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2008 AFL preseason and rookie draft review

Of course Ben Cousins is getting all the headlines, and rightfully so with the Tigers jumping into the three-ring circus that Cousins’ life has been for years. However, fantasy coaches sifting through the 81 picks in the 2008 preseason and rookie drafts looking for value may end up taking more notice of other, less infamous players.

You can look no further than the three preseason draft picks made just prior to Cousins at #6 to see a lot of fantasy potential. You can probably swerve past Josh Carr at #2 and forget about archetypal project player Liam Jurrah at #1, but Hayden Skipworth going to the Bombers, Chris A. Johnson to Carlton and Tom Rockliff to Brisbane are all of great interest.

Skipworth is an experienced ex-Crow who the Bombers have obviously picked up to address a perceived lack of experience in their midfield. Most importantly from a fantasy perspective, he will most likely be at bargain basement prices due to not having played at senior level since 2006. With only a single ton and five 90s in 41 AFL games for Adelaide, he’s hardly going to be the next Rhys Palmer, but as a 26-year-old who is well respected within the club after a stint at their Bendigo VFL affiliate, he could become a very important cash cow, especially early in the season.

Johnson fits a mold that fantasy coaches know all too well from this year: a developing rebounding backman who shifts clubs to get better opportunities. Two such players from last year’s preseason draft, Martin Mattner and Brad Symes, were two of the most lucrative mid-price improvers in the league. With Carlton’s depth chart in the small defender position sorely lacking in quality, Johnson could well slot into the Blues’ starting 22 for the full 22 games, as Mattner did in 2008 and as Symes would have if injury had not intervened. Unlike those two, unfortunately, Johnson will be priced rather highly at averages of 76 in Dream Team and 78 in Super Coach, but he’s the sort of player who could step up to premium status and thus should be bought in the expectation of being a keeper.

Rockliff is not a recycled player like the other two, but I include him as being of interest purely because the Lions still haven’t really worked out their small forward structure, and I have a feeling that new coach Michael Voss is going to give local kids like Rockliff a fair go. He’ll probably post some solid numbers in the NAB as Brown and/or Bradshaw are rested, so he won’t be a sleeper, but he’s worth watching as a downgrade target later in the season.

So, onto Cousins. History from earlier in this preseason has shown that fantasy coaches are quite prepared to take the risk on him in their Fanplanner teams, but let me sound a word of warning. This is a player who should be considered about as injury-prone as Paul Chapman. Chappy has been bypassed by the vast majority of coaches this preseason due to multiple hamstring pulls during 2008, making him supremely unreliable for limited-trade competitions despite a stellar scoring record when he does play. Cousins, I think, deserves to be marked down in the minds of fantasy coaches in much the same way, with arguably an even worse record for tearing those problematic hammies than Chappy. The caveat to that is that Cousins was accused of over-training during those injury-riddled periods late in his time at the Eagles… not to mention that his body was dealing with the side-effects of drug addiction. One would hope that the latter would not be a problem in future, but will the Tigers fitness staff be able to stop him pushing his 30-year-old body too hard? I’m not convinced.

As for the rookie draft, it has always been a crapshoot picking a rookie from the start of the year, and most coaches haven’t paid any notice of the list until injuries started to take hold and rookies became serious selection options. This year, however, the rules have changed a lot, in part as compensation for the draft chicanery involved with the introduction of the Gold Coast team. From round 1, as usual, clubs can nominate up to two rookies to play senior games minus however many veterans the have outside their list. The list of clubs and their rookie eligibility, along with my favourites to be nominated, is as follows:

Adelaide: 0 rookies eligible at Round 1 (2 veterans outside list)
Brisbane: 0 (2)
Carlton: 2 (0) – Greg Bentley, Darren Pfeiffer
Collingwood: 0 (2)
Essendon: 0 (2)
Fremantle: 2 (0) – Greg Broughton, Matt DeBoer/Clancee Pearce/Casey Sibosado
Geelong: 0 (2)
Hawthorn: 2 (0) – Cameron Stokes, Haydn Kiel
Melbourne: 0 (2)
North Melbourne: 0 (2)
Port Adelaide: 0 (2)
Richmond: 0 (2)
St Kilda: 1 (1) – Zac Dawson
Sydney: 0 (2)
West Coast: 0 (2)
Western Bulldogs: 1 (1) – Liam Picken

This means that we should spend extra time in the preseason looking at players from the clubs with spots immediately open on their lists. There’s no guarantee that these spots will be filled with nominated rookies, of course. The Bulldogs left two rookie spots for budgetary reasons, and might not be keen to spend extra money on playing Picken by the same token. The Hawks are probably experiencing salary cap pressures already, and given they’re at the top of the premiership clock they may not feel the need to blood youth like they did with Stokes this year – though he’s most likely first cab off the rank if they do go there. I think Dawson is an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass type of draft pick, although with the Saints you can’t trust the fitness of their key talls. Carlton will probably play Bentley and Pfeiffer early, but unfortunately their prices are way above normal rookies due to the games they played last year, all but ruling them out for Dream Team and Super Coach.

Fremantle, who apart from making what I believe will be the wrong decision in drafting Stephen Hill over Daniel Rich have had a quietly excellent series of drafts, are the most interesting club to look at for early rookie games. Broughton, like Hayden Ballantyne, is a proven WAFL veteran who at the age of 22 could very well become a new favourite for coach Mark Harvey, who learned last year not to hold back on playing new draftees as early as possible. Freo’s clean-out of older players in the off season means they don’t need to worry at all about paying extra for nominated rookies, so there’s every chance that they would also use their second rookie nomination spot in the first half of the season as well. They rookied three players who attracted a lot of pre-draft interest due to solid performances at the under 18 championships this year, in Clancee Pearce, Matt DeBoer and Casey Sibosado. I suspect Broughton is a front runner for the first spot but the other is up for grabs, so watch training reports and preseason games to see which of these puts their name in front of the proverbial selectors.

As for the rest, we’ve got all preseason and probably up until round 11, when an extra rookie nomination spot becomes available for all clubs, to assess their fantasy potential. So many names to keep track of, so keep watching this blog for names to bob up as the next Austin Wonaeamirri or Jake King!

32 Comments

  1. dylan

    December 17, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    ah so many options for next season. i think im going to have a very hard time trying to figure out which rookies to leave out in my team. i have a feeling my team will end up with to many rookies in it next season.

  2. Al

    December 18, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Im not sure if its just me but i cant seem to find Kade Klemke anywhere in fanplanner.

    Im unsure about one of the 2 bench spots in the mids. I have to choose 1 of 3 options out of Davenport, Skipworth or Muston. All should play next year and should score decent enough. Any thoughts? Thanks.

  3. Nick2

    December 18, 2008 at 1:42 am

    This idea of Cousins having terrible hamstrings has come out of thin air. Yep, he tore it in his final game at the Eagles, but he’s been extremely durable and comparing him to Chapman just seems bizarre.

    2007: We all know what happened
    2006: 22 games (missed 2)
    2005: 24 games (missed 1)
    One of these absences was a finger injury
    2004: 17 games (back-related hamstring – the last real time it was an issue). Going back a long time ago
    2003: 23 games (all)
    2002: 23 games (all)
    2001: 22 games (all)

    I think you need to pay more attention to WC monty. You’ve claimed Worsfold plays the senior guys over the kids a couple of times, when there’s been no evidence of that other than perhaps Hansen getting some preferential treatment.

  4. Nick2

    December 18, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Sorry, missed 4 in 2006. He was well on his way to 300 though.

    He’s a risk, I’m not doubting that, but the time off should do him wonders. He will be in my team.

  5. m0nty

    December 18, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Klemke’s in there as a back, Al.

  6. m0nty

    December 18, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Nick2: Cousins has injured a hammy four times in his last 15 AFL games. That’s worse than Chappy’s 2008 record.

  7. Nick

    December 18, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Didn’t Robert Harvey have a suspect medical prognosis when he was a young man like Ben? I’m going to be picking him up because I made a big deal about it to my friends for months, worst thing I can think of happening is to have $250,000 tied up on the bench all season and wasting a trade to get him out.
    I balanace that risk knowing if I buy him at $250,000 and he performs anywhere near his ability, which includes freeing up other midfielders like he did with Judd and Kerr, then I could win very big with both he and Cotchin playing.

    As a freo fan I’ll be watching that frist NAB game verrrrry closely.

  8. Big Jim

    December 18, 2008 at 11:02 am

    There are undoubtedly risks associated with the Cuz… but show me a mid at that price with the potential to play 22 games and average 95 plus. Try to find one – you won’t. The guy is cheaper than Andrew McQualter, for crying out loud. Sure, he is a risk, but we all take risks every year – will your rookies play? Will your premiums hold up? It’s a calculated risk, but one I think worth taking.

  9. Nick

    December 18, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I am well and truly on the Cousins bandwagon, so my point of view is jaded but bear in mind a few things:
    He was on the gear the last time he was playing, the sort of gear that keeps you from recovering correctly because you can’t settle down to sleep. So I’m not surprised he was injured regularly, I know personally that the difference between a good night sleep and a bad one after a hard run is very very sore.
    Perhaps with a new regime his recovery will improve and perhaps it will make him more reliable.
    You can see on his face how much he’s aged the last three years, so it’s taken it’s toll, but does Chapman have any known outside influences?

  10. dylan

    December 18, 2008 at 11:37 am

    i agree big jim.

    hey guys what do u think i should do, so far i have hartlett and dangerfield on my bench with rich starting. do u think i should pick up skipworth for 1 of those 3 players or leave it?

  11. Ben

    December 18, 2008 at 11:37 am

    What will this do for Coughlan’s numbers, I reckon Deledio is a sure thing for the top 6 mids next year!

  12. Big Jim

    December 18, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    by the way monty – do you reckon Skipworth will play from round 1?

  13. Big Jim

    December 18, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    @ dylan – of those 3 I reckon Hartlett is the one to consider switching for Skipworth – they just gave Dangerfield Mark Riccuto’s old no. 32 so it shows how highly they rate him – over here in Adelaide, the Roo is a god and you don’t give his number to just anyone, so am sure Dangerfield will get a lot of opportunities in ’09. Hartlett, on the other hand, may take some time to get a spot.

  14. m0nty

    December 18, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Jim: I’ve seen it said on BomberBlitz that Skipworth is a “best 25″ kind of player. That would indicate that he’s probably only going to get an extended run if the kids get injured. But this is Essendon we’re talking about, their kids are frail as balsa wood.

  15. Big Jim

    December 18, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Frail as balsa wood… nice one monty. :)

  16. Chris

    December 18, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Don’t rule out Jay van Berlo as a nominated rookie for Fremantle. Was West Perth’s B&F this year, and could play a small defender role.

  17. dylan

    December 18, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    i think van berlo needs a bit of work before he will get a run. i was reading about him, hoping adelaide would go for him but most of the people seemed to think that he was not a star so im guessing he will need a bit of work before we seem him in the side

  18. Nick2

    December 18, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    “Nick2: Cousins has injured a hammy four times in his last 15 AFL games. That’s worse than Chappy’s 2008 record.”

    Even though he only missed 1 game in his final 15?

  19. Other Dan

    December 19, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Interesting blog monty.

    Like most posts here I’m firmly on the Cousins bandwagon. To the point where I believe it’s more of a risk not to pick him. In our game where our budget is limited, he’s a proven premium performer at a bargain price. If he does produce the goods you’ll need to ‘waste’ a trade to being him in. If he doesn’t produce it’s not like you’ll have paid a premium price for him.

  20. Big Jim

    December 22, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Monty – have you seen Jordan Lewis has to have shoulder surgery, going in on Friday?

    http://www.realfooty.com.au/news/news/shoulder-surgery-for-hawks-lewis/2008/12/20/1229189957236.html

    not good, as they say no contact drills for 3 months – and bet he is in a lot of plan teams (he is in mine!) :(

  21. Tez

    December 23, 2008 at 12:51 am

    does anyone believe hasleby is worth a shot??
    also what is happening with coughlan atm??

  22. Migz

    December 23, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Ive seen Hasleby close up at training and he is looking really good, hes trimmed down and is mainly working on his endurance at the moment, will no doubt start agility work in January. I’ve got him in the team.

  23. Scuzzlebut

    December 24, 2008 at 1:25 am

    According to my mate and a few people on bigfooty, Cogs is training well. As is Raines, who is looking super fit and is optimistic about playing round 1. The thing is (and I never thought I would say this), the Tiges midfield (with the inclusion of Cotchin, Cuz, and Thomson (and to a lesser extent, Hislop) and the improvement of Foley ) will be mighty hard to break into. I hope Cogs proves me wrong. And the Tiges defense (with the addition of McMahon and improvement of McGuane, Moore and Thirsty) will be even harder to break into.

  24. Jimmy

    December 27, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Monty, what rookies or cash cows do you think are the best this year in the backline and midfield?

  25. FITZY

    December 28, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Monty,looks like everyone has forgotten about Scott Gumbleton has had a bad run with injury but was a no 2 draft pick and at about 120k must be worth at least a bench spot.Essendon have massive raps on him .

  26. dylan

    December 29, 2008 at 2:47 am

    fitzy i have him in my fanplayer team because im hoping he can get a concistant game and hopefully get us a few nice scores to be happy with

  27. PoOs

    December 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Monty Danny Meyers isn’t in the planner. Also do you think he would get a game at Port in 09. The Hawks were also keen on him as a rebounding defender I think. thx cheers

  28. Scuzzlebut

    December 29, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Meyer could barely break into some very ordinary Richmond sides. I reckon (or I’m hoping) Davenport will be playing the rebounding defender role next year, and there are a bunch of others ready to become regular players before Meyer, like Krakouer, Marlon, and Hartlett. Add all the players returning from injury, and I reckon it’s highly unlikely that he will get a game in 09 (esp as he is a rookie). I wish him all the best, and he was worth the risk of being drafting by Port as a rookie, but I doubt he will be ever be an AFL player.

  29. m0nty

    December 29, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks for spotting that, PoOs, I’ve put Meyer in.

  30. Captain Fantasy

    March 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Monty, while we’re on the topic of updating I noticed that Rockliff is missing from the Depth Charts.

  31. m0nty

    March 2, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Ta Cpt F.

  32. Pingback: Rookie recap: 2009 AFL rookie elevations

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