- Abe Spargo
From start to finish round three of the 2018 AFL Premiership Season was dominated by the ruckmen. Multiple big men announced their presence as they featured prominently in the coaches’ votes. However, despite playing in his side’s narrow defeat, Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell was still able to find the ball with ease and hold his position at the top of the 2018 Shadforth Financial Group AFLCA Champion Player of the Year leaderboard.
Collingwood collected their first win for the season on Friday night over arch rival Carlton. For the Pies, it was silky on-baller Steele Sidebottom who stood out with his 34 disposals and three goals – earning him the maximum coaches votes. Sidebottom’s teammate Brodie Grundy gave him an armchair ride all match, winning the hitouts by ten and collecting 25 disposals himself on his way to seven coaches votes.
In-form big man Max Gawn dominated in the ruck all day as the Demons ended the Kangaroos’ 17-game win streak over his team at the ‘G on Saturday. Gawn - who was awarded maximum coaches votes - gave his midfielders first use with 50 hitouts while also collecting 18 disposals.
Another ruckman took best afield honours on Saturday afternoon as Brisbane’s Stefan Martin almost willed his Lions to a tough-fought win in Adelaide over the Power. The Lions fell short by five points despite Martin’s nine coaches votes. The mobile Martin recorded a statistical master class of 48 hitouts, 30 disposals, 14 contested possessions and nine inside 50s – the most by any ruckman in a game this year.
Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe was back to the form that saw him win the 2015 Brownlow Medal in his side’s 12-point win over the Gold Coast Suns. Fyfe was a physical presence all day for the Dockers collecting a match-high 38 disposals, 24 contested possessions, 14 clearances, eight tackles and a goal. This all-round performance earned Fyfe ten votes from the coaches.
The Swans claimed bragging rights in their 16-point defeat of the cross-town rival on Saturday night. Sydney ruckman Callum Sinclair had a commanding performance for his side, taking advantage of a depleted Giants ruck brigade after Rory Lobb hurt his knee in the second quarter. The coaches saw Sinclair as the best man on the ground, as he collected 45-hit outs and six clearances on his way to eight coaches’ votes.
Reigning premiers Richmond are back on the winning list following their narrow victory over Hawthorn on Sunday. The Tiger Army lit up the MCG early, with inspiring captain Trent Cotchin dominating in the midfield for ten coaches votes. Cotchin’s 31 disposals, eight clearances and seven inside 50s helped hold off a late Hawthorn charge. For the Hawks Tom Mitchell had another massive performance (42 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) earning him six coaches votes.
Mitchell (26 votes) sits on top of the leaderboard for the third straight week by three votes over Adelaide defender Rory Laird (23 votes). Rounding out the top five are Max Gawn (19 votes), Stephen Coniglio (18 votes) and Nat Fyfe (18 votes).
A summary of the 2018 Shadforth Financial Group AFLCA Champion Player of the Year Award Votes from round three can be seen below: