One of the hidden tasks that hardcore fantasy coaches perform as an offseason ritual is to pore over statistics from prior seasons by newly drafted AFL players from back when they were playing in feeder competitions. Given the preponderance of players drafted from the Western Australian Football League to the AFL in recent drafts, it could be highly fruitful to sift through the numbers to look for next year’s bolters.
The WAFL site has all of the numbers from 2008 back to 2006, while it lists games from 2005 but not statistics. That means that stats for Taylor’s 10 games in 2005, Armfield’s one game in 2005 and Ballantyne’s five games in 2005 were not available. The only hole in their numbers is tackles, but I think it’s safe to use the tackle-less Dream Team scores as a rough guide to the sort of fantasy player they’ll end up becoming. As a guide, let’s look at the WAFL histories of the 2007 draftees, sorted by draft pick order with previous years included.
|Chris Masten||2007||East Fremantle||15||122||89||38||9||8||0||11||16||45.5|
|Rhys Palmer||2007||East Fremantle||14||139||112||47||14||8||1||16||10||61.5|
|Harry Taylor||2007||East Fremantle||20||343||89||135||11||9||35||18||12||85.2|
|Harry Taylor||2006||East Fremantle||19||203||70||94||19||10||91||18||8||65.3|
|Alex Rance||2007||Swan Districts||1||11||11||8||0||0||0||2||4||69.0|
|Steven Browne||2007||West Perth||6||66||39||27||0||1||0||6||6||57.7|
|Dennis Armfield||2007||Swan Districts||20||255||111||72||12||8||1||14||19||62.1|
|Dennis Armfield||2006||Swan Districts||12||109||62||37||8||9||0||5||15||48.3|
|Bradd Dalziell||2007||East Fremantle||4||59||49||33||2||3||0||6||2||97.3|
|Bradd Dalziell||2006||East Fremantle||7||48||45||21||2||0||0||10||5||43.4|
There’s one set of numbers that really jumps out at you, of course, and that’s Dalziell. An average that high, even on a small number of games, has to get the tongue wagging in every fantasy coach, and it certainly played out that way when he finally made it to the big time. Taylor’s numbers look great for a backman, with the clue that he did kick half a goal per game suggesting that his role was a little different to the strictly defensive one he ended up playing at the Cats this year. Similarly, Armfield’s numbers looked fabulous based on a solid couple of years of WAFL play, but his year tells us that it’s not always a guarantee to transfer straight from full WAFL seasons to locked-in AFL first 22.
Okay, so what about the class of 2008? Let’s see.
|Nick Naitanui||2008||Swan Districts||17||83||120||36||11||3||279||20||32||51.1|
|Stephen Hill||2008||West Perth||8||52||44||18||1||1||1||7||6||36.9|
|Chris Yarran||2008||Swan Districts||13||131||48||39||39||21||0||11||19||62.7|
|Hayden Ballantyne||2008||Peel Thunder||20||244||73||103||75||41||0||39||25||82.1|
|Hayden Ballantyne||2007||Peel Thunder||18||203||77||59||28||28||1||28||23||60.9|
|Hayden Ballantyne||2006||Peel Thunder||16||150||97||63||18||18||0||25||13||59.1|
|Todd Banfield||2008||Swan Districts||7||50||35||20||4||4||0||6||2||44.0|
|Liam Anthony||2008||East Fremantle||19||301||188||123||23||13||2||21||9||94.5|
|Liam Anthony||2007||East Fremantle||8||68||41||23||1||2||0||4||9||42.5|
|Liam Anthony||2006||East Fremantle||15||160||72||74||10||12||3||8||11||59.7|
|Neville Jetta||2008||Swan Districts||2||10||7||4||0||3||0||2||2||27.5|
|Michael Walters||2008||Swan Districts||2||10||3||2||2||3||0||1||0||29.0|
Hey, we’ve got another potential East Fremantle breakout kid! Anthony has the same 90+ average this year, coming off two previous years of apprenticeship. The only problem is that he’s playing for the Kangaroos… or not playing, as the case may be. Then again, the Lions were looking like a pretty sickly midfield unit, especially for fantasy, before Dalziell came along this year. This is the strongest evidence yet that Liam Anthony should merit serious consideration, especially if the buzz around a round 1 guernsey starts to build.
Elsewhere, it’s perhaps a little worrying that Ballantyne can only average 82 in Dream Team while kicking 75 goals for Peel, but if he can get anywhere near that in 2009 then he’s a lock anyway. Hill’s numbers only confirm in my mind that he’s a project player who won’t burst onto the scene like Rhys Palmer did, and requires further weights work and WAFL time. Yarran and Naitanui are about where you’d expect from solid fantasy rookies, while Rich’s are slightly under where you would ideally want a 22-ready midfielder to be. Then again, Palmer himself only averaged 5 more in the WAFL in 2007, so maybe it’s not a huge worry.
It’s interesting to look at the free kick counts for certain players, particularly with a view to Super Coach. Taylor’s free ratio was very healthy in the WAFL, something which pointed to a nice SC type of game that proved to be lucrative in the big league. Ballantyne’s numbers in that area are also very pleasing. Naitanui’s ratio suggests a high clanger count with a Buddy-style big body causing all sorts of mayhem, meaning a poor SC scoring base, while Yarran’s propensity for giving away frees may very well limit his SC potential. Naitanui’s fondness for handball may also dent his long-term fantasy attractiveness.
Is a mid-50s average in DT for Rich high enough for you not to have a little doubt creep into your mind about his startability? Can Anthony shake off the Laidley Effect and break out like Dalziell did… perhaps a little earlier than Triple-D managed? Can you risk paying top dollar for Naitanui only to find he’s clumsier than Mr Magoo? Tell me in the comments.