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Docker debut dilemma: delay for Hayden Ballantyne

Delay for Hayden Ballantyne

Wrist injury complications for small forward may put back his debut until well into the season.

Thousands of fantasy coaches have already pencilled in Hayden Ballantyne as one of their starting forwards, but news is slowly starting to trickle out about his AFL debut being delayed significantly due to complications from a long-term wrist injury.

The word is well and truly out: small-to-medium forward rookies are fantasy gold. With Cyril Rioli, Josh Hill, Chris Mayne, Cameron Stokes and Ryan Gamble last year, fantasy coaches have been scouring the draft lists for non-tall forwards who have the body type to withstand up to 25 games, as Rioli did last year. Ballantyne has always seemed like a lock: mature-age, battle-hardened by years in the WAFL, proven goalkicker to the tune of 75 last year, slotting straight into the Fremantle structure where Jeff Farmer used to be. Everything pointed to him being a starter-quality forward.

Unfortunately, the wrist injury which has restricted his preseason looks like restricting the early part of his home & away season, too. After the revelation last week that Ballantyne had bone grafted from his hip to the left wrist to help it heal, Fremantle assistant coach Barry Mitchell had this to say yesterday:

“He’s coming along well, Ballantyne,” Mitchell said. “He’s doing a lot of running and should join in with major ball work soon. He’s been doing that on the side and is nearly ready to go. I don’t know exactly when he’ll be ready, but we are confident he’ll be right for the early part of the season.”

Fremantle Dockers Training Session

“Early part”, eh? That’s a different tune to the “aiming for round 1” that every other coach says about every other player at this time of year, even if they’re recovering from a double leg amputation. Reading between the lines, this is a strong message that Ballantyne is going to miss round 1, and could miss the first month or even more. The Freo hierarchy keep making noises about how he’s a long-term player so they don’t want to risk anything… which sounds just like the language that Richmond used last year to describe Trent Cotchin‘s interrupted preseason. Cotchin, of course, ended up debuting in round 8 of 2008 and played every game from then on.

We have two main scenarios for fantasy purposes. Either Ballantyne recovers early and debuts by round 2 or 3, in which case you’ll want him in your side from round 1 a la Rhys Palmer last year. Or, Ballantyne is kept in cotton wool and doesn’t debut until round 5 or 6, thus hitting the bubble (when his price changes in AFL Dream Team and Super Coach) only by round 8 or 9. In the second scenario, you don’t want him in your starting line up because (like Cotchin) he becomes an outstanding trade-down target for forward cash cows, whose price should have leveled out by then according to the rookie reaping graph.

It appears the West Australian newspaper is all over this story so we’re likely to get breathless updates on the latest pronouncements from the Fremantle staff. Every fantasy coach should be listening, because if Ballantyne isn’t right for the first three rounds then some hard decisions have to be made about starting fantasy options. It was easier to commit to tall timber like Scott Gumbleton, Taylor Walker or Jarrad Grant when you knew you could safely stow them on your bench as they accrued profits, but what if you have to start one of them? Those who were forced to start Kurt Tippett last year know the pain of inconsistency in tall forward rookies. Chris Yarran is a consistent small forward type, but many coaches are looking to start more than one forward rookie due to the depth of the position this year and there’s no guarantees on similar-sized forwards like Simon Hogan, Steele Sidebottom or Nick Heyne getting a string of early matches.

Starting the wrong forward rookie while you’re waiting for Ballantyne to heal could cost you hundreds of points. What’s your opinion on this potentially disastrous news? Who are you going to replace him with in your Fanplanner plan team? Which of the tall timber can you rely on most as a starter for the first couple of months of the season? Tell me in the comments.



  1. Fatty

    January 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Surely it’s Gumby. At least until he breaks in half like Bruce Reid did in the 12th Man.

  2. Cam

    January 28, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    You mean Breece Rude?

  3. Ash

    January 28, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Well well well what to do, say he debuts at round 7 then i have 6 games to get out of a consistent fwd, but who?

  4. ryz

    January 28, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    not all bad i spose. although as you said, if hes not going to be in the team in the first few rounds, you would rather him come back almost mid season from a dt POV, that way we can downgrade him as we bring in a stud. im happy with yarran and steele in my fwd line, with gumby or rusling also

  5. NatTheRat1

    January 28, 2009 at 3:01 pm



  6. Heater

    January 28, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    This does put a spanner in the works. I did not have him in my starting 22 but he was going to be a cash cow nonetheless.

    Might go with Rusling? But then again I may not…. Decisions, decisions.

  7. hamole

    January 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Mitch Brown anyone? He’s got the endurance (Scored close to a 15 in the beep test if I remember) to play as a lead up forward. Is rated extremely highly by West Coast fans and coaches a like so you’d imagine games wouldn’t be all that hard to come by. Showed in his first few AFL games that he was reasonably consistent in his scoring.

  8. Heater

    January 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Yep, Mitch Brown (WCE) has been added to my squads.

  9. XztatiK

    January 28, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    There’s so many other options. I wasn’t 100% sold on Ballantyne anyway.

  10. ShrewDext

    January 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Ballantyne is rubbish, his WAFL credentials never did anything for mine. Ive always been a Michael Walters man.

  11. dylan

    January 28, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    ash if debuts at round 7 that means u have 8 games before u downgrade because u may as well wait 2 extra weeks before he goes up in price.

  12. bartman74

    January 28, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Anyone think Macaffer for Coll. might be a show ? Played well in the VFL last year and with Medhurst possibly struggling and Rocca always a doubt maybe a show ?

  13. Chad

    January 28, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Very bad news, i guess the question could be who benefits from this? Does Walters get games now? Are you better off getting Walters and downgrading him to Ballantyne when get gets a game?

    Nick Heyne could be the other one to keep an eye on. Hmm, still too far out, but not liking the news.

  14. Chad

    January 28, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Bartman if Rusling or Rocca go down before round 1 i reckon i will take a long hard look at mcaffer.

  15. Morts

    January 28, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Mitch Brown is on my backline bench so can’t grab him, i’ve had Ballantyne pencilled in ever since draft day. Already planning on Yarran as my second bench player so I guess Gumby might be the man.

  16. MiGZ

    January 28, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    ShrewDext Says: 4:30 pm, January 28th, 2009

    Ballantyne is rubbish, his WAFL credentials never did anything for mine. Ive always been a Michael Walters man.

    How can you possibly say that! this kid, hes 21, has kicked 75 goals as a small forward, in a shit Peel team, and then on top of that taken home the sandover medal. Thats some serious achievment for someone so young. I dont know him personally, but i do go to uni with several blokes who play with him and they all say hes the real deal. Personally, i’m sold if hes fit to play.

  17. NT.Thunder

    January 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I really dont see what all the fuss is about, Monty you should be able to just put a blank rookie price in your plan teams this time of year as no descisions should be made before the first bounce of NAB. Obviously we all have numerous players wh’ve penciled in but untill we see how they fair NAB Who cares……But Ballantyne’s news hasnt made my day

  18. Ash

    January 28, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    dylan, yeah i ws just thinking that after i posted, it dont bother me, i think he will be a good pick up no matter when he debuts

  19. jarrad

    January 28, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    looks like it will walters until he’s fit

  20. Dan

    January 28, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    not worth worrying about just yet
    other options maybe become apparent after some NAB games

  21. sam

    January 28, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    how many rookies have people got placed in their starting 22…if any? and in what positions

  22. Ash

    January 28, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    sam i plan on having
    def 1
    mid 2
    ruck 0
    fwd 2

    plus 8 on the bench, so 13 in total

  23. Athomas

    January 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I have:

  24. broady

    January 28, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    think trent hentchsel as a replacement…. almost rookie price.

  25. Heater

    January 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I have 7 rookies on my bench and 2 in my starting line up (Rich & Yarran)

  26. Mark

    January 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

    With Freo pre season reports out of the West stating that Tarrant may play 1/2 back or wing ala Richo style should Ryan Murphy perhaps be considered?

    @ $202,900 SC he isn’t at basement prices but potentially a bargain.

    Forgive my sarcasm MiGZ I was only following suit.

  27. ShrewDext

    January 29, 2009 at 10:35 am

    * With Freo pre season reports out of the West stating that Tarrant may play 1/2 back or wing ala Richo style should Ryan Murphy perhaps be considered?

    @ $202,900 SC he isn’t at basement prices but potentially a bargain.

    Forgive my sarcasm MiGZ I was only following suit.

  28. abs of steele

    January 29, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Rusling might be back in the picture for me now that he’s gonna start doing contact drills.

  29. freosteve

    February 2, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I am liking the look of Tom Lynch, anyone have more infor here?

  30. Florida's finest

    February 3, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I think Broady has a good point in Trent Hentchsel. Looks good to go for round 1.
    There seems to be plenty of bargains in the forward line for players coming back from injury….. Ben Mcglynn, Anthony Rocca, Des Headland, Scott Lucas, Sean Rusling. All of whom should be starting if fit. Thoughts on these players?

    Does anyone expect Jack Watts to be playing this year?

  31. HAWKS 2009

    February 5, 2009 at 12:54 am

    So does anyone have any idea of the extent of this injury, and how long he will be out for? It could be a blessing in disguise if he doesn’t debut until round 4 or so, especially with the plethora of forward rookies that seem to exist……….

  32. Mitch

    February 8, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I have Chris Yarran, Scott Gumbleton, Jack Watts and Steele Sidebottom.

    Which one should i take out for Ballantyne?

  33. Porps_is_HOT_loz

    February 8, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    He’ll miss one game fellaz, nothing to worry about.

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