THE start of the AFL Fantasy season is still over six weeks away, but it’s never too early to start thinking outside the box. Players like Lachie Whitfield, Marlion Pickett and Stephen Coniglio aren’t exactly going to go unnoticed, but the key to success is finding the real diamond’s in the rough that no one else owns. To help your thinking, I’ve made a list of 20 players who you might want to add to your watchlist with an ownership under 10% that may turn out to be difference makers.
All numbers/stats provided are sourced from AFL Fantasy
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Hunter Clark, St Kilda Saints, $574K, 4.8% OWN
THERE weren’t many teams rocking with Hunter Clark early on last season, but very quickly the young Saint emerged as a huge fantasy factor. In his last seven games of the year, when Clark was unleashed more through the middle of the ground he averaged an impressive 91.3 points. If he plays a similar role for the whole season that he did to end 2019 then Clark will be one to watch.
Tom Doedee, Adelaide Crows, $403K, 8.1% OWN
BACK in 2017, Jake Lever’s departure provided an opportunity for a Crows backman to step up. Tom Doedee was the one who grasped the chance with both hands, putting forth a breakout debut season, averaging 72.5 fantasy points in 20 games. He wasn’t given the chance to build on his impressive first year after rupturing his ACL in the first game last year and as a result, his price has taken a severe hit. That discounted price tag might make Doedee a chance to fill in a D4/D5 role for coaches to start the year.
Alex Witherden, Brisbane Lions, $555K, 3.1% OWN
AS someone who was burned by Alex Witherden a year ago, trusting him again is going to be a tough ask. Year three was meant to be the best of Witherden’s fantasy career so far, however, instead of building on his 2018 average of 88, the young Lion regressed to average under 75. If he shows encouraging signs over the preseason, there’s every chance Witherden can flip the script and be a top fantasy defender – albeit a year later than we expected.
Image from tlaworldwide.com
Stephen Hill, Fremantle Dockers, $428K, 4.3% OWN
NOT since the 2016 season has Stephen Hill been a reliable fantasy player and with over 200 games to his name, we could see his body continually fail him in the twilight of his career. That being said, Hill is just 29 years old and he is priced at an average of 57, which if healthy, he should easily surpass. The Dockers lost some of their best speedsters over the offseason, with Stephen’s brother Brad departing the club along with Ed Langdon. If he’s allowed to roam along a wing/half-back flank for Freo, he’ll be mighty tempting.
James Sicily, Hawthorn Hawks, $620K, 9.6% OWN
FOR some coaches James Sicily is the first name on their ‘never again list’ after some rollercoaster performances in the past few seasons. Don’t let the past taint your opinion of Sic Dog too much, with the Hawthorn rebounding defender a potential diamond in the rough this year. The recruitment of Sam Frost from Melbourne to hold down a key defensive pillar could allow Sicily to get off the chain and be one of the best fantasy defenders in 2020.
Dyson Heppell, Essendon Bombers, $696K, 0.5% OWN
AN injury interpreted 2019 season saw Dyson Heppell’s streak of four straight 100+ campaigns come to an end. Having played in 87 of a possible 88 games over those four seasons, Heppell battled to chalk up 17 appearances last year and he’ll be eager to help Essendon remain in the finals hunt while hopefully upping his fantasy numbers in the process. There’s every chance he can lift his output by 10 or more points and there’s certainly merit in picking Heppell to start the year if he’s fit and firing.
Dyson Heppell 👏
$285,000 and counting raised for bushfire relief! https://t.co/gfaLGfYlIW
— AFL (@AFL) January 10, 2020
Bryce Gibbs, Adelaide Crows, $600K, 5.7% OWN
BRYCE Gibbs had a year from hell last season, appearing in just 12 games and struggling to find the consistency commonly associated with the former Blue. There were encouraging moments for Gibbs, however, they were outshone by some lacklustre efforts that led him to yo-yo between the reserves and the Crows’ senior side. Excluding last year and the 2015 season, Gibbs hasn’t played in less than 19 games a season over his entire 13-year career and with a potential move to the half-back flank on the cards, there’s every chance he becomes a popular pick should he gain DPP early on.
Daniel Hannebery, St Kilda Saints, $622K, 3.0% OWN
WAIT, hear me out. I understand that picking Dan Hannebery in your initial squad has the same appeal as doing your taxes, but there are plenty of reasons to suggest Hanners will bounce back next season. It’s been so far so good on the injury front during the preseason, with Hannebery putting his best foot forward for the Saints after playing just five games in his first year with the club. He did go on to average 98.6 in those contests and yet he finds himself priced under 85. It could be another trap but if he stays healthy and is named Round 1 it’ll be hard to ignore the former Rising Star winner.
Luke Davies-Uniacke, North Melbourne Kangaroos, $395K, 2.0% OWN
THERE is little to suggest LDU will flip the script on his fantasy career after averaging less than 50 in his 21 AFL games to date. A third-year breakout isn’t uncommon in the AFL fantasy world and there is the opportunity for Davies-Uniacke to become an integral part of the Roos’ budding midfield if he can consistently string games together. He has had issues staying on the park in his first two years, but if his body holds we could see the former top-5 pick shine in 2020.
Trent Cotchin, Richmond Tigers, $525K, 1.4% OWN
GONE are the days of Trent Cotchin throwing his body into packs week in, week out with the veteran Tiger surely aim to preserve himself as his career winds down. That being said, a price tag of $525K is criminally low for a player who boasts a career average just under 90. Even if he isn’t used as a bullocking inside midfielder this year for the reigning premiers, their skipper should still come under consideration for those chasing a midfield bargain.
Image from theaustralian.com.au
Taylor Adams, Collingwood Magpies, $706K, 2.4% OWN
MERCURIAL Magpie Taylor Adams enters the new season with a similar amount of cautious optimism as he did a year ago. Averaging 114.7 points in 2017 made us think we were watching the birth of a new star, but two straight years posting an average of 95 has us weighing up the risks of starting with Adams in a valuable midfield slot. If he’s on the park, he’s better than the $700K mark he’s priced at, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be around for the whole fantasy season.
Sam Walsh, Carlton Blues, $684K, 3.3% OWN
AFTER a debut season to remember, Sam Walsh has quickly been forgotten by the AFL fantasy community. A year removed from being the most popular player in the comp, the second-year stud is in a shockingly low number of sides and there’s no reason why he can’t elevate his game and maintain a triple-figure average. Walsh averaged 102.8 in seven Carlton wins a year ago and if the Blues can be more competitive in the new season, expect more fantasy greatness from the reigning Cash Cow of the Year.
Sean Darcy, Fremantle Dockers, $511K, 1.9% OWN
WITH so much value in the ruck department this year, it doesn’t shock me to see Sean Darcy’s ownership so low. The ‘Puffer Fish’ burst onto the scene with an eight-game average over 80 in 2017, but the presence of Aaron Sandilands and injury woes have seen Darcy’s numbers dip each season since. With Rory Lobb set to play closer to goal in 2020, Darcy could be in line for a significant boost in production as Freo’s true No. 1 ruckman.
Image from foxsports.com.au
Jonathon Patton, Hawthorn Hawks, $391K, 7.1% OWN
WITH great risk comes great reward. Tabbed with rare RUC/FWD eligibility, Jonathon Patton arrives at Hawthorn eager to revive his AFL career. Doing so would not only be a massive coup for the Hawks but perhaps for the fantasy community as well. Missing the entire 2019 season means Patton comes at a further discount, but if the medical team at Waverly can get the power forward cherry ripe he’s a genuine bargain.
Scott Lycett, Port Adelaide Power, $619K, 5.0% OWN
FOR someone who is being talked about a ton, I’m surprised to see Scott Lycett’s ownership so low. He currently sits at R2 for me and a handful of other coaches, but given his performances to end last year (101.3 average in his final seven games), there is nowhere near as many fantasy players who have invested Lycett as I would have thought. The loss of Dougal Howard, Paddy Ryder and Billy Frampton in the offseason leaves little competition in the ruck for Lycett, which in turn could lead to him being one of the best fantasy ruckmen for the upcoming season.
Jack Martin, Carlton Blues, $619K, 5.8% OWN
A lot of Jack Martin’s fantasy success hinges on how Carlton chooses to deploy their new recruit. After wearing a variety of hats for the Suns, Martin could be just about anything this year, which is both a good and bad thing. Inconsistent roles will hurt his potential scoring ceiling, but if he can find a home up forward while floating through the middle of the ground, there’s plenty to like about Martin in 2020.
Bayley Fritsch, Melbourne Demons, $551K, 0.8% OWN
A rare DEF/FWD eligible player makes Bayley Fritsch tantalising in the upcoming season. Late last year, Fritsch was plonked inside 50 for the Dees and went on to kick 14.11 in his final six games of the season while averaging over 80 fantasy points. If he’s allowed to roam further up the ground in the Marsh Series while still impacting the scoreboard the Fristch could be worth a look in for your starting outfit.
Bailey Smith, Western Bulldogs, $513K, 2.0% OWN
EVERYONE is talking about Josh Dunkley, Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli in the Bulldogs’ engine room and deservingly so. However, after an impressive first season, Bailey Smith could burst onto the scene as another weapon in their ultra-impressive midfield. Throwing in the likes of Lachie Hunter, Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis could see Smith forced to play more of a half-forward role, which would hurt his potential fantasy growth. If there are encouraging signs over the rest of the preseason though, he’s worth considering in your forward line.
Jack Riewoldt, Richmond Tigers, $434K, 0.8% OWN
LAST season was the first time Jack Riewoldt averaged under 75 since 2013 – managing just 10 games for the Tigers as injuries derailed his year. The arrival of Tom Lynch as another premier spearhead meant Richmond hardly missed a beat and as a result, Riewoldt might not return to a 75+ average. There is a chance he plays a high half-forward role and racks up the marks and plenty more touches ala his cousin Nick Riewoldt. If that’s the case, the 3x Coleman Medalist will likely see his ownership skyrocket.
Chayce Jones, Adelaide Crows, $318K, 4.5% OWN
SEVEN of Chacye Jones’ games in year one were irrelevant from a fantasy perspective with the top-10 selection posting a high score of 52. Then everything changed in Round 23. Sure, the Bulldogs steamrolled the Crows and effectively ended their finals chances by the end of the first quarter, but Jones stepped up in a big way to score a career-best 97 points fuelled by 18 touches and a pair of goals. If all the talk of Bryce Gibbs coming off a half-back flank is true and Jones is allowed to feature heavily in Adelaide’s midfield rotation, he’s a genuine chance to double his price over the 2020 season.
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