Common players seem to be bobbing up in every nuff-nuff’s Dream Teams at this stage of the season. First, we look at the backs.
The teams posted in the comments of the second editions of the Rate My Team threads, posted after the NAB Cup started, have been a lot more vanilla than those in the first threads, which were largely done before the preseason kicked off. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but there is an increasingly large amount of complaints about it from the fantasy football public. So I thought I’d go through the most generic team possible and try to attack it from all sides, offering structural critique as well as a raft of uncommon or unique options to take the place of the nuffie’s favourites.
First we will start with the backs, where my early message has been to go cheap, cheap, cheap. The mob seems not to have heeded my advice quite as much as they could have, though, because the most common structure includes four keepers and only three mid-pricers.
#1 back: Brendon Goddard, the rolled gold premium
It’s understandable that you’d want the highest-scoring player in each position, and that’s pretty much how the teams have worked out, apart from Cox in the rucks. It’s hard to argue with Goddard given that he’s got more than 10 points in average over his nearest rival based on 2009 scoring. The only query is whether he will be rested in the forward line as has been mooted in the press and by coach Ross Lyon – a position in which he has provided some good scores in past games, but has also gone missing sometimes as well, which he almost never does in midfield. This is probably the most defensible consensus pick, nonetheless.
#2 back: Corey Enright, the top 7 lock
There’s no question that Enright has had an excellent preseason, and there’s strong supporting evidence that the loss of Tom Harley will mean more points for other players in the Cat defence. With a settled tall back structure of Matthew Scarlett and Harry Taylor down the spine, and Andrew Mackie seemingly being the one asked to do more defensive jobs than Enright, this looks like a no-brainer premium pick with subtle upside flavour. However, consideration should also be given to Ryan Hargrave who is in just about exactly the same position in the Bulldog structure, and arguably has more upside given the Dogs are set to lift their averages across the board this season. There is nothing holding back Paul Duffield at the same price, plus Jason Gram and Simon Goodwin haven’t put a foot wrong in preseason either. This is a price bracket where you probably can’t go wrong (barring injury), so going unique will not hurt you at all.
#3 back: Luke Hodge, the underpriced comeback premium
The received wisdom is that Hodge has had a far better preseason and is cherry ripe for a much stronger run in 2010. As I said on the Coaches Box yesterday, I have been trying out teams without Hodge in them this week, and I’m not missing him all that terribly. He still represents a downside risk, due to the Hawks being so cruelled with injury this year and thus not being able to support him as much when the inevitable tags are laid. I don’t like how his kick-to-handball ratio went down last year and his possession-to-mark ratio went up. He has been “guilty” in the past of sacrificing his own game to help the team and burning fantasy coaches in the process. Yes, last year’s average was his worst in five years, but I don’t see the trends at Hawthorn ticking up all that quickly, especially early in the season with a tough draw. At around the same price you can choose Rhyce Shaw, Heath Scotland, Lindsay Gilbee, Andrew Mackie and even Chris Newman to go unique.
#4 back: Heath Shaw, the redemption pick
I think this is the least defensible of all the nuffie picks, both in terms of the individual player and the team structure. Sure, Shaw had a solid pre-season in numerical terms, with 109 in the televised game against the Saints followed by 64 and 80 against Adelaide and Port away from the cameras. He’s back in the leadership group at Collingwood, though that doesn’t earn you any DT or SC points. He is underpriced for a reason, people: it’s because he can’t handle a tag, and his coach refuses to help him out. Guess what: Mick Malthouse is still the coach of Collingwood. Nothing has changed. I don’t think Heater has changed. He will deliver 100s but then he’ll throw in the odd 40 once a month when he gets a decent forward tag on him and gets isolated in the defensive goalsquare. It has happened many times before, and there are no signs that it won’t happen again in 2010.
Apart from the individual, there’s also the problem of structure, and this is where I think nuffie teams will get it wrong. There are many more possible cheap and mid-priced backs who are startable well below Shaw’s price, and it would be a mistake to spend this much money on your #4 back. If you’re still looking for a little more stability in this slot, you can go just a little cheaper with Shannon Hurn, Xavier Ellis or Joel Macdonald.
#5 back: Tadhg Kennelly, the prodigal son from Donegal (actually he’s from County Kerry, but that doesn’t rhyme )
#6 back: Nick Malceski, the forgotten keeper
I have few qualms about these picks, actually. There are a few concerns about fitness both long-term and short-term with both of them, especially with Malceski being a late withdrawal on the weekend with a muscle problem, but he has returned to full training this week so that seems a furphy. The old dynamic with the flag-era Swans team was that two of its three halfback runners would have good fantasy days while the one to miss out happened at random, so who knows what the share will be like with four of them when you chuck in Rhyce Shaw and Martin Mattner. It’s pretty hard to go past the upside of these two, nonetheless.
#7 back: Josh Hunt, the LTI comeback cheapie
While Hunt has edged him out for popularity all pre-season, Beau Waters is knocking on the door for this spot with his two late scores of 87 and 70. I think Hunt should stay ahead of Waters due to superior job security and fitness concerns, though I would be completely fine with having both as your #7 and #8 backs. Other valid candidates for this slot include Levi Greenwood (despite the two-to-three-week broken toe he got by pulling on his trackie dacks), Lachie Henderson (though probably only for SC), David Myers (though he pretty much exhausts your injury allowance all by himself), Rick Ladson and Matt Suckling (but only if Suckling is picked in R1).
#8 back: Matt Maguire, the Houdini act at CHB
The flogs have got this one right. There really is no other option at the #8 slot, as Maguire ticks all the boxes to be the Zac Dawson of 2010 in fantasy terms: a slow burner on the cash cow front who will provide solid if unspectacular coverage against the near-inevitable donut-flavoured carnage of fantasy backlines.
#9 back: Phil Davis, the early bolter
I was surprised to note that even at this late stage, a lot of fantasy teams are being created with Davis as back coverage. I get the fact that he might be bought purely because he has FWD and BAC eligilibility as part of a wider multipositional support system, but that doesn’t explain why he’s still so popular given that it has become abundantly clear that Scott Stevens is taking the spot vacated by Andy Otten, and Davis will spend most if not all of the year in the SANFL continuing to learn his craft. Davis should have been replaced in your side by now by either Mitch Farmer, Jordan Lisle, Ben Nason or Alex Silvagni.
Next up, of course, are the midfielders.