Early 2009 fantasy preview: Hawthorn

Pelchen’s blueprint is almost complete. Despite his statement in the media that he’s six short of his perfect team, operationally one more KP back is all that is missing, and Mitch Thorp (0/0) and/or Beau Dowler (0/0) is apparently it. Whoever it is they go with early next year is probably going to be more of an SC pickup than DT, but they’ll be serviceable in the Taylor mold. Given that both of them will be bargain basement based on low 2007 averages from a handful of games, if either of them gets classified as a back, get on it. Even as forwards they would merit strong inspection.

Beau Muston (0/0) is the other obvious cut-price kid who has been held back. Fitness is the big concern there, yet I suppose there will be plenty of hype next pre-season if he is shown off in the NAB. Of the other mids, Ben McGlynn (77/3) would need a big discount and a big NAB to become interesting, while Jordan Lewis (83/17) has the potential to be as popular as Cross this year given his last month.

A stellar fantasy performance in the grand final has a lot of buzz surrounding Xavier Ellis (73/21). There is no denying that top draft picks usually come good eventually (more on that in another blog post), and it is amazing to note that he averaged 91 in his last five games of the season, yet was still on the fringes of Hawk selection going into finals. It’s probably not coincidental that four of those five games were when Clinton Young (85/17) was injured, although it was a very healthy sign that when Young was on 79 at halftime in the GF, Ellis was on 70 as well and didn’t drop below 30 each quarter. The question mark for mine over Ellis, albeit that I was very happy with having him in my own DT this year, is that he’s going to have to bulk up more this off-season, something that takes some adjustment for younger players and tends to hurt their fantasy production in the short-term. The fact that he remained a back in Finals DT was a good sign, it must be said.

Grant Birchall (79/22) is fascinating: he ended up scoring one more point in DT this year over last year, both from 22 games. You can’t get much more consistent than that. There are going to be a lot of coaches who will want to set and forget Birchall given the maelstrom of 2008. Birchall started getting tagged in the middle of the year and struggled for a bit, but that dropped away as opposing coaches realised that it would be far more productive to tag Hodge if they were going to choose anyone in the back half for the Hawks – this bodes well for Birchall in 09 if Hodge stays healthy, I feel.

Speaking of Luke Hodge (96/17), there is every chance that he will be reclassified back to his original fantasy position of back after the masterstroke move that Clarkson made to put him at CHB since R17… or at least back/centre which effectively means the same thing. As such he would be arguably one of the most popular players in every salary cap comp you would care to name, even more popular than Chad Cornes. The 5 games he missed this year are slightly worrying, as is his propensity to smash into packs and hurt himself, but he had only missed one game over the previous three years so I don’t think that’s an issue. I’m not recommending a lot of locks in these previews. Hodge is probably the second of three I’ll make, for SC in particular.

And now, after just saying that, here comes another one. I think you just have to bite the bullet and pay for Lance Franklin (96/22). Still only 22 next year, could kick 125 goals if he improves his kicking just a little bit. I shied away from him this year due to off-field concerns, which was stupid of me. Meanwhile, Jarryd Roughead (79/22) I’m more iffy on as just a forward, I don’t think he’s got as much upside as Franklin – if anything his downside is more pronounced given what happened in the last month. The rest, while vital cogs in the Hawk machine, are not going to be featured every week and thus can’t be relied upon in DT… though I like the SC prospects of Cyril Rioli (75/22).

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