Every year there’s a few bolters. A few guys who just make you sit up and go ‘whoa, where the heck did HE come from?’. Some of them are shocks, others more expected but nonetheless pleasing to their own fans.
10) Craig Bird (Sydney)
Your author hadn’t even heard of him until he stumbled across him as he trawled through possible Ultimate Footy trades (it hasn’t been a good season). Still barely know a thing about him, admittedly. But he’s averaging 19 disposals, 8 tackles and a goal a game in a strong Sydney side, playing as a defensive forward or as a tagger. Yet another brilliant Sydney development.
9) Karmichael Hunt (Gold Coast)
Let’s hope he gets Brownlow votes, and he probably deserved them for the Essendon game. Hunt doesn’t necessarily trouble the stat sheet heavily, but that’s not what he offers the Suns. What he delivers is hard tackling, pack-busting and an amazing ability to just win the footy. He’s getting better, and it’s great to watch.
8 ) Mitch Clark (Melbourne)
Sure, the Dees have been garbage. But it hasn’t been for the want of Mitch Clark. He’s booted 14 goals so far this year (the most he’s ever kicked in a season is 27) and has been a standout in four of the five Melbourne games. His second efforts are something that his teammates need to learn, too.
7) Hamish McIntosh (North Melbourne)
We all knew McIntosh could ruck. The questions lingered over the off-season though, regarding his ankle injury and in particular with fellow North ruckman Todd Goldstein, who very nearly won All-Australian in 2011, such was his form. Now Goldstein plays for Ballarat while McIntosh takes on the big men. If he’s still a trade target at season’s end, clubs will have to pay a premium.
6) Jack Steven (St Kilda)
Steven has been quietly going about his business despite worries about the Saints’ next four or five years. He doesn’t pick up many disposals, but when he gets them he’s deadly, and that’s what’s critical. Surely a cog of the future St Kilda midfield.
5) Shaun Hampson (Carlton)
The laser-eye has helped. Hampson has not only been great as the second ruck for the Blues, but he has also kicked 11 goals already in 2012, more than any previous season. He only needs three more to have doubled his total tally this season. Hampson also gives some much needed structure to a light forward line, hugely helping the Blues’ in-and-unders in Betts and Gartlett.
4) Clancee Pearce (Fremantle)
This name used to be associated with ‘spud’. Still is by some people. He’s been damn good this year though, averaging 20 disposals, 5 tackles and a goal a game. Only time will tell if he can truly keep it up though.
3) Shane Tuck (Richmond)
For a long time, Tuck has been problematic for both Richmond and non-Richmond supporters. How did he survive the clearouts? Why is he still at Tigerland when another promising young player could get his chance? The answer is simply because he is a clearance machine.
Tuck has been smashing teams through the midfield all season. Although he has had two quiet games, the Melbourne game was the best I’ve certainly ever seen him play, and he seems to be out to prove something.
2) Callan Ward (GWS)
Bulldogs supporters must be fuming. Ward’s form has been nothing short of incredible this year. He was held to a mere 18 touches on the weekend by Ellard, which restrains his average; if you take out the Carlton game, he’s averaged 26 touches and almost 7 tackles a game. Despite being in arguably the weakest midfield in the competition. Amazing.
1) Brent Stanton (Essendon)
Why this guy used to get stick is beyond me. Yeah, he was held on ANZAC Day. He’s also accumulated over 35 touches three times this season. His kicking is phenomenal, he runs all day, tackles and tackles and offers a contest every single time.
The ‘B’ word is in the offing at this rate, although there’s apparently some bald bloke who plays for that red mob who’ll give him a run for his money. Seriously though, fantastic.