Dreaded lock: Consensus Dream Team rucks

West Coast’s Nic Naitanui embodies the essence of the nuffie choice, in this blog’s humble opinion.

West Coast Eagles Training Session

This continues the consensus series started with the backs and midfielders. The early controversy about vanilla-ising the fantasy flavours seems to have died down after the first post, so let’s rip into it directly.

#1 ruck: Aaron Sandilands, the best (fully fit) ruckman in the game
Or at least you lot seem to think so. In truth, 211 (so named for his height in centimetres) is not all that far in front of Mitch Clark for this slot, with Hamish McIntosh further back and Patrick Ryder verging on unique status. Seemingly forgotten in the conversation entirely, however, is Big Dean Cox. Despite the fact that Cox is only about one year older than Sandilands, the fantasy world seems to have put a fat red line through Cox’s name as a factor. I think this is a huge mistake. What did Cox do last year? Only increased his already stupendous average by another point after boosting it six points the year before. Now yes, he did get injured and miss half the year. Yes, there are rumours that he’s not had the best of preseasons, and though he played two NAB games he looked slower and less fit. But this is the four-time All-Australian ruckman we’re talking about. What’s more, Cox usually saves his best work for the first half of the season, so the word on him in the past is that if you want to get him, you have to buy him from the start. I would not be at all surprised if Cox’s average still outdid Sandilands’ by the end of the season.

#2 ruck: Nic Naitanui, the ultimate X-factor
Let’s get this straight. At his price, you’re recruiting NicNat to be a keeper, aren’t you? Buying him as an improver is crazy talk. Who are you going to upgrade him to, Cox himself? I just can’t come at the idea of buying a ruckman who is second fiddle in his own team. I can’t remember any second ruck delivering premium fantasy scores since the days of Paul Salmon. NicNat is no Paul Salmon. (Not yet, anyway.) In the absence of an obviously underpriced premium like Troy Simmonds in 2008, I can’t see any justification from deviating from the double premium ruck structure. You don’t want to burn trades on your rucks if you can possibly help it. Naitanui is not a lock to play 22 games at premium scoring levels like Simmonds was that year. NicNat will go missing in games, as all young players do. He wil suffer for TOG in others. He will get beaten in the ruck by experienced opponents, hurt the team with clumsy frees against, and be sat on the bench by coach Worsfold as Cox tries to win the game. Sure, NicNat will win some games as well, but that’s not good enough to be a fantasy keeper. If you’re not willing to take a punt on Brendan Fevola as a premium forward, you should not stick your neck out for Naitanui for several of the same reasons. If you’re looking for value in the #2 ruck position, I’d be willing to go no further down the list than Dean Brogan. The likes of Mark Seaby, Brad Ottens and Ben McEvoy, all of whom have minor popularity at the moment, won’t reach premium heights either.

#3 ruck: Robert Warnock, the last man standing
#4 ruck: Matthew Lobbe, the cipher
With injuries to some candidates (Wayde Skipper, Jamie Charman) and exposure of a lack of readiness and/or class in others (Jordan Roughead, Rhys Stanley), I think it’s safe to lock in Warnock at #3. As for #4, I would be happy having Lobbe at #4 even if he ends up never playing a game, because as far as I’m concerned he’s only going to be useful as a multipositional mechanism for swapping in Kurt Tippett or Drew Petrie later in the season once the forward rookies are upgraded.

The final post in this series will deal with the forwards.