The premiers have been crowned, trade rumours are dominating the AFL discourse and footy fans are shifting their focus to the 2024 season. One last time before we leave the 2023 campaign in our dust, it’s time to acknowledge the 30 best fantasy players from the season just gone. It’s possible that coaches would have picked a large group of these stars in their initial side and owning as many of them as possible would’ve set you up for fantasy success. It’s always tough to trim the squad down but after careful deliberation, here are the best performers from season 2023.
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1. Jordan Dawson, Crows
2023 Numbers: PB 172 (Rd 15), 23 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2609 Points, 113.4 AVG, 97.5 Finals AVG, 61.4% OWN
A year after finishing as the third best defender in fantasy circles, Adelaide’s skipper took his game to new heights in 2023. Utilised at more centre bounces than we’ve seen in the past, Dawson recorded career-highs across the board. That led to the popular DEF becoming a must-have player early on in the season and those who didn’t get him in prior to Round 15 would’ve felt hard done by. In that clash with the Magpies, Dawson went BALLISTIC with the equal second-best score of the season – finishing with 172 points fuelled by 35 disposals, nine marks and 12 tackles.
2. Nick Daicos, Magpies
2023 Numbers: PB 150 (Rd 16), 20 Games Played, 14 Scores of 100+
2175 Points, 108.8 AVG, 28.8% OWN
Not even a hairline fracture in his right knee could keep Nick Daicos from a high finish on this list. There were coaches (myself included) who faded the Collingwood prodigy at the start of the season, but that came back to severely bite non-owners. Prior to his injury-affected score of 37 late in the fantasy campaign, Daicos was averaging an absurd 112.5 points which would have seen him finish as the 8th best per-game scorer. You can forget about a ‘third-year breakout’ – Nick Daicos has already arrived.
3. Jack Sinclair, Saints
2023 Numbers: PB 141 (Rd 10), 23 Games Played, 14 Scores of 100+
2351 Points, 102.2 AVG, 110.7 Finals AVG, 47.1% OWN
His start was sluggish by Sinclair’s standards, however he fired like few others in the comp following his bye round. There were only two scores under triple-figures in his final 12 games, which led to Sinclair registering a 107.9 AVG in that time span – a huge improvement compared to the 96 points he averaged in the first 11 matches. We are all used to seeing the Saints’ line-breaker rack up +6’s at will and it’s clear the Ross the Boss wants the footy in his hands moving forward.
4. James Sicily, Hawks
2023 Numbers: PB 165 (Rd 11), 19 Games Played, 10 Scores of 100+
1986 Points, 104.5 AVG, 106.2 Finals AVG, 40.8% OWN
Owning James Sicily in fantasy is always a roller coaster. Once again, the bipolar scoring ability of Hawthorn’s skipper was on full display this season as he swung between astronomical point totals and subpar scores. His somewhat inconsistent output led some coaches to ignore Sic Dog for a large chunk of the fantasy campaign – a move that may have had severe side effects. Sicily put forth five scores of at least 130 points in 2023, including a pair of epic 160+ performances that will surely entice coaches to pick him again next year.
5. Harry Sheezel, Kangaroos
2023 Numbers: PB 129 (Rd 23), 23 Games Played, 11 Scores of 100+
2239 Points, 97.3 AVG, 96.5 Finals AVG, 55.1% OWN
Over the past five or so seasons we have been treated to a large number of rookies who have hit the ground running and scored points at will from the moment they step onto an AFL field. Nick Daicos, Caleb Serong and Sam Walsh spring to mind as recent success stories, but North Melbourne phenom Harry Sheezel outshone all of them this season. Starting the year as a FWD, Sheez earned DEF status in Round 6 which only enhanced his worth in the fantasy community as he established a reputation as a trustworthy starter for all 23 games. I know I’m not the only one who is excited to see what the budding Roo has in store as a follow-up to an impressive rookie campaign.
6. Sam Docherty, Blues
2023 Numbers: PB 136 (Rd 3), 20 Games Played, 11 Scores of 100+
2089 Points, 104.5 AVG, 71 Finals AVG, 11% OWN
Last year’s top fantasy defender battled bravely through 2023 to once again feature as a premier backman. A torn meniscus in Round 4 didn’t stop Docherty from remaining a crucial DEF upgrade target, scoring 110 or more in half his games this year. He did tail off slightly in the fantasy finals, which is bound to leave a bad taste in the mouth of coaches who pounced on the Carlton star. However, that shouldn’t taint your opinion of the fantasy champion, with Doc bound to feature in starting teams for a lot of coaches should he get through a full pre-season.
1. Marcus Bontempelli, Bulldogs
2023 Numbers: PB 158 (Rd 14), 23 Games Played, 18 Scores of 100+
2690 Points, 117 AVG, 129.5 Finals AVG, 34.9% OWN
A season-low score of 86 and four scores over 140 made Marcus Bontempelli a season-defining pick in 2023. Those who excluded the Bont from their initial sides weren’t too worried when he scored three consecutive 90’s out of the gate, but the Bulldogs gun got to work quickly after that. Missing the boat would’ve meant you likely spent the entire season scrambling to find the cash to facilitate a trade for Bontempelli, as nearly two-thirds of the competition ended the season without him in their squad. Paying top-dollar for a player like Bont has been viewed as taboo in the past, although there’s no reason to suggest he’ll slow down next year.
2. Andrew Brayshaw, Dockers
2023 Numbers: PB 157 (Rd 18), 23 Games Played, 18 Scores of 100+
2536 Points, 110.3 AVG, 115 Finals AVG, 41.8% OWN
The M2 from 2022 finds himself in the same spot 12 months later, however Andrew Brayshaw’s most recent fantasy season didn’t feel as convincing. Reportedly hampered by a knee complaint in the first portion of the year, Bray started slowly by his lofty standards with an average of 100.5 points across the first six games. A nine-game streak scoring 100+ helped him right the ship and reestablish himself as a top-tier fantasy midfielder and there’s a chance that Brayshaw can take things to another level in 2024 if he’s capable of dodging the injury bug.
3. Zach Merrett, Bombers
2023 Numbers: PB 158 (Rd 10), 22 Games Played, 15 Scores of 100+
2483 Points, 112.9 AVG, 114.5 Finals AVG, 29% OWN
Zach Merrett remains one of the best accumulators in the game and the Bombers ball-winner feasted once again en route to a stellar season. Only five players averaged more fantasy points than Merret last year and his 146-point outing in the final round may have proved to be the difference in your GF matchup – especially for those coaches who threw a cheeky VC on the Essendon star. Another incredible individual season takes Merrett’s fantasy average to 110.3 since the start of 2021 which ranks as the third-best AVG in that span behind only Rory Laird and Touk Miller.
4. Christian Petracca, Demons
2023 Numbers: PB 142 (Rd 7), 23 Games Played, 17 Scores of 100+
2439 Points, 106 AVG, 94.7 Finals AVG, 18.6% OWN
Despite spending a fair chunk of the season playing as a forward for the Dees, Christian Petracca was still able to produce at an extraordinary clip for fantasy coaches. It would have been a bonus if he added FWD status to his repertoire, but alas, those who invested in the Melbourne superstar were hardly disappointed. He finished 74% of his games with a triple-figure score and while his ownership percentage never reached the same heights as his mainstream MID peers, that didn’t stop Petracca from finishing in the top-10 for total points.
5. Rory Laird, Crows
2023 Numbers: PB 142 (Rd 2), 22 Games Played, 17 Scores of 100+
2403 Points, 109.2 AVG, 114 Finals AVG, 36.6% OWN
Your opinion on Rory Laird’s 2023 fantasy efforts may hinge on whether you started Adelaide’s gun in your side or not. Fresh off a 120+ average a season ago, Laird was among the most selected players prior to Round 1 and unfortunately, he failed to surpass 85 points in three of his first four matches. Things improved from that point onward, as Laird helped himself to an average of 113 while featuring in 18 of the Crows’ final 19 games. It’s fair to expect another top-8 calibre season from the star MID in 2024.
6. Caleb Serong, Dockers
2023 Numbers: PB 134 (Rd 16), 22 Games Played, 17 Scores of 100+
2378 Points, 108.1 AVG, 104.2 Finals AVG, 15.5% OWN
Some went early last season, but 2023 was the real Caleb Serong breakout we’ve been waiting for. Improving his fantasy average from 87.7 to a whopping 108.1 put Serong on the map and excluding finals matches, no player chalked up more disposals than the ascending Docker this season. It didn’t translate to on-field success for Fremantle in 2023, although there’s no doubt that Serong is building his reputation as a fantasy star of the future.
Image from sportingnews.com
7. Tom Green, Giants
2023 Numbers: PB 170 (Rd 8), 19 Games Played, 15 Scores of 100+
2102 Points, 110.6 AVG, 122 Finals AVG, 23.7% OWN
If he didn’t miss a handful of games due to injury and suspension then it’s possible that Tom Green would’ve finished as a top-5 fantasy player. GWS’ bullocking midfielder finished a mediocre 33rd in total points, however he was one of just nine players who produced an average greater than 110. His resume was bolstered by a 170-point masterclass in Round 8 against the Bulldogs, where Green helped himself to 38 disposals, nine tackles and three goals. Just a small sign of things to come.
8. Brad Crouch, Saints
2023 Numbers: PB 137 (Rd 16), 23 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
2375 Points, 103.3 AVG, 96.2 Finals AVG, 13.4% OWN
Perennially ignored by most in the fantasy community, Brad Crouch takes out the final midfield spot after producing at a career-best level. Crouch has averaged more in seasons past, but in 2023 the St Kilda jet played every game and scored 2375 points as a result. There will be understandable doubts around his status as a top-tier fantasy MID, however that doesn’t take anything away from the numbers he produced this year.
1. Tim English, Bulldogs
2023 Numbers: PB 158 (Rd 12), 23 Games Played, 15 Scores of 100+
2730 Points, 118.7 AVG, 117.7 Finals AVG, 50.3% OWN
In my opinion, no player mattered more to fantasy coaches than Tim English in 2023. The WA-born ruckman entered the season as the No. 1 ruck in the eyes of some and by the time it was all said and done he stood above his peers as the clear top fantasy player at his position. English put any concerns around his durability to bed with a full 23-game performance and he finished with 120 points or more in 11 of his games – five of which were 140+ outings. At just 25 years old, I think it’s fair to say his dominance in the fantasy RUC department has begun.
2. Rowan Marshall, Saints
2023 Numbers: PB 159 (Rd 7), 23 Games Played, 19 Scores of 100+
2664 Points, 115.8 AVG, 130 Finals AVG, 45.9% OWN
In any other year, Rowan Marshall would’ve claimed the No. 1 ruck crown with the St Kilda tall putting forth career-best fantasy numbers in his 7th pro season. A pair of Bulldogs stars were the only two who scored more points than Marshall in the most recent season and he emerged as arguably the form player in the second half of the season – averaging 122.6 since his bye round and posting three straight 130+ scores to close out the campaign. If you invested in the English/Marshall combo to commence 2023 you know how beneficial it was to have a ‘set and forget’ RUC combo.
1. Errol Gulden, Swans
2023 Numbers: PB 161 (Rd 8), 23 Games Played, 15 Scores of 100+
2588 Points, 112.5 AVG, 117.2 Finals AVG, 44.9% OWN
Fkn star. There’s only a slim chance that Errol Gulden will be available as a forward in 2024, however that won’t stop some coaches from selecting the Sydney prodigy as a stand-alone MID. The signs were evident early that Gulden could take his fantasy game to new heights this season, chalking up a ridiculous 177 points in the preseason with 45 touches and three goals. He carried that momentum over to the home and away season, finishing 5th for total points with nine scores greater than 125.
2. Tim Taranto, Tigers
2023 Numbers: PB 147 (Rd 14), 23 Games Played, 17 Scores of 100+
2588 Points, 112.5 AVG, 112.4 Finals AVG, 71.5% OWN
A spluttering finish to his season took some of the shine away from Tim Taranto’s 2023 fantasy efforts. Arriving at Richmond in the off-season, there was some uncertainty around how TT would score under a new coach although he put those doubts to bed out of the gate by averaging 124.7 from his first 14 games. Following his bye though, Taranto only produced three triple-figure scores in nine games – equating to an average of 93.3 with a high of 116 points. It wasn’t the way we wanted the Tigers ball magnet to end the season and with Adem Yze set to call the shots in 2024, let’s hope he can find the key to unlock Taranto’s fantasy success over a full year.
3. Connor Rozee, Power
2023 Numbers: PB 145 (Rd 16), 23 Games Played, 16 Scores of 100+
2435 Points, 105.9 AVG, 112 Finals AVG, 59.9% OWN
Another popular starting pick in the FWD line, Connor Rozee lived up to the hype surrounding him in the preseason. He took a little while to get going, but the classy Power midfielder put together a magnificent fantasy season that included 12 consecutive 100+ scores from Round 10 to Round 22. During that span, Rozee averaged 112.5 fantasy points with 27 disposals, highlighting the consistency we will hopefully come to expect from Port Adelaide’s ascending star.
4. Zak Butters, Power
2023 Numbers: PB 148 (Rd 10), 23 Games Played, 13 Scores of 100+
2288 Points, 99.5 AVG, 117 Finals AVG, 30.2% OWN
Rozee’s teammate Zak Butters wasn’t viewed as the same can’t miss fantasy prospect when the season started, but he certainly closed the gap between the duo by the time we reached the end of Round 24. Registering eight scores over 110 made the fantasy community take notice of Butters in his 5th season with the Power and he clearly managed to capture the eye of the umpires too – polling 27 votes which equated to a 4th place finish in this year’s Brownlow count.
5. Stephen Coniglio, Giants
2023 Numbers: PB 136 (Rd 17), 23 Games Played, 14 Scores of 100+
2337 Points, 101.6 AVG, 91 Finals AVG, 47.6% OWN
There wasn’t a lot separating Stephen Coniglio and Zak Butters, but I gave the Port gun a slight edge over Cogs thanks to his better finish to the season. The No. 2 FWD a season ago, Coniglio went on to record his first 100+ fantasy average since 2019 as he continues to build his way back towards being a household name for coaches. One of the Giants’ prime movers, Cogs has probably played his best footy and I doubt he’ll feature in 47% of sides next season. Still, the GWS vice-captain deserves recognition for his fantasy heroics in the front six this year.
6. Josh Dunkley, Lions
2023 Numbers: PB 172 (Rd 8), 21 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
2192 Points, 104.4 AVG, 80.5 Finals AVG, 54.7% OWN
Josh Dunkley should’ve finished higher in the FWD rankings in 2023, entering the fantasy season as the second-most selected player behind young teammate Will Ashcroft. The newest Lion had plenty of bright moments in the first dozen or so games, including a colossal performance in Round 8 where Dunkley recorded an AFL triple-double with 33 disposals, 11 marks and 13 tackles – good for 172 fantasy points. A few games missed due to a calf complaint and an average of just over 80 in his final four games left a sour taste in the mouth of his owners, however it’s fair to assume Dunks will maintain his 100+ average again in 2024.
Image from wwos.nine.com.au
Luke Ryan, Dockers
2023 Numbers: PB 156 (Rd 1), 23 Games Played, 9 Scores of 100+
2287 Points, 99.4 AVG, 90.5 Finals AVG, 14% OWN
Nowhere near as popular as some of his defensive peers, Luke Ryan still excelled for the Dockers this season. He burst onto the scene against St Kilda in Round 1 with a season-high 156 points and went on to chalk up another pair of games in the 140-point range.
Nic Newman, Blues
2023 Numbers: PB 164 (Rd 7), 21 Games Played, 9 Scores of 100+
2057 Points, 98 AVG, 121 Finals AVG, 13.1% OWN
A furious finish to the 2023 campaign made Nic Newman a near must-have player in the final two months of the season. We’ve seen the Blues backman flourish as a fantasy player before and averaging 114.5 points from his last eight games could make him a speculative starter next year.
Darcy Parish, Bombers
2023 Numbers: PB 126 (Rd 17), 18 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
1924 Points, 106.9 AVG, 108.2 Finals AVG, 8.1% OWN
A five-week absence in the middle of the season ruled Darcy Parish out of contention for a top-8 MID finish, although the Bombers star did record a PB for his 106.9 average. That included two consecutive scores over 125 in Rounds 16 & 17, plus three 110+ outings in the all-important fantasy finals.
Noah Anderson, Suns
2023 Numbers: PB 159 (Rd 4), 23 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
2312 Points, 100.5 AVG, 90.7 Finals AVG, 5.3% OWN
Matt Rowell and Touk Miller have been the primary focus for coaches when targeting Gold Coast players in the past, but Noah Anderson was the star Sun in 2023. Over a five-week span early in the season, Anderson averaged an eye-popping 126.8 points and he’s certainly one to watch in the preseason as Damian Hardwick takes charge.
Lachie Neale, Lions
2023 Numbers: PB 127 (Rd 16), 23 Games Played, 13 Scores of 100+
2231 Points, 97 AVG, 95.2 Finals AVG, 16.6% OWN
Say what you want about Lachie Neale’s surprise Brownlow win, the Brisbane champ is still a fantasy mainstay. He didn’t reach the same lofty heights we’ve come to expect, and yet, that didn’t stop him from producing an average of over 95 fantasy points for the 9th straight season!
Tom Stewart, Cats
2023 Numbers: PB 133 (Rd 23), 22 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
2119 Points, 96.3 AVG, 104.2 Finals AVG, 28.9% OWN
The general of Geelong’s backline had some inconsistent efforts throughout his 2023 fantasy season. An injury-affected score of 14 in Round 1 took his average down severely and throughout the rest of his 22 games, Stewart managed to top 110 points nine times.
Image from codesports.com.au
Adam Treloar, Bulldogs
2023 Numbers: PB 143 (Rd 23), 19 Games Played, 11 Scores of 100+
2000 Points, 105.3 AVG, 90.7 Finals AVG, 3.5% OWN
Another year, another injury-interrupted season from Adam Treloar. The Bulldogs’ clearance machine did put forth an average that was greater than mainstream fantasy players such as Sam Docherty, Josh Dunkley and Jack Steele, but he still finished the season in just 5,800 teams.
Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Saints
2023 Numbers: PB 130 (Rd 17), 23 Games Played, 10 Scores of 100+
2101 Points, 91.3 AVG, 85.2 Finals AVG, 6.8% OWN
We are used to third-year breakouts from fantasy prospects, although Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera didn’t wait until year three to assert his dominance. Instead, St Kilda’s talented youngster increased his average by 32 points from his rookie season and looms as an intriguing pick for coaches in 2024.
Will Day, Hawks
2023 Numbers: PB 128 (Rd 3), 21 Games Played, 6 Scores of 100+
2002 Points, 95.3 AVG, 94 Finals AVG, 28.9% OWN
Luke Jackson, Dockers
2023 Numbers: PB 149 (Rd 21), 23 Games Played, 6 Scores of 100+
1948 Points, 84.7 AVG, 103.7 Finals AVG, 16.3% OWN
Sam Flanders, Suns
2023 Numbers: PB 146 (Rd 24), 14 Games Played, 6 Scores of 100+
1254 Points, 89.6 AVG, 113.7 Finals AVG, 13.1% OWN
Clayton Oliver, Demons
2023 Numbers: PB 149 (Rd 2), 13 Games Played, 12 Scores of 100+
1480 Points, 113.8 AVG, 73.2 Finals AVG, 23.6% OWN
Dan Houston, Power
2023 Numbers: PB 156 (Rd 18), 23 Games Played, 10 Scores of 100+
2131 Points, 92.7 AVG, 90.0 Finals AVG, 3.4% OWN
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