Pesky Pie’s skills back up his swagger

1. Jack Ginnivan was born for the big stage

Love him or hate him, you have to rate him. Jack Ginnivan has emerged as a classic pantomime villain across the first six rounds of the season, and he can seriously play. After missing the trip to Queensland for Easter Thursday, the pesky small forward returned to the biggest stage of the home and away season and delivered a performance that shows he can handle all the scrutiny that has come his way in 2022. Jack Higgins, Cody Weightman, Josh Rachele, Willie Rioli and Zac Bailey have all put the small forward back on the agenda in recent weeks. Right now, Ginnivan isn’t a mile off them. The youngster with the peroxide blond hair kicked two goals in the opening half, two more in the third quarter and finished with a staggering five for the day. Ginnivan wasn’t afraid to incite the Essendon crowd either and will do the same to opposition fans for a long time to come. – Josh Gabelich

2. Higgins is on track for an All-Australian blazer

Six rounds into 2022 and Jack Higgins looks like the Therabody AFL All-Australian small forward right now. The 23-year-old slotted 4.3 against Greater Western Sydney in another near best-afield performance on Friday night, taking him to 14 goals from five games – essentially four when you consider he was substituted out of round three in the first quarter. After adding the bag in the nation’s capital to the five against Gold Coast last week and the four against the Dockers in round two, Higgins has more than any other small forward in the AFL, leading Josh Rachele (12 goals), Dylan Moore (11 goals) and Cody Weightman (11 goals). While Jade Gresham and Max King have attracted most of the attention, Higgins is a key reason why the Saints are 5-1 for the first time since 2010. – Josh Gabelich

3. Cam Rayner is ready to launch

After missing all of 2021 with a ruptured ACL, there were high hopes around Cam Rayner entering this season. The former No.1 draft pick has slowly built over the first five rounds without ever dominating, but against Gold Coast took a significant step with his most impactful performance yet. Rayner had 20 disposals, five marks and kicked one incredible goal. Although he missed a couple of gettable chances, his power through the contest and clean hands were all exciting glimpses of a man that could help propel Brisbane towards a premiership with his mix of midfield and forward minutes. – Michael Whiting

4. The Chad is destined for big things

The Swans started really slowly on Monday, conceding the first five goals to a rampaging Hawks in the opening 15 minutes and like most of his teammates, Chad Warner was quiet early with just two handballs in the opening quarter. He also copped a bake from co-captain Dane Rampe when he didn’t block space and allowed Jack Gunston an easy mark. Perhaps the spray was just what the young Swan needed as Warner gradually worked his way into the game before producing an outstanding final term. With his team trailing by nine points 10 minutes into the last quarter, Warner kicked a cracking major to kickstart a nine-goal avalanche that powered the Swans to a 41-point win. It’s easy forget Warner is only 20 years of age and has just 20 games to his name, such is his importance to the team. – Ben Sutton

5. Connor Rozee’s future is in the midfield 

Patience is a virtue and those who remained calm about Connor Rozee’s early-season midfield struggles would be feeling a sense of vindication right now. Rozee has roared back into form over the last two weeks, quelling any doubt surrounding the move into the guts with back-to-back commanding displays. However, his performance in Port’s 84-point win over West Coast was particularly eye-catching as he accumulated 31 disposals, eight clearances and won the Peter Badcoe VC Medal for best afield. Now, it’s all about consistency for Rozee who at his best can provide a brilliant one-two punch with reigning Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines. Should he be able to back this up on a week-to-week basis, Port will only benefit as it looks to remedy its poor start to the season. – Nick D’Urbano

Connor Rozee is presented the Badcoe Medal for his performance against West Coast in round six on April 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

6. Sam Weideman is ready to make the spot his own

It has been a quirky start to the season for Weideman, who missed out in the opening fortnight of games but came into the side in round three when Ben Brown missed under the AFL’s health and safety protocols. After managing only five games last year, Weideman kicked four goals against the Bombers in round three and held his place in Melbourne’s forward line for the next couple of weeks as Brown was unavailable and then suspended for striking in the VFL. This week against the Tigers, Weideman was picked in the side ahead of premiership forward Tom McDonald, and Weideman showed why with three goals in the Dees’ comfortable win. The 24-year-old has had a stop-start career at the Demons but looks as comfortable as he ever has at the level. – Callum Twomey

7. No-frills Atkins has gone to a new level

He may not be the classiest or skilled defender in Geelong’s backline, but Tom Atkins is as reliable as they come and continues to do his job week in, week out. He gives his all for his club and rarely walks off the ground at the end of a game having his colours lowered, much like his coach during his playing days. Atkins was excellent on Sunday against North Melbourne, finishing with a season-best 23 possessions (12 contested), a game-high 13 intercepts, three rebound 50s and seven score involvements. Atkins is putting together another fine season, with better averages in 2022 compared to his career in kicks, handballs, marks and metres gained. Not bad for a 2018 rookie elevation. – Trent Masenhelder

Tom Atkins in action for Geelong against North Melbourne in round six, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

8. Fremantle has one of the best forward spreads

A feature of the Dockers’ surprise success has been their relentless forward line pressure and ability to transition with speed. Matt Taberner booted seven goals against Essendon yet this week he managed only one, with back-up ruck Rory Lobb and round three Glendinning-Allan medalist Lachie Schultz kicking three each, while small forwards Michael Walters and Sam Switkowski booted two apiece. Pacy pair Michael Frederick and Travis Colyer missed out against Carlton but they’ve both have had their moments this season. Dockers coach Justin Longmuir said: “They understand who gets the lick of the ice cream from an offensive point of view can change from week-in week-out. They’re going super well.” – Ben Somerford

9. Frampton comes alive in new role

Having played his previous four AFL seasons as a forward-ruck and struggling to nail down a consistent spot, Frampton put in a career-best performance as a defender against the Western Bulldogs. The Dogs forward line had plenty of marking power, with the likes of Aaron Naughton, Marcus Bontempelli and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, but Frampton’s confidence in coming off his man was key to the one-point win. Working nicely with Jordon Butts and Tom Doedee, Frampton finished with 26 disposals, 10 intercepts, nine marks and 502m gained. – Sarah Black

Billy Frampton knocks the ball away from Jamarra Ugle-Hagan during the R6 clash between Adelaide and Western Bulldogs at Mars Stadium on April 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos



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