2021 is only a few weeks old, but AFL Fantasy coaches are already brainstorming their starting Classic team. Choosing a squad of 30 can be tricky at times, especially when it comes time to fill out the final few rookie spots on your field/bench. With plenty of preseason action still set to unfold, make sure you add these cash cows to your watchlist as potential difference makers in your initial side.
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Will Phillips, Kangaroos
2019 Average: 77 from 10 NAB League games
Paying up for top draftees isn’t a new strategy for fantasy coaches which makes it no surprise to see Will Phillips in most teams to start the year. Currently the 5th most owned player at 36% the former Oakleigh Charger should see a bunch of midfield clock to start his AFL career after averaging 22 disposals in the NAB League as a bottom ager. With Brent Harvey presenting the touted youngster with the famous No. 29 on draft night, it’s fair to say North is expecting big things out of Phillips as well.
Finlay Macrae, Magpies
2019 Average: 68 from 7 NAB League games
Phillip’s Oakleigh teammate in Finlay Macrae is somewhat of a ball magnet himself, with the Collingwood youngster one to watch in the upcoming season. Showing off traits similar to his brother Jack led the Magpies to draft the younger Macrae in the first round, although he’ll have to fight to play a lot of AFL games in his first year in the system. There are more experienced Pies ahead of him to fill the void left by Adam Treloar and unless Macrae excels in the preseason it’s hard to see him playing early.
Dylan Roberton, Saints
2020 Average: 25 from 1 AFL game
Dylan Roberton has had a well-documented battle trying to return to pro footy in recent years and as fantasy coaches, we can’t help but be lured in by his basement starting price. There was a time as recent as 2017 when Roberton was one of the best rebounding defenders in the league, but an irregular heartbeat and further cardiac complications have seen him play just one AFL game in two years. If he’s named for St Kilda at any point this season he’s got to be in your side and if he can prove to be more than a one-hit-wonder, Roberton may be one of the highest moneymakers in 2021.
Archie Perkins, Bombers
2019 Average: 68.4 from 6 NAB League games
Of the three top-10 picks Essendon used in the latest draft, Archie Perkins is the pick of the bunch fantasy-wise. Twin towers Nik Cox and Zach Reid could see enough action to be fantasy relevant, but Perkins oozes X-factor and his explosiveness mixed with his creative footy smarts should see him earn an early-season debut for the Dons. Joining a talented engine room with Andrew McGrath, Dylan Shiel and Zach Merrett may see Perk spend more time as a dynamic half-forward, although he’s talented enough to warrant picking as soon as Essendon gives him the green light.
Image from afl.com.au
Riley Collier-Dawkins, Tigers
2019 Average: 66 from 20 VFL games
Surely this is the year RCD gets a gig at Richmond, right? Having failed to make his debut since being drafted 20th overall in 2018, Riley Collier-Dawkins has had to settle for being the Tigers’ go-to emergency – despite strong VFL form in 2019 that nearly saw him take Marlion Pickett’s place to play the Giants in Richmond’s Grand Final team. The departure of Oleg Markov and Jack Higgins won’t likely open the door for Collier-Dawkins, however, his dirt-cheap price will intrigue us enough to watch him closely in the preseason.
Thompson Dow, Tigers
2020 Average: 33 from 2 AFL games
One of the reasons RCD didn’t earn a berth for the Tigers last year was due to Thompson Dow’s arrival. Much like 2018, Richmond used their 2019 first-round draft pick on a classy midfielder for the future with Dow earning a debut late last season. He only averaged eight touches through two games, but Dow has the talents to pinch-hit for the Tigers in the midfield and emerge as a fantasy factor in 2021. Should he shine in the lead up to the new season and move his way up the depth chart, we may see Thompson Dow emerge as a very important cash cow.
Tom Powell, Kangaroos
2020 Average: 118.5 from 15 SANFL U-18 games
One of the few draftees able to play games in 2020, Tom Powell impressed so much that North wasn’t prepared to let the ball-winning virtuoso slip past pick 13. Albeit at U-18 level, Powell averaged an eye-popping 33.5 disposals from 15 games, showcasing his clean hands around stoppages while operating in tight spaces. Similar to his draft peer Will Phillips, Powell could see a lot of game time this season should Kangaroos hand their young guns an AFL opportunity early as they usher in a new era for the club. There’s a reason he is one of 13 players who already boasts an ownership above 25% and an impressive preseason showing should only help the young MID’s fantasy case gather steam.
Braeden Campbell, Swans
2019 Average: 91 from 4 NAB League games
If Tom Powell isn’t the most intriguing fantasy prospect this year then Braeden Campbell may take the cake. Matching Hawthorn’s bid to ensure the Sydney academy product stayed in red and white was a wise move by the Swans, especially if Campbell displays the same line-breaking ability he did as a junior. Kicking three goals from 14 touches helped him capture best-afield honours during the NAB All-Stars ‘Future’ game, capping off a stellar 2019 season for the touted prospect. Should he be capable of more showings that like that in the AAMI Community Series, don’t be surprised if Horse Longmire gives Campbell a chance in the early rounds.
Jonathon Patton, Hawks
2020 Average: 27.8 from 6 AFL games
Another injury-affected discount has Jonathon Patton looming as an option for your starting side. The power forward moved to Hawthorn in the 2019 offseason, but he couldn’t overcome a hamstring issue to play consistent games for the Hawks last season. Having previously suffered three knee reconstructions while with the Giants, there are understandable concerns over Patton’s ability to recapture the form he displayed just a few short years ago. There are too many red flags for me too seriously consider Hawthorn’s key forward, however, a cheap starting price will certainly tempt some coaches if Patton gets his body right.
Will Gould, Swans
2019 Average: 73 from 15 SANFL games
Pumped up as an all-important cash cow last year, I had Will Gould ranked as the third-best DEF rookie in last year’s DT TALK Rookie Guide. As we are all aware, that didn’t come to fruition with Gould failing to play a single minute at the top level in 2020. He is more than capable of slotting into Sydney’s back six and becoming a staple in fantasy sides throughout the year, however, Longmire’s hesitance to play Gould last year will have some coaches worried about his job security. Should he be handed an AFL debut though, make sure he’s in your backline, even if it’s as an emergency.
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Bulldogs
2019 Average: 65 from 9 NAB League games
In each of the last two seasons coaches haven’t batted an eyelid at the $270K price tag given to the draft’s first overall pick, with Sam Walsh and Matthew Rowell rewarding coaches handsomely with breathtaking fantasy numbers. While it’s unfair to expect the same digits from Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, the newest Dog draftee still looms as an important player in fantasy circles. Offseason acquisitions Stefan Martin and Adam Treloar should strengthen their midfield and lead to more inside-50’s for the Bulldogs and if Ugle-Hagan can get on the end of some clean clearances, he should thrive as a fantasy rookie.
Image from afl.draftcentral.com.au
Nakia Cockatoo, Lions
2018 Average: 49 from 2 AFL games
Switching clubs this offseason could be just what Nakia Cockatoo needs to re-ignite his career. The former Cat showed flashes of brilliance in his 34 games since being drafted in 2014, although the excitement machine hasn’t played at AFL level in over two years. Part of the reason for his move to Brisbane was linked to their A-grade medical staff, and Cockatoo will be hoping the Lions can help him return to the field with regularity. If he can solify a spot in the Brisbane side, Cockatoo might be worth the punt.
Elijah Hollands, Suns
2019 Average: 84.5 from 4 NAB League games
We might not see Elijah Hollands until the latter portion of this season, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep a close eye on him. An ACL tear last February meant Hollands wasn’t able to take to the field in 2020, although his rehab remains on schedule with every intention to play footy at some point this year. With Gold Coast’s the proud owners of an exciting crop of youngsters, Hollands could be thrown around the board positionally, however, he possesses the ability to impact the game as a midfielder or as a dangerous forward. Keep the newest Suns talent on your radar.
Deven Robertson, Lions
2020 Average: 32 from 1 AFL game
Coming at a discount of his first-year price, Deven Robertson should see more games for the Lions in the upcoming campaign. A big-bodied midfielder who took a tumble on draft night, Robertson was selected to play his first pro game in Round 1 last year, but found himself on the outside looking in after a seven disposal effort. Having displayed serious ball-winning ability for WA at U-18 level, Robertson will look to put a solid preseason under his belt and vie for more opportunity in Brisbane’s midfield. If he’s given the chance I’ll be very tempted to pounce on the Lions cub.
Lachie Young, Kangaroos
2020 Average: 47.5 from 2 AFL games
After crossing over from the Bulldogs in the trade period, Lachie Young is poised to slot straight into North Melbourne’s defence and string regular games together. Owning rare DEF/MID status is another perk to choosing Young, with the intercept defender showing glimpses of promise in his 8 games as a Western Bulldog. It’d take some assurances from new Roos boss John Noble to start with Young although the blueprint for fantasy success is there.
Image from zerohanger.com
Remember the Name
THERE are more than 15 AFL Fantasy cash cows that demand our attention this preseason. While I don’t expect the following 10 players to be as prominent for a number of factors, it’s important to remember their names…
Luke Valente, $170K, MID, Dockers – It baffles me that Luke Valente is sitting in 23% of all fantasy teams – currently the 17th most owned player. I understand the logic of filling your team with bench guys, but I can’t see Valente squeezing into Freo’s midfield with the emergence of Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see him getting regular games this year.
Josh Worrell, $170K, DEF/FWD, Crows – After debuting a league-most nine players last year, there’s no reason why Adelaide won’t keep playing their kids. Worrell offers flexibility as a DEF/FWD basement priced player and if their tall stocks take a hit, the former Vic Metro could be called upon.
Heath Chapman, $244K, FWD, Dockers – Freo’s top draftee comes at a cost this year and there are no guarantees he’ll be able to squeeze into their 22. Hayden Young, Nathan Wilson and Luke Ryan give the Dockers depth when it comes to rebound defenders, with his inflated price tag ruling him out for most coaches.
Miles Bergman, $170K, FWD, Power – Bergman makes this portion of the list for the second straight season and once again the young forward will have his work cut out to break into Power’s top team. It’s tough to imagine a team with premiership aspirations handing too many debutants a chance, but Bergman has the skills to matter if he earns a gig.
Logan McDonald, $264K, FWD, Swans – Power forward Logan McDonald could play for Sydney early in the season, showing his talents already at the WAFL’s top-level where he kicked 21 goals. If all signs point to him featuring a lot in Swans colours he could be a smart investment, although don’t expect too many lofty numbers.
Denver Grainger-Barras, $260K, DEF, Hawks – Another early pick from the 2020 draft class, Grainger-Barras will be every chance to feature a lot as a Hawk in his rookie season. A top draft selection doesn’t always translate to good fantasy scores though, with DGB averaging just 40.3 points from 8 WAFL League games. Pass.
Brody Kemp, $170K, MID, Blues – Following a similar storyline to Elijah Hollands, a season prior it was Carlton MID Brody Kemp who suffered a knee injury that threw his draft position into flux. That didn’t stop the Blues from taking him with the 17th pick and if he’s fit and firing, Kemp could fill a spot on our starting bench.
Jez McLennan, $170K, DEF, Suns – 2021 could be the final chance for Jez McLennan to prove he deserves a place on Gold Coat’s list, with the former first-rounder unable to crack into the Suns team thus far. Strong NEAFL numbers saw McLennan named as an emergency multiple times and hopefully he can replicate that pattern then earn a call-up to the top team.
Riley Thilthorpe, $268K, RUC/FWD, Crows – The No. 2 pick from the most recent draft in local Adelaide talent Riley Thilthorpe should develop into a stellar player for the Crows. Regular games are no certainty and the promising ruck/forward will likely anchor down a key-position for Adelaide, which will likely hampering his potential fantasy scoring.
Lachlan Jones, $240K, DEF, Power – A powerful product with a booming kick, Lachlan Jones has traits that remind fans of Shannon Hurn coming out of defence. He’ll be lucky to cement a place in the Power’s senior outfit, but Jones proved he can play with the big boys – featuring in every game for the SANFL premiership Woodville-West Torrens Eagles.
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