One AFL Fantasy player of difference from all 18 clubs for the 2023 season

At this point of the AFL Fantasy season, coaches often find themselves torn. Do they follow the herd and choose the popular, mainstream players to start with a vanilla team? Or is it wise to invest in the guns that no one else is looking at? Finding the right POD’s or players of difference can set up your team for year-long success, so I cast an eye over all 18 clubs and found some hidden gems that are currently under 8% ownership. 

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Adelaide Crows – Wayne Milera

Price: $441K
Position: FWD
Ownership: 3.5% 
2022 stats: 49.8 AVG from 12 AFL games
There are understandable concerns when it comes to picking Wayne Milera this year. The oft-injured Crow only featured in 12 games a season ago and he missed the entire 2021 season after rupturing his patellar tendon. We’ve seen Milera score in healthy bunches when he’s 100%, recording a pair of seasons with an average north of 75. All reports indicate that he’s burning up the preseason track and there’s no reason why he can’t come close to producing an average in the 70’s again in 2023.

Brisbane Lions – Hugh McCluggage

Price: $909K
Position: MID
Ownership: 0.7% 
2022 stats: 102.6 AVG from 21 AFL games
All eyes are on Josh Dunkley and Will Ashcroft at Brisbane, but as they prepare for a serious tilt at a premiership, we could see the points flow for the Lions and a bunch of players score handsomely. Fresh off his second season averaging 100+, Hugh McCluggage could be ready to finally enhance his fantasy game and emerge as a fringe top-8 MID. We forget that Brisbane’s outside star is only 24 years old, and I won’t be shocked if he produces a 105 AVG this year. Most will invest their money in the mainstream names, but McCluggage looms as a game-changing POD.

Carlton Blues – Adam Saad

Price: $725K
Position: DEF
Ownership: 1.9% 
2022 stats: 81.9 AVG from 21 AFL games
Injury creates opportunity and with Zac Williams going down, there’s now a hole left in the Blues’ backline. If Sam Docherty continues to spend more time in the midfield, then Adam Saad could be one who benefits from the extra touches up for grabs. He produced the best fantasy scores of his career in 2022, with Carlton eager to get the ball in his hands to drive the team into attack. Saad may see his scoring cap out in the 80’s, although there’s no reason why he can’t still increase his numbers from a season ago.

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Collingwood Magpies – Taylor Adams

Price: $722K
Position: MID
Ownership: 0.5% 
2022 stats: 81.5 AVG from 21 AFL games
Investing in a player who hasn’t appeared in 20+ games since 2017 is a risky manoeuvre. Still, there’s value up for grabs thanks to Taylor Adams’ previous injury woes, with the Magpies MID possibly priced 10-15 points under what we expect. His durability has been an issue in the last few seasons, but when he’s on the park Adams can still score at a rapid rate. A groin complaint late in the year against Port was the only thing that slowed Adams down last season and hopefully, he’ll be able to find his mojo and fantasy coaches can reap the rewards.

Essendon Bombers – Zach Merrett

Price: $949K
Position: MID
Ownership: 6.9% 
2022 stats: 107.2 AVG from 19 AFL games
Essendon’s new skipper is bound to see his ownership percentage increase before the 2023 fantasy campaign kicks off. He currently resides in 4,500 teams and all signs point to Zach Merrett being one of the best scorers in the competition yet again this season. In each of the past four seasons, Merrett has averaged over 107 points and I only expect the run of free-flowing scoring to continue for the Bombers’ prestigious ball-winner. 

Fremantle Dockers – Liam Henry

Price: $339K
Position: MID/FWD
Ownership: 1.9% 
2022 stats: 43.5 AVG from 6 AFL games
If Nat Fyfe was priced at the 56 he averaged last year, he’d be a home run pick here. Instead, the focus shifts to Liam Henry, a cheaper Docker who is out to cement a regular spot in their best-23 after a strong WAFL stint for Peel Thunder. Henry went at a 76.2 AVG from 13 senior appearances a season ago and with a vacancy on one of Freo’s wings, Henry is pushing hard to make that spot his own. His awkward starting price will turn most coaches off, but there’s no doubt that Henry can outperform his breakeven of 38. 

Geelong Cats – Jack Bowes

Price: $607K
Position: DEF
Ownership: 3.2% 
2022 stats: 55.4 AVG from 5 AFL League games
Making the move south from the Gold Coast in the offseason, Jack Bowes arrives at the Cattery hopeful of locking down a permanent spot in the reigning premiers’ outfit. He only scored at a 55.4-point clip last year, but Bowes enters the new season priced at 69, eliminating some of the potential value the former Sun possesses. His perceived role should see Bowes destined to toggle between defence and the midfield, with enough opportunity for some noteworthy scores along the way.

Gold Coast Suns – Jarrod Witts

Price: $801K
Position: RUC
Ownership: 6.2% 
2022 stats: 90.5 AVG from 22 AFL games
With so much uncertainty in the RUC department, why aren’t more coaches locking in Jarrod Witts? He’s hardly a sexy pick, but Witts was a picture of consistency last season and went on to finish second for all ruckmen in terms of total points. He doesn’t seem to have serious competition for his job, with injuries the only thing that can slow down Witts in the new season. I’m predicting another 22 games out of the Gold Coast big man, with a similar scoring average putting him amongst the best RUC options in fantasy.

GWS Giants – Toby Greene

Price: $659K
Position: FWD
Ownership: 2.2% 
2022 stats: 74.4 AVG from 15 AFL games
Before he established himself as a mercurial forward, Toby Greene spent time in the midfield building his reputation as an AFL star. A prolific ball-winner as a junior, the new stand-alone captain isn’t everyone’s favourite player, but he’s proven in the past that he can score in big doses. A down 2022 season leaves Greene cheaper than he should be, with a chance he’ll feature in a few CBA’s as the Giants navigate the loss of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper. At worst, Greene has room to grow this year and he should go back to producing an 85+ AVG, which may entice some coaches to pick him.

Hawthorn Hawks – Will Day

Price: $537K
Position: DEF
Ownership: 4.4% 
2022 stats: 60.7 AVG from 17 AFL games
A portion of the fantasy faithful expected a Will Day breakout last season, myself included. The scores didn’t flow as easily as Day would’ve liked, with the versatile Hawk taking a step backwards and averaging fewer fantasy points despite playing 17 senior games. A strong showing in the preseason thus far has Day primed to slot into Hawthorn’s midfield brigade, making him a worthwhile player to monitor in the practice games. It’s hard to make room for him given the perceived value in DEF, but Day should certainly be on your radar as the start of the season draws closer.

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Melbourne Demons – Christian Petracca

Price: $908K
Position: MID
Ownership: 3.7% 
2022 stats: 102.5 AVG from 22 AFL games
His per-game numbers all dipped last season, but I won’t be surprised if we see Christian Petracca get back to a 105-110 average. There are rumours that Melbourne will look to utilise a few more players through the midfield, which could lead to Petracca and others like Clayton Oliver spending time in different positions. That’s not a huge concern though, with the dynamic Demon showing he can hit the scoreboard if he does spend some time inside-50. Shaping up as a great POD, it would be a pleasant surprise if we saw Petracca add FWD status, however, there’s still enough upside to select Melbourne’s superstar.

North Melbourne Kangaroos – Luke Davies-Uniacke

Price: $824K
Position: MID
Ownership: 7.7% 
2022 stats: 93 AVG from 21 AFL games
Last season saw Davies-Uniacke take a leap in production, enhancing his fantasy average by 12 points and recording a career-best 24.8 disposals each time out. Playing under Alastair Clarkson should only help LDU’s development as he continues to put the injury woes that plagued his early career behind him. Having missed just three games in the last two seasons, there’s no reason why Davies-Uniacke can’t establish himself as North’s best midfielder and in turn, their best fantasy player in 2023.

Port Adelaide Power – Scott Lycett

Price: $622K
Position: RUC
Ownership: 4.7% 
2022 stats: 72.3 AVG from 4 AFL games
Coaches are still somewhat perplexed when it comes to the RUC department, with most looking to lock away the English/Marshall combo. Outside of that duo, reliable ruckmen are hard to come by, but that doesn’t there isn’t value to be found if you look hard enough. Enter Scott Lycett, who has a shoulder reconstruction to blame for his 2022 shortcomings. He’s hardly a bargain, but Lycett has regularly produced an 80+ fantasy average multiple times and he’s primed to have a similar impact for coaches in the upcoming season.

Richmond Tigers – Shai Bolton

Price: $658K
Position: MID/FWD
Ownership: 5.2% 
2022 stats: 74.3 AVG from 22 AFL games
Because he’s such a weapon in front of goal, we may never see Shai Bolton emerge as a genuine fantasy star. Still, as the rest of his Tigers teammates near the end of their careers, there’s a world where Richmond opts to deploy Bolton in more of a 50/50 split between the forward line and the midfield. Late last season, the Richmond excitement machine saw a healthy dose of CBA’s and put up a few recognisable fantasy scores along the way. It would be a bold move, but Bolton is certainly worth keeping an eye on throughout the rest of the preseason.

St Kilda Saints – Brad Crouch

Price: $942K
Position: MID
Ownership: 0.4% 
2022 stats: 106.4 AVG from 21 AFL games
Last year we saw Brad Crouch score like a top-10 AFL Fantasy player, and yet, his ownership percentage remains criminally low a few weeks out from the 2023 season. Only 245 teams currently have the stellar Saint in their MID group, with Crouch coming off a near personal best in terms of fantasy production. He costs a pretty penny, but as everyone fights to squeeze Rory Laird and Jack Steele into their team, investing in Crouch could be a wise pivot to go against the grain.

Sydney Swans – Jake Lloyd

Price: $807K
Position: DEF
Ownership: 3% 
2022 stats: 91.1 AVG from 21 AFL games
With 200 AFL games to his name, it’s fair to say we’ve seen the best of Jake Lloyd from a fantasy standpoint. A staple in our backline for the last few years, Lloyd’s scoring dipped slightly last season, although he was still able to chalk up the 8th most points for all defenders. The days of a triple-figure average and consistent 120+ scores might be in the rear vision mirror, but Lloyd still offers plenty down back for coaches. He could be an extremely unique starting choice, as most will take a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach with the Swans star.

West Coast Eagles – Jai Culley

Price: $490K
Position: MID
Ownership: 7.1% 
2022 stats: 67.5 AVG from 4 AFL games
Taken with the first selection in last year’s mid-season draft, Jai Culley has wasted no time making his presence felt at West Coast. He was able to debut and piece together a few games in his rookie season, with an injury-affected score of 36 contributing to his middling price. A tackling machine, Culley averaged 7.5 hugs in his short AFL career, and should he get the midfield minutes he’s been promised this preseason, the skies are the limit. Finding room for him in one of your 8 on field midfield spots is tricky, but Culley should be a good money-maker for coaches in the first half of the season, capable of dropping some big scores along the way.

Western Bulldogs – Marcus Bontempelli

Price: $891K
Position: MID
Ownership: 6.6% 
2022 stats: 100.6 AVG from 21 AFL games
I may have left my favourite one until last. I’m sure I’m not the only coach looking long and hard at the Bont, with the Bulldogs captain once again poised to have a huge fantasy campaign. Josh Dunkley’s departure will force Footscray to mix up their on-ball rotation slightly, but you’d expect Marcus Bontempelli to still see the majority of his minutes as close to the footy as possible. Back in 2021, Bont posted a 107.9 AVG and I expect him to at worst score around the same mark, with the possibility he exceeds that average if everything falls into place.

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