Lids off: Pies v Tigers wrap

Tiger fans have a lot to look forward to in 2014, and Richmond is filled with fantasy prospects too.

The Wangaratta match was more like a full hit out for both sides than most in the preseason this year, with not too many missing from best 22s for either side, and it was a fairly even contest until Q4. That Richmond ran away with in the end is neither here nor there. The Tigers look like they are set to go at least one better by winning a final this year, in accordance with the progressive blueprint that Damien Hardwick helped create for the Hawks prior to the 2008 flag. The Pies look more like a team in transition; they ran the ball through a centre a lot more in this game than has been traditional for Collingwood since the Mick Malthouse era. The playing group have been quietly fighting against Buckley’s urgings not to overpossess around the wings, though, and I suspect their pattern of their mids racking up touches but their forward line not capitalising enough to beat the good sides in big games due to poor delivery is going to continue.

Either way, both of these clubs are going to beat up on some minnows this year because they have a lot of firepower. There are still questions about both half back lines, as no one seems to want to play there for Collingwood in place of the departed Heath Shaw. Again, Marty Clarke (45/56), Tony Armstrong (20/16) and the vested Peter Yagmoor (11/0) all failed to impress. This brings rookie-priced Jackson Ramsay (45/48) into round 1 calculations. Ramsay was a bottom-aged draftee in 2012, and played out all of the second half of 2013 in the reserves as the Pies made the VFL prelim. His game style is not based on a mountain of possessions, admittedly, but he does get forward for the odd long goal in the manner of Heater, and could very well fill the same role. Fantasy backlines are a bit light on for rookies this year, so he is very much worth watching, and would be worthy of at least a bench spot if named to play the Dockers.

On the Richmond side at halfback, we know Dustin Martin (114/119) will have games like this, and the tag put by Steele Sidebottom (71/79) on Bachar Houli (55/80) to negate Houli’s sweeper role was notable, but it was also interesting to see Nick Vlastuin return to the backline and register a 91/82 with a notable tally of nine marks to add to his 23 touches. Vlastuin had been used in some midfield roles in the second half of 2013, but it will be interesting to see if he is used similarly in the third preseason game against Essendon. Of course Steven Morris (66/59) was the back pocket in that side, but the bloke who bobbed up there a lot to get link work was the rookie-priced Matthew McDonough. His 75/65 included 21 disposals, five marks and a goal, and his history is as a forward, but in this game he played more of a roving commission. With Jake King (27/33) not used until after half time, and Chris Newman possibly missing round 1, there is room for a medium forward and McDonough is a like-for-like with Newman.

Another good performance from Sam Lloyd (66/78 including two goals) means that if McDonough and Lloyd are fighting over one spot, it would go to Lloyd, who is more of a classic crumber while McDonough is a lead-up +6 merchant. The Tigers small forward contingent for round 1 will most likely consist of Brett Deledio (134/124) rotating with the mids, Shane Edwards (69/91) as the deep crumber, and one of Lloyd or McDonough. Lloyd played further up the ground than Edwards, and managed to fashion a decent set of KPI numbers while doing so, which makes him the frontrunner in my eyes.

Meanwhile, the performance of Alex Fasolo is a worry for those who had hoped he would be a mid-priced forward lock. He looked short of a gallop, to put it kindly – I gave him the burger icon on the live scores page, which was not putting it kindly! While this is the one thing you can hope would be fixable before round 1, the fact that he’s still not 100% coming off a year-long stress fracture issue does not fill one with confidence. Even if fit, only two marks and no tackles to add to his 14 possessions tells me he hasn’t quite got the all-round game that you’re looking for from a small forward. I’d be planning to leave him out at this stage.

In the rucks, Brodie Grundy (24/16 with 17 hit outs) had a mare while Ben Griffiths (66/84 with 16 hit outs and 1.2) put in a very serviceable application for the spot in the Richmond 22 which could soon be vacated by Ivan Maric. Hardwick is mulling over whether to send Maric for ankle surgery with an unknown return date, which would put the rookie-priced Griffiths in the frame for an extended run in the seniors rucking in tandem with Shaun Hampson (64/72 with 26 hit outs). This situation is well worth monitoring; while you wouldn’t expect Griffiths to put up those sort of numbers in the regular season and thus not be startable, he would definitely be worth a bench spot if Maric does go under the knife.

How many Tigers and Pies do you have in your starting salary cap squads at the moment? How many of these rookie-priced prospects are you making room for on this form? Do you have faith in Fasolo? Let me know in the comments.

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