2021 AFL Fantasy Team of the Year

After 23 gruelling and testing weeks, culminating in 396 games of footy, another fantasy campaign is done and dusted. Whether your season finished in premiership glory or you’re still left licking your wounds, a successful season wouldn’t have been possible without some stellar performances from fantasy footy’s finest. There were 22 star players named on the field for their prolific scoring ability this past season, but of course, no fantasy team would be complete without some reliable bench players – so to celebrate the success stories of the 2021 season, it’s time to introduce the 30 members of the AFL Fantasy team of the year!

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DEFENDERS

1. Rory Laird, Crows

2021 Numbers: PB 142 (Rd 19), 22 Games Played, 18 Scores of 100+
2457 Points, 111.7 AVG, 112.5 Finals AVG, 53.0% OWN

A lot of fantasy coaches view Rory Laird as their MVP for season 2021, with the Crows defender holding down the D1 role in more than half of all teams. The second-most popular player by season’s end, Laird scored 100+ points in his final 11 matches – saving an epic 40-disposal, 140-point performance for Grand Final weekend. Enjoy it while you can, because there’s no chance Laird will keep his defender status in 2022.

2. Aaron Hall, Kangaroos

2021 Numbers: PB 143 (Rd 7), 20 Games Played, 14 Scores of 100+
2179 Points, 109 AVG, 123.2 Finals AVG, 27.9% OWN

There was a point in time where Aaron Hall was averaging 67 points, cost just $538K and was tagged with FWD status only. Then, after adding valuable DEF status, the rebounding Roo skyrocketed to fantasy relevance by scoring 143, 133 and 103 in three straight matches. Hall didn’t stop there, finishing the year with the 3rd most kicks in the AFL and six scores of 120 or better from his final eight games. Despite his lofty price tag, he’ll be one to consider for next season as an elite fantasy defender.

Image from afana.com

3. Callum Mills, Swans

2021 Numbers: PB 152 (Rd 20), 18 Games Played, 13 Scores of 100+
1980 Points, 110.0 AVG, 115.0 Finals AVG, 9.0% OWN

Three-quarters of the way through the season, Callum Mills had a legitimate argument as the best fantasy defender on offer in 2021, but some injury woes late in the season saw his owner’s struggle and his fantasy stocks take a tumble. Four DNP’s in the final six games of the season, including being a late, LATE out in Round 21 left a bad taste in coaches mouth’s which saw Mills axed from a high number of teams during the fantasy finals. Still, the gun Swan deserves a ton of credit for what was by far his best fantasy season to date!

4. Jack Crisp, Magpies

2021 Numbers: PB 141 (Rd 19), 22 Games Played, 13 Scores of 100+
2239 Points, 101.8 AVG, 98.7 Finals AVG, 18.1% OWN

Following the departure of Tom Phillips and Adam Treloar, coaches were eager to identify which Magpie would benefit by seeing more midfield time in 2021. Enter Jack Crisp, who still spent the majority of his time off half-back, but flourished for a struggling Collingwood side – putting himself in a position to run away with their B&F award this season. Five scores under 75 hurt his fantasy pedigree a bit, but the coaches that rolled the dice with Crisp wouldn’t have been upset with his output.

5. Daniel Rich, Lions

2021 Numbers: PB 131 (Rd 8), 22 Games Played, 9 Scores of 100+
2158 Points, 98.1 AVG, 106 Finals AVG, 11.8% OWN

A year of consistency saw Daniel Rich become a popular pick down back, with Brisbane’s booming boot dipping under 80 points in just one of his 22 games. Not afraid to gather a few +6’s in a hurry, those who added Rich late would have been chuffed with his run to close the year as the rugged Lion averaged 105.4 points from his final five matches. Could 2022 be the first season where Daniel Rich averages triple-figure fantasy numbers?

6. Jake Lloyd, Swans

2021 Numbers: PB 119 (Rd 3), 21 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
2063 Points, 98.2 AVG, 105 Finals AVG, 24.7% OWN

This wasn’t the same Jake Lloyd that we’re used to seeing, but the Swans star still managed to put together an impressive fantasy season. Lloyd failed to crack the 120-point threshold this year, posting a higher season-best score in 2020 during shortened quarters (120 in Rd 14 vs. Port Adelaide)! Even though the same ceiling wasn’t on display, his ultra-consistent year led to Lloyd ending the season as one of the backline’s best.

MIDFIELDERS

1. Jack Steele, Saints

2021 Numbers: PB 162 (Rd 20), 22 Games Played, 19 Scores of 100+
2670 Points, 121.4 AVG, 134.5 Finals AVG, 15.7% OWN

A herculean season from Jack Steele saw the Saints skipper soar to become the highest points scorer in season 2021. Nearly 100 points clear of second-place, Steele posted 9 scores over 130+ and established himself as a must-have player if you wanted to have a successful fantasy year. If you did manage to bring Steele in, his fantasy finals average of 134.5 points would’ve buoyed your chances of ending the year on a high.

2. Touk Miller, Suns

2021 Numbers: PB 160 (Rd 11), 21 Games Played, 17 Scores of 100+
2565 Points, 122.1 AVG, 122.5 Finals AVG, 12.5% OWN

The writing was on the wall early for Touk Miller’s breakout party, but no one would’ve predicted Gold Coast’s hard-working midfielder to dominate fantasy circles as much as he did. Scores of 130 in Round 2 and 140 in Round 4 were signs of what was to come, with Touk regularly churning out lofty scores, including point totals of 130 or more in over half his games! The vice-captain of the Suns will come at a cost next year and only time will tell if he can back up his epic season.

3. Tom Mitchell, Hawks

2021 Numbers: PB 157 (Rd 21), 22 Games Played, 19 Scores of 100+
2543 Points, 115.6 AVG, 127 Finals AVG, 22.6% OWN

There were doubts over Hawthorn’s midfield maestro and if he was flying at full fitness to start the year, but as the season progressed, Mitchell proved to coaches once again why he is a can’t miss fantasy prospect. Following his bye in Round 12, Mitchell averaged a monstrous 126.1 points with a lowest score of 105 making him worth his weight in gold down the final stretch of the season. He ended his campaign with a league-high 19 triple-figure scores and that elite level of production should see him selected by a large group of coaches again in 2022.

4. Jarryd Lyons, Lions

2021 Numbers: PB 161 (Rd 14), 22 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2576 Points, 117.1 AVG, 132 Finals AVG, 10.0% OWN

Second in 2021 for total points scored, Jarryd Lyons is slightly hard done appearing a few rungs down the midfield pecking order. Still, the former Crow/Sun turned Brisbane star took his game to new heights this season, with career-best disposal (28.2), mark (5.0) and tackle (6.0) averages helping him become a household fantasy name. Entering next season, Lyons is bound to be neglected again by coaches, but his elite-scoring ability should make him another popular upgrade target throughout the year.

5. Jack Macrae, Bulldogs

2021 Numbers: PB 159 (Rd 6), 22 Games Played, 18 Scores of 100+
2550 Points, 115.9 AVG, 110.7 Finals AVG, 40.2% OWN

Speaking of household fantasy names, Jack Macrae found his way into a lot of starting fantasy sides and coaches wouldn’t have been disappointed with his production this season. The smooth-moving Bulldog started with 14 consecutive 100’s and went over 115 points in each of his final three contests – ending 2021 as the 4th highest scorer in the game. Some coaches were unhappy with his string of 90’s in the mid-late portion of the season, but make no mistake, Macrae still earned his label as one of fantasy’s premier scorers.

6. Ollie Wines, Power

2021 Numbers: PB 154 (Rd 14), 22 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2462 Points, 111.9 AVG, 109.5 Finals AVG, 8.4% OWN

Personal-best numbers across the board have seen Ollie Wines vault into Brownlow contention this season and his high possession tally saw Port’s bullocking inside MID emerge as a legitimate fantasy option in the process. 30+ touches in 14 of his 22 games led to some HUGE box scores from Wines, including a pair of 150+ outings in a three-week span. He didn’t have the same high ownership percentage as his midfield peers, but Wines’ best fantasy campaign so far still deserves recognition.

Image from thewest.com.au

7. Zach Merrett, Bombers

2021 Numbers: PB 153 (Rd 15), 22 Games Played, 17 Scores of 100+
2427 Points, 110.3 AVG, 106.5 Finals AVG, 34.8% OWN

Similar to Macrae, Zach Merrett found his way into a large number of starting squads and while 2021 wasn’t the best fantasy season we’ve seen from the dynamic Don, Merrett’s season was still rather spectacular. There were some blemishes on his fantasy resume, but games like his Round 15 effort against the Demons where Merrett gathered 41 touches and scored 154 points highlight why so many coaches rolled the dice with him early on. I won’t be shocked if he pushes his average over 115 next season and re-emerges as one of the top 3-5 fantasy players in the game.

8. Christian Petracca, Demons

2021 Numbers: PB 153 (Rd 17), 22 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2439 Points, 110.9 AVG, 109.2 Finals AVG, 12.5% OWN

After a breakout season in 2020, Christian Petracca continued to trend upwards this season, averaging over 110+ points for the first time in his career. The back-half of his season was particularly impressive with coaches that traded in Melbourne’s line-breaker ecstatic with his 117.2 AVG over the final nine contests. There is an abundance of other candidates who were vying for the 8th midfield ranking, but Petracca proved his worth for fantasy sides to ensure a place in the top-8.

RUCK

1. Max Gawn, Demons

2021 Numbers: PB 139 (Rd 22), 22 Games Played, 15 Scores of 100+
2389 Points, 108.9 AVG, 107.2 Finals AVG, 55.5% OWN

The most popular player in the competition by the end of the season, Max Gawn saved his best fantasy performance until the final round. The Demons skipper battled Brodie Grundy for the title as fantasy’s No. 1 ruck for the entire season and while the race was close, Gawn put distance between himself and Grundy over the final month of the season. In fact, in the fantasy Grand Final, Maximus more than DOUBLED Grundy’s score with a legendary 139-point, 25-touch, 39-hitout match that included a crucial late +12 that saw Melbourne capture the minor premiership. Take a bow, Max!

2. Brodie Grundy, Magpies

2021 Numbers: PB 152 (Rd 3), 20 Games Played, 11 Scores of 100+
2129 Points, 106.5 AVG, 94 Finals AVG, 42.8% OWN

You could flip the rank for Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy, but the pair of giants are the obvious picks as the top-2 fantasy RUC’s. With clear daylight between them and the rest of the field, both were mainstream picks throughout the whole season with a few subpar scores and a two-game absence hurting Grundy’s chance of claiming the No. 1 mantle. Darcy Cameron’s presence saw Grundy spend more time up forward and a career-best return of 12 goals while still posting a fantasy average over 105 will lead to Collingwood’s prestigious scorer being a popular pick again in 2022.

FORWARD

1. Dayne Zorko, Lions

2021 Numbers: PB 142 (Rd 15), 21 Games Played, 14 Scores of 100+
2287 Points, 108.9 AVG, 125.5 Finals AVG, 22.5% OWN

Some of the elite fantasy forward’s found it difficult to make their presence felt this season, but while others failed to fire around him, Dayne Zorko bobbed up to claim the honour as 2021’s best FWD. The Lions leader compiled the second-best fantasy numbers of his AFL career, fuelled by his ability to fill up every area of a fantasy box score which led to some noteworthy performances. Like any reliable fantasy star, Zorko peaked at the right time of year with scores of 132, 135, 122 and 113 during the fantasy finals – aiding premiership teams in their quest for glory over the final month.

2. Josh Kelly, Giants

2021 Numbers: PB 152 (Rd 13), 21 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
2178 Points, 103.7 AVG, 115.6 Finals AVG, 23.3% OWN

Once he added FWD status to his name in Round 6, Josh Kelly saw his ownership percentage gradually climb and his fantasy scores followed the same trend. Going at an average of 87 through the first five weeks, Kelly roared into fantasy form from his final 16 contests with a 101.7 AVG that included seven scores over 110 points. There were some low points mixed in amongst Kelly’s fantasy season, but consistently topping triple-figures is a big reason why GWS’ superstar became such a massive fantasy factor in season 2021.

Image from youtube.com

3. Jack Ziebell, Kangaroos

2021 Numbers: PB 170 (Rd 6), 21 Games Played, 8 Scores of 100+
2102 Points, 100.1 AVG, 81.7 Finals AVG, 13.0% OWN

It’s easy to forget, but no fantasy player had a better game than Jack Ziebell did this past season, with 37 touches and 14 marks against Fremantle leading to a 170-point outing! Ziebell’s proficiency to gather a lot of easy +6’s saw him become an attractive trade target early in the season, with North’s rugged utility scoring at a 109.0 point clip leading into his bye round. Unfortunately, his last fantasy century came in Round 17 and spluttering to the finish ruled out any chance he had of contending for the No. 1 spot in the FWD rankings.

4. Josh Dunkley, Bulldogs

2021 Numbers: PB 151 (Rd 5), 11 Games Played, 6 Scores of 100+
1007 Points, 91.5 AVG, 57.7 Finals AVG, 11.1% OWN

A shoulder reconstruction was the main reason for Josh Dunkley’s 4th place finish, despite the prolific Bulldog bursting onto the scene as the obvious top forward through six weeks thanks to a 115.5 point average. Returning to the fray in Round 18 only to score a measly 62.8 points per outing hurt the coaches who remained loyal to Dunkley, but I expect the Dogs stud to refind his mojo and challenge for the No. 1 FWD mantle as early as next season.

5. Isaac Smith, Cats

2021 Numbers: PB 112 (Rd 2), 21 Games Played, 8 Scores of 100+
1954 Points, 93.0 AVG, 103.3 Finals AVG, 7.5% OWN

There is a significant drop off from the top handful of FWD’s and the rest of the pack, however, Isaac Smith has the right to claim a spot amongst the best fantasy players in the front-6. After switching clubs in the offseason, the hard-running Smith carved out a niche in Geelong’s side and while he didn’t help himself to huge point totals the few coaches who rolled the dice on Smith were rewarded with a  dependable forward week in, week out.

6. Jordan De Goey, Magpies

2021 Numbers: PB 151 (Rd 5), 20 Games Played, 8 Scores of 100+
1686 Points, 84.3 AVG, 106.5 Finals AVG, 22.6% OWN

It was a tale of two seasons for Jordan De Goey with Collingwood’s enigmatic talent giving us his best Jekyll and Hyde impersonation. 10 rounds into the season, De Goey was averaging an unsatisfactory 57 points a game that included a concussion affected score of 3 – forcing a lot of owners to give him the flick. However, through the back half of the year, De Goey produced an average of 106.6 with more midfield responsibility with a lowest score of 93 after his Round 14 bye. While we can critique him for his shortcomings in the first half of the season, De Goey’s run home ensured he found his way into the top-6 FWD list.

Image from theguardian.com

BENCH

Clayton Oliver, Demons

2021 Numbers: PB 155 (Rd 10), 22 Games Played, 15 Scores of 100+
2391 Points, 108.7 AVG, 103 Finals AVG, 18.5% OWN

A string of scores in the 80-90 point range led to Oliver being overlooked for a top-8 midfield ranking, but that doesn’t mean the prolific Dee was underwhelming this season. Some may make the argument for him over Petracca or Merrett with Oliver finishes nine points off his best fantasy season – compiling eight scores of 120 or better throughout the season.

Jayden Short, Tigers

2021 Numbers: PB 122 (Rd 13), 22 Games Played, 9 Scores of 100+
2054 Points, 93.4 AVG, 96.2 Finals AVG, 30.5% OWN

A monumental 171-point pre-season performance against Collingwood led to a lot of coaches plugging Jayden Short in as their D2-D3 to commence the fantasy campaign. Short never lived up to those lofty heights, but the Tigers rebounding virtuoso still produced a decent season for the coaches that opted to pick him early.

Ben Keays, Crows

2021 Numbers: PB 156 (Rd 6), 22 Games Played, 13 Scores of 100+
2376 Points, 108.0 AVG, 102.2 Finals AVG, 3.7% OWN

If the AFL handed out a ‘most improved’ award it’d be hard to go past Ben Keays this season. Adelaide’s engine-room jet scored under 90 points just TWICE all year and ended the fantasy season with an epic, career-best 144 points! He couldn’t crack the highly competitive midfield rankings, but Keays thoroughly deserves his place in the squad of the year.

Tim Taranto, Giants

2021 Numbers: PB 145 (Rd 14), 22 Games Played, 14 Scores of 100+
2371 Points, 107.8 AVG, 93.0 Finals AVG, 28.5% OWN

Another midfielder who narrowly missed being picked in the top-8, Tim Taranto wasn’t to blame for a lot of his underwhelming fantasy outings. Forced to play as a forward more often than coaches would’ve liked, Taranto saw his points total’s dip towards the end of the year which led to just one score north of 100 from his final five games. DPP status in 2022 would make Taranto VERY enticing, just saying…

Tom Stewart, Cats

2021 Numbers: PB 121 (Rd 14), 20 Games Played, 11 Scores of 100+
1936 Points, 96.8 AVG, 105.5 Finals AVG, 9.4% OWN

An injury derailed Tom Stewart’s chances of finishing on the field for the team of the year, but his surefire scoring ability led to a lot of productive games in 2021. A foot injury ended his year prematurely, but the Geelong star still managed to produce his best fantasy season to date, finishing 9th amongst defenders for fantasy average and 11th for total points.

Sam Walsh, Blues

2021 Numbers: PB 155 (Rd 18), 22 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2397 Points, 109 AVG, 107.7 Finals AVG, 26.8% OWN

Personally, I found Sam Walsh to be the toughest omission from the midfield group and I’m still not entirely sure if Petracca should have beaten him for the 8th and final place amongst the game’s premium fantasy players. Only nine players scored more points this past season than Walsh and an average of 110+ is well and truly up for grabs next season.

Sean Darcy, Dockers

2021 Numbers: PB 133 (Rd 9), 21 Games Played, 9 Scores of 100+
1968 Points, 93.7 AVG, 81.7 Finals AVG, 13.3% OWN

While Gawn and Grundy established themselves as the best two fantasy ruckman this past season, Sean Darcy proved to be a handy, versatile tool for coaches who stuck him in their forward line’s. The Dockers tall had a purple patch in the middle portion of the season and aided coaches struggling to field a full 18 during the bye rounds thanks to his versatile RUC/FWD status. I can’t imagine he’ll be eligible as a forward again in 2022, but if he is, Darcy could serve a similar purpose for coaches.

Image from thewest.com.au

Steele Sidebottom, Magpies

2021 Numbers: PB 130 (Rd 6), 21 Games Played, 6 Scores of 100+
1857 Points, 88.4 AVG, 92.5 Finals AVG, 19.8% OWN

The scores we saw this season weren’t up to par based on what we usually expect from Steele Sidebottom, as Collingwood’s clean ball-user bumbled his way to his lowest points average since the 2011 season. Still, as trustworthy options dried up in the forward line to close the year, Sidey did produce an average of 91.6 over his final five games – giving us hope that he can right the ship next season.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Christian Salem, Demons
2021 Numbers: PB 141 (Rd 6), 21 Games Played, 10 Scores of 100+
1951 Points, 92.9 AVG, 90.5 Finals AVG, 4.5% OWN

Darcy Parish, Bombers
2021 Numbers: PB 160 (Rd 12), 22 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
2320 Points, 105.5 AVG, 88.2 Finals AVG, 11.3% OWN

Nick Hind, Bombers
2021 Numbers: PB 122 (Rd 9), 22 Games Played, 6 Scores of 100+
1859 Points, 84.5 AVG, 85.2 Finals AVG, 14.1% OWN

Cam Guthrie, Cats
2021 Numbers: PB 153 (Rd 3), 20 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2198 Points, 109.9 AVG, 115.5 Finals AVG, 7.0% OWN

Marcus Bontempelli, Bulldogs
2021 Numbers: PB 138 (Rd 10), 22 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2373 Points, 107.9 AVG, 102.2 Finals AVG, 16.1% OWN

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