Pour the slab: Dogs v Saints wrap

St Kilda and Footscray weren’t foundation clubs, but they are laying foundations for the future.

Pour the slabFox Footy is running a series through the NAB Challenge on where the premiership clock is at for each team. For the Dogs and Saints, this is more pertinent to their current situation than most, since they have both seen the recent departures of a raft of senior players who had taken them to the top four in previous years, and both have rather young lists full of developing and untried kids.

This is often fodder for fantasy coaches, as coaches will be prepared to “get games into” the kids with high time-on-ground commitments regardless of team results, which is the sort of thing you want from fantasy rookies. Production out of the young players at these two clubs has been mixed since they passed into their rebuilding phases, though. Saint newbies Jimmy Webster, Nathan Wright and Jack Newnes disappointed their owners last year. Bulldog pups Jake Stringer, Nathan Hrovat, Jackson Macrae and Michael Talia impressed in some games but were rested a tad too much for fantasy purposes. (As a mature-ager, this trend didn’t apply to Brett Goodes.)

So we come to 2014, where the mantra is still to “play the kids”, though perhaps more at St Kilda which has a new coach in Alan Richardson, while the Dogs did manage more than half a dozen wins last year in the middle of their rebuild so you could argue they are in front on that premiership clock. Both clubs have some fresh draftees that they will play, some of whom we saw on Wednesday night.

From St Kilda, Eli Templeton kicked 2.1 from eight touches with one mark and one tackle for a 43/48. This is what you’d expect from a small crumbing forward, and it makes him a nice player for the Saints but not suitable for fantasy given the limited nature of his involvements. Jack Billings managed four touches from 42% TOG after being subbed on for the second half, suggesting that his preseason was hampered by a pre-Christmas calf injury in Colorado, not to mention his lack of games in his young career. He would be a major vest candidate even if picked. Luke Dunstan, the Saints’ other first-round draft pick in the offseason, registered 10 possessions and three tackles for a 37/54 in 51% TOG, suggesting he also is being nursed into the season.

The Dogs had most of their senior side in and none of their national draftees, meaning we will have to wait to see the likes of Mitch Honeychurch and Matt Fuller, not to mention Sam Darley from the PSD. The excitement on their side was over whether their young players can take a further step this year, for fantasy as well as real footy. Jake Stringer presented well and perhaps more importantly drew the footy to him in the first place, albeit in the absence of much else in the tall forward department for the Doggies. This didn’t translate into great numbers for himself, but if the Dogs can look to him and know that he will bring the ball to ground by at least halving the contest, that brings other players into the picture.

Tom Liberatore (101/156) lifted his numbers by 20 in DT and 24 in SC last year to almost premium status, and there’s every chance he can follow in his father’s tiny footsteps to become a fantasy giant. In Supercoach, in particular, he could lift this year to rival Jobe Watson and Joel Selwood as the premier pure inside mid in the competition, on raw stats anyway. While Jack Steven (87/128 but zero marks) is at a similar stage in his development and arguably has nearly as much upside, I’d give Libba the decided edge in that fantasy battle.

Jackson Macrae (92/106), taken in the same draft as Stringer in the previous season, is the one who looks to be benefiting from a more settled structure. 10 of his 26 touches were contested, but in comparison to other Dog mids he was relatively outside – only Adam Cooney and Liam Picken had similarly outside-leaning ratios. He’s at a tricky price of mid 60s in salary cap, so maybe he’s more interesting for draft leagues where he’s still classified as a forward, but he could also add double figures to his average in 2014.

As I have been saying a bit on the live chat recently, I’m a fan of Tom Hickey this season. I don’t rate Longer to take significant points off him this season – note, this is not a judgement on Longer’s long-term prospects, just for this year. The move by the Saints coaching staff to give Longer only 19% TOG as he subbed on and off for Hickey with 71% supports this theory. Hickey used that TOG to rack up 38 hit outs, though given the wet conditions there were more stoppages than normal with 101 hit outs recorded for the game! Five tackles and two marks supplanted Hickey’s 85/104 for a pleasing return. If (like me) you are locking in Matthew Lobbe as R1, most of you would plump for Aaron Sandilands at R2, whom I am trying to stay away from because I never like risking a ruckman with dodgy feet; I will probably end up halving my bets by going for 211 in DT as he’s $40K cheaper, and sticking with Hickey in SC where they are priced about the same.

Lin Jong bobbed up with a 73/70 and piqued some interest given he is rookie priced. He is on the watchlist but I expect him to struggle to make the first 22 from the start, plus even if he does play I’d think he’d be more of a lockdown back pocket type like Jason Johannisen. He totalled ten tackles in this game, a stat which is impressive but not sustainable. I’d love some Linsanity as much as anyone, but he’s not named Liberatore!

Are you playing any of the kids from the Dogs and Saints? Who would you choose, Libba or Steven? Do you see where I’m coming from with Hickey, or should I give up and get Sandi like everyone else? Let me know in the comments.

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