IT HAS always been possible for players to accumulate big numbers at all levels of footy, but it appears the new rules designed to open the game up haven’t just had a positive effect on the scoreboard.
In 31 matches across the first three rounds of the season, there has been no less than nine 40-disposal games, another 10 of 35 or more and a significant 30 over the former high-water mark of 30.
Some players, notably Frankston’s Nathan Freeman, Coburg’s Marcus Lentini and Sandringham’s Luke Dunstan, have racked up huge numbers in the opening rounds of the season.
Here are the players who have contracted a severe dose of leather poisoning already.
NATHAN FREEMAN (FRANKSTON) – 40, 42 & 35
What a start to the season from the Dolphins’ primemover, who is desperately unlucky to not still be on an AFL list. Freeman has been one of the main drivers of Frankston’s unbeaten start to the season, accumulating 25 kicks and 15 handballs against Coburg, 29 kicks, 13 handballs and eight marks against North Melbourne and 24 kicks and 11 handballs in the come-from-behind victory over Aspley at the weekend.
MARCUS LENTINI (COBURG) – 40 & 42
Amazingly still eligible for the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal at a month short of his 22nd birthday and with 38 matches to his credit, Lentini knocked up 16 kicks, 24 handballs, five tackles and a goal in a losing cause against Frankston in round one and backed it up with a matchwinning 22 kicks, 20 handballs and seven tackles as the Burgers stunned the Brisbane Lions in the Queensland rain.
LUKE DUNSTAN (SANDRINGHAM) – 46 & 35
A powerful performance for the Zebras after losing his spot at St Kilda, Dunstan’s 23 kicks, 23 handballs and six marks was 18 more disposals than any other player on the ground, but couldn’t save his team being overrun by Port Melbourne in the second half of round two. He didn’t receive a recall and responded with another 18 kicks, 17 handballs and 3.2 in the loss to Box Hill on Sunday.
TYLER ROOS (NORTH MELBOURNE) – 43
Forced to wait his turn at Wangaratta Rovers until round two, Roos ensured he would be hard to leave out again with a dominant 27 kicks, 16 handballs and 12 marks in a lone hand as North suffered a heavy home loss to Frankston.
WILL BRODIE (GOLD COAST) – 41
After knocks of 30 and 31 in the first two rounds couldn’t get him back into the Suns’ AFL team, Brodie stepped it up even further against Collingwood, blistering his way to 19 kicks, 22 handballs and 10 marks to almost give his team a maiden win in Victoria.
TOM WILSON (NORTHERN BULLANTS) – 40
The last captain of the Northern Blues retained the role as the Ants returned and is leading from the front, topping his team’s possession count in all three matches, including a 29 kick, 11 handball and 13 mark display against premiership favourites Footscray in round three.
JAKE RICCARDI (GWS GIANTS) – 40
Having been drafted and played at full-forward after winning the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal at Werribee in 2019, Riccardi was moved up the field after being dropped from the AFL and revealed another string to his ample bow, racking up 31 kicks, nine handballs and a remarkable 19 marks to give the Giants their first win of the season.
RYAN BASTINAC (ASPLEY) – 39
The former North Melbourne and Brisbane Lions midfielder was in sublime touch in the opening round, compiling 21 kicks, 18 handballs, six tackles and three goals as the Hornets stunned the competition on VFL debut with a 10-goal first quarter on the way to a 53-point thumping of Port Melbourne.
LIAM STOCKER (CARLTON) – 38
Made two early errors which cost the Blues the opening goal against Southport in round one, but responded in style with a best-on-ground display. Stocker had 30 mostly pinpoint kicks, eight handballs, 13 marks and a goal and played himself back into the AFL team the following week.
TOM GRIBBLE (WERRIBEE) – 37
With the Tigers’ season on the line and captain Michael Sodomaco enjoying a milestone, the Liston medallist made it his mission to turn things around. Gribble had 19 kicks, 18 handballs, five marks and a goal to lead his team to a season-launching thumping of Richmond.
ELI TEMPLETON (PORT MELBOURNE) – 37
Was best-on-ground for most of the Johnson-Callahan Cup clash with Williamstown on Saturday night, dominating with 22 kicks, 15 handballs, nine marks, seven tackles and a goal to have the Borough in front just before three quarter-time before they were overrun.
MITCH HIBBERD (WILLIAMSTOWN) – 36
A quiet start from the Seagulls star turned into a matchwinning display against Port Melbourne. His spectacular long bomb goal before the final break turned the contest and he finished with 15 kicks, 21 handballs, four marks and four tackles to challenge Templeton for the three votes.
MICHAEL MANTEIT (SOUTHPORT) – 36
The former Sydney University player would have seen plenty of Blacktown International Sports Park in the past and enjoyed his return to Sydney’s west with an outstanding haul of 19 kicks, 17 handballs, five marks and a goal, but the Sharks’ wastefulness in front of goal saw them go down for the first time this year.
NICK O’KEARNEY (ESSENDON) – 36
Playing his first VFL game since 2017 after suffering a fractured C6 in his neck, the former Saint showed all his talent to compile 22 kicks and 14 handballs in a lone effort as the Bombers fell by eight goals to Carlton at Windy Hill on Sunday.
PATRICK LIPINSKI (FOOTSCRAY) – 35
Dropped from the AFL team the previous week, Lipinski responded exactly how Luke Beveridge would have wanted, collecting 17 kicks, 18 handballs, six marks, four tackles and a goal to lift the VFL Bulldogs to a big win and earn an immediate recall.
OTHER 30-PLUS DISPOSAL MATCHES
34 – Jacob Dawson (Sou, Rd2); Tom Fullarton (BL, Rd2); Rhys Matheson (BL, Rd1); Jack Ross (Rich, Rd1)
33 – Darcy Macpherson (GC, Rd3); Patrick Naish (Rich, Rd1); Colin O’Riordan (Syd, Rd1); Alex Smout (GWS, Rd1)
32 – Brayden Fiorini (GC, Rd3); Matt Hanson (Wer, Rd3); Dylan Stephens (Syd, Rd2); Lewis Taylor (Syd, Rd1)
31 – Connor Ballenden (BL, Rd1); Will Brodie (GC, Rd2); Ryan Clarke (Syd, Rd1); Jacob Dawson (Sou, Rd3); Brayden Fiorini (GC, Rd1); Sam Gray (Syd, Rd2); Tom Sparrow (Cas, Rd3); Charlie Thompson (Cob, Rd3)
30 – Jacob Allison (Asp, Rd2); Will Brodie (GC, Rd1); Ryan Clarke (Syd, Rd2); Josh Clayton (NM, Rd3); Leo Connolly (San, Rd3); Tom Gribble (Wer, Rd1); Tom Highmore (San, Rd3); Dan Howe (BH, Rd3); Lewis Taylor (Syd, Rd3); Tom Wilson (Coll, Rd3)