It’s here! The AFL Fantasy community are rejoicing as the platform opens up to commence a new season. As coaches cast their eyes over the player pool for the first time, some names are jumping off the screen as popular ‘must have’ picks. There can be a sense of fear when you make a team full of mainstream choices, but usually, the players with high ownership percentages all present a ton of value or upside. There’s nothing wrong with following the crowd to start the season and while you can do what you want with your 23 picks, make sure you dedicate 7 to these players for your starting AFL Fantasy squad for 2023.
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Rowan Marshall – There are some concerns over Tom Campbell’s presence, but Ro Marsh will be the most popular ruckman to start this year
Connor Rozee – Averaged 105 after his Round 12 bye last year and is bound to tempt coaches
Rory Laird – $1,066,000 is just too rich for my taste
Christen Salem – He’ll probably feature in my side, but Salem is hardly a lock priced at 73
James Worpel – He excelled when Tom Mitchell was out of the side before, can he do it again?
Mattaes Phillipou, MID/FWD, Saints
It’s no massive statement to declare that Mattaes Phillipou could become a steal for St Kilda. Drafted 10th overall in November, the athletic prospect seems set to ply his craft on the half-forward line for the Saints in year one, having shown in the U-18 SANFL competition that he is capable of impacting the scoreboard. Phillipou’s clean ball use and high footy IQ led to some impressive numbers in his final junior season, including scores of 148, 155 and 158 from his final three games! I won’t be shocked if the St Kilda young gun vies for Rising Star honours should he feature in 15-20 AFL games this season.
Nick Daicos, DEF, Magpies
Speaking of Rising Stars, everyone is excited to see what Nick Daicos has in store for season No. 2 after a breathtaking rookie campaign. A fantasy average of 86.9 that included seven scores over 100 is just the tip of the iceberg for what should be a fruitful fantasy career for the younger Daicos brother. The allure of ‘more midfield time’ will have some coaches zeroing in on him as a defensive target, although, he doesn’t come quite as cheap this year at $769K. Dashing off the half-back line with his precise ball use should still see Daicos put up respectable fantasy numbers in 2023, and if he can squeeze his way into the on-ball rotation, then there’s a chance he finishes the year as a top-6 defender.
Tom Mitchell, MID, Magpies
After switching jerseys in the offseason, fantasy fans are hopeful that arriving at Collingwood will be just the remedy Tom Mitchell needs to recapture his star powers. Last season was the first time since 2014 that we saw Mitchell’s fantasy average dip below 100, which has some coaches worried that we won’t see the Brownlow winning MID reach the lofty heights we’ve come to expect from him. All reports indicate that Craig McRae plans to unleash Mitchell straight back in the midfield, after spending his final year with the Hawks playing a variety of different roles. A 105 average is the worst I think we’ll see from the Magpie’s new shiny toy.
Will Ashcroft, MID, Lions
Don’t overthink it. Once again, a top draftee looks poised to be the most popular player in the game, with Will Ashcroft’s starting price making him a surefire starter. Entering the game at a hair under $300K leaves Ashcroft priced at about 33 points, and it’s very possible he has that score by quarter time when he eventually makes his debut in March later this year. The newest father-son addition to the Lions had some eye-popping stats in his final junior campaign, averaging 117.9 from his 14 NAB League games and 116.3 from 3 VFL hitouts. Start Ashcroft with confidence and enjoy the show.
Tim Taranto, MID/FWD, Tigers
Another player who relocated during the trade period, Tim Taranto could produce anything in his first year at Richmond. Slightly down by his standards in his final year with GSW, Taranto will now join the Tigers and slot straight into their engine room, bound to see a high number of CBA’s and be given every opportunity to put up some massive totals. Traditionally, Richmond hasn’t been flush with elite fantasy scorers in previous seasons but I could see Taranto bucking that trend and staking his claim as one of the best – if not the best – fantasy forward in 2023.
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Sam Docherty, DEF, Blues
While I have concerns over the other top dollar defenders and their ability to score consistently, Sam Docherty is the exception. You could throw a bit of a blanket over most of the DEF group this year, however, a remarkable comeback season in 2022 saw Doc score the 3rd most total points in the game as he reestablished himself as a true fantasy star. Some will see the $977K price tag Docherty comes with and opt for cheaper alternatives and perhaps add the Blues backman later in the season. For me though, Doc is too good to leave out of your initial side.
Dom Sheed, MID, Eagles
Last season proved to be a year from hell for the West Coast Eagles, and injuries played a big factor in their poor performances. Dom Sheed was one such player who was battered from pillar to post, managing just one senior appearance after a preseason ankle injury and stress-related issues prematurely ended his season. His misfortune can have a positive spin though, with the premier Eagle now coming at a severe discount, priced at just 66.8 points. In his last fully fit campaign in 2021, we saw Sheed average 90+ and we should see him produce similar point totals this year with a clean bill of health.
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