Liam Picken's career-high six goals on the weekend against the Gold Coast Suns was an incredible performance from a guy who isn't known for kicking a massive bag of goals. It's hard to believe that it was only a few years ago this man was tagging midfielders out of games, but since Luke Beveridge's arrival at Whitten Oval, Picken has become more of a offensive player, whether he's used up the ground or at home down forward, he has become a completely rejuvenated player.
Which is why today on Bulldogs Centre, I thought it would be appropriate to list my 15 favourite unreal performances in front of goal from players that I wouldn't have ever expected. There have been some incredible performances over the years from players who never really reached that elite group of players or were only relatively new when they put in a best-on-ground effort.
15. John Butcher
In what was his second game of AFL footy, 20 year-old John Butcher announced his arrival onto the AFL scene with a bag of six goals from just six disposals, as the Power were demolished by 10 goals by the Western Bulldogs back in round 22, 2011.
Whilst the Bulldogs were celebrating the monster debut of Jason Tutt (26 disposals, four goals - three of those with his first three kicks), Port supporters would've been pleased at the time with Butcher's game, with some even dubbing him as 'The Future' given how poor Port's performances were at the time. However, Butcher has since struggled for games until he was finally delisted at the end of 2016.
14. Ashley McGrath
In 2003, the Brisbane Lions were at the peak of their powers, securing back-to-back flags in 2001 and 2002, and were on the course for a three-peat. In the final round of the 2003 home and away season, the Lions made it a training drill against the last-placed Western Bulldogs, defeating them by 84 points.
The leading goal kicker that night for the Lions wasn't any of the usual suspects - it wasn't Alastair Lynch, it wasn't Jonathan Brown, it wasn't Daniel Bradshaw and it wasn't Jason Akermanis. It was a 20 year-old Ashley McGrath who was only playing his 28th game of league football. Before that night at Etihad Stadium, McGrath had only kicked three career goals, playing as both a defender and a forward, but he would forge a solid career as a versatile player, playing 214 games for the Lions.
13. Majak Daw
Rookie-listed by North Melbourne back in the 2010 AFL Rookie Draft, Majak Daw finally made his debut early in the 2013 season, and just weeks after his debut, proved to be a major difference in North Melbourne's 54-point win over the Western Bulldogs back in round seven. Under the roof of Etihad Stadium, Daw was just simply unstoppable on that night, booting six goals and four behinds from 18 disposals and eight marks.
Coach Brad Scott to declare Majak is a "Good example of what you can do with really hard work." Despite this stellar performance that landed the Sudanese Kangaroo the three Brownlow votes and unbelievable praise from his coach, Daw has struggled to put in consistent performances at the top level, having only played 31 games in five seasons.
12. Sam Kerridge
It was round nine in the 2013 AFL season and with North Melbourne in control of the Adelaide Crows, it looked likely that the Roos were going to get their fourth win of the season. Down by 30 points nine minutes into the fourth quarter, the Crows were led to an upset victory by one of the most unlikeliest players that were on the ground.
At 20 years of age and only seven games of AFL experience, Sam Kerridge kicked three of the last five goals of the match to add to his three goals that he already kicked in the third quarter to take his tally for the afternoon to six goals as the Crows stole victory from under the North Melbourne noses - a solitary point seperating the two sides at the final siren. Kerridge also had 24 disposals and eight marks to go along with his six goals to earn a Rising Star nomination.
11. Matthew Nicks
Matthew Nicks was a versatile player from West Adelaide who spent 10 seasons with the Sydney Swans from 1996-2005, although often used as a defender or a third-string forward, one Sunday afternoon at the SCG in the 2001 AFL season, before Barry Hall became the Swans' gun full-forward, Sydney looked to an unlikely source as Nicks put on a clinic at full-forward booting six goals for the Swans in an 87-point thrashing of a hapless St. Kilda.
It could've easily had been more as Nicks kicked seven behinds to go with his bag of six, but the Saints' defenders simply had no answers as he took 10 marks - six of those being taken inside 50. Imagine what could've been if Nicks had kicked much straighter. Despite his inaccurate, yet star performance, Nicks went on and had a very servicable career, playing 175 games before numerous injuries forced him into retirement at the age of 30.
10. Ben McKinley
All throughout the 2008 season, the West Coast Eagles' inexperienced forward line was spearheaded by a 21-year old small forward by the name of Ben McKinley, who was entering his third season in the AFL. Nobody outside of West Coast knew him before the start of the 2008 season, but by the end of it, he was West Coast's leading goal kicker for the year, booting 42 goals as the struggling Eagles finished second-last on the ladder.
Round 19 of the 2008 season at Subiaco provided the career afternoon of McKinley's rather short 48-game career. Playing an Essendon side that were not going to play finals that year, McKinley ran amok on the Bombers, kicking four goals in the first half as the Eagles held a 38-point, half-time lead. The Bombers threatened to come back so many times in the second half, but each time, it was McKinley that provided the steady hand, adding three second-half goals to finish with seven for the day as the Eagles beat Essendon by 10 points in a high-scoring affair.
9. Brent Guerra
At the early stages of his career, Brent Guerra was used predominantly as a wingman who could also go forward at times. Starting at Port Adelaide, Guerra was traded to St. Kilda at the end of the 2003 season and played a massive part in St. Kilda's impressive start to the year in 2004 as they won the first 10 games of the season. Included in these games was a impressive seven-goal performance against the West Coast Eagles at Etihad Stadium.
The Saints crushed the Eagles on this Sunday afternoon, and with a forward line that boasted the likes of Fraser Gehrig, Nick Riewoldt, Stephen Milne and Aaron Hamill still in his prime, it was Guerra who led all scorers with a career-best seven goals as the Saints won by 101 points. Guerra's time at St. Kilda was short-lived as he was delisted and picked up by Hawthorn at the end of 2005, where he became a two-time premiership player.
8. Stewart Crameri
Stewart Crameri might've lead Essendon's goal-kicking from 2011-13 and the Bulldogs' goal-kicking in the 2014 season, but he's never been a big goal-kicker, never kicking over 40 goals in a season, despite kicking a bag of six against a listless Melbourne. However in the 2015 season, he would be the unlikely star in round 18 as he single-handedly destroyed his old side in Essendon.
After a slow start against the Bombers, the Bulldogs blew away the Bombers with 14 goals in the second and third quarters. Crameri had three goals to his name at half-time and doubled his tally in third quarter, before sealing his stunning afternoon under the roof at Etihad Stadium with a seventh goal from the just inside the centre square. What made this performance all the more impressive and completely out-of-nowhere is that a few weeks before this game, Crameri was lingering around in the VFL, trying to regain form for Footscray.
7. Matthew Robran
A two-time premiership player at the Adelaide Crows, Matthew Robran had begun his career at Hawthorn and showed promise at the Hawks before homesickness got the best of him and requested a trade home to Adelaide ahead of the 1993 AFL season. However it is the Preliminary Final of 1998 that has Robran in this category of unlikely stars - a performance that I think still makes fellow Bulldog supporters uneasy.
In a rematch of the thrilling 1997 Preliminary Final between the Bulldogs and the Crows, it would prove to be an anti-climatic sequel in 1998, as the Crows ran riot with a 13-goal first half and led by 52 points at three-quarter time. The Crows would eventually win it by 68 points to get into their second consecutive Grand Final and whilst it was Adelaide legend Andrew McLeod that stole the show with seven goals, he'd have an unlikely partner up forward in Robran, who mostly played as a defender, went up forward on this day and kicked a lazy six goals.
6. Troy Wilson
Back where mature-aged recruits were virtually unheard of, the Eagles took a gamble on a 28-year old full-forward by the name of Troy Wilson, who was dominating the WAFL for West Perth and East Perth. Making his debut in 2001 at the ripe age of 29, Wilson was relatively quiet in the first fornight of the season, before exploding in round three against St. Kilda at Etihad Stadium.
In a match that was famous for Mark Merenda's goal, in which he paddled the ball inside 50 and close to the boundary line, gathered, went around a defender and slotted it from the pocket and later awarded the goal of the year, it was the unlikely hero in Wilson who proved to be the difference, kicking 7.5 from 20 disposals and 15 marks Eagles held on by three goals in a high-scoring battle against the Saints. Wilson would kick 40 goals in 18 games in 2001 and would play only 37 games in his AFL career before being delisted in 2003.
5. Kyle Reimers
Kyle Reimers was more of a fringe player at Essendon than anything else, and was probably better known for his awful tattoos and flashy fluro boots than his football ability. But there was one performance in 2011, in which he provided a rare best-on-ground performance, however it was against the young and the fresh Gold Coast Suns who were only in their first season in the big leagues.
It was a year that provided many thumpings for the Suns, but none of them came quite like this. The Bombers blew them out of the park before the quarter time siren, kicking an astonishing 15 goals to one behind to shut the door on the result by the first break. The Bombers would go on to win by 139 points, with Reimers leading Essendon's goal-kickers on the afternoon with eight of his team's 31 goals from 20 disposals and seven marks. Reimers' career would only last until the following season in which Essendon delisted him.
4. Daniel Merrett
For most of his career at the Brisbane Lions, Daniel Merrett was used predominantly as a key defender, having only kicked 24 goals in his career from 2005 to his game against the Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2012. Against the young Giants, who were playing in their first season in the AFL, Merrett had a field day at the Gabba playing as the full-forward.
He would kick the first three goals of the match, and then add a further two goals before quarter time to take it to five goals in the first quarter as the Lions kicked seven goals to one. Merrett would add only two more for the rest of the game as the Lions destroyed the young Giants, running out 92-point winners. For Merrett, this was a stunning performance, kicking a career-high seven goals from 23 disposals and 12 marks, and despite a solid 2012 season up forward, Merrett's best footy lied in defence.
3. Jake Carlisle
For the most part of his career at Essendon, Jake Carlisle had always been a part of the Bombers' defence, that is until late in the 2014 season, when then coach James Hird opted to play Carlisle up forward and it took a few weeks, but it was finally beginning to pay off, as Carlisle had a match-winning performance against Collingwood in round 17, kicking four goals from 26 disposals and an astonishing 19 marks as Essendon destroyed Collingwood, however he would match that performance with a clinic in front of goal the next week.
Under the roof at Etihad Stadium, Carlisle single-handedly dismantled the defences of the Western Bulldogs, marking everything in sight and booting a career-best eight goals, kicking two goals each quarter, along with 19 disposals and 12 marks as the Bombers won a close one against the Doggies - seven points seperating the two sides at full time. However since that time, Carlisle has struggled to put in anything near those two performances at both Essendon and his new home at St. Kilda.
2. Tom Lynch
A first round pick by St. Kilda in the 2008 AFL Draft, Tom Lynch could only manage six games in three years, before he was traded to Adelaide at the end of 2011, in which he managed to flourish as a forward, but before then, he provided an unlikely star up forward - Before Josh Jenkins' emergence as a star, before Taylor Walker's legitmacy as a leader and before the arrival of Eddie Betts from Carlton.
Round 7 in the 2013 at Spotless Stadium, The Crows produced an annhilation job on the Greater Western Sydney Giants, sewing the game up by half-time, leading by 55 points. The Crows would go on to win by 135 points, with Lynch the star up forward, kicking a career-high 10 goals from 21 disposals and 11 marks. I can remember an old friend saying that Tom Lynch was 'The worst player to kick 10 goals in a game', but since that performance, Lynch has provided solid and consistent service in the Crows' exciting forward line.
1. Mark LeCras
Whilst Mark LeCras was an established forward at West Coast, nobody could've predicted the night he was about to have against the Essendon Bombers in round 16 of the 2010 season. Before this night at Etihad Stadium, LeCras' previous best was two bags of six a year before in 2009, but by half-time against Essendon, he would already have seven to his name.
In a season in which the Eagles struggled, the Eagles turned to their small spearhead as LeCras kicked all four of West Coast's goals in the first quarter and then added another three in the second quarter to add his tally to seven by the half-time break. Nobody could've stopped LeCras on this night, not even Essendon's heralded champion in Dustin Fletcher could stop him on this night. By three quarter-time, He would reach the 10-goal mark and would go on to finish his career-night with 12 goals from 22 disposals and 12 marks as the Eagles defeated the Bombers by 32 points.