GUNS and rookies. It’s the safest, proven strategy to fantasy glory in years past, and yet, annually we find ourselves clamouring for value. There is some merit in selecting mid-priced players, with the right choices proving to be a great cash generation play, saving you a few initial bucks to be spent elsewhere in your starting side. It’s impossible/ill-advised to start with all of these mid pricers, however, this guide may help you make up your mind on some of the more popular players in the $400K-$600K price bracket.
All numbers/stats provided are sourced from AFL Fantasy
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Zac Williams, Greater Western Sydney Giants, $421K
IT’S not often a player who suffered a ruptured Achilles becomes a Fantasy lock 12 months later. Part of the reason everyone is so keen on Williams is because of his return to action during the Finals last year, when he put forth two scores of 107 and 67. We’ve seen Williams average over 80 for two straight seasons before his injury, making him potentially 20 points underpriced.
Luke Ryan, Fremantle Dockers, $558K
AS a Luke Ryan owner a season ago, I’m excited at the potential points boost Freo’s kick-in specialist may have. Throughout his young 31 game career to date 70% of Ryan’s disposals have been kicks and should he retain kick-in duties for the Dockers then he could be in for a serious 10-15 point inflation. Earlier this pre-season Warnie pointed out that just one of Ryan’s 107 kick-ins (fourth most in the comp) where to himself, but the new rule should see him push for an average close to the 90’s.
Image from thewest.com.au
Andrew McGrath, Essendon Bombers, $518K
Could Andrew McGrath be in for a traditional third-year breakout? Possibly, with the former top overall pick slated to spend more time in the guts for Essendon this season. I do wonder just how much higher McGrath can push his average over 70-75, especially with a healthy Zach Merrett and new recruit Dylan Shiel set to dominate time on the ball.
Callum Mills, Sydney Swans, $522K
ANOTHER candidate tabbed with the infamous ‘more midfield time’ label this pre-season. Callum Mills is in a very similar position to McGrath, a high draft selection forced to play most of his AFL footy off the half-back flank. Coaches are waiting for him to make that coveted move to the middle and he may have some stints in the Swans’ engine room this year, with an ageing Luke Parker and JPK perhaps on the decline. That’s not enough upside for me to select him, giving the unknown over how he’ll fare in the midfield. Besides, do you really trust Horse Longmire? Didn’t think so.
Brodie Smith, Adelaide Crows, $439K
JUST last week Crows assistant Scott Camporeale spoke about how the new kick-in rule benefitted Brodie Smith so that he can gather another 10 metres out of the square. Not Luke Brown, not Rory Laird, not Wayne Milera, Brodie Smith. While it’s worth taking this news with a grain of salt it increases the potential output we can expect from Smith. Another nugget worth pointing out is that Rory Laird led the club in mark’s from kick-in’s last season and while the Crows seem set to share the load, Smith looms as their go-to guy. All signs indicate he’ll put injury woes behind him and return to an average around 80, perhaps with room to grow. Tick.
Image from sen.com.au
Hamish Hartlett, Port Adelaide Power, $534K
FIVE games is a small sample size, but pre-ACL last year Hamish Hartlett was making serious noise. Going at an average of 86.6, the kick happy Hartlett has flirted with being Fantasy relevant throughout chunks of his career, including 2015 when he averaged 96.5 point from his 22 games. All reports indicate he’ll be raring to go by Round1, but if he misses both JLT games I’d be hesitant to start with him.
Nic Newman, Carlton Blues, $552K
ONE of the toughest players to peg in defense this year is Nic Newman. One one hand, he’s been released from John Longmire’s doghouse and we could see the best fantasy season of his career if Carlton unleashes him. On the other, there’s no certainty that Newman plays the wing/half-back role that made him relevant in Sydney, which could see him hover around the low 80’s. It’s tough to justify paying up for him with so much value in the back line, but I’ll keep an eye on him during the JLT matches to see if his role pushes him back into contention.
Anthony Miles, Gold Coast Suns, $425K
OF all the mid-priced midfield picks available you could make the argument that Anthony Miles will generate the most dough. You may ask why a club would want a player who has been cut twice, but Gold Coast is chasing any reliable players they can get right now. He fell out of favour with the Tigers, playing only six games in the last two years, however, he did manage multiple scores over 90 and a 78 in his sole 2018 appearance. It’s not groundbreaking news to state that the Suns may be on the end of some heavy hammering’s this season, but Miles has gone over 85 for a season on three separate occasions. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea but priced at 58.5, that’s good enough for me.
Tom Rockliff, Port Adelaide Power, $600K
NEVER has there been a more ‘JLT watch’ relevant candidate. There were a ton of factors that held Tom Rockliff back from his Fantasy best in 2018 and his role will be a huge talking point for the remainder of the pre-season. His awkward price has kept him out of my side to date, but if he looks tackle happy in AFLX and the JLT, then I can easily be swayed. For now though, there is too much risk associated with Rockliff.
Jacob Hopper, Greater Western Sydney Giants, $568K
FORMER seventh overall pick Jacob Hopper has been steadily improving each season, featuring in 21 games last season for GWS, averaging 21 touches per game. Now that Dylan Shiel and Tom Scully have swapped clubs there’s a chance Hopper will be the Fantasy beneficiary having spent nearly half his game time in the centre for the Giants in 2018. Even if he ups his average into the low 90’s (a double-digit jump from last year) I questions whether there’s enough value to warrant selection.
Dan Hannebery, St Kilda Saints, $434K
NO we won’t see the 110+ Dan Hannebery this season, but there’s still potentially serious value here. That is of course, assuming that Hanners can stay on the park and put a horrid 2018 behind him that saw him average just 59.9 points from 14 games. 29% of coaches are banking on him returning to form and I’m not opposed to the idea. He’s just not for me.
Brad Crouch, Adelaide Crows, $524K
PERSONALLY I’m torn over the Brad Crouch decision as the Crows midfielder has only managed to play in 50% of his career games due to multiple injury problems. Multiple hamstring woes, a fractured leg/cheekbone and most recently groin injuries have held Crouch under his best and he comes at a risk that’s for sure. However, he seems to back at 100% fitness and we saw in 2017 (103.1 points a game) what he’s capable of. If he features in the JLT games and looks like the Crouch of old he could crack his way back into my starting side.
Sam Jacobs, Adelaide Crows, $591K
AFL Fantasy numbers aren’t usually kind to ruckmen over the age of 30 and I have a hunch Sauce could emerge as the latest victim. He has been super consistent for us in the past averaging over 80 in seven of his last eight seasons, including three seasons where he went over 95. I do wonder if Adelaide will try to usher in the next generation and get games into the likes of Reilly O’Brien, however, Jacobs will still be the Crows go to tall timber in 2019. He should push his average back close to 90 and he looms as the best of a bad bunch of mid-priced rucks.
Shane Mumford, Greater Western Sydney, $429K
EXPECTING a lot from big Mummy in 2019 would be a bit unfair after the former premiership Swan has spent 12 months out of the system. Priced under 60 points though, there’s every chance he can be a semi-reliable R2, even if it is for a small period of time. Suspended for the first two games you can’t start with Mumford in your Classic side, but he may emerge as a late Draft sleeper.
Matthew Kreuzer, Carlton Blues, $576K
TYPING Matthew Kreuzer into Google will quickly provide you with the suggested term ‘injury’. Unfortunately that word has been associated with Carlton’s big man too often and as a result, he’s probably out of our calculations at the moment. While the Blues brass remains adamant that a minor knee op from a month ago won’t hold him back ahead of Round 1, there’s too much risk with Kruez to warrant a starting spot.
Image from sportingnews.com
Tim English, Western Bulldogs, $446K
I might die on this hill, but Tim English is a legitimate option. Like any mid-pricer he comes with risk and the biggest question mark will be if he can maintain a role as the Bulldogs sole ruck. Consistency will be another huge factor in the decision-making process as English chalked up the same number of games scoring under 40 as he had recording 85+. If he can show me something in the JLT series I’m pretty tempted to lock and load.
Luke Dahlhaus, Geelong Cats, $570K
A fresh start at Geelong has many thinking Luke Dahlhaus can return to the top-6 forward conversation. It might be wishful thinking, but an average in the high 80’s isn’t out of the question. With so many Cats fighting for midfield time, his positioning will be crucial, but there’s enough upside for the former Dog to be in the mix. Watch this space.
Chad Wingard, Hawthorn Hawks, $598K
WHILE Tom Mitchell’s injury was a blow to us all, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who slotted Chad Wingard into my forward line shortly after the news broke. With Mitchell leaving a huge void in Hawthorn’s midfield many predicted Wingard to benefit greatly and reproduce numbers similar to what he put up post-bye last season (92.4 from 13 contests). It’s a risky move to start Wingard given the fact that a recent calf complaint held him back from playing in the AFLX comp and he looms as yet another JLT watch candidate. If he spends a chunk of time in the middle though we could be looking at a top-6 forward.
James Worpel, Hawthorn Hawks, $480K
HAVING ticked all the boxes so far this pre-season, James Worpel may very well be the pick of the mid-priced forwards. Upside? Tick. Dominated match-sim? Tick. More midfield time? Tick. The list goes on. While we aren’t exactly sure what to expect from the Worpedo, having played just nine AFL games, he should be able to score at a decent rate and generate cash for owners from day dot.
Tom Lynch, Richmond Tigers, $487K
HAVING escaped from the hell hole that is the Gold Coast Suns, Tom Lynch looks ready to revive his AFL Fantasy career. Key forwards not named Buddy or Nick Riewoldt have hardly been relevant in the past, but Lynch is making a case to be in your starting side. His numbers took a dip last year, although I think it’s fair to say Lynch’s mind was elsewhere, featuring in only 10 games for the Suns in his final season on the Gold Coast. If you’re on the fence I’d opt to wait and see with Lynch no certainty to start Round 1 as he builds his way back into form. Once he’s on the park though he looms as a reliable 80.
Image from foxsports.com.au
Michael Walters, Fremantle Dockers, $581K
FANTASY consistency has plagued Michael Walters in his career and my gut tells me 2019 will be no different. He could be a Draft smokey, especially if he nabs some of the minutes in Fremantle’s midfield left vacant by Lachie Neale’s exit and Connor Blakely’s injury setback. However, with a premiership far from their sights, expect Ross the Boss to get valuable minutes into his youngsters while Walters settles for a role on the half-forward flank. With a career-high average of 82.1 and Walters price set at 80, you’d be wise to spend-up elsewhere.
Q & A
I want to get a recurring Q&A segment going this Fantasy season and a few people have already hit me with their questions. Be sure to drop a line on your preferred form of social media for me to include in my regular posts/podcasts.
Q. Thoughts on Kade Simpson? – @jacob_millar_ (Via Twitter)
SITTING in just 4.09% of teams right now, Kade Simpson has a lower ownership percentage than Shannon Hurn! Do I think he’ll average a ton in 2019? Unlikely, but barring anything crazy he should be a top-6 defender by year’s end. If anything his price may dip slightly, making him a potential upgrade target, but I assume he’ll in all our sides at some point this season.
Q. Are you starting with Devon Smith? – @tommcdonald__ (Via Instagram)
AT the moment I’m not, but similar with the Kade Simpson case he should finish the year as one of the position’s best scorers. Smith’s tackling makes him relevant regardless of how many midfield minutes he records and despite the fact that he’s fighting with more candidates for engine room minutes, he should top triple figures again in 2019.
Q. Taylor Adams or Dustin Martin? – @connor.hackling (Via Instagram)
WHY not have both? Currently, I’m rocking both Taylor Adams and Dustin Martin at M3/M4, with both players likely to increase their averages by 10 points minimum. If I had to choose one, I’d side with Adams, based on the buzz he’s generated this preseason and Richmond’s traditionally low scoring totals.
Q. How are you looking at tackling the R2 situation, leaning towards saving some cash with an English or Jacobs, or coughing up for a set and forget in Gawn? – @JelmsDT (Via Twitter)
THIS shapes as the million dollar question for fantasy coaches this preseason. How do we tackle the R2 spot? Personally, English is about 65% assured a starting spot in my side, with the details above highlighting why I’m in on him. While I’m against the idea of paying up for Max Gawn (the Preuss effect) and Stef Martin (injury woes), I also have my eye on Todd Goldstein, who looms as a 90-95 point scorer. I wish I had the answer, but at this stage, I’m against paying top, top dollar for R2.
Q. Could Jack Darling be a legitimate AFL Fantasy option? – @Bego9880 (Via Twitter)
IF you exclude his injury affected scores of 5 and 3 last season, Darling went at an average of 84.4 including his three finals. He’s a contested marking beast and when Josh Kennedy is healthy and sitting in the goal square, Darling seems to push further up the ground and rack up a ton more of the footy. He doesn’t come super cheap this season at a tick over $550K, priced at an average of 76.7 and my advice would be to chase some value elsewhere.
Image from thenewdaily.com.au
Q. Could Hayden Crozier be a good POD? – @antonio.miccelli (Via Instagram)
CROZIER’S first year as a Bulldog was perhaps the best of his AFL Fantasy career as he racked up a career-high 18.5 touches per game. However, it took him a while to get going averaging just 51 points from his first seven games before the bye. His 0.3% ownership makes him super unique, but there’s a reason for it and given he’s strictly a defender this year there are a handful of better options available.
Q. Would love your thoughts on backline structure. I currently have Lloyd, Witherden, Ryan, Newman, Williams and Collins. Do you think that is to mid price heavy? – @JesseBlair01 (Via Twitter)
IF we are going to go heavy with mid-pricers at one line then the defense shapes as the best bet. Running with five non-rookies could be risky, but there are a few mature agers in the midfield we can lean on the generate the cash necessary. It’s not for me, but there’s nothing wrong with starting the trio in Ryan, Newman and Williams as they look set to be money makers.
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