With less than three weeks until another Fantasy season commences coaches are starting to display the same giddiness that children show on Christmas Eve. When choosing a starting AFL Fantasy squad of 30, ownership percentage is something I never put a lot of emphasis on, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored completely. Most coaches have selected Matt Rowell and Brodie Grundy, but don’t sleep on these neglected names who all currently have an ownership under 10%.
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Caleb Serong, MID, $636K, Dockers, 8.6% OWN
A weird start to Caleb Serong’s rookie season saw the eventual Rising Star winner average just 62.5% time on ground in his first month of pro footy. Once he was handed more opportunity, it’s no coincidence that his fantasy scores improved – averaging 75.4 points from his final 10 games of his rookie campaign, good for an adjusted average of 94.2. A clip in the 90’s is where I expect the second-year Docker to land this season, making him potentially 10 points underpriced.
Zak Butters, FWD, $595K, Power, 4.7% OWN
The term ‘more midfield time’ has been strongly linked with Connor Rozee this preseason, but we could see Zak Butters be the real beneficiary in Port’s rotation. Rozee has showcased how dangerous he can be when deployed closer to goal, meaning Port Adelaide may choose to utilise Butters further up the ground. There’s enough reason to pause and wonder if the Power forward will outperform his breakeven of 78, but if he produces some impressive numbers early on, don’t be afraid to jump on the bandwagon.
James Harmes, DEF, $474K, Demons, 5.5% OWN
If the rumours are true and James Harmes is being moved back into the midfield he’s almost too cheap to pass up. After a failed experiment using him as a half-back last year, Harmes seems poised to be closer to the ball for Melbourne in 2021, which will only boost his Fantasy numbers. The Demons utility scored at an average of 94 back in 2019 and even managed 83 points per game in 2018 (all while playing 44 of a possible 44 games), making him a low-risk starter in my eyes for the upcoming season.
Image from foxsports.com.au
Matthew Crouch, MID, $844K, Crows, 2.9% OWN
With his brother departing for St Kilda, Matthew Crouch will be left to do the bulk of the heavy lifting in Adelaide’s midfield. A lot of eyes are focused on who will step in to replace Brad’s midfield minutes at the Crows, but zeroing in on Matt for your initial side is shaping up as a safe selection. Having averaged over 28 touches in his 125-game career to date, Crouch should be starting for more than the 1,400ish sides he’s currently in.
Tom Stewart, DEF, $736K, Cats, 7.7% OWN
If it weren’t for a broken collarbone in Round 4 Tom Stewart would be generating much more buzz for his accomplishments last year. Geelong’s +6 aficionado scored 80 or more in each of his final six games last season and his ownership is slowly increasing as more coaches stare long and hard at his back half of 2020. Stewart is once again shaping up as a lock to finish the year as a top-6 defender barring any catastrophe and I only expect him to be included in more teams before Round 1 arrives.
Andrew Gaff, MID, $831K, Eagles, 6.5% OWN
Each year West Coast’s hard-running midfielder goes fairly underappreciated in AFL Fantasy circles. Viewed as an upgrade target rather than a starting choice, Gaff’s elite consistency has seen him average 108.7 (2020 adjusted AVG), 111.0 and 107.8 in the past three seasons – more than justifying his price tag. Picking Andrew Gaff provides you with a “set-and-forget” midfielder who you can virtually put your house on to average 105-110. If he’s in your plans, don’t overthink it.
Izak Rankine, FWD, $465K, Suns, 2.3% OWN
We might be a year or two early on the Izak Rankine train, but there’s certainly upside in picking the touted Suns product. Priced at 60 following his highly-anticipated debut season, there is plenty of buzz around Rankine’s future role with Gold Coast and Stuart Dew has teased the idea of using the gifted forward further up the ground as early as this year. Again, it might be ambitious to expect mammoth scores from Rankine, but he’s someone worth keeping an eye on as you build out your Fantasy lineup.
Jarrod Witts, RUC, $615K, Suns, 4.5% OWN
The Braydon Preuss/Rowan Marshall injury fiasco sent coaches into a tailspin when it came to filling in their empty R2 slot. Enter Jarrod Witts, who costs you over $300K less than Max Gawn and should improve on the 80-odd he’s priced at. Longevity is another perk when it comes to siding with Witts, having played every possible game for Gold Coast since 2017. During the last three seasons prior to 2020’s shortened quarters, Witts averaged 97.1 and I’m expecting him to hover around that mark again this year.
Josh Daicos, MID, $664K, Magpeis, 2.8% OWN
Tom Phillips and Jaidyn Stephenson’s departure and the age profile of Collingwood’s midfield brass paves the way for Josh Daicos to thrive in the coming years. 2020 was somewhat of a breakout performance for the young Magpie – with Daicos doubling his career game tally and averaging a career-best 17.3 disposals per game. With the opportunity in front of him to carve out a larger piece of the pie, don’t be shocked if Daicos again takes another leap in production.
Brayden Sier, MID, $402K, Magpies, 3.7% OWN
I’ve long been a fan of Brayden Sier and he hasn’t yet been able to cement a place in Collingwood’s best 22. With the departure of some impact players in the offseason however, there is a roadmap to Fantasy success for Sier – should he be able to string consistent game together. A tackling machine who thrives at the bottom of congested packs, Sier shapes up as a ready-made replacement in the Magpies midfield for ball-winning virtuoso Adam Treloar.
Shai Bolton, MID/FWD, $625K, Tigers, 3.5% OWN
After establishing himself as a Richmond staple in 2019, Shai Bolton took his game to another level last year becoming a dual-premiership player at the tender age of 22. The question now is, how far can he take his Fantasy game? During the final 10 home-and-away games for the Tigers, Bolton attended more than 80% of their centre bounces on nine occasions and if he’s given the same midfield responsibility this year, he could burst on the scene as a legitimate FWD option.
Image from commons.wikimedia.org
Callum Mills, DEF, $705K, Swans, 3.0% OWN
Having been associated with a shift to the midfield for what feels like an eternity I’m beginning to wonder if Callum Mills will ever make his way out of the back-6. However, last season Mills was still able to increase his fantasy output without a move to the midfield, which has some coaches contemplating the young Swan. It’s worth pointing out he doesn’t come cheap – currently listed as the 8th most expensive Fantasy defender.
Clayton Oliver, MID, $875K, Bombers, 6.2% OWN
Speaking of expensive, there are only four players that will cost more than Clayton Oliver to start the 2021 Fantasy season. Parting with $875K is a tough pill to swallow given the value that can be found across the board in 2021, however, that doesn’t mean you should completely rule out picking Oliver. Set to appear in just his 100th career game in Round 1, the Melbourne midfielder is one of the favourites to lead the Fantasy world in total points scored in the upcoming season, which only further encourages coaches to find room for him.
Toby Nankervis, RUC, $556K, Tigers, 3.3% OWN
If you’re chasing value in the ruck department then Toby Nankervis is one player you may want to consider. I was baffled to learn that Nank is only 26 years old and there’s no reason why he can shoulder the brunt of the ruck work while Tom Lynch or another tall offers part-time support. His main threat for ruck reps in Ivan Soldo is set to miss most, if not all of the upcoming campaign which could see Nankervis flirt with a career-best average.
Dyson Heppell, MID, $566K, Bombers, 5.3% OWN
If Dyson Heppell manages to add defender status by Round 6 I expect a lot of Fantasy coaches to pounce on the Bombers captain. We tend to forget that back in 2011, he claimed the Rising Star award while excelling off the half-back line and if we’re able to use him in our defensive group, that certainly generates some appeal in choosing a healthy Heppell. If he can still get enough midfield reps to keep his score ticking over then Dyson may emerge as an important factor this Fantasy season.