Bogan princes: consensus Dream Team midfielders

Luke Ball’s move to Collingwood is sucking him into a lot of ordinary fantasy teams as well.

Collingwood Magpies Intra-Club Match

The backs post in this new series caused a firestorm of comments about conformity and the messages that fantasy media like FanFooty are sending out to make the game more boring. The discussion is worth reading in itself if you’re interested in the inside baseball of the fantasy industry. Long story short: I have resolved in future to de-emphasise the Rate My Team and Structure posts on the FF blog, because it has become clear that they are not doing positive things in terms of diversity of player choices.

As for this feature itself, my intention with it was to criticise and/or ridicule the safe selections that everyone is making, though some seem to think that merely naming the most popular squad of 30 will tend to encourage people to conform to the norm. You can make your own mind up about that… which is supposed to be the point of this blog in the first place! :D

Anyway, let’s get on with the show, this time with the most popular midfield structure. As was pointed out by Arky in the previous thread, a lot of coaches are going with the three-starting-rookie structure, but two is currently the more popular so we’ll examine that.

#1 midfielder – Gary Ablett jnr, the best player in the game
This is not to say that Dane Swan is not also popular as your lock-in captain. Ablett used to have a 2:1 lead over Swan in the Exteam database, though that ratio is a lot closer to 1:1 these days, which I think is a healthy sign. In Dream Team, I think Swan should be the “safe” pick, as his scoring capability is about the same plus he doesn’t have the injury worries that GAJ does. I have been a strong advocate of having at least one player who is capable of averaging 115 in your team from round 1, for what I hope you will see are obvious reasons. Leigh Montagna, the only other player to average 115 last season, trails the other two by a significant margin, but I don’t see why this has to be the case. I have criticised coaches who have foregone one of these three in favour of Joel Selwood or Bryce Gibbs, though maybe I have been a tad harsh there. Sam Mitchell is making a late charge with his NAB form.

#2 midfielder – Jimmy Bartel, the “underpriced” captain option
I have mentioned a number of times that I like the thought of having two genuine 110-115 captain alternatives in your midfield, and the one that most coaches have settled upon is the former Brownlow Medallist. Bartel’s scoring was deflated somewhat by his role changing mid-year to be stationed more on the wing, with the consequence being that he got to less contests and won less inside ball. Signs are that he is going to be returned to his rightful engine room place in 2010. I’m not quite sure why it is that fantasy coaches seem to trust Geelong players a lot more than equivalent St Kilda players. Are people worried that the Saints of 2009 are going to fall away like Hawthorn did last year? I don’t see a whole lot changing at the Saints this year compared to last, so the psychology of why Ablett and Bartel are so much more popular than Montagna and Dal Santo escapes me a little. If anything, shouldn’t fantasy coaches be worried that the dynasty has peaked already and is ready to slide, thus representing downside that the Saints aren’t exposed to? Brisbane had four grand finals in a row in the oughts, so maybe people are figuring the Cats are due one more, despite the AFL captains voting the other day that Geelong would miss the GF with the Saints and Dogs fighting it out. In any case, if you’re looking for a captain option with a slightly lower price tag, consideration should also be given to Brent Stanton who quietly averaged over 150 in the NAB, as well as early favourite Bernie Vince who will be right for round 1 despite his hamstring issues. A little lower, you could make cases for Jordan Lewis, Liam Anthony and Jobe Watson. Then there’s Adam Cooney, another one who was very popular early in the NAB but for some reason is stuck with Vince in the fantasy doghouse, despite showing his wares four times during the Dogs’ Cup run. Nope, you all love Jimmy.

#3 midfielder: Luke Ball, the new-club bounce boy
This push for Ball at #3 is only a recent development, and seems to be based mostly off Ball’s NAB average of just on a DT ton. As I said on the Coaches Box this week, some salt should be kept in hand when looking at the Collingwood NAB scores. The first game was against a St Kilda without Hayes or Dal Santo, and the Pies got beaten. The other three games in the NAB Challenge were against a severely injury-depleted Adelaide, a severely crap Richmond, and a Port side which had no lock-down small defenders, all of which were comfortable wins. I don’t trust these figures. Add to that the Shane O’Bree factor. O’Bree only played one match with Ball of the four, the cakewalk against the Power. While I omitted O’Bree from my first Magpie projected R1 side, I am assured by Pie supporters that O’Bree will play consistently in the ones while fit, and I think that means bad things for Ball’s TOG relative to what he enjoyed in the NAB. You’re paying a lot of dough for an injury-prone second-string midfielder, that’s my point. Meanwhile, just on Ball’s price is Brock McLean, who had a quiet NAB but is very favourably positioned to slip easily into the Nick Stevens fantasy slut role at Carlton, and Ryan Griffen, who scintillated in the NAB yet is in less than 1% of Exteams. Really, though, I would like to see money siphoned out of this slot given the bounteous nature of the cheaper options in midfield this year.

#4 midfielder: Chris Masten, the improving inside accumulator
To repeat in short what I have been saying about Masten all preseason: his game is too inside, which means too many handballs and not enough marks. The DT Talk boys are running this line as well apparently, and I am happy to report that either via our beratements or the fact that his four NAB numbers have trended down every week, his popularity has waned considerably since before the pre-season kicked off. David Armitage made a run for this slot during the NAB but his form in the Cup GF has dampened enthusiasm. Coaches seem to have forgotten about David Mackay in this conversation despite the Crow injuries piling up, while Andrew Walker, Josh P. Kennedy, Tom Swift, Callan Ward, Daniel Wells and Trent Cotchin are all valid uncommon/uniques above Masten’s price. Below Masten there’s not much unless you want to wait until after R3 for Rhys Palmer or wait for Daniel Kerr to get injured and/or suspended. Then there’s Mark McVeigh who also starts the season out through suspension but looms as an improver, as do Mitch Robinson and Liam Shiels. The players gunning most for this slot are, however, the rookies.

#5 midfielder, Jack Trengove, Tweedledee
#6 midfielder, Dustin Martin, Tweedledum
#7 midfielder, Michael Barlow, the White Rabbit

Both top 3 draftees have been locked in by their coaches in the press. Both have shown more than enough in the NAB. Think about this for a second, though. Last year showed that mature-aged recruits have significantly higher averages in their first year than even the best 18-year-old recruits. Greg Broughton and Robin Nahas outscored their positional averages by far more than the likes of Rhys Palmer or Daniel Rich. If you’ve bought all three of these dudes and you only have two starting spots, by rights you should bench one of the $150k-plus premium draftees, because Barlow’s average is likely to be higher. Throw in the possibility of Brodie Moles, Jarrod Kayler-Thomson, Kyle Hardingham and Ben Howlett starting for their AFL teams in round 1, then add older midfielders priced like rookies such as Daniel Connors, Rohan Bail, James Strauss and Todd Banfield, and you start to look at a fairly expensive bench. In their wisdom, VirtualSports have decided not to give price premiums to mature-aged rookies this year, and I suspect that this will be the last year that we Dream Teamers and Supercoaches will be able to enjoy this little loophole. Look at the historical numbers for mature-agers in the AFL in recent years, and ask yourself if you would like $150k in your kitty by selling Trengove and Martin.

#8 midfielder, Mitchell Banner, the gun draftee in a rebuilding side
Unfortunately, among the “gold passes” that Port coach gave out to his starting 22 on the weekend in the NAB match indicating that they would also be in the round 1 team, Banner’s name was not among them. Banner did play the second half but it’s not a good sign for his job security, even if he does end up playing round 1. Other options at this position include all of the above rookies, plus Ryan Bastinac, Lewis Jetta, Luke Shuey and Mitchell Duncan. Duncan in particular is of interest due to his dual eligibility, making him a valid “cipher” pick to enable multipositional support.

Speaking of multi-positions, the rucks in the next post will feature heavily in that discussion.