Round 21 saw the race for September – and the 2018 Shadforth Financial Group AFLCA Champion Player of the Year Award– heat up, with nine perfect performances ensuring some movement on the leaderboard.
Essendon’s Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Geelong’s Patrick Dangerfield, Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt, West Coast’s Luke Shuey, Greater Western Sydney’s Lachie Whitfield, Collingwood’s Taylor Adams, the Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli, Sydney’s Isaac Heeney, and Fremantle’s Lachie Neale all earned themselves the maximum amount of votes, but Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell (87 votes) still leads the way from Carlton’s Patrick Cripps (83 votes), with Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn a further three votes back in third place.
McDonald-Tipungwuti had arguably his best game in the red and black, with his five goals helping the Bombers to a vital 43-point victory over St Kilda. The tireless small forward’s career best haul also included seven tackles and 15 disposals, showcasing how important his ability to apply forward pressure is to Essendon’s finals hopes.
Dangerfield was immense in a losing side, as the Cats went down to the Hawks by 11 points. The Brownlow medalist collected 39 disposals (25 contested), eight clearances and five inside-50s to continue his impressive run of form.
Riewoldt shone against the Suns, with his haul of goals the biggest of any player in the 2018 season. The star Tiger booted 10 goals, had 26 disposals, took 14 marks and amassed an incredible 20 score involvements in Richmond’s 74-point victory over the Gold Coast to consolidate their place on top of the AFL ladder.
An incredible game by Shuey was key to West Coast’s second after-the-siren victory over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in the last 12 months. The classy midfielder dominated at the coalface, amassing 31 disposals (15 contested), 11 clearances and getting the ball inside-50 on five occasions, as the Eagles maintained their hold on second spot on the ladder.
Whitfield was influential playing off halfback for the Giants, starring in his new role to help his side to a 14-point victory over Adelaide, their fifth win in a row. The 2012 number one pick collected 30 disposals, took 11 marks and kicked a goal as Greater Western Sydney solidified their top-four credentials, now holding a firm grip on third spot on the AFL ladder.
Adams dominated in the middle as Collingwood halted a two-game skid, defeating the Brisbane Lions by 31 points. With 33 disposals (16 contested), eight clearances and five inside-50s to his name, the industrious ball-winner's class and grunt proved to be too much for the young Lions, as the Pies moved to within striking distance of the top-four.
Bontempelli did it all in the Bulldogs’ gutsy seven-point victory over North Melbourne. The premiership winning Dog was vital his side’s eight goal third term, and amassed 35 disposals, put the ball inside-50 seven times—and kicked two goals of his own—in a best-on-ground display that earned him a perfect-10 votes from the coaches.
Heeney stood up when it mattered most in Sydney’s tight nine-point win over fellow September hopefuls Melbourne. The young gun was everywhere in the final moments of the match and collected 19 disposals, six marks - one huge grab over Hogan which should be awarded Mark of the Year, five tackles and kicked two goals
Neale ran riot in the Fremantle midfield, keying a third quarter blitz that helped the Dockers to a 29-point win over Carlton. Playing as his side’s number one option in the middle in the absence of Nat Fyfe, the skilled midfielder had 34 disposals (18 contested), 10 clearances and kicked one goal to help the Dockers to their eighth win of the 2018 season.