The crucial cogs of AFL’s Round 5: Which players need to be the difference makers?


In Round 5 there are still three teams that are undefeated, and four teams that haven’t won a game.

Collingwood and Sydney have the bye this round, therefore we will be taking a look at one player from each of the other 16 teams who will need to make a difference in getting their respective teams over the line.

Melbourne v Brisbane


Steven May is in the conversation for being one of the best key defenders in the competition.

Melbourne needed him to be at his best in their 15-point win over Adelaide in Gather Round in a game in which he polled three Coaches’ votes.

He will face the unenviable job of curtailing the influence that Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood have at times, when the Demons take on Brisbane.


Lachie Neale polled eight Coaches’ votes, despite being subbed off at three-quarter time against North Melbourne in Gather Round.

The Brisbane co-captain will be looking to lead his team to a victory against Melbourne in what will be his 250th AFL game.

Western Bulldogs v Essendon

Western Bulldogs

Sam Darcy, what a talent!

Despite only playing 55 per cent of game time, the father-son kicked three goals against Geelong in Gather Round. What’s also worth noting, is that he’s playing as a second ruckman and keeping Rory Lobb out of the team.

It should be the perfect opportunity for the Round 4 AFL Rising Star to prove he can live up to the hype around him, against an Essendon team that was lacklustre in Adelaide.


Jake Stringer is a player who has an x-factor and needs to produce when Essendon take on the Western Bulldogs.

Along with Harry McKay and Cody Weightman, Stringer has averaged the equal fourth most goals per game of any player in the competition this season, with 2.75.

The former Western Bulldogs Premiership player showed that he has still got potential to play a key role at Essendon when he helped them beat St Kilda in Round 3, when he kicked three goals in a four-point win.

GWS v St Kilda


Josh Kelly springs to mind as someone who deserves more recognition than he gets, as the GWS midfielder rarely has a bad game.

The 29-year-old has averaged an impressive 8.75 score involvements per game in four games and he has hit the scoreboard in three of the four games and had at least 24 disposals in each game this season.

St Kilda will probably put work into curtailing the influence of Stephen Coniglio and Tom Green, which will mean Kelly could get off the leash.

St Kilda

Jack Sinclair could play a pivotal role, given the St Kilda half-back flanker is widely regarded as their best player.

If the opposition chooses to negate him then that will mean Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera may have a day out.

The 29-year-old polled three Coaches’ votes in St Kildas’ seven-point win over Richmond in Gather Round, so hopefully Sinclair can gain confidence from that performance.

Carlton v Adelaide


Patrick Cripps will benefit from the potential return of Sam Walsh, because Cripps can spend more time forward and will prove to be a tough match-up for Adelaide.

There’s no disputing that the 2022 Brownlow Medal winner is playing his role well, as he has averaged the third most score involvements per game of any Carlton player with 5.75.

Along with that, he has hit the scoreboard in three of the four games and averaged 14.50 contested possessions per game, which is the seventh most of any player in the competition.

Cristian Filippo – Cripps: It’s been a crazy week:

“IT’S been a crazy week.”

Patrick Cripps isn’t going to forget the week commencing Monday 1 April 2024 anytime soon.

After he and wife Monique welcomed baby Koda into the world, Cripps spent a few days…

— Carlton News & Stats (@UptheBaggers) April 7, 2024


Darcy Fogarty must play well if Adelaide is going to perform to their optimum level; they need him to create a contest by bringing the ball to ground. He’s tipped to be matched up on Jacob Weitering at times and Brodie Kemp at other times, so Izak Rankine can go to work.

Despite being out of form, Fogarty has averaged 4.75 score involvements per game, so hopefully he can build on that and perform at a good level against Carlton.

Gold Coast v Hawthorn

Gold Coast

Touk Miller will need to lead from the front in a danger game for Gold Coast, as Hawthorn nearly won against the reigning premiers in Gather Round.

There’s no disputing that Miller needs to take the pressure off Matt Rowell who has averaged the most contested possessions per game of any player in the competition this season with 20.

The 28-year-old will face a tough test against Jai Newcombe and James Worpel.


Blake Hardwick changed the game for Hawthorn, when the 27-year-old was moved forward in the second half, as he kicked four goals against Collingwood in Gather Round.

It will come down to where he’s needed on the day, as Sam Mitchell always thinks laterally.

Port Adelaide v Fremantle

Port Adelaide

Ivan Soldo is a player that’s settled in well to the Port Adelaide team, as he has taken the number one ruck mantle, in a battle with former Western Bulldogs ruckman Jordan Sweet.

It’s the perfect opportunity for the former Richmond ruckman to show his wares against Fremantle ruckmen Luke Jackson and possibly Sean Darcy who looks set to play his first game of season 2024.


Jeremy Sharp has been a revelation for Fremantle, which begs the question of why didn’t the former Gold Coast winger get more opportunity at his former club.

The 21-year-old has resurrected his career and could be pivotal when Fremantle take on Port Adelaide, given Sharp had the most metres gained of any player on the field against Carlton, with 655.

“He’s gonna be a nightmare”: Cats veteran bullish on young forward Ollie Dempsey | | #AFL

— SEN 1116 (@1116sen) March 25, 2024

Geelong v North Melbourne


Oliver Dempsey has helped Geelong be a better team as he averaged 5.75 score involvements per game, which is the same that Tyson Stengle has averaged!

It’s a credit to the Round 1 Rising Star Nominee.

North Melbourne

Jy Simpkin is a player who’s out of form; North Melbourne needs their co-captain to have a bigger impact on the contest than what he has been having, as they need him to lead by example.

For starters the 26-year-old needs to tidy up his ball, as he has an average disposal efficiency per game of just 72.73 per cent in three games.

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West Coast v Richmond

West Coast

Harley Reid played the best game of his career in Gather Round against Sydney.

The onus is on him, to back up his display when West Coast take on Richmond.

His youthful exuberance is infectious and hopefully he can take confidence from the four-quarter display last weekend.


Jayden Short has averaged the tenth most metres gained per game of any player in the competition with 545.50.

He has averaged 21.20 disposals per game, which is the third most of any Richmond player in five games in season 2024.

Richmond requires Short to be at his best against West Coast because as early in the year as it is, Richmond needs to win this game to keep their slim finals hopes alive.

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