Although the top eight is not 100 percent finalised -- hopefully the Saints can sneak in, while Port Adelaide are also still an outside chance -- it does appear as though the current top eight have their destiny in their own hands and will feature in September.Looking ahead to the finals, Ive been doing some thinking as to which individual players are most important to their clubs premiership hopes.As someone who has played in a lot of finals, you need so much to go right to win them - over a four-week stretch, you need everything going your way, especially the ability to keep your most important players on the park.It would be easy to assume teams striving for a flag simply cant afford to lose their best player, which is true for some sides, but for others theres a lot of things to consider - team structure, depth in certain positions, even the emotional aspect how well a player leads the group.Out of the below list, Id suggest only Lance Franklin and Patrick Dangerfield are their clubs best players; the rest though are who I believe to be the most important to their premiership hopes.Looking at my list, it becomes apparent how many key position players and ruckmen feature. Thats not a knock on the star midfielders who feature so strongly in all finals-bound outfits, but finals tend to be a bit of a different game - theres more pressure, more kicking long to contests, so your key talls need to be at their best.And Im not biased, because Im playing through the midfield this year! But theres no doubt most finals-bound clubs have three or four really strong midfielders, so they can cover that part of the ground a bit better, compared to losing a No. 1 ruckman or key position player.THE RACE FOR THE PREMIERSHIP - WHICH PLAYERS CAN THESE CLUBS LEAST AFFORD TO LOSE?HAWTHORN You could make a case for seven or eight Hawks here, and thats why theyve been such a great team over a sustained period, but for me the player I think they could least afford to lose is Jack Gunston. With Jarryd Roughead unfortunately not around this year, a lot of people had question marks over whether Gunston could be that No.1 go-to tall because hes not a traditional key forward. However, hes assumed that mantle this year, and in previous finals campaigns has performed well on the big stage. Hawthorn are so versatile in every other area of the ground but if they lost him, theyd be down to inexperienced duo James Sicily and Tim OBrien as their key forwards. Gunston isnt Hawthorns best player, but hes their most important.GWS Again, hes not in their best five or so players, but Shane Mumford is crucial to the Giants audacious premiership push. Theyre still a young group, and big Mummy is one of only a handful of guys with finals experience and the way his teammates talk about him, you can tell he allows them to play with more confidence. He provides a hard edge and physical maturity and hell make a lot of those players in their first finals campaign walk taller. Hes a bit of an old-school enforcer, which doesnt really exist any more but hes as close to the modern version as you can get. Aside from his physicality, hes also a premier ruckman, and if theres one area the Giants lack a bit of depth is through the ruck - if they lost a key midfielder, theyve got that many more quality options to chose from, but Mummy is clearly so crucial as their No. 1 ruckman.SYDNEY The Swans boast an enormous amount of depth through the midfield with the likes of Josh Kennedy, Tom Mitchell, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker and Kieren Jack - they bat really deep through there so they can cover the loss of any of them if required. Up forward, theyve got one of the most electric players in the league, who is also their most important - Lance Franklin. Hes flying under the radar a bit this year -- he hasnt kicked massive bags of goals -- but this is one of his most consistent years, shown by the fact hes only one off the lead in the Coleman Medal race. Buddy provides the X-factor, the flare, and gets the crowd involved. I believe hes Sydneys best player. Prior to the weekend, he was the only Swan whos kicked more than 20 goals  - Isaac Heeney is now on 21 after booting four against Freo. So much rests on Franklins shoulders - the Swans have a huge reliance on him. If he goes down, Sydneys hopes may do the same.GEELONG Again, cant be too complicated here - Dangerfield is crucial to Geelongs flag hopes. The glamour boy of the competition is one of the leagues best players, and also Geelongs most important. His influence has been overwhelming this year. A lot of Geelongs resurgence in 2016 has been on the back of his efforts. His combination of inside and outside is as good as weve seen, and he can hit the scoreboard, break the lines, has a penetrating kick, and is so damaging. The likes of Joel Selwood, Cam Guthrie and the other Cats midfielders have benefitted enormously from Dangerfields arrival from Adelaide - theres been a huge flow-on effect for them. Dangerfield can also go forward and be a major threat in the 50; hes kicked 20 goals this year which gives Geelong an extra layer of versatility.ADELAIDE Daniel Talia is the man here. Adelaides forward line is obviously exceptional - theyve got four 30+ goal kickers this season, while their midfield is strong enough. However, their backline is young -- theyve got some good rebounders through Rory Laird and Brodie Smith -- but the one who rarely gets beaten as a shutdown key defender is Talia. Having a key defender who you can trust to beat the oppositions best key tall is invaluable, especially in finals. Talia just never seems to get beaten. Against Geelong a couple of weeks ago, Talia was injured late and Tom Hawkins then took the game by the scruff of its neck, so it shows how important he is.WEST COAST This one is more of a player they need back, rather than a player they cant afford to lose - Nic Naitanui. Theres been a lot of commentary about their current form but thats coincided with Naitanui being injured for the middle part of the season - he hasnt been seen since Round 12 and its really hurt them structurally. A lot of West Coasts famous defensive web, which isnt functioning as well this year, is built on field position - winning clearances, getting the ball into the forward line and setting up defensively from there. They really need Nic Nat back so they can start dominating clearances again - without him, I dont think they can compete for the flag. When hes on song, their midfielders can be so proactive because they know theyll get first use. Hes just such a massive weapon for them.WESTERN BULLDOGS Jake Stringer hasnt had a great year, but with Jack Redpath out injured and Tom Boyd still finding his way as a key forward at AFL level, hes the man who the Bulldogs must keep fit through the finals. Stringer isnt a traditional key forward, hes not a huge contested marker, but hes got that X-factor that can win a final off his own boot. His season got off to a flyer but hes been quieter in recent months, but you just know hell explode at some point. The Bulldogs are such a brilliant defensive team but they need to find a way to kick winning scores, and Stringer gives them that chance. He could be the difference between winning a final and losing one.NORTH MELBOURNE Their drop-off in form before their two recent wins coincided with Todd Goldstein losing a bit of form. Hes rediscovered a bit of that and the Kangaroos really need him up and going. Up forward they have multiple options, theyve got real strength through the midfield and down back but Goldstein needs to provide them with first use, and he can also spread forward and kick goals. At the start of the year, when they were flying, it was a battle between him and Max Gawn for All Australian ruckman, before for whatever reasons Goldsteins output dropped a touch. He looks to be getting back to his best and if he has a huge month through September, it gives the Roos a sniff. Soccer Jerseys From China
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