Backopalypse Redux: Another year of fantasy back problems

Col. Kurtz is nothing compared to the nightmare in fantasy defences… again. The horror, the horror!

To all of those who thought devotees of all-premium back lines were playing last year’s game: Ha ha! Now look at the mess we’re all in. Those of you who toyed with stacking your backline but hung with the strategy hardcore, and did not succumb to temptation and put Andrew Raines in as #7 back like I did, are now laughing all the way to the bank. That is, they are laughing if they also avoided the nasty pitfalls like Nathan Bock‘s club suspension for allegedly slapping his girlfriend at a nightclub, or Jordan McMahon‘s Bowden-like dropping, or Heath Shaw‘s suprise round 1 omission, or Adam McPhee‘s suspension this week.

Backopalypse ReduxAs often happens, the feeling among fantasy coaches as to which position contains the strongest rookie class waxes and wanes each week of the preseason, and by the time lockout came around I was detecting a distinct love towards the forwards, a cooling off of love towards the midfielders, and a slightly sunnier disposition to the defenders. As it has turned out, there are four excellent starting midfielders that you would love to have in your squad, starting at least two of them each week so far: Daniel Rich, Mitch Robinson, Andy Otten and now Dayne Beams. In the forwards, Jack Ziebell has been so-so while Mitchell Brown and Taylor Walker haven’t risen above bench fodder, as most of us suspected. In the back line, however, the stocks are surely depleted more than we would have suspected. Michael Hurley got injured, Lachie Henderson and Nathan Grima have been unsighted, Matthew Spangher got dropped, Stephen Hill and Nic Suban have been less than startable, and Greg Broughton has been mouldering in the WAFL (albeit the press is reporting both Broughton and Matt DeBoer as coming in this week). The only truly bright spots in fantasy defences have been Kyle Cheney and Jared Petrenko, both of whom are facing issues with selection in the coming weeks. Cheney has to stave off the return of Matthew Whelan, who was off the Demons injury report this week with his calf problem and will apparently line up in the magoos this weekend, leaving one more week of Cheney action before he has to dodge a selection bullet. In the little bloodnut’s favour is a complication to Paul Wheatley‘s condition, which has graduated from a calf to a quadricep injury that will linger on for at least another six weeks. Petrenko has to contend with the imminent return of Brad Symes, although the injury to Chris Knights may ease the squeeze there a little. Then there’s Alex Rance, who at least nominally is holding Will Thursfield out but could also be replaced by McMahon depending on matchups, especially this week considering the lack of height in the Bulldogs forward line.

What does all this mean? It means that those of you who haven’t got the dosh to upgrade Raines to a Sam Gilbert, Paul Duffield or (cough) Leigh Harding are going to have to burn two trades to change your structure a little. My philosophy on changing your structure is that if the two trades you make in a week to do it solve four problems at once, then it’s okay. I have seen some talking about sacrificing a mid-pricer or keeper who is just performing so-so, like a Jed Adcock. Personally, I have Brent Reilly in my Dream Team, so let’s use him as an example. I haven’t liked the look of his first two games, to be honest. I was expecting him to have a deeper fitness base than what he looks to have developed. He has gone missing for what seems to me like entire quarters – like two DT points in Q4 last week and another two points in Q3 of round 1. The temptation for me is to downgrade Reilly to Andy Otten, and use the cash to upgrade one of my backs to a keeper. I have enough money in DT, after trading Raines to Cheney last week, to now sell Broughton and get Xavier Ellis. Alternately, I could reach all the way to Brendan Goddard or Sam Fisher if I bypass Otten for David Zaharakis or Beams, and leave Broughton and sell Hill. Any of these double-trade options would be solving four problems: Reilly sucking, Otten/Beams not being in my side when he’s an obvious cash cow, Hill/Broughton not being good enough, and my #7 back being a terrible hole in my structure.

The other reason I think that changing your structure in week 2 is not a stupid move is that if you look into the future, it’s going to be a lot better to concentrate your cash cow culling in the centres because there are a bunch of good kids who look at this point to be debuting later in the year. Liam Anthony himself is likely to make his delayed debut somewhere in the month before the split round. Luke Shuey and Tom Swift will probably get their chance somewhere around there too. Sam Blease is still a fair way away, and the Steele Sidebottom buzz has died down for the moment. The talent pool of late debuts in the backs is nowhere near as promising, leading me to think that it may be prudent to plan to keep your back rookies in your squad for the duration, Nathan J. Brown style.

On the flip side, there are some players who I wouldn’t want to waste in a double trade like this. I learned the lesson last year with Xavier Ellis and Bryce Gibbs that it is often the right move to stick fat with high-upside players who have middling starts, because those with natural ability (notably both top 3 draft picks, those two) often have excellent second halves, as both those two boys did last year. Travis Boak and Matthew Leuenberger may be two such players from the class of 2006 that it would be dangerous to pull the trigger on, with Chris Masten and Patrick Dangerfield similarly placed from the 2007 draft.

How about you lot, are you lighting a bomb under your structure and blowing it to the shizenhousen, or are you defending the ramparts against the orcish hordes? What are you going to do, or have already done, about Raines? How many trades are you using in the first two weeks, and are you sorry if you held back last week, with more bad news coming down the track this week as predicted? Perhaps most crucially, are you hanging onto the likes of Raines (2 weeks), Brad Ottens (4-6) or Bock (1 to who knows) and leaving yourself open to the 2009 equivalent of the Joel Bowden disaster? Tell me in the comments.

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