AFL Fantasy – The 20 most important rookies/cash cows for 2023

Cash generation is one of the most important parts of AFL Fantasy and no players make more money than the rookies. Typically priced under $300K, nailing the right rookies or cash cows is a must for coaches who want to be successful. So to help out the fantasy community, I cast my eye over the cheaper players in the game and identified 20 rookies that will stand out in the upcoming season. Some will play bigger roles than others, but it’s important to remember all of these cash cows if you want to be a step ahead of the rest. 

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Mattaes Phillipou, Saints

Price: $282K
Position: MID/FWD
2022 Average: 123.1 from 8 SANFL U-18 games

Mattaes Phillipou’s junior numbers jump off the page. The newest St Kilda excitement machine arrives at Moorabbin with a lot of expectations, although he has quickly established himself as a fan favourite. The ultra-confident teen worked his way into the preseason hitout against Melbourne, displaying his dangerous forward craft that can be a huge asset for the Saints. Phillipou might take some time to get going in fantasy, but he’s a fine choice for F5/F6 should he make his anticipated debut in Round 1.

Will Ashcroft, Lions

Price: $298K
Position: MID
2022 Average: 117.9 from 14 NAB League games

A cut above the rest of his cash cow peers, there’s no rookie more important than Will Ashcroft this season. He has proved his head-turning junior campaign wasn’t a fluke, with dominant performances in intraclub and preseason settings. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Brisbane’s midfield, but after what he’s shown already, I don’t have fears about Ashcroft’s ability to score at a rapid rate. It’s not impossible to see Ashcroft nudging a 100+ average in his first AFL season; lock him in and throw away the key.

Alex Cincotta, Blues

Price: $200K
Position: DEF/MID
2022 Average: 71.6 from 20 VFL games

Not many coaches would have had Alex Cincotta in their initial fantasy squad of 30, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a serious coach who doesn’t own him now. After a captivating season playing for Carlton’s VFL side, the 26-year-old was given an AFL lifeline by signing with the squad a few weeks ago. Look for him to have an immediate impact and fill the void left by Zac Williams on the Blues’ half-back line.

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Bailey Humphrey, Suns

Price: $290K
Position: MID/FWD
2022 Average: 100 from 11 NAB League games

Gold Coast’s first selection in the 2022 draft has all the traits of a modern-day fantasy star. Bailey Humphrey’s ability to play both in the midfield and up forward gives the Suns added flexibility when choosing where to deploy him, with a chance he becomes a dangerous annual threat in front of goal. His bullocking frame helped Humphrey average 20 touches and five tackles last season for Gippsland Power, making him worthy of consideration as soon as Gold Coast thinks he’s ready.

Campbell Chesser, Eagles

Price: $200K
Position: DEF/MID
2021 Average: 63.3 from 3 NAB League games

Injuries have ruined the last few years of footy for Campbell Chesser and the early word this preseason was that West Coast planned to ease him back into gameplay. Instead, Chesser excelled throughout the summer for the Eagles, finally with a clean bill of health. Playing on a wing at times, Chesser is now in line for an early debut and coaches should act accordingly. Stashing him on your bench, or even your utility spot is a wise move thanks to valuable DEF/MID status.

Elijah Tsatas, Bombers

Price: $292K
Position: MID
2022 Average: 115 from 6 NAB League games

The reigning No. 5 overall pick would have been an obvious choice for one of our starting on-field MID spots, but it wasn’t meant to be. A meniscus injury in mid-January means that we’ll have to wait until Elijah Tsatas is deployed by the Bombers. Still, the talented ball-winner could emerge as a convenient downgrade target throughout the season and it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on his progress.

Will Phillips, Kangaroos

Price: $270K
Position: MID
2022 Average: 51.3 from 3 VFL games

Primed for regular midfield minutes in the upcoming season, Will Phillips may finally be ready to deliver on the flashes of promise he has shown. Scoring 56 points in the preseason match vs. the Bulldogs doesn’t give you a complete insight into what we can expect from Phillips, although it’s fair to expect some down days while he and the Roos continue their rebuild. There’s still enough meat on the bone to pick Phillips, even if he sits on your bench instead of one of your final MID spots.

Ollie Hollands, Blues

Price: $280K
Position: MID
2022 Average: 94 from 5 NAB League games

Blake Acres arrived at Carlton to take up residence on one of the wings, and Ollie Hollands may be the player who lines up on the opposite side of the square. A strong preseason has Ollie, the younger brother of Gold Coast’s Elijah, firmly in the mix for a Round 1 berth. With the ability to impact the game at half-back as well, Hollands is another high draftee that is worth consideration in your midfield unit.

Noah Long, Eagles

Price: $200K
Position: MID/FWD
2022 Average: 68.8 from 4 NAB League games

Scoring won’t come in massive bunches from Noah Long, but the crafty Eagle is still capable of assisting fantasy coaches in 2023. Drafted after an injury-plagued junior campaign, Long will look to find a home in between the midfield and the forward line for West Coast. His versatility and ability to play both positions could lead to some early games for Long and hopefully when he breaks into the side, the talented prospect can hold his spot long enough to make us some money.

Cam Mackenzie, Hawks

Price: $288K
Position: MID
2022 Average: 86.6 from 10 NAB League games

A stellar showing last week has Cam Mackenzie primed to play his first game of senior footy against the Bombers to commence Hawthorn’s 2023 season. The first-year Hawk has hardly put a foot wrong since he arrived and gathering 24 disposals last week gives fans a glimpse of what Mackenzie can do. There are only so many MID spots available, however it would be foolish to start the season without Mackenzie in one of them.

Harry Sheezel, Kangaroos

Price: $296K
Position: FWD
2022 Average: 88.5 from 14 NAB League games

Some were concerned about the fantasy credentials that Harry Sheezel possesses, but the talented Roo has quickly put those doubts to bed. Proving his goal-kicking nous already this summer, Sheezel has also convinced coaches that he can be a damaging player for North Melbourne coming out of defence. This bodes well for both his scoring and job security as the season inches closer and I have confidence he’ll add another position throughout the year; making Sheezel a must-have rook.

Lachie Cowan, Blues

Price: $242K
Position: DEF
2022 Average: 99.6 from 12 NAB League games

There are no guarantees that Lachie Cowan will lace them up in Round 1 for Carlton, but the lifelong Blues fan is worth monitoring as the year progresses. Starring for the Allies in his U-18 campaign, Cowan’s booming leg helped him lead all of the 2022 draftees for average kicks (20.2) and if given a chance, he could become a +6 machine in defence for Carlton. Again, he might have to bide his time before getting a crack at AFL footy, but make sure you pounce once Cowan is included.

Fergus Greene, Hawks

Price: $200K
Position: FWD
2022 Average: 68.1 from 17 VFL games

A traditional slow-burn forward, Fergus Greene is currently one of the most popular bench picks in the entire game. With over a quarter of the comp stashing the mature-age Hawk on the pine, coaches are hopeful that Greene can continue to hit the scoreboard the way he did for the Box Hill Hawks a season ago. It would be unfair to expect 53 goals again from Greene, but he may be able to kick close to 30 and establish himself as handy bench cover in the process.

Matty Roberts, Swans

Price: $200K
Position: MID
2022 Average: 90.7 from 19 VFL games

Last year, Matty Roberts lived out every boy’s dream by running out his AFL debut in Round 11 against Richmond. It didn’t exactly go according to plan. Managing just two touches and a fantasy score of 6, Roberts was forced to hone his craft at the state league level for the rest of the season. I have faith that Roberts can score over the 55 mark, making him a solid MID bench pick if the Swans reward him with a game early in the year.

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Rueben Ginbey, Eagles

Price: $284K
Position: MID/DEF
2022 Average: 35 from 4 WAFL League games

Currently the 3rd most popular player in the game, this bloke is going to be a superstar. Built like Patrick Cripps and able to move with the fluidity of Marcus Bontempelli, were still a few years away from seeing Rueben Ginbey in full flight at West Coast. That doesn’t mean he should be ignored in his rookie season though, with the Eagles’ young gun poised to toggle between defence and the midfield in year one. He may drop a few stinkers when West Coast struggles, but Ginbey is an essential cash cow for coaches that want to succeed.

Darcy Wilmot, Lions

Price: $200K
Position: DEF
2022 Average: 65.1 from 18 VFL games

A place inside Brisbane’s best-23 is hardly secure, although Wilmot has already shown that he can compete at the top level. He checks in at a basement price due to the fact he made his debut after the fantasy season concluded, producing scores of 51, 61 and 52 in three finals for the Lions last season. He won’t be a safe play at D6 every week, but there are enough promising signs to suggest that Wilmot will be a decent contributor to the fantasy community. 

Luke Pedlar, Crows

Price: $213K
Position: FWD
2022 Average: 69.1 from 14 SANFL League games

Carving out a role as a high-pressure forward throughout the offseason has Luke Pedlar ready to feature in Adelaide’s first team of the year. Having battled his way through injuries since being drafted in 2020, Pedlar flirted with a spot in the Crows’ side last season, twice finding himself as an unused substitute and regularly appearing as an emergency. I’d be worried about his scoring capacity, but Pedlar is still one to target as a cheap FWD.

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Josh Weddle, Hawks

Price: $266K
Position: DEF
2022 Average: 54 from 6 NAB League games

I still have some doubts about Josh Weddle’s scoring ability, but up to a few weeks ago the Hawthorn defender was in the majority of teams. Now sitting on the outside looking in, an early season call-up to the AFL level could come Weddle’s way given the leaps and bounds he made earlier this preseason. Pushing his way further up the ground does add some appeal to Weddle’s fantasy game, but I don’t view him as more than a downgrade/bench option when he inevitably does come into Sam Mitchell’s side.

Josh Sinn, Power

Price: $233K
Position: MID/FWD
2022 Average: 33 from 3 SANFL League games

We tend to forget that Port Adelaide traded up in the 2021 draft to make sure they drafted Josh Sinn, and he may finally be ready to reward Power fans. Ankle, hamstring and groin issues have all hampered his pro career to date, with the line-breaking talent restricted to limited SANFL action as well. Sinn is still one to observe throughout the year, with Hinkley suggesting earlier in the preseason that he could be deployed on the vacant wing spot Karl Amon left open.

Aaron Cadman, Giants

Price: $300K
Position: FWD
2022 Average: 92.8 from 12 NAB League games

Squeezing Aaron Cadman into GWS’ forward line might take some time with Jesse Hogan, Jake Riccardi and Harry Himmelberg firing. Don’t worry, his time will come. Kicking four snags in a VFL practice match is a good start and it’s clear that the Giants want Cadman to be a pillar of their future after drafting him first overall in November. When he does enter the AFL, Cadman could be a viable FWD downgrade target for coaches – just don’t expect him to score much more than 50’s on a weekly basis.

Remember the Name

There are bound to be other cash cows that demand our attention over the course of the year. I couldn’t preview every rookie-priced player in the game, however these 25 cheaper options should remain on the watchlist for coaches. Some offer more upside than others, but in a sentence or two here’s what we can expect from them in 2023.

Lachlan McAndrew, $200K, RUC/FWD, Swans – Sydney’s rock stocks are poor, but so is McAndrew’s scoring ability. He’ll be a popular pick, but I can’t see him breaking the $300K mark.

Josh Fahey, $200K, DEF/MID, Giants – Booming kick and an 86.5 AVG in the VFL last season. Let’s see what his numbers look like in year three.

Henry Hustwaite, $206K, MID/FWD, Hawks – A tall midfielder who everyone is comparing to Scott Pendlebury. It’s hard to unsee it when you watch his U-18 highlights. Monitor.

Corey Wagner, $285K, DEF/MID, Dockers – VFL recruit who could have an instant impact if he comes into Freo’s side. Watch his WAFL numbers as the season begins.

Jhye Clark, $286K, MID, Cats – Geelong don’t have the best track record of playing draftees early. If they change their tune though, Clark is certainly a downgrade option.

Finlay Macrae, $290K, MID/FWD, Magpies – His body hasn’t been kind to him and it’s hard to see where he fits in the Magpies’ best side. Probably not for me.

Billy Dowling, $216K, MID, Crows – No joke, this bloke dropped a 215-point game in the SANFL U-18 last year! Probably one for the future, but he may break through for a few games.

Joe Richards, $206K, MID/FWD, Magpies – A lot of the buzz around Richards has cooled and I have a greater amount of faith in the other MID/FWD options.

Bailey Laurie, $200K, MID/FWD, Demons – There are a few cheaper Dees vying for a spot in the AFL side. I like Laurie, but I don’t think he’s high enough on the depth chart to invest in just yet.

Matthew Johnson, $200K, MID, Dockers – Destined to spend a season honing his craft for Peel Thunder, Johnson is on the outs right now at Fremantle. High possibility he dons the sub vest a few times this season.

Samson Ryan, $200K, RUC/FWD, Tigers – He didn’t look out of place for the Tigers this preseason, but he’ll need injury luck to regularly feature in the AFL team.

Elijah Hewett, $274K, MID, Eagles – Similar could be said for Hewett, with his role at West Coast hard to envision. Could be worth a shout if he plays, but others appear to be ahead of him in the MID pecking order.

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Hugh Bond, $202K, MID, Crows – Another Adelaide draftee with solid junior numbers, including nine tackles a game if you don’t mind! Watchlist worthy.

Alwyn Davey, $212K, MID/FWD, Bombers – Excitement machine that may feature early for Essendon. I have concerns about his coring but he may be handy FWD bench cover.

Jacob van Rooyen, $200K, FWD, Demons – Another traditional slow-burn key forward, van Rooyen could be in the Dees team come Round 1. There are plenty of other FWD’s with a higher upside.

Judd McVee, $200K, DEF/MID, Demons – Only scored 10 points from 81% TOG against the Tigers playing as a lockdown defender. Could be a factor, but we may only see scores in the 40’s.

George Wardlaw, $294K, MID, Kangaroos – A history of injury woes may make Wardlaw a popular 2024 cash cow. It’s hard to see him having a massive impact unless it’s in the back half of the season.

Jakob Ryan, $246K, DEF, Magpies – Drafted in the top-30 last year, Jakob Ryan could get a sniff this year. Don’t be shocked if he has a small cameo similar to ex-Magpie Caleb Poulter in 2021.

Edward Allen, $264K, MID, Magpies – It’s hard to predict just how well Ed Allen will score if/when he features for the Pies. Might start the year in the VFL and if he does, watch his scoring/role carefully.

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Ned Moyle, $200K, RUC, Suns – The only path to AFL hitouts and points for Moyle requires a Jarrod Witts injury. Otherwise, you can forget about him this year.

Blake Drury, $200K, MID/FWD, Kangaroos – The first pick of the rookie draft last season, Blake Drury has impressed in the preseason. Certainly one to consider if he breaks through.

Max Heath, $200K, RUC/FWD, Saints – I was high on Max Heath earlier this preseason an he’ll likely be my R3. Don’t expect a heap from him this season though.

Sam Sturt, $200K, FWD, Dockers – One of the highest rookie risers throughout the last month, Sam Sturt could become a stable cash cow. I’m not sold that he’ll score enough unless he hits the scoreboard regularly.

Darcy Jones, $260K, MID, Giants – More of a long-term play, Darcy Jones may spend the entire season working on his game for GWS’ VFL side.

Kane Chandler, $200K, FWD, Demons – Kyle Chandler had some bright moments last weekend and could be an early debutant. A solid alternative for coaches up forward if you believe in him.

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