AFL Fantasy – The Most Important Rookies/Cash Cows for 2022

With only a few weeks to ago until bouncedown of another AFL season it’s time to zero in on the important cash cows. Nailing your rookie picks is crucial for every coach to generate money throughout the season, which allows you to secure the big-name stars ahead of the rest of the competition. To do that, wrapping your head around the must-have cash cows for 2022 is a must for any fantasy diehard.

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Jason Horne-Francis, Kangaroos

Price: $290K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 74.2 from 20 SANFL League games

The prize of the 2021 AFL Draft is quickly turning heads at North Melbourne. Jason Horne-Francis is a must-have prospect for fantasy coaches if you ask me, despite some concerns over how much midfield time he’ll get in year one. The Kangaroos won’t throw him to the wolves and a 70/30, FWD/MID split has been suggested early on. Still, given the talent the new Roo possesses I won’t be surprised if he still averages close to 70 and becomes even more important for coaches after the first batch of DPP’s drop.

Garrett McDonagh, Bombers

Price: $192K
Position: DEF
2021 Average: 84.9 from 9 VFL games

Essendon loves a mature-age pick and Garrett McDonagh is a player to monitor as the season progresses. Selected in the most recent draft out of from Richmond’s VFL side, McDonagh averaged 20+ disposals in his nine contests, with 15 of those touches coming via foot. If Essendon gives him the green light to play early he’s bound to find his way into a lot of fantasy sides and I won’t be the only coach watching McDonagh intently over the AAMI Series.

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Greg Clark, Eagles

Price: $190K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 114.7 from 19 WAFL League games

If Greg Clark can carve out a role in West Coast’s aging midfield, he may turn into one of the most important cash cows in 2022. Carved in a similar mould as Matthew Priddis, Clark finally had his AFL dream realised after a stellar season at WAFL level in which he finished 3rd in the Sandover Medal count and drove Subiaco to a flag by recording 28 disposals, 14 tackles and two goals on Grand Final day! An AC joint injury over the weekend will rule him out for a chunk of the season, but as soon as he cracks the Eagles’ 22, I’d be pouncing on Clark.

Joshua Ward, Hawks

Price: $278K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 108.8 from 5 NAB League games

A ready to go midfielder taken early by Hawthorn in last year’s draft, Josh Ward should be handed an opportunity early on in season 2022. In a few years time, we should see Ward gather 30+ touches without too much trouble, but I wonder how many reps he’ll get in the Hawks’ midfield during his rookie season. Fighting for the pill against the likes of Jaeger O’Meara, James Worpel, Tom Mitchell, Jai Newcombe and Chad Wingard might make life tough for the newest draftee, still, there’s merit in picking Ward if he gets an early gig.

Joshua Rachele, Crows

Price: $280K
Position: MID/FWD
2021 Average: 99.5 from 5 NAB League games

It’s a bit of a shame that Josh Rachele’s dangerous ability in front of goal will keep him inside 50 so much to start his career because if not, there are plenty of reasons to pick the Crows youngster. Coaches will still be enticed by his ability to stuff the stat sheet and Rachele looms as a crucial cog in Adelaide’s rebuild, but I’ll be intrigued to see how he scores during the preseason hitouts. If he can push up and play a high half-forward role taking a lot of marks then Rachele may find his way into more teams.

Will Kelly, Magpies

Price: $191K
Position: DEF/FWD
2021 Average: 21 from 2 AFL games

Injuries have plagued the start of Will Kelly’s AFL career and the versatile Magpie hasn’t burst onto the scene fantasy-wise in the limited games he has played. That being said, the proud owner of DEF/FWD status, we saw the Magpies play him when he was healthy and while his numbers don’t suggest it, Kelly looked comfortable at the top level. With a clean bill of health, Kelly could find his way onto a lot of benches for the fantasy community and his handy dual-status could be a handy cog when making moves over the first portion of the season.

Finn Callaghan, Giants

Price: $286K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 89.5 from 6 NAB League games

There’s a world in which Finn Callaghan emerges as the best player in his draft class five years from now. With some comparing him to Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli the newest Giant is expected to bide his time as he develops into a game-changer in their midfield group. I can’t see him featuring heavily in GWS’ engine room during his rookie season, but if he can crack their rotation, Callaghan is one to keep an eye on. He was used as a halfback/forward at times for Sandringham and his elite talent may force the Giants to play him early, but I can’t see him dominating from a fantasy standpoint.

Elijah Hollands, Suns

Price: $190K
Position: MID/FWD
2021 Average: 56 from 4 VFL games

One of the most selected players in the game, fantasy coaches are expecting big things from Elijah Hollands in year two. The No. 7 pick from 2020 didn’t get a chance to showcase his wares last season at AFL level after he spent the bulk of the year rehabbing from an ACL tear. However, there were a few VFL games at the back end of the season that Hollands featured in, including an eye-catching 27-disposal effort in their last game of the year. If he’s in Gold Coast’s lineup for Round 1, expect him to sit at F6 for the large majority of the competition.

Matty Roberts, Swans

Price: $224K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 51.3 from 7 SANFL League games

As Sydney start to hand over more responsibility in their midfield to generation next we may see Matty Roberts handed a debut early into his first pro season. The natural ball winner hailing from SA is shaping up as one of the steals of the draft for the Swans, and fantasy coaches will be hoping he’s given a chance to shine early. There may be others like Chad Warner and Errol Gulden ahead of him in the pecking order and if he’s forced to adapt and play another role as a half-forward Roberts might not offer the same upside.

Image from bigfooty.com

Nick Daicos, Magpies

Price: $284K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 136 from 5 NAB League games

There may not be a more impressive rookie for coaches to add to their squads than Nick Daicos, which is a large reason why he finds himself as the most selected player in the competition so far. The Daicos name is well known in AFL circles and all signs point to Nick featuring in the Magpies lineup as soon as Round 1 arrives, with his junior scoring numbers more than encouraging. The recent reports indicate Daicos could be splitting time with Scott Pendlebury between the backline and the midfield, but regardless of what his role is, this kid has to be in your lineup.

Campbell Chesser, Eagles

Price: $264K
Position: DEF/MID
2021 Average: 63.3 from 3 NAB League games

At just 18 years old, Campbell Chesser isn’t expected to play a ton for the Eagles’ top side during his first year at the club. Still, the dashing defender, who was considered a reach by some in the draft, has hardly put a foot wrong this preseason and opted to spend Christmas solo in isolation so that he could join West Coast as soon as possible. Touted as a future winger/halfback there are still reasons to pick Chesser if he earns a debut in year one, especially if he’s handed a gig to commence the season.

Finn Maginnes, Hawks

Price: $313K
Position: MID/FWD
2021 Average: 28 from 2 AFL games

I cheated slightly by reaching above the $300k threshold, but we may be about to witness a coming-out party for Finn Maginness. After being drafted way back in 2019, Maginness has only featured in three senior games to date, a pair of which came last season including a solid 52-point outing in Round 7 vs. St Kilda. There’s certainly upside surrounding the promising Hawk and MID/FWD status is handy, although his tricky price point will be enough to scare some coaches off.

Image from thewest.com.au

Sam Hayes, Power

Price: $190K
Position: RUC
2021 Average: 87.4 from 18 SANFL games

Most coaches have Port Adelaide’s Sam Hayes plugged into their R3 slot right now and Paul Ladhams’ departure could pave the way for an early debut for the Power tall. Originally drafted back in 2017, injuries have held Hayes back at times, but his recent SANFL form suggests he could hear his name called early with the Port young gun averaging 87 points last season and 91 points the year before that. He’s expected to get a few games at the least, and if Scott Lycett goes down the door could open for Hayes to become very important in fantasy circles.

Sam Skinner, Power

Price: $190K
Position: DEF/FWD
2021 Average: 68.7 from 21 SANFL games

Signed by Port Adelaide after a year out of the system, Sam Skinner has breathed life into his career and fantasy relevance. The versatile DEF/FWD managed to play three AFL games in four injury-interrupted seasons at the Lions but spent the 2021 season in the SANFL honing his craft. Late in the year, Skinner started to make a name for himself as an intercept marking defender, highlighted by his 21 disposals and 13 marks in the Panthers’ semi-final. Being able to play at both ends of the ground appealed to Port when they snapped him up and hopefully for fantasy coaches, he can carve out a role in their best 22.

Cooper Stephens, Cats

Price: $190K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 61.7 from 9 VFL games

Yet to make his AFL debut, you’d expect Cooper Stephens to get a chance to carve out a role in Geelong’s outfit this season. The 2019 first-round pick missed a large chunk of last season with an ankle injury, although the club still rates the former Geelong Falcons highly and his transition into the senior team will be important as the Cats’ veterans etch towards the end of their careers. I expect him to feature in 5-10 games throughout the year and an early season call-up will see him take residence at M9-M10 for a lot of coaches.

Ben Hobbs, Bombers

Price: $266K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 95 from 6 NAB League games

After sliding a tad on draft night, Essendon was chuffed to land Ben Hobbs at pick 13, with the newest Don already being tabbed as a future captain. A ready-to-go mid, Hobbs excels at stoppages averaging 25 touches a game in his final junior season and named on the ball in the NAB League Team of the Year. It will be interesting to see if Hobbs can squeeze his way into Essendon’s permanent midfield rotation, and should he manage to do so, he’s a smokey to challenge for the Rising Star award and emerge as one of the best cash cows in the game.

Image from aflratings.com.au

Nathan O’Driscoll, Dockers

Price: $266K
Position: DEF/MID
2021 Average: 61.5 from 14 WAFL games

A strong preseason so far has paved the way for Nathan O’Driscoll to enter Fremantle’s Round 1 team and handy DEF/MID status only makes him more appealing for fantasy coaches. There are a bunch of youngsters at Freo pushing for senior selection and all signs point to O’Driscoll taking up residence on a wing to commence the year. If that turns out to be the case he’ll be a valuable bench piece to start season 2022.

Neil Erasmus, Dockers

Price: $272K
Position: MID
2021 Average: 108.8 from 4 WAFL Colts games

Of the recent Dockers draftees, Neil Erasmus is the one that excites Freo fans the most with the tall midfielder well on his way to earning an early AFL debut. Coming from a cricketing background, Erasmus is still developing into a full-time footballer, but he possesses all the traits to slot straight into a role for Fremantle. His ability to take a grab overhead could see him spend time as a half-forward rather than a regularly used MID, although, there’s enough upside to select Erasmus with confidence when he does appear in the Dockers’ lineup.

Joshua Sinn, Power

Price: $268K
Position: DEF/MID
2021 Average: 65.2 from 4 NAB League games

Trading up twice in the pecking order to land Josh Sinn gives you an idea of how badly Port wanted the young speedster. A sensational kick, Sinn’s ability to break lines will be a huge asset for the Power, but I have concerns over his job security in their senior side. Youngsters like Miles Bergman and Lachie Jones coupled with Darcy Byrne-Jones, Dan Houston and Ryan Burton make competition tough for spots on the halfback line at Alberton. Reports out of Port Adelaide indicate he’s performing well in his first preseason and fantasy coaches are hopeful Sinn can cement a spot in their lineup and give us a cheap D5-D6 option early in the season.

Remember the Name

There are bound to be other cash cows that demand our attention over the course of the year and 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…

Reef McInnes, $190K, MID, Magpies – Viewed as more of a developmental player, Reef McInnes may not break into the AFL side at Collingwood this season. A transition at the club could see a lot more of their kids earn a chance though and even though his VFL numbers don’t jump off the page (61.5 AVG from 6 VFL games), he looms as a solid trade target.

Matthew Johnson, $250K, MID, Dockers – Undergoing surgery on his foot will draw a line through Johnson for at least the first few rounds. The gun MID has shown plenty of promise and looms as an important part of Freo’s quest to surge up the ladder, making him a viable downgrade option throughout the year.

Hugo Ralphsmith, $258K, MID/FWD, Tigers – Richmond will have to hand the keys over to generation next sooner or later and Hugo Ralphsmith is one youngster who could be given a chance to shine in 2022. He doesn’t have the greatest scoring track record, but he’ll be watched closely during the preseason matches.

Charlie Dean, $190K, DEF, Magpies – Injuries to the Magpies defensive stocks have Charlie Dean in line for a debut as early as Round 1. The most recent recipient of the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal as the VFL’s Rising Star in 2021, Dean looms as a great bench choice – just don’t expect him to score in massive bunches.

Arlo Draper, $202K, DEF, Magpies – Viewed as one of the steals of the AFL Draft, Arlo Draper is another young Collingwood player to keep your eye on. He showed glimpses of fantasy potential in the SANFL last season and his near basement starting price makes him even more appealing.

Josh Goater, $248K, MID, Kangaroos – There are more appealing targets in the midfield, but North’s top-25 draftee could still emerge as a handy cash cow throughout the season. Touted as a potential rebounding defender with the ability to run and carry, Goater would become even more important if he could possibly add DEF status over the season.

Connor Macdonald, $240K, MID, Hawks – Averaging 30+ touches and a mammoth 120+ fantasy points in the NAB League this season, coaches are salivating over the potential Connor Macdonald offers. There are a few mouths to feed in the Hawks’ MID group, but as soon as he’s named, it’d be wise to pounce on Macdonald.

Robbie McComb, $190K, MID, Bulldogs – The winner of Footscray’s B&F last year, Robbie McComb is a name that isn’t doing the rounds in many fantasy circles, but needs to be remembered. Unfortunately for him, the loaded Bulldogs midfield means McComb could be forced to play as a forward like Anthony Scott a season ago, which will likely impact his scoring.

Charlie Comben, $190K, RUC/FWD, Kangaroos – One of the stars in a recent intraclub hitout, Charlie Comben could take up residence on the bench for a solid number of coaches. The biggest issue with the lumbering Roo has been his inability to stay healthy and a run without injuries may see him force his way into some teams – especially if he plays early in the year.

Will Gould, $190K, DEF, Swans – Will Gould has once again found a home in a lot of preseason teams but I think it’s fair to say you can look elsewhere. A SANFL star during his draft year, Gould will attract attention if he’s picked but don’t get your hopes up.

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