Let’s try this: Top 10 signs your 2009 fantasy AFL team is terrible

Once a year we put on the double-breasted suit, hold a little blue card and make like Letterman.

The first version of this feature looks a lot like this year’s second edition, funnily enough…

#10: You haven’t got Chad Cornes. Okay, so this advice last year wasn’t great, as Chad picked up about a gazillion injuries and eventually succumbed, Gulliver-in-Lilliput style, but not before making his owners suffer through some un-Chad-like scores. When fit and firing, as he appears to be now, Chad is the #1 fantasy back, capable of averaging 100+ in both AFL Dream Team and Super Coach. The only other back to consistently average more than 90 as a fantasy defender (as opposed to Johnny-come-latelies like Heath Scotland) is Joel Bowden. It is mandatory for a good AFL fantasy team to include Chadwick, a.k.a. Studley, a.k.a. The Chad. Don’t leave home without him.

#9: You’re starting a rookie ruck in your 22. For some reason, the rucks have been the subject of some of the most intense speculation in the 2009 fantasy pre-season on the various boards, such as the Bargain Ruck Theory thread on the FanFooty forums. All sorts of theories have been put forward as to why you should avoid the likes of Dean Cox, David Hille and Drew Petrie and instead plump for lesser options. Yes, it’s easy to see that Nick Naitanui is a quality player. Sure, Jesse White looks like he’ll do alright this year. Fine, have Jake Spencer in your 30. Just don’t put any of those boys in your 22. Young ruckmen take a long time to develop. Even Josh Fraser, first picked in the 1999 draft, had a debut season in 2000 that was not fantasy-22-worthy. Keep them on your bench and start Bradd Ottens or Hamish McIntosh as your #2 ruck at the very least.

#8: You’ve picked injured and/or sore players. Obviously you shouldn’t have any of the players who have already been ruled out for the first month at least, but I’m talking here about players who are probably going to represent some good value at some stage during the season, but not from round 1. These players are on the dreaded “modified program” due to very poor fitness levels from an interrupted preseason, and many of them won’t even play in round 1. This includes Mark Coughlan (who I’m still seeing in a lot of sides), Matt Maguire (ditto), Xavier Ellis, Jesse W. Smith and Hayden Ballantyne. It is not out of the realms of sanity to select someone like Ballantyne or Naitanui and take a chance on their fitness returning well before the first cash cow culling window of rounds 6 to 8, though that is a big risk – especially with those two players in particular, who would be likely to be eased in through the WAFL first.

#7: You haven’t at least addressed the cluster in your structural thinking. The adoption of the rolling zone in 2009 is going to mean some changes in fantasy scoring. While we don’t know for sure, we can guess that it is going to mean big numbers for half-backs, be they flankers who play kick to kick who will be great for Dream Team, or Luke Hodge types who will be fabulous for Super Coach as well as DT. This also means that loading up on premium key-position forwards is a far riskier proposition this year, as many of the NAB games have featured a lack of inside 50s while the ball pings between the arcs.

#6: You haven’t picked Shaun Higgins. Last year I nominated Nick Stevens in this slot, and while Paul Hasleby would have strong claims, Higgins is even better value with a stronger fitness base. Come on, he should be an absolute lock. Should give you 22 games of sterling service.

#5: You’re buying too many premium forwards. Last year I advised not getting the entire ABC engine room of Geelong’s midfield because they didn’t have much improvement left in them. Bzzzt, wrong answer! Oh well. So, take, this advice with a grain of salt: I reckon the large array of options among the mid-pricers and rookies in the forwards are too good an opportunity to pass up, particularly relative to the back and centres. Any more than two premiums in Dream Team and three in Super Coach is too many in my opinion.

#4: No rookies in your 22. Don’t play it safe! I learned this lesson the hard way. It’s not actually a “risk” to start rookies in your 22, it’s mandatory. You are selling your team short if you don’t. Picking the right rookies is vital, obviously, but the rewards are far greater than picking a bunch of third-year players priced at $150k-$200k who will deliver the same scores at best. (Note: this advice is unchanged from last year.)

#3: You’ve picked 2008’s fantasy young guns instead of thinking about 2009. I was successful with this advice last year by talking down Joel Selwood, Jake King, Ricky Petterd, Andrejs Everitt, Clinton Young, Alwyn Davey, Tim Boyle and David Rodan. All would have been bad choices, or at least disappointing compared to what you would have been hoping out of them. This year a lot of coaches are buying Bryce Gibbs, another player whose breakout year may well have been last year and whose scores could level out below premium levels, like Selwood’s did in 2008. Whether this rule also applies to Bradd Dalziell, Cyril Rioli and David Mackay is going to be interesting. Other players you shouldn’t pick up according to this rule would be Rhys Palmer, Cale Morton, Tom Lonergan, Josh Hill, Simon Buckley, Harry Taylor and Garrick Ibbotson.

#2: You haven’t aimed for the top. It’s no good having 10 players in your squad who, at best, will improve from averages of 75 last year to 80 this year. You have to pick players capable of cracking the ton every week. It’s worth spending the extra money to get Brendon Goddard rather than Jason Gram, Brett Deledio rather than Travis Cloke. Goddard and Deledio are the players who can deliver consistent 100+ games, whereas Gram and Cloke just can’t get there often enough. That sort of penny-pinching will only pinch points away from your team in the long term.

#1: You just posted your entire squad to BigFooty. 😀

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