Early 2009 fantasy preview: Geelong

Geelong should come out of the gates next year with brimstone in their nostrils and an appetite for destruction. Their current gamestyle has been working pretty well in the regular season, yet now in retrospect every mug with access to a keyboard (yours truly included) has been taking potshots with 20/20 hindsight and wondering if 21-1 really was all that good of a record. The answer is yes, yes it was.

One of the underreported aspects of the grand final was how the tables were turned on the cluster. Where everyone expected Geelong to have to fight the rolling zone – Harley said after the R17 win that they had been training for a while now to combat the cluster – it turned out that Geelong itself played much more of a zone. This was partly due to the Hawks having so many more behinds to rebound from, rushed or otherwise, and the reason why there were so many rushed behinds was because of that defensive wall that the Cats had set up outside the 50 arc. I suspect a number of teams will pick up the cluster and run with it – if that isn’t too tortured a metaphor, not to mention self-contradictory – and Geelong is better placed than anyone outside Hawthorn and possibly Richmond to play with it and, by extension, against it.

What this could mean for fantasy is that after an unprecedented year where three midfielders from the same team topped 100 in DT average for the first time – Jimmy Bartel (113/22), Gary Ablett jnr (112/18) and Joel Corey (109/22) – they could get EVEN MORE possessions per game and take it from Ridiculous Speed to Ludicrous Speed, leaving a warp trail of plaid in their wake. Ablett, in particular, is a candidate to tear teams apart while working out the frustration, especially early in the season. I had a feeling in this year’s pre-season, which I did not act upon to my eternal regret, that GAJ was going to have a searing start to 2008 after last year’s Brownlow disappointment just to shove it up ’em, so imagine what the motivation of this year’s agony could propel him to!

So, that’s my attempt to find some value in the Geelong list. Honestly, there is not much underpricing here without Brent Prismall to provide potential. Even David Wocjinski (58/13) will be priced at around his career best. Matthew Egan (0/0) is not a DTer, but would be a solid SC prospect priced at an average of 36 after 42% discount.

Brad Ottens (74/13) and Tom Hawkins (58/10) are the only ones who look underpriced. Ottens is a contender for the #2 ruck position, and plenty of coaches will take a gamble on him to save a few bucks, but I’m not on board with that. He has only played the full complement of 22 games twice in 11 years. If there any position where you want durability, it’s in your ruck division so that puts me off Otto considerably. As for Hawkins, the supporters are to a man and woman locked in step with the belief that the Tomahawk has to play all 22 games in 2009. Mark Thompson would be tempting fate to go against that groundswell of support for the kid, which is going to make it hard if Hawkins doesn’t recover from what, to be honest, is a fairly disappointing year. Yes, he copped some injuries which weren’t his fault, but Thompson isn’t stupid and if Hawkins’ VFL form had been good enough late in the season I’m sure Lonergan would have been given the arse. The simple fact is that Hawkins has a long way to go before he’s going to be a reliable full forward in the AFL, and with a price that high and no chance of a discount, I think it would be foolhardy to spend the dosh to get him into your 22.

Elsewhere in the forwards, I think Steve Johnson (92/22) is going to become the new Brad Johnson in fantasy popularity terms: the premium medium forward who will not let you down. There’s even a little bit of upside there if he abandons that stupid assists bet and gets more selfish.

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