Here lies Grimey: Jack Grimes to miss start of 2009 AFL season

Melbourne’s small defender stocks are depleted before the season has started, opening up opportunities.

Jack Grimes is the latest general (i.e. non-key-position) defender from the Demons to be confirmed to miss round 1, with a back problem. According to the Herald-Sun, the injury is different to the one that caused him to miss much of 2008, but it will hold him out of the first game of the season against North Melbourne at least. Back problems do tend to turn into long-term issues, and Grimes does have a history even though this isn’t a recurrence of the older injury.

This news comes on the back of Daniel Bell‘s thumb injury sustained on the weekend, Paul Wheatley‘s lingering convalescence from a calf injury, and the likelihood that Matthew Whelan will also miss round 1 with another calf problem. The Demons are blessed with tall defenders, with five of them competing for spots in the 22 come opening weekend, but with Melbourne facing the likes of Lindsay Thomas and Matt Campbell, with Brent Harvey pushing forward and the likes of younger players like Jack Ziebell and Ben Ross also spending time in the Kangaroos forward line it would be folly for Dean Bailey to err on the side of height in his selected backline.

So who does Bailey have left to rely upon? Simon Buckley seems ensured a spot now, at least. Brad Green spent a lot of games last year playing as the man in the hole across half back, though it had been seeming like Bailey wanted to use him in a more attacking role in 2009 – and Green’s far from the sort of hard-nosed, lock down defender that a pacy small forward like Campbell requires. The smokie of this situation is Kyle Cheney, a 2008 draftee who played for Sandringham in the VFL last year – for which I can’t get stats – and for the previous two years at North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup, for which I can present numbers to you now.

Kyle Cheney’s TAC Cup stats from 2006:
50, 66, 44, 32, 36, 64, 65, 40, 29, 50, 53, 55, 44, 42, 66, 32, 95, 57, 56, 67
Average: 52.2

… and 2007…
83, 61, 77, 44, 40, 59, 55, 59, 104, 85, 92, 64, 136, 83, 104, 97, 45, 50, 99, 100, 96
Average: 77.8

I like the progression of those numbers, particularly the last month or two of 2007. Cheney’s kick-to-handball ratio in 2007 was an extremely healthy 284 to 117, up from 163 to 80 in 2006, so he loves to get the ball on the toe. The effectiveness of his possessions, albeit in the low pressure environment of the TAC Cup, were also solid at about 68% for his kicks and 83% for his handballs.

Along with Nick Suban, Jared Petrenko and Nathan Grima, Cheney has to be considered a strong candidate as one of the vanishing few rookie-priced backs who will get a consistent run of early games in 2009, helping to stave off any repeat of last year’s backopalypse. With Grimes out of the picture for now, realistically, it becomes all the more important to nail which of those four – or other smokies who come out of the clouds in the next eight days – are the ones to buy for your fantasy teams.

Tell me your thoughts on what the Grimes injury means to your team, if anything, and how it screws wiht your structure.

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