FOUR ultra-talented big forwards found new AFL homes in 2021. Two played big roles in wins in week one of the 2021 Toyota AFL Finals Series, the other two had matches they'd rather forget.
Jesse Hogan and Ben Brown were superb for GWS and Melbourne respectively, Jeremy Cameron and Joe Daniher ineffectual for Geelong and Brisbane.
Fortunately for the under-performing duo, they will get chances to atone, the AFL system providing them and their top-four teams opportunities next weekend to defeat elimination final winners.
Cameron managed just one goal against Port Adelaide in Friday night's qualifying final. He has kicked 35 for the year from his injury-interrupted 13 matches. He was recruited, at great financial and national draft pick cost, by the Cats to win finals, and now he faces the team he departed on Friday night in a semi-final in Perth. The 2019 Grand Final aside, his next match is arguably the most important of his career.
Daniher has compiled a very nice season, particularly since fellow key forward Eric Hipwood was ruled out for the year with injury. But closer inspection of the 18 goals he kicked in those six games shows the opposition was outside the top eight teams, and he failed for the first time in 2021 to kick a goal in a game against Melbourne on Saturday night.
Daniher had kicked seven goals in his previous two finals, for Essendon, and also has an Anzac Day Medal to his name, so his ability to stand up in big games is sound. But like the Cats with Cameron, the Lions recruited Daniher to help them win finals. Which makes next Saturday night's Gabba semi-final against Western Bulldogs arguably the biggest match of his career. He hasn't won one yet, losing elimination finals at Essendon in 2014 and 2017, and the 2021 qualifying final against the Demons.
Jesse Hogan's time in the AFL has seen him go from being the next big thing in 2015 and 2016 as a Demon to being on the verge of out of the system by the end of 2020. The Giants may have been the only team to consider providing him a football future after Fremantle wanted him out. Recruiting him didn't cost much, but it was a risk. On Saturday against Sydney he took a career-high six contested marks, provided great presence throughout, kicked 2.2 and could be proud of the role he played in getting the Giants through to week two of the finals.
After crossing from North Melbourne at the end of last season, Ben Brown needed early 2021 surgery, didn't get to play for the Demons until round seven, was sent back to the VFL a month later, returned in round 17 and has got better with every single match. His scene-setting first goal of Melbourne's qualifying final was crucial, so too his work rate throughout the match.
No grey area in Toby's ump bump
THE AFL itself is to blame as much as the players for the confusion around what is and isn't allowed when it comes to contact with umpires.
It always likes for there to be grey in rules, and while that may be OK for some parts of the game, it is not when it comes to respect of umpires.
The AFL Tribunal should fix up this mess when it this week hears the case involving Toby Greene's contact with Matt Stevic, and suspend the Giant for a minimum two matches, maybe three.
It is just not on. As it was also not on when the "system" said it was OK for Lachie Neale (he was fined but not suspended) to touch an umpire in round six, when he was attempting to alert him to blood on his face. There may have been red on Neale's face, but it was the grey in the rule which saved the Brownlow medallist.
Greene will want the grey to be there again, but surely not even the Tribunal will be able to find any on this occasion. Greene chose to walk intimidatingly toward and into Stevic. He was clearly unhappy with what had transpired just moments earlier when he was rewarded a free kick and then had that free kick taken from him when he hit an opponent high. Greene had the option of walking around Stevic. He didn't. He walked into him.
It was a terrible look and one that the AFL's judicial systems simply cannot tolerate. As of this incident, the AFL system needs to suspend players for all contact with umpires that doesn't involve accidental, in-play accidents.