Collingwood’s John McCarthy is one of many cheap fantasy smokies putting their hands up for round 1 selection.
I am breaking this first edition of the team projections up into four posts, because they took me a looooong time to compile. I am including injury and suspension and retirement lists for each team as usual. Keep in mind that these are all projected for round 1, so that some who are currently injured are not labeled as such because I expect them to recover in time.
FB: Tom Williams, Brian Lake, Jarrod Harbrow
HB: Lindsay Gilbee, Dale Morris, Ryan Hargrave
C: Daniel Cross, Ryan Griffen, Josh Hill
HF: Robert Murphy, Mitch Hahn, Brad Johnson
FF: Shaun Higgins, Barry Hall, Jason Akermanis
Fol: Ben Hudson, Matthew Boyd, Adam Cooney
Int: Will Minson, Daniel Giansiracusa, Liam Picken, Callan Ward
Iffy: Williams, Hill, Picken, Ward
Waiting: Nathan Eagleton, Dylan Addison, Jarrad Grant, Andrejs Everitt
You may be wondering why Hill, Picken and Ward as listed as iffy given that they played 22, 22 and 19 games last year respectively, but that’s a measure of how settled this line-up is. 19 Dogs played 17 or more games in 2009, and only 48 out of a possible 462 spots were not filled by the 21 returning players (excluding Hall). Williams is the only real question mark in this team if everyone’s fit, and I had to leave out Eagleton who also played 22 last home & away season. The reason he gets the chop is that Hall displaces Minson to the bench as a specialist second ruckman. Rodney Eade may end up dropping one of Hill, Picken or Ward for the Bald Eagle depending on matchups, which is a tough choice to make.
As with a number of other sides who have topped up in the offseason, the future of a number of past and present draftees may be sacrificed in pursuit of the flag. Grant and Everitt would be playing regularly in a bottom 8 side by now. It’s a long preseason though, and injury may force the issue.
FB: Harry O’Brien, Simon Prestigiacomo, Alan Toovey
HB: Heath Shaw, Nathan J. Brown, Nick Maxwell
C: Alan Didak, Luke Ball, Leon Davis
HF: Dale Thomas, Travis Cloke, Tarkyn Lockyer
FF: Sean Rusling, John Anthony, Paul Medhurst
Fol: Darren Jolly, Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury
Int: Josh Fraser, Sharrod Wellingham, Steele Sidebottom, John McCarthy
Iffy: Wellingham, Toovey, Sidebottom, McCarthy
Waiting: Shane O’Bree, Tyson Goldsack, Simon Buckley, Ben Reid
Injured: Brad Dick
Apart from the battle between Toovey and Goldsack for that back pocket spot (with Buckley a smokie), the major selection interest here lies in the bottom end of the midfield group. I don’t think having Ball and O’Bree in the same side is a good idea, but by the same token I don’t think Malthouse would like having all three of Sidebottom, McCarthy and Dayne Beams in the side either. There needs to be one roleplayer on the bench to play a stopping role, which is why I have Wellingham in there, though that role could also be played by Jaxson Barham or Ben Johnson. I have McCarthy over Beams due to favourable training reports, though it’s still early doors.
On the big man side, some fans are already spruiking for Reid to take over from Brown at CHB. The decision may be irrelevant if Presti doesn’t have a good preseason, but apart from Dick’s shoulder and Cloke’s knee there aren’t too many injury concerns out of training reports. The recruitment of Jolly should hopefully mean the end of Leigh Brown in a Pie jumper, with Cameron Wood strictly back up. In the forwards, fans are also talking up Chris Dawes, and if Cloke doesn’t come up I’d like to see him or Brent Macaffer over Fraser (with Wood rucking) as the replacement tall attacking option.
FB: Roger Hayden, Chris Tarrant, Antoni Grover
HB: Adam McPhee, Luke McPharlin, Greg Broughton
C: Rhys Palmer, Paul Hasleby, Paul Duffield
HF: David Mundy, Matthew Pavlich, Chris Mayne
FF: Des Headland, Michael Johnson, Hayden Ballantyne
Fol: Aaron Sandilands, Ryan Crowley, Byron Schammer
Int: Stephen Hill, Nick Suban, Garrick Ibbotson, Dean Solomon
Iffy: Schammer, Solomon, Ibbotson, Suban
Waiting: Kepler Bradley, Anthony Morabito, Michael Walters, Scott Thornton
Injured: Tim Ruffles, Steven Dodd
Given the fact that Freo haven’t had a fully fit list to choose from for about four years, it will be interesting to see how the depth chart shuffles if Mark Harvey does indeed have all his weapons at his disposal for round 1. Palmer and Crowley are back into the midfield, but for the moment they are only replacing the departed Brett Peake and the injured Dodd. Matthew DeBoer and mature-ager Michael Barlow will compete to take the one rookie upgrade slot as back up.
I have not included Bradley as a second ruck here, even though he played that role a lot last year, because if everyone is fit at Fremantle then the structure should be Johnson rotating through the ruck, with McPhee, Grover and/or McPharlin providing forward support switching from the backline. This is a riskier strategy, especially against the Crows who do tend on the tall side, but the Dockers will need to counter the Adelaide runners so they’ll need a high number of midfield rotations.
Walters has apparently been noticeable at training, but I haven’t included him, preferring the older head and bigger body of Solomon to provide defensive pressure in the forward line to support Ballantyne and Mayne.
As for Morabito, who is in a fair few plan teams, he’s going to have to displace one of Schammer, Ibbotson or Suban. It can be done, but the job’s in front of him. I’m a bit more of a fan of Schammer than some pundits.
FB: Graham Johncock, Ben Rutten, Brad Symes
HB: Simon Goodwin, Nathan Bock, Andrew McLeod
C: David Mackay, Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield
HF: Brett Burton, Trent Hentschel, Chris Knights
FF: Taylor Walker, Kurt Tippett, Jason Porplyzia
Fol: Ivan Maric, Bernie Vince, Tyson Edwards
Int: Nathan Van Berlo, Brad Moran, Michael Doughty, Phil Davis
Iffy: Davis, Moran, Doughty, Walker
Waiting: Brent Reilly, Shaun McKernan, James Sellar, Scott Stevens
Injured: Andy Otten, Brodie Martin
Adelaide looks to me to be one of the more settled 22s, with the vast majority of spots locked in barring injury. The good news for fantasy is that the injuries are already piling up. Bock is taking his good time in recovering from off-season surgery to his fractured heel. Dangerfield suffered a three-week medial ligament strain at training last week. Symes had a knee arthroscopy in December and won’t run until late January. Rutten (knee) and Van Berlo (back) also had interrupted preparations prior to Christmas.
Crow fan speculation, which is usually some of the most rampant in the AFL at this time of year, is centring around whether Davis is going to be able to stave off McKernan to replace Otten. As is often the case with Crow fans, though, they are talking up youngsters with no mind to Neil Craig’s long track record of relying on experienced players. The likes of Sellar and McKernan are being chucked into fan 22s willy nilly, whereas I’d bet on the safer, older options.
The structure is such that it’s a bit hard to find a spot for Davis if Symes, Doughty, Reilly and Stevens are all fit and in form. I have put him in there more or less in hope that one or two of those other four fall by the wayside. Davis is going to become a crucial part of many fantasy coaches’ multipositional planning this year, so his progress in the NAB will be closely watched by one and all.