A second Sydney player has decided to hang up the boots before a ball has been bounced for 2009.
Hot on the heels of Nic Fosdike listening to his body telling him it can’t go on, Tadhg Kennelly will announce his retirement from AFL at a press conference later in the afternoon. While the retirement will be attributed to his chronic shoulder problems, Kennelly is expected to go back home to Ireland to play Gaelic football for County Kerry in the hope of winning the All-Ireland final as his father did before him. Both players will stay on the Sydney list for 2009, a situation forced on the club by salary cap pressures which is exacerbated by a rookie list that is two short, also a monetary issue.
Sydney have been threatening for years to drop precipitously down the AFL ladder. The Swans have the oldest list in the league by far, 230 days older than the second-ranked Cats. This year looks like being their annus horribilis, with not only Fosdike and Kennelly clogging up their list, but Leo Barry struggling with knee problems in what is supposed to be his last year. Eight surviving players had offseason surgery, all potentially in their best 22, so with a first month that goes St Kilda, Hawthorn, Brisbane (at the Gabba) and Carlton, they could very well start the season 0-4 and not be able to recover.
The first question that fantasy coaches want to know is: how does this affect Nick Malceski? Malceski has been running hot in the Fanplanner all through the preseason, comfortably inside the top 7 most popular defensive starters. He and Martin Mattner are the only specialised halfback rebounders left in the side now. Many coaches watched this situation last year as when all three were in the side, one of them usually missed out while the other two scored heavily. With only two of them remaining, odds are that the scoring will settle down into a more predictable pattern.
The fly in the ointment, however, is Rhyce Shaw. As a very outside player, it was looking like he might not fit neatly into the Swans structure through the middle, which is almost exclusively populated by inside midfielders. Perhaps we haven’t been giving coach Paul Roos enough credit for his foresight. Did he recruit Shaw with the purpose of grooming him to replace the homesick Irishman? The NAB will give us the answer to that, I think.
As for the kids, information is thin on the ground. Take the Fantasy Freako’s judgment on possible half-back rebounder Matthew Laidler from last year’s Prospectus: “Don’t know enough to give you any advice.” In a case of serendipitous timing, the Swans web site today ran a story on rookie Kristin Thornton and his chances of slotting into half back, though the comments about him wanting to play alongside Kennelly are unfortunate! If Thornton is indeed elevated to replace Kennelly, he’s worth getting a look at.
Another sneaky choice by Roos might be Kieran Jack, who was gradually moved from tagging roles to more of an outside game in the second half of 2008. The question mark over Shaw is, as always, his disposal skills. Shaw might be able to run most AFL footballers into the ground, but every now and again you find the ball in your hands and have to do something with it, and that’s where Shaw often falls down. Jack may not be a sizzling upgrade over Shaw in that department, admittedly, so his kicking skills are also worth keeping an eye on in the NAB. The Swans have to find an accurate, long-kicking runner from somewhere in their list.
I have always liked choosing Swans in Super Coach, due to the 10% premium that they get by smothering the opposition’s scoring and then benefiting from the normalisation effect that is applied to Champion Data ranking points at the end of each game. I picked Mattner last year in SC half on the strength of that, thinking that he would be an SC specialist as so many Swans are, but it turned out that Mattner would have been an excellent AFL Dream Team pick as well. How about you, what’s your policy on Swan players in DT and SC? Are you encouraged or discouraged to pick up the Eski? Does Shaw interest you at all? And what about Mattner, who gets no love in the Fanplanner at all? Tell me in the comments.