Junkyard Devil: 2009 AFL Round 1 fantasy selection teasers

Dean Laidley is one of many coaches who love to sabotage fantasy hopes by dropping kids too early.

Dean Laidley the Fantasy Antichrist

We’ve all been there. 2007 was one example: Lachie Hansen had just had an excellent NAB Cup, he was named in the Kangaroos team for round 1, then… two paltry Dream Team scores of 21 in each of the first two games with painfully limited time on ground (TOG), then shipped back to the VFL until after the 2007 finals series had started. Or you could take 2008: Scott D. Thompson had solid outings in the NAB series, named for round 1, then… dropped after one DT score of 37 with limited TOG, then not seen again until rounds 6 and 7, and then dropped again until a fourth and last game in round 21.

Is it any wonder that we call North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley the Fantasy Antichrist?

This year we have a new crop of rookies, and Laidley isn’t the only one we need to worry about. Dean Bailey at Melbourne and Neil Craig at Adelaide are both offering us tasty rookie treats, but I suspect we’re being fattened up for the cooking pot, if not the fiery depths of some lower hell. Heck, even at Hawthorn I am not putting any faith in Alistair Clarkson to commit to youth like he did at the start of 2008 with Cyril Rioli, Cameron Stokes and Jarryd Morton. Here’s some kids I am becoming increasingly wary of.

Nathan Grima – North fans all seem to think he’s a lock for the round 1 side, if not for the majority of the year. I remain unconvinced that he’s even in the team until I see Laidley put his name down on the official teamsheet on Thursday night. Even then, Grima’s place seems to be predicated on a long-foreshadowed move of Michael Firrito into the midfield, and I don’t trust that either. You just know that the worst case scenario is that Grima starts getting beaten early, Zac Dawson style, so that Firrito has to occupy the goalsquare to rescue the situation, and Grima will leave grime all over our back benches.

Liam Anthony – The fact that Laidley has been talking him up in the press makes me even more fearful than if he had been shutting up about him. This smacks to me of a typical Laidley stunt. Of course he has to talk up his kids, North needs more members desperately so they’re forced to wheel out the coach to give the fans some hope. Whether this translates into a consistent run of selection in the first eight games is an entirely different matter. It’s the Fantasy Antichrist, you sinners! Make the sign of the cross and repent!

Jack Ziebell – Anyone who is starting Jay-Z in round 1 has to have cojones of steel. You just know he’s going to be named in the extended bench for the Sunday game for promotional purposes, no matter whether Laidley intends to play him or not, so you will have exactly zero idea if he’s going to play or not. If your forward bench emergency is someone like Scott Gumbleton, Wade Thompson or Neville Jetta you could be setting yourself up for a zero without any assurances. Just remember Jay-Z’s sage Dream Team advice: “99 problems, but a bench ain’t one.”

Jared Petrenko – He has become wildly popular as an 8th or 9th fantasy back, and the news today that Graham Johncock will miss round 1 due to a family bereavement will lock Petrenko into the round 1 Crows team. Consider this, however: Petrenko’s spot is either in the forward line in place of Jason Porplyzia (if Jarrhan Jacky is not used there) or in the back line instead of Brad Symes. Porps is due back by round 2 or 3, while Symes is due a week or two after that. With Neil Craig’s historical thriftiness with rookie TOG, can we expect Petrenko to earn enough coin in a maximum of five weeks to justify buying him? Of course you could get lucky, as owners of Bernie Vince did last year when a rash of injuries gave him far more TOG than Craig would have liked to allow. It’s a big risk nonetheless.

Andy Otten – Yes, his preseason numbers have been excellent. “Demands selection”, they say. Like Petrenko, however, Otten could be squeezed out early by returning senior players, particularly the aforementioned Symes. Last year was an aberration with Vince, Porplyzia and David Mackay all representing excellent rookie value. The norm with Neil Craig sides is to stay away from their kids. Without evidence of another injury glut down at Westlakes, you have to look at Otten’s price premium over a Dayne Beams or Mitch Robinson with a hard eye.

Kyle Cheney – Another kid who, while he may very well play the first couple of rounds, doesn’t have any assurances after that. His spot in the Demons 22 is reserved for Matthew Whelan, who could return from his calf injury as early as round 2. Be warned.

Brendan Whitecross – A solid last outing on a half-back flank in the NAB series has him penciled in for the round 1 Hawks team. Unfortunately, he may not last past the return of Rick Ladson, currently scheduled for somewhere between rounds 2 and 5. Best case scenario is that he is eventually replaced by Xavier Ellis some time around round 6. His place in the Hawthorn 22 is most at risk.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve just named at least two of your squad of 30 in Dream Team and Super Coach, if not three or four. How worried are you about these players being dropped in the first six rounds before the usual cash cow culling cut-off point? Are you choosing safer, more boring options like Mitchell Brown or (shudder) Zac Dawson to sacrifice upside for selection consistency? Tell me in the comments.

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