time Geelong fans had really seen his full potential, marks in defense were matched by cool set shot finishes up forward in a complete performance.

Notoriously, Geelong has been consistently beatable after a bye. Up against Port Adelaide and away from home this record looked like continuing, Until Jeremy Cameron helped decide otherwise.

Kieran Yap

Gold Coast

Touk Miller – Round 11 vs Hawthorn

There have been very few rays of sunshine for the 16th-placed Gold Coast this year, but arguably none so more important than Touk Miller.

Averaging 30 disposals a game, the 25-year-old is having his best season of his career, having yet to finish with less than 20 touches in the 12 appearances he’s made.  

Miller’s best game for 2021 so far came in round 11, against Hawthorn, where he collected 37 disposals at 73 per cent efficiency to see his team take the four points. 

He also had ten score involvements, contributing one goal in the 37-point win, and wasn’t afraid to go after the ball himself, accumulating 10 contested possessions and applying seven tackles.

Sheridan Harris

Greater Western Sydney

Josh Kelly – Round 13 vs North Melbourne

Kelly was instrumental in the Giants’ round 13 match against North Melbourne, gathering a massive 39 disposals and booting two classy goals. 

He was impressive across all facets for GWS, amassing five marks, six tackles, six clearances and 654 metres gained, with ten disposals and a goal in the final term as the Giants mounted a comeback against the Kangaroos. 

Adding to the class and prominence of his performance, Kelly was integral for the Giants’ scoring, with eight inside 50s and a huge 12 score involvements.

Arguably one of the most complete performances of Kelly’s career as a whole, this individual performance is certainly among the best for the Giants in 2021. 

Will Cuckson

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Hawthorn

Jacob Koschitzke – Round 6 vs Adelaide

Since the departure of Lance Franklin and the dwindling form of now retired Jarryd Roughead, Hawks fans have been crying out for a key forward to hang their hat on. Plenty have shown potential but none have really grasped the challenge quite like Jacob Koschitzke.

The 20-year-old showed how damaging he can be in the AAMI series with a six goal haul against North Melbourne, but in round six, he showcased his abilities on the big stage. 

It was an ANZAC day special from Kozi as he kicked five goals and earned the rising star nomination for the round. He was an outlet all day for the Hawks, taking nine marks, three of those contested and accruing 11 score involvements. 

Hawthorn ran out three-point victors against the Crows in a tough contest and the youngster Koschitzke was the driving force behind the win. 

Ben Lennon

Melbourne

Clayton Oliver – Round 10 vs Adelaide

Oliver already carries the title as one of the best young midfielders in the game. The 23 year old is a dual Melbourne best and fairest winner and an All-Australian in just 6 years in the competition.

His exploits at Adelaide Oval in Round 10 against the Crows was a performance beyond his years and a true exclamation mark on his position as the number one midfielder at the Demons – in a very strong field.

Adelaide ended up winning the close game by a point in controversial fashion but Oliver did everything he could and more to carry his team back. 

The prolific midfielder finished the day with 38 disposals, 27 contested possessions, 14 clearances, 9 tackles and 3 goals in one of the most complete individual performances of the year.

Jono Baruch

North Melbourne

Cam Zurhaar – Round 9 vs Hawthorn

Having kicked just three goals in the previous two games after going goalless in his first five games of the season, Zurhaar was the match-winner in Launceston.

As Hawthorn got out to a 32-point lead within the first minute of the second quarter, Zurhaar kicked the second of North Melbourne’s goals after to kick-start a Kangaroos comeback.

North got back into the game by the time the third quarter was coming to an end but it was a Zurhaar goal on the stroke of three-quarter time that had the side within a point. 

Coming out of the huddle, the Kangaroos started well again and regained the lead by the six-minute mark of the fourth term, through two more unanswered goals from Zurhaar. As a result, the Roos gained an 11-point lead and went on to maintain the lead until the final siren.

A huge scoreboard impact of four goals and two behinds from nine disposals, two marks and one tackle inside 50 to keep the pressure up was instrumental in seeing North Melbourne onto the winner’s list for the first time in 2021.

Jason Irvine

Port Adelaide

Zak Butters – Round 2 vs Essendon

It’s been an absolute shame we haven’t seen more of Zak Butters in season 2021.

If his game against the Bombers back in Round 2 was anything to go by, he was set for another season where he could break into the All-Australian squad of 40.

In a controlled 54-point demolition of Essendon, Butters led the way with a stirring 36-disposal, one-goal and six-tackle performance.

Butters scored the second goal of the game and he was well on his way to three Brownlow votes against the Bombers.

It’s no surprise Port Adelaide is itching for his return in a month’s time as it looks to threaten in September.

Jack Hudson

Richmond

Jack Riewoldt – Round 11 vs Adelaide

The 2021 season has been a winding back of the clock for Jack Riewoldt, who turned in a vintage performance against the Crows at Giants Stadium. 

After the Crows kicked the first four goals of the final term to cut the margin to nine points, Riewoldt took over the game, booting the last three majors to finish with five for the day. 

To go with his bag of goals, the champion forward also accumulated 20 disposals and took 14 marks, none of which were more impressive than an incredible mark of the year contender. 

Running back with the flight, Riewoldt leaped with a full 180 degree turn to rise over teammates Mabior Chol and Jason Castagna, bringing down a mark that almost defies the laws of physics. 

Liahm O’Brien

St Kilda

Zak Jones – Round 7 vs Hawthorn

Coming off an underwhelming 10 disposal game the week prior against the Power, Jones bounced back in a big way in round 7 to have arguably the best performance of his career against the Hawks.

Jones stuffed the stats sheet, finishing with a career high 37 touches, eight marks, six tackles and seven clearances. He was also able to add to the scoreboard with two first half goals to go along with 13 score involvements for the day. 

The midfield speedster showcased his versatility, able to amass possession on the inside and outside with 16 contested and 23 uncontested possessions. Jones was a big part of helping the Saints record their largest winning margin since 2017.

For his best on ground performance Jones was awarded the Silk-Miller Memorial Medal as part of the Blue Ribbon Cup.

Ben Filosi

Sydney

Isaac Heeney – Round 11 Carlton

Heeney had a day out against Carlton at the SCG with a Goodes-O’Loughlin medal-winning performance. 

The Blues had no answers with Heeney all over the forward line, amassing 22 disposals, taking a whopping 14 marks and kicking 3.1. He assisted in two more, and had 10 score involvements.

Heeney’s hands were safe as houses that day, and they were the difference between the Swans winning and losing that Sunday afternoon. 

Thomas Grattan

West Coast

Tim Kelly – Round 7 vs Fremantle

West Coast limped into the Western Derby after an embarrassing 97 point loss to Geelong and a wounded playing list. With many citing a lack of on-field leadership as a reason for the defeat, it became evident someone needed to stand up.

Enter Tim Kelly, who, in the absence of Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey, dug deep and played a crucial role in the Eagles 59 point victory against their cross-town rivals.

Without taking a single mark, he delivered a career best performance including 42 disposals (23 contested), 13 clearances and 9 tackles, making him the clear-cut favourite and deserving winner of the Glendinning-Allan Medal.

Rebecca Ruthven

Western Bulldogs

Marcus Bontempelli – Round 2 vs West Coast

Coming off a win against Collingwood in round one, the Bulldogs were looking to back the performance up against one of the benchmarks in the competition over the past few years in the West Coast Eagles. 

With the game being as closely contested as it was, both sides needed their leaders to stand up. That’s exactly what Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli did to get the Dogs over the line by 7 points. 

Bontempelli was prolific around the ground with 30 disposals at 93 per cent disposal efficiency. The skipper was also able to apply scoreboard pressure with 3 goals – including the sealer – to ice the game for his side.

A special performance was required to trump Josh Bruce’s 10 goals on Good Friday for best individual game of the season, but that’s exactly what ‘the Bont’ provided in a match-winning display.

Elly McNerney

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