Round 16 of the 2019 AFL men’s season didn’t exactly get off to a flyer at the MCG Friday night, did it?
A hopelessly lacklustre affair between the Hawks and Magpies saw Ben Stratton make his return from suspension but his side, woefully inaccurate for the second straight week, was eventually fortunate to scrape over the line in a dour affair where neither side appeared that desperate to take the game on in a manner with flair until the Hawks’ late flurry saw them steal four points, leaving the Pies potentially well adrift of first place with two serious contenders to come in the next fortnight.
Nonetheless, there’s plenty of other excitement awaiting for individuals in the other eight fixtures this weekend, and these are Hatch’s three players to watch:
Aaron Sandilands, Fremantle (vs West Coast, Optus Stadium, Saturday 8:10pm)
Finally, Ross Lyon has declared the big man fit to play in this weekend’s Western Derby, and what an apt stage for the Dockers great to return in time for. Sitting at 7-7 with a solid but not spectacular percentage, and coming off two straight defeats including a crushing result against Carlton last Sunday, we finally get the opportunity to observe whether the 265-game veteran behemoth can officially kiss his ongoing calf issues goodbye as he steps in for his first game of the season. The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of 2019 and may need to make this chance count if he plans to go around again.
From a league stalwart to a debutant, as the advent of the mid-season draft works wonders for the Demons before the end of the campaign. 18-year-old Dunkley gets his chance at senior level after being picked up with the third selection in May, and in doing so the former Gippsland Power player becomes the first footballer ever to play NAB League Under-18, VFL and AFL senior football all in a single season. Demons fans have reason to be excited for the midfielder’s debut if the younger brother of premiership Bulldog Josh steps up against the improving Blues.
Josh Jenkins, Adelaide (vs Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, Saturday 4:35pm)
The former Bomber has experienced a rollercoaster 2019, having been dropped early on after several disappointing efforts but appeared to have finally hit his stride once more back in Round 13, sinking the Tigers with 17 disposals, seven marks and 4.3 before suffering a minor knee injury that kept him out of last week’s loss to Geelong. Now he returns with much on the line, as another failure to fire like he did against the Tigers could draw significant ire given the circumstances of the Showdown, with both sides still a chance to either sneak fourth or, more likely, contend for a home final.
Also of note in Round 16 will be Luke Shuey as he attempts to back up his inspired display (39 disposals, 11 inside-50’s, one goal) that helped see the Eagles home last week in the heat of Saturday night’s Derby, Roos midfield star Ben Cunnington comes off one of his career-best performances in a stunning victory over Collingwood as he continues to push for All-Australian nomination and keep North in the finals race, and Clayton Oliver comes into Sunday’s Carlton game red-hot with an average of almost 33 touches and eight clearances in his last four matches.