2009 fantasy smokies club by club (1 of 2)

Every fantasy coach wants to find that obscure kid who is being hidden on an AFL list that almost nobody is talking about, who then proceeds to play 10-22 games out of nowhere. Think Josh Hill and Austin Wonaeamirri from last year. Let’s see if we can throw up a name from each club who could be this year’s “smokie”. (I’ll break this post into two since it will be a long one.)

I have been talking up the positional battle between Aaron Kite and Greg Gallman on this blog for a while now, though it’s not being covered by any other media outlet I know so technically I guess either of them could be classified as smokies if they come good. Jared Petrenko could very well come over the top like Kiwi in 1983, as I said recently. However, if we’re looking for a real smokie, Andy Otten is a name I don’t think I’ve mentioned on this blog before, mainly because Crow fans have taken to calling him Andy Forgotten. As a tall inside midfielder, he’s a rare commodity in AFL lists – there are only ten of them currently, including Joel Corey, Adam Goodes, Scott Pendlebury, Cameron Bruce and Jobe Watson. Such players tend to do well in DT due to their height advantage in marking contests over smaller midfielders. Watson is the closest style to that of Otten, with a possession ratio that definitely favours handballs over kicks and a kicking efficiency that lets him down. No doubt you’ll get to see him in the NAB, but from looking at the Fanplanner it seems that very few of you trust Neil Craig to give any of his kids decent time on ground (TOG), so even if he burns it up I still expect Otten to be forgotten by the vast majority of coaches, leaving him as a smokie.

Brisbane Lions
Everyone knows about Daniel Rich, of course, but let me tell you about Tom Collier. Yes, he’s a tall key defender, a position that traditionally is not a lucrative one for fantasy. However, Collier has shown that he can run through the midfield while playing for Tasmania in junior ranks, so he’s got some sort of a tank. I’ve said before many times that I don’t rate the Lions backline, and with new coach Michael Voss in charge, I’m tipping that all positions are open. While I reckon Joel Patfull and Daniel Merrett are pretty safe as #1 and #2 tall backs, I think the third spot is up for grabs, and Collier is one of a number of younguns gunning for the spot which has previously been taken by Jason Roe. Collier will have to battle it out with Scott Clouston and Pat Garner, but I’m confident he will show a bit in the NAB and have as good a chance as any to play a decent amount of games. With the paucity of quality in the back rookies this year, he could end up being a vital fantasy player, especially in Super Coach.

I see the name of Mitch Robinson bobbing up every now and then on the boards among watch lists of draftees that fantasy coaches are keeping religiously. He always seems to be down the list, somehow, suggesting that he’s probably going to be spurned when it comes to actually buying your team, in favour of more high profile rookie midfielders like Steele Sidebottom and Patrick Dangerfield. I would remind you that Robinson topped the DT averages at the Under 18 championships last year, playing for Tasmania who got beaten most weeks. Yes, it’s going to be very difficult to fit Robinson into the stellar Carlton midfield. If by some chance he gets named for round 1, he’s going to be every coach’s new best little buddy. If not, he’ll remain a smokie.

Again, the hype mostly surrounds Sidebottom down at the Lexus Centre, but I keep seeing the name of Dayne Beams in training reports, mostly connected to nice things being said about his clearance work in drills and scratch matches. Clearances are something Collingwood is going to need in the post-Scott Burns era, so I suspect we’ll see a fair bit of Beams this year. Probably more of a Super Coach prospect than Dream Team, given that his numbers will probably be handball-heavy but be full of contested possession.

Very few rocks were not overturned last year in the search for fit blokes wearing red and black on the Essendon list, so we have pretty much seen every Bomber kid in the seniors. Of this year’s draftees, I suppose only David Zaharakis could be classified as a true smokie prospect, though I’m not hugely excited over him. Could Tayte Pears be considered a smokie? If so, I’d nominate him as the hype around Michael Hurley will disguise Pears’ development.

This is another highly scrutinised list for fantasy purposes, where every kid has been pored over for cheap value. I see a lot of Hayden Ballantyne in the Fanplanner, obviously, but not much of Michael Walters. I’m still a little bullish on Freo opting to go with both draftees in their forward line, if only because I saw how Hawthorn played both Cyril Rioli and Cameron Stokes in 2008. Walters did rank at #4 for DT points at the under 18 championships, so he is a proven scorer and, like Stokes, can be pushed up the ground a bit more.

Word out of the Cats fan boards is that Simon Hogan is a chance to debut early in the season, depending on NAB Cup form. Classified as a small forward by Champion last season, Hogan ran through the midfield a lot for the Geelong VFL side, and came sixth in their club best & fairest. Hogan’s main issue is size, as he was listed at 72kg to go with his 182cm frame, suggesting he would want to have spent a fair bit of time in the gym sucking protein shakes over summer in order to impress the Cats selection committee that he can compete in big games with big bodies. Willingness to go in hard may be something that the Cats hierarchy would be harsh on this year, given the experience they had in 2008 with the contest-shy Travis Varcoe. We’ll get to see how bulky Hogan is in the NAB, no doubt.

We all know the spots that are up for grabs in the Hawks team for round 1, with half a dozen or more to miss from the grand final side. Everyone also knows about Travis Tuck, Josh P. Kennedy and Ben McGlynn, and everyone has heard of Beau Muston and Beau Dowler even if we have barely seen them play. But what of Brendan Whitecross? Hardcore talent spotters know about this bloke due to his dominating role at the under 16 championships in 2006. He has dropped off in the years since those heady heights, but remains a solid prospect. “Swiss” has a lot of names in front of him and has zero hype at this stage, so he’s a true smokie.

Check out the second part of this post.


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