AFL

X Factors who could decide the flag

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The ‘X-factor’- a commonly used, yet difficult to define term in the football world, generally describes one who has that special something that can turn a game on its head or come out of nowhere when least expected. To me, an ‘X-factor’ is a player who isn’t necessarily one of the star players at their respective clubs, but on their day, can be the difference between winning and going home empty-handed.

Premierships are often won off the back of X-factor performances. Think Byron Pickett in 2004, Nick Davis the following year, Stuey Dew in 2008, or Cyril Rioli across the Hawthorn dynasty. These blokes helped deliver the cup as a result of being ‘on’ when it mattered most.

Crows

Paul Seedsman

After the season-ending injury to damaging half-back Brodie Smith, Seedsman has suddenly become a vital cog to the Crows outfit. The former-Magpie has performed well in big games across his short career, winning the ANZAC Medal in 2015 with 31 possessions, and kicking a crucial goal in the Qualifying Final against the Giants to get the Crow’s ticking.

The half-back/wingman will presumably occupy Smith’s role as a run-and-carry player streaming out of the back half of the ground, and his lethal right boot could prove the difference across the season’s final rounds. His stint at the Magpies means the long-sleeved enigma won’t be intimidated by the home of footy either, and after an underwhelming season to date Seedsman will be desperate to repay Don Pyke’s faith.

Other Adelaide X-Factors: Charlie Cameron, Hugh Greenwood.

Cats

Steven Motlop

Steven Motlop. This man has X-factor in his blood. The whipping boy for Geelong fans of recent years showed his match-winning prowess in the upset win over the Swans, racking up 23 game-changing touches, while also laying six tackles to upset the Sydney juggernaut.

No stranger to pressure, another Motlop masterclass or two could be enough to deliver the Cat’s their fourth flag in a decade. A mercurial type that doesn’t need high disposal numbers to turn a game on its head, an in-form Motlop has the potential to swing the ledger the Cat’s way.

Is it probable Motlop repeats last week’s heroics again? History suggests otherwise. But is it possible? Without a doubt, that is the very essence of the ‘X-factor’ one possesses being a Motlop.

Other Geelong X-Factors: Sam Menegola, Nakia Cockatoo.

Tigers

Jacob Townsend

Jacob Townsend could be one of the stories of 2017. On the outer for the duration of the season, with his career seemingly in jeopardy, the hard-nosed onballer transformed himself into a dangerous forward, earning a reprieve in round 22 and never looking back.

Kicking 13 goals across his 3 games, Townsend has come from the clouds to be as threatening a converter as any Tiger, having the perfect blend of opportunist goal-kicking and toughness to thrive under finals pressure. It often takes a ‘right place right time’ goal or two to break open a big game, a trait the tough-nut illustrated across the last month of football.

Not the flashiest or most exciting player going around, the ‘X-factor’ in Townsend is simply the unknown, a player who could just as easily slot through a bag of six as he is to go MIA. Time will tell, but nevertheless, it was a bold move by Hardwick giving him another crack, and one that could cement his place in Tiger folklore.

Other Richmond X-Factors: Daniel Rioli, Dion Prestia.

 Giants

Brett Deledio

Football is a funny game. 12 months ago, Deledio made the move from Punt Road to Western Sydney in search of elusive finals success, only to find himself back at the ‘G’ 12 months later in a Preliminary Final against his former teammates.

After missing majority of the season through persistent injuries, the silky-smooth operator is primed to break the hearts of the Tigers after making the move to the half-back line last week. The move back last week allowed him to utilise his reading of the play and elite foot skills, seeing the game in front of him and setting up his younger teammates.

Composed and oozing footy smarts, Deledio’s leadership could be crucial on football’s biggest stage, with the Giant’s needing to win two consecutive finals in a packed-out MCG to lift the premiership cup, further compounding the importance of the likes of Deledio, Shaw and Johnson to lead the inexperienced Giants. After being a consistently quality player for the last decade, one can’t rule out a trademark Brett Deledio performance on one of, if not both the final Saturday’s of September.

Other GWS X-Factors: Steve Johnson, Rory Lobb.

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