Crucial cogs of the AFL: The players who need to make a difference in the first week of the finals

For the opening weekend of the finals, we take a look at two players from each team who need to make a difference if their club is to progress.

Collingwood vs. Melbourne


Jordan De Goey changed his career in the 2023 season but the season proper starts now and it will be interesting how he handles the pressure considering he was part of the 44-man All-Australian squad. Capture the ball and create scoring chances.

Daniel McStay needs to play well and get the ball down as he faces Steven May and Jake Lever; If McStay can limit his intercept mark and hit the scoreboard himself, it will go a long way towards Collingwood winning the game.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 02: Jordan De Goey of the Magpies looks on during the AFL Round of 16 game between the Gold Coast Suns and the Collingwood Magpies at Metricon Stadium on July 02, 2022 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Jordan DeGoey. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)


Christian Petracca could prove to be a tough opponent as he has the ability to play in midfield, move forward and hit the scoreboard. It will be exciting to see Collingwood undo his impact on the game as, at best, stopping him is a tough task.

Max Gawn has savored the opportunity to have more time with the team in Brodie Grundy’s absence. Gawn is a difficult player to contain, as he works hard on the ground and his leadership is unmeasurable. He could face Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox; Will Collingwood go with two ruckmen? We’ll wait and see.

Carlton versus Sydney


Jacob Weitering will have to face the challenge of playing against a young, lively line of strikers. Hayden McLean, Logan McDonald and Joel Amartey are all dangerous key strikers. Weitering has averaged 7.52 possession catchers per game and will need to put that part of his game to the test.

George Hewett averages 9.42 contested possessions per game and has featured in 19 games. He has cemented his place on the team and taken advantage of a top 22 finish for Carlton. He is a player who has the ability to win the ball and influence the game.

Jacob Weitering and Toby Greene.

Jacob Weitering. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)


Tom Papley is a player who brings X-factor to the team and can generate points stakes as he averaged 6.32 per game in the 22 games he participated in. He’s a player who could decide whether Sydney beats Carlton as he’s likely to keep up at times on Nic Newman, who is an offensive weapon for Carlton.

Nick Blakey averaged the most intercepts per game of any Sydney player, averaging 6.96. For his consistent season, he was rewarded with inclusion in the 44-man All-Australian squad. Blakey is a player who offers a lot of leeway on defense.

St Kilda vs GWS

St Kilda

Jack Sinclair had a good season for St Kilda; He averaged the most yards gained per game at 501.13. His season was extremely consistent, which was attested by his selection as a half-back for the All-Australian team. GWS will need its small forwards to work hard to neutralize its impact on the game. It will be interesting to see if Sinclair spends time in midfield in this elimination final.

Jack Steele

Jack Steele. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Jack Steele has to do his best and lead from the front as the game is often won and lost in midfield. He will at times compete against Tom Green, Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly. Steele averaged 7.40 tackles per game in 20 games during the 2023 season. He has to play well because the pressure will be on him to lead by example.


Kieren Briggs has gone from being the third pick Ruckman for the GWS to arguably one of the AFL’s best Ruckmans as the 2023 season begins. He will face Rowan Marshall, who was instrumental in helping St Kilda reach the final.

Harry Himmelberg started the season as a key forward but ended it as a key defender. He’s been a revelation on defense and will need to perform well as Sam Taylor may not play. Himmelberg will have to negate the influence of Max King at times and Tim Membrey on other occasions.

Brisbane vs Port Adelaide


Eric Hipwood scored the most goals of any player in the 2022 Finals series with nine goals. What Brisbane need from him is to negate Aliir Aliir and get on the scoreboard. Hipwood is an important part of the Brisbane system but just needs to be more consistent.

Hugh McCluggage had a good season in 2023 but stayed under the radar. He could wreak havoc inside and out. McCluggage is a player who is an integral part of the Brisbane squad, even more so with Will Ashcroft unavailable.

Jason Horne-Francis celebrates a win in Port Adelaide.

Jason Horne-Francis. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Port Adelaide

Jeremy Finlayson is one of Port Adelaide’s most important players due to his ability to mark the scoreboard and score in the ruck. In the 20 games he played in for Port Adelaide, he averaged 6.80 point touches per game. What Finlayson allows is them to swap out their number one ruckman and pass their opponents in the second half.

Jason Horne-Francis is a player who doesn’t need to do much to make an impact; Despite averaging just 17.64 disposals per game, he averaged 5.18 point touches per game over 22 games. Additionally, he has averaged 4.86 clearances per game, which is the most of any Port Adelaide player. In the 18th round game he missed against Carlton through injury, Port Adelaide lost by 50 points. It will be interesting to see how he masters his first final. Crucial cogs of the AFL: The players who need to make a difference in the first week of the finals

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