Throughout the 2017 AFL season, the AFLCA will shine a spotlight on the most outstanding players of each week.
Round 20 saw the finals picture become clearer, if only a little. Wins from Richmond, Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney saw them entrench themselves in the top-four, while losses from Port Adelaide, West Coast and Geelong will have unsettled their fans.
Six players earned maximum votes from the coaches, with GWS’s Josh Kelly, Essendon’s Dyson Heppell, the Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli, Fremantle’s Brad Hill, St Kilda’s Jack Steele and Richmond’s Kane Lambert putting in best on ground performances. Richmond’s Dustin Martin could only manage three votes against Hawthorn, but still extended his lead over Patrick Dangerfield in the 2017 Shadforth Financial Group AFLCA Champion Player of the Year Award after Round 20 to 10 votes.
Kelly showed his sublime skills in the Giants’ 35-point win over Melbourne. The silky midfielder had 27 disposals, laid nine tackles and booted three goals to get the Giants’ charge towards a top four finish back on track after a difficult month of football.
Heppell stood up and played the perfect captain’s game to steer his Bombers past a plucky Blues side by eight points. His 34 disposals, 10 marks and a goal were enough to earn him a perfect 10 votes from the coaches, and to help Essendon stay in the hunt for a place in the finals.
Bontempelli dug deep to help the Western Bulldogs hold off a spirited charge from Brisbane, with the Dog’s coming out victors by 14 points. His 23 disposals, seven marks and two goals were crucial in the win, the Bulldogs’ fourth in a row.
Hill put in another great display for his new club, as Fremantle ran out 23-point victors over Gold Coast. The former Hawk amassed 33 disposals, seven marks and five inside-50’s to add an attacking spark to a Dockers side looking to finish 2017 strongly.
Steele played arguably his best game as a Saint since switching over from Greater Western Sydney, playing a big part in St Kilda’s tight eight-point win over West Coast. The ex-Giant brought immense pressure from the first bounce, tallying 26 disposals, 12 tackles, 10 clearances and booting two goals to keep the Saints’ season alive.
Lambert personified the grit and determination that has been present for the Tigers all season in their 29-point win over Hawthorn. The mature-age recruit had 30 disposals, eight inside-50’s and took five marks in a solid performance that helped Richmond go third on the AFL ladder.
A summary of the 2017 Shadforth Financial Group AFLCA Champion Player of the Year Award votes from Round 20 can be seen below: