2014 Pies odyssey: Cats v Pies wrap

Taylor Adams showed why he is a sneaky pick in 2014 in the lucrative Pies midfield on Wednesday.

Taylor Adams 2014Wednesday night’s preseason opener between the Cats and Pies confirmed a few things, and threw up a few surprises.

Neither of these sides is going to change its gameplan much in 2014. The Cats play the same way, it’s just the personnel who change. No matter who gets a guernsey in the Pies midfield, if they’re good enough they can rack it up, which is why Taylor Adams‘ 116 DT/90 SC is so interesting. Collingwood will insist in going wide and overpossessing, no matter how Nathan Buckley might want them to play more like Geelong through the corridor, and that means lots of fantasy points for the Pie mids who run for the link ball.

The question mark remains about whether Adams was merely taking the numbers that the absent Dane Swan would normally mop up, but I think he’s good enough, even at this early age of 20, to improve from his 82/76 averages last year. He’s not the sort of player who will attract vests unless injured at the Pies. His role will be to join the cadre of mid/forwards like Jarryd Blair, Josh Thomas, Ben Sinclair and Jamie Elliott, and I’d rate him higher than any of those in the depth charts. Taking him and Dayne Beams (109/103) is perfectly defensible, though with an eye to bye rounds it will limit your other options.

On the other side, Josh Caddy showed us that he might have spliced some Selwood genes into himself over the summer with a bullocking, packbreaking 84/61 performance that was reminiscent of his captain Joel Selwood. There are two knocks on this kind of player from a fantasy perspective. Historically I would caution against picking up this kind of barnstorming inside player because they don’t get outside enough for +6s, albeit Selwood isn’t much of a marker either and he has managed to become an elite fantasy scorer as many other inside players have done in the past few years. The other problem is Caddy’s disposal: his disposal efficiency is poor and this makes him a questionable SC prospect, despite the usual advantage that inside players have in that format. Overall though, this kind of player will generally be able to rise above these technical shortcomings with superior workrate, so if you think he’s going to keep it up then pick him to lift his 63/60 average this year.

Both Tom Hawkins and Travis Cloke put in about half a game’s worth of effort and bludged the rest of the time, as is normal for big blokes this early in the season, but on this evidence the gorilla full forwards are going to be helped a fair bit by new umpire interpretations. More interesting for fantasy, though, were the forwards crumbing at their feet. Jimmy Bartel played a relatively deep forward pocket on a zero gamer Tom Langdon and was quiet early, albeit finishing with a 30-point Q4 in typical style for a 79/65. He has dropped off my radar, I’m afraid. Jimmy will have too many quiet patches like this when the game is played where he ain’t, the signs were there last year and it will only get worse.

For the Magpies, Jesse White (64/94) played like a 6’5″ small forward, beating Tom Lonergan to the fall of Cloke contests for the first three of his five goals. While uninformed analysts may talk of White taking marking pressure off Cloke, his role should be more of a Lance Franklin type, a high half forward who hits contests hard and fast with his running ability and surprising skill under his knees. The Pies can use their reliance on Cloke as an advantage in this way even if he’s getting spoiled continually, as White is going to beat key backs in most ground contests. White will thus produce some big days which you might be able to catch for draft leagues, but I wouldn’t expect this to translate into premium forward output.

Meanwhile, the contest to replace Heath Shaw was a fizzer. None of Tony Armstrong (70/64), Marty Clarke (53/55) or Peter Yagmoor (46/39) looked best 22 material. With Paul Seedsman (hip) and Matthew Scharenberg (foot) missing the start of the season with injuries that may linger, there’s a paucity of healthy talent in the Pie depth chart in small rebounding backs (arguably has been since Leon Davis retired). Clinton Young (35/27) appears to be set for wing, and isn’t looking likely at this stage anyway, so it’s a dilemma for Bucks. He wouldn’t want to shift Harry Lumumba back yet again with his scores of 83/58 suggesting Harry XO’s DE% hasn’t improved. I wonder if the ageing Swan himself might be used on a HBF – sure, his defensive side is non-existent but he’d set up more scores than he’d allow. One of the premium mids might have to shift, anyway… Adams, perhaps? Or of course there’s the option to rotate all of the mids through there, as most sides do these days with forward spots. That would be the most fantasy-friendly option.

Overall, I expect both sides to be thereabouts all season but not make top two due to lack of depth in key areas: Geelong midfield relies on too few in big games as others take a while to come through, and Collingwood’s backline is chronically undermanned.

Which Pie midfielders are in your side at the moment, and how many can you fit? Do you think Caddy is capable of shouldering a Selwoodesque inside mid loading? Do you maintain faith in Jimmy? Are you on the White horse? Who replaces Heater? Where do you see these two clubs finishing at season’s end? Let me know in the comments.

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