The Eagles are one of the teams I expect to see using the cluster to great advantage, especially in playing against it. Subiaco is not all that suited to the cluster due to the wide wings, and the Eagles historically have had no problem playing that chip-chip game spotting up leading targets along the wings in home games so it shouldn’t hold that many fears for them. I was disappointed that the Eagles couldn’t continue their 400-possession-per-game style this year but I expect them to get somewhere near that again next year – not necessarily winning a lot of those games, but certainly embracing the new high-possession norm with open arms.
The centres have a lot of interesting players. Like others, Sam Butler (61/5) is going to have to win back my trust with a bloody good pre-season. Daniel Kerr (77/11) is going to be in a lot of spud sides this year, but looking at his history, I can’t see his ceiling being close enough to 100 for mine. Andrew Embley (94/21) is tempting, but I probably wouldn’t unless he is somehow shoehorned into the backs (highly unlikely, I know). Brad Ebert (65/15) will probably have the usual second-year blues. I could see Matt Priddis (90/18) being 09’s Cross in terms of fantasy popularity!
Outside the mids, the kids are probably more attractive than the veterans but I don’t like either. Personally I like Josh J. Kennedy (63/7), mainly because I hate Ashley Hansen with the burning passion of a thousand suns. His upside is probably not enough for me to pick him though. Mitch Brown (0/0) is probably more of an SC play. Eric MacKenzie (55/7), Ben McKinley (56/18) and Jamie McNamara (66/11) are overpriced. Many would have been burned once too often by Beau Waters (69/8).
It will come as no surprise that Dean Cox (107/22) is my third lock. I don’t think he’s a lock to stay at 107, but I think his median is pretty much to slide back to 100 and that’s good enough. The Eagles are still going to struggle in 09, with a lot more games put into kids for the future, particularly in the backline. That means Cox will continue to get a lot of cheap ball across halfback, and if anything that role is going to get more lucrative for DT because teams have just about worked out already to let it happen for structural reasons because they know unless the kicker has elite disposal a la Hodge, most likely he’ll turn it over kicking into a rolling zone.
On the other hand, I’m a little worried by a couple of things. One is his fitness, which was great this year despite the foot problems but can’t last forever. Two is the committee situation: even though Mark Seaby has left now, I think that might actually hurt Cox because Seaby was clearly on the nose with the Eagles hierarchy and thus was shafted for TOG this year in favour of working Cox like a dog, whereas if they draft NicNat then he’s going to eat into Cox’s rotations. Three is the rise of Embley playing a similar role in the second half of 08: I could definitely see Embley as a permanent BP link-man removing the need for Cox to float back… though admittedly it could just mean kick-to-kick with Cox and Embley every game.