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AFL 2017 Grand Final: Five players who need to lift their game

In the closest season in recent memory, the performance of these five players may decide the 2017 AFL premiers.

The Adelaide Crows and Richmond Tigers won their way through to the AFL Grand Final off the back of fantastic team efforts, but not every single player enjoyed a brilliant preliminary final. Here are five players who will need a far better showing this Saturday if their team are to be crowned premiers.

David Astbury

David Astbury has solidified himself as Richmond’s best key defender alongside Alex Rance, but his contributions in the preliminary were questionable. Astbury’s evening started when Harrison Himmelberg beat him twice to kick two goals, and shortly after copped a knock, sidelining him until the second quarter. With multiple threats in Adelaide’s forward half, Astbury will have to be far better next week to ensure the Crows forwards do not get a roll on.

Jack Riewoldt

Despite competing hard, Jack Riewoldt was starved of opportunity against the Greater Western Sydney Giants, managing just one goal in the final quarter when the game was gone. We’ve already touched on Adelaide’s influence in their forward half, and Riewoldt will need to be equally as effective to keep his Tigers in the game.

Jacob Townsend

Jacob Townsend’s story is a fascinating one. After playing almost the entire year in the VFL, he was called up in Round 22, and kicked 11 goals in two weeks. In the Tigers’ two finals, he has been less influential with only three goals, but if he can provide another option up forward for the Tigers in the decider, it will make them that much harder to defend. With Eddie Betts up the other end of the field, no one is expecting Townsend to be the best small forward on the ground, but it may be enough if he at least comes close.

Hugh Greenwood

Rookie Hugh Greenwood isn’t relied on as one of the Crows’ best, but his side cannot afford to run out next week with 21 players the same way they did in the prelim. Six touches is nowhere near good enough. His impressive 17 contested possessions against the GWS Giants the week before will probably see him hang on to his spot, but his confidence and reputation will take a wild hit if he stinks it up again.

Jake Lever

With the man considered the best in his position up the other end of the ground, Jake Lever will be desperate to upstage Richmond’s Rance and play the match-winning role he often has this year. Lever will almost certainly go to Riewoldt, who himself had a below par preliminary final. If the young Adelaide man can climb on top of his matchup, his side will have one had on the premiership cup.

Taylor Walker

Captains show their class when it counts, just like Trent Cotchin did in his side’s preliminary final win. Coming off a lean run of form, Taylor Walker will have to be close to best on ground for the Crows to be premiers. His side has succeeded despite him, but in Grand Finals, there can be no passengers, especially not in Walker’s role. Last time out against the Tigers, ‘Tex’ had arguably his best game of the year, booting five goals in his side’s 76-point win at Adelaide Oval. If he is anything close to his uncontainable self at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday, there may be two medals hanging around his neck at the end of the game.

Who do you think is critical to the flag chances of both sides? Who needs to step up and take charge? Share your thoughts below.

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Myles Stedman

Journalist at Rugby.com.au. NEAFL media team. Contributor at Zero Tackle, Green and Gold Rugby, 16 Wins a Ring, The Sixer Sense via FanSided, Last Word on Hockey and cover32.

AFL 2017 Grand Final: Five players who need to lift their game

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