AFL Heroes & Villains Round 4: Young Sun, polarising Giant turn it on

Round 4 of the AFL season saw a number of premiership fancies stumble, a star Giant remind everyone of his enormous value and one Bomber make a blue against Carlton. Here are this week's Heroes & Villains.


Matt Rowell and Co: There's probably only ever been one player in the history of the game who could genuinely make a case for three best on grounds in his first four matches: Matt Rowell.

Last year's No. 1 draft pick is shattering records and already making the Suns a far more competitive and dangerous outfit. In Round 2, he crushed the Eagles with 26 disposals and two goals. Last week, he produced a tackling masterclass, laying 10 of them in another 20-disposal, two-goal effort.

This week he was at it again as the Suns won three on the trot, downing the Dockers by 13 points. Rowell was influential with 20 disposals (again), two goals (again), seven clearances and five tackles.

If Rowell doesn't get the votes, expect them to go the way of Jarrod Witts who absolutely monstered Rory Lobb in the ruck.

Granted, there's a long way to go in season 2020, but Rowell is now the fourth favourite to win the Brownlow Medal - behind only Lachie Neale, Patrick Cripps and Patrick Dangerfield. May we remind you he's played just FOUR games! Incredible.

Charlie Dixon: Iso has been kind to Charlie Dixon. The Power key forward looks to be in the best condition of his life after hitting the gym and collaborating with Port runner Chad Cornes for a number of one-on-one workouts during the 10-week break, and his footy is following suit.

The 29-year-old was in ominous form for the ladder-leaders on Saturday against the Eagles, bagging six goals from 19 touches in what was the most dominant performance by a key forward so far in 2020.

Dixon looks to be playing with a freedom we haven't seen from the big man since he made the move from the Suns to Port back in 2016; it's fair to say prior to this year he hadn't delivered on a consistent enough basis to be considered one of the premier key forwards of the competition.

But with a chiseled new rig and Port playing some irresistible football, 2020 might be the year we see the best of Charlie Dixon.

Toby Greene: You can love him or hate him, but you can't shy away from the fact that Greene is a box office player. He missed the Giants' loss to Bulldogs last week but returned to take on the Pies, reminding everyone just how damaging he can be.

In the matchup of two of the league's biggest antagonisers, Greene was far too good for Magpie Brayden Maynard, racking up 19 touches, 14 pressure acts, two clearances and kicking three goals straight from six total score involvements. It was a match-winning effort, but in typical Greene style he wasn't squeaky-clean, giving away a 50-metre penalty in the fourth term with Collingwood storming home.

Having said that, he was unlucky, too. Greene missed out on being awarded what seemed like a few obvious free kicks for head-high contact or pushes in the back late in the game, but as seems to be the case with Toby, you never know what you're going to get.

It would also seem that some of his influence has rubbed off on his opponents, with big American Pie Mason Cox emulating Greene's bizarre kung fu kick maneuvre more than once. Let's hope that's just a one-time thing ...


Flag fancies: Before the season began, the Grand Final many of us were predicting was Richmond vs. West Coast. It made sense; the Tigers were coming off a second flag in three years, while the already A-grade Eagles had acquired the services of star Cat Tim Kelly.

But after four rounds, in what's a shortened season, both sides sit outside the top 12 and are playing a standard of football which is a mile away from what we'd expect a premiership team to produce.

In Round 4, the Tigers were run ragged by St Kilda. Just like in the previous week, the yellow-and-black brigade appeared flat footed and a shadow of the team which has terrorised the competition since 2017.

Meanwhile, the Eagles fell to a third straight loss, with Port Adelaide cruising to a 48-point win at Metricon Stadium. Since the AFL's restart, Adam Simpson's side has failed to tally 50 points in a game - an astonishing statistic given their usual attacking prowess.

We're certainly not writing these two powerhouse clubs off just yet, but in terms of building into a season, there's far less leeway in 2020 and another loss could really hurt.

Wayward Pies: For the second time in a row, Collingwood fans will be wondering how on earth their team lost to GWS. Just like in last year's preliminary final at the MCG, the Pies absolutely dominated the final term but were unable to put anything of note on the scoreboard.

Young gun Jaidyn Stephenson was the first to register a behind after just 30 seconds of play in the last. Skipper Scott Pendlebury, Chris Mayne and Will Hoskin-Elliott also missed chances which would have likely put the Giants away.

But as so often is the case in football, a team who fails to capitlise is quickly punished. The Giants had two scoring chances in the fourth quarter and managed to kick goals on both occasions. Josh Kelly created a goal out of absolutely nothing before Jeremy Cameron slotted a difficult set shot to ultimately sink the Pies in a two-point thriller.

Ultimately, GWS won the game with three fewer scoring shots to once again highlight the importance of taking your chances in front of goal.

It's not often the Tigers, Eagles and Pies all lose in the same weekend.

Zach Merrett: He's a great player, but there's no doubt Merrett will wish he had his time again.

Against Carlton on Saturday night, the Bombers' ball-magnet struck Jack Silvagni in the ribs with a closed fist, just as the young Blue was disposing of the ball. To the naked eye there didn't appear to much in it, but subsequent replays showed Merrett's intent to make contact.

Shortly after, Silvagni was ruled out for the rest of the game. Scans later revealed he suffered a bruised lung and fractured rib, spending the night in hospital. The Blues confirmed on Sunday that Silvagni will not suit up in Round 5.

We all know the outcome plays a key role in the AFL's judicial system, so it's no surprise Merrett will miss a week. It's far from ideal for the Bombers who face arch rival Collingwood at the MCG next Friday night.