With around 260 full squads entered into the Fanplanner feature by coaches planning their 2009 Dream Team and Super Coach teams, many trends are becoming apparent, with one of them being that certain “premiums” – high-priced players who are either in or just outside the top 10 for their position – are on the nose with the vast majority of coaches. Fantasy coaches talk a lot about “uniques” – players who are unpopular but could give your team the jump on everyone else if you pick the right one – so let’s look through them.
In the backs, by far the most popular premiums are Chad Cornes and Brendon Goddard, and it’s easy to see why. Chad is undervalued after an injury-plagued year, and Goddard had an outstanding finals series, at least from a fantasy perspective. Luke Hodge, Sam Fisher, Grant Birchall and Chris Newman also get some love. At the other end of the scale, however, are some surprising names.
Joel Bowden is the most expensive back at a projected $470,000 in DT, after a year in which he was dropped to the VFL for a month by Tigers coach Terry Wallace to toughen up his game. It didn’t seem to work all that well if hardness at the ball was required, because his tackle counts didn’t improve markedly when he was given a reprieve, though he did go on to win a fair few games later in the season. Bowden still plays the same old outside receiver job in the backline, and he still has trouble shutting down an opponent. I’ve already said in this blog that I like the Tigers a lot this year for fantasy, with Bowden being one of the shining stars. He’ll turn 32 during next season which is still way off from superannuation. He’s going to be a top 7 back by the end of the year if not top 3, thus you’re going to want to pick him up at some stage, and he doesn’t historically have poor starts. Why not pay for quality to begin with? Price must be the only thing holding coaches back.
Paul Wheatley was the #3 fantasy back in 2008 out of nowhere. The ball spent a lot of time in Melbourne’s backline this year, and Wheatley spent a lot of time rebounding and playing kick to kick while his opponents flooded the centre. There’s no indication at this stage that Dean Bailey is going to modify the Demons’ gameplan next year, nor that Melbourne is going to win many more games than they did this year, and with the lack of action in trade week they haven’t changed their personnel. The delisting of Chris A. Johnson means Wheatley has one less halfback rebounder to compete with for a spot, while Brad Green could well be moved back up the ground leaving even more ball for Wheatley. It may not be healthy for the MFC for Wheatley to play the role he’s playing, but I don’t rate Bailey as a good enough tactician to coach him out of the bad habits he’s gotten into.
Andrew Mackie and Nathan Bock at #4 and #11 in price respectively are also being marginalised. Both players have aging/retired backline teammates who will give up more responsibility to others in 2009, with Adelaide losing Nathan Bassett and Geelong likely to start transitioning out some of its older backs such as Darren Milburn. This is probably bad new for Mackie and Bock in DT, but could be good in SC as contested possessions go up.
Finally in the backs, Corey Enright is projected as the #7-ranked fantasy defender in the Fanplanner where I have made the (possibly bold) assumption that he will be reclassified as a back. While he is in about 10% of plan teams, I think this number is rather low. With the aforementioned Milburn aging, as well as Scarlett and Harley the wrong side of 30, the 28-year-old Enright could get a lot more rebounding work.
In the midfield, the top of the pops is all rookies and mid-price improvers (unless you count Jordan Lewis and Jed Adcock as premiums which is borderline), with the first true premium being Kane Cornes in DT at #9 and Jimmy Bartel in SC at #3. The ABC engine room at Geelong is predictably popular with Gary Ablett jnr getting more buys than Joel Corey, while Dane Swan, Shane Tuck and Chris Judd are numerous.
Scott Thompson is barely seen in plan teams, which is interesting because he was a top 5 midfielder this year and doesn’t look to have much in the way of competition at Adelaide. Brent Reilly and Chris Knights had injury-interrupted 2008s but it’s not as if they’re going to eat into ST’s TOG (time on ground) once they get back to 100% health. Thompson proved he can snag the big scores, passing 115 seven times during the season, so he’s a legitimate captain choice against the right opponent. If people aren’t prepared to shell out for Bowden and will instead pick up a Birchall, why not shy away from ABC and look at ST?
Matt Priddis is equally as stinky according to Fanplanner users. Everyone seems to be getting on board the Daniel Kerr bandwagon if they’re touching any Eagle mids, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Kerr cops the tag every week while Priddis is allowed to run outside and rack up halfback receives as much as he wants, due to the lack of hurt factor. Kerr being healthier this year will probably increase Priddis’ stats more than Kerr’s.
Marc Murphy was a top 10 fantasy centre in his third year in the AFL, managing a 97.1 average in DT, yet he’s also scarce in Fanplanner squads. Is it so crazy to think that there’s still improvement left in him? If Carlton is going to make the eight this year, as so many pundits project, surely Murphy has to have a better year. Again, a healthier Judd will probably make Murphy’s numbers look better.
Another #1 draft pick, Brett Deledio, will most likely be a centre in fantasy this year given his role during 2008… which will still place him inside the top 10 at his position. He was picked there for a reason, because he has the quality to step his game up each year, and as part of my bullishness on Richmond I’m prepared to predict another jump in stats for Lids in 2009. He’s in about 20% of plan teams but that’s not nearly popular enough in my opinion.
In the rucks, I’ve already expressed surprise at the love of Hamish McIntosh over many other premiums, given how he has to share work with Drew Petrie and David Hale, not to mention the offseason unrest with his contract. If you’re looking for value in your #2 ruck position – which I think is risky in 09 without a clear Troy Simmonds type – I actually like Dean Brogan a lot more, with the proviso that it is clear that the #1 ruck mantle has been well and truly passed from Brendon Lade in the pre-season.
David Hille is the most egregious omission from the list of most popular rucks. With a chip on his shoulder about All-Australian selection, close to zero threat for TOG coming from Jason Laycock, and an Essendon side that should improve next year, all signs point to him being reliable.
I also like Darren Jolly a lot in Super Coach, though he’s currently only in one SC team. One! He did turn in some shockingly bad numbers in games towards the end of the season, but with no Peter Everitt and only kids like Daniel Currie and Jesse White to support him in 2009 it’s all down to him at the Swans’ endless procession of stoppages.
For the forwards, it seems a lot of coaches were burnt this year by talls who got off to poor starts to the season. Nick Riewoldt and Jonathan Brown are both outside the top 15 in DT, though they both appear towards the bottom of the top 7 in SC. Brown in particular was a heartbreaker because of the preseason reports that all said he was gunning it, which in retrospect were all rubbish because it was revealed afterward that Brown was actually carrying injuries at the time. Riewoldt had a red hot second half of 2008 but plays Sydney in round 1 and then Adelaide away – though Rooey actually has a decent record against those two. The big run of games at Docklands early in the season is also a good sign. Riewoldt is just as likely as Lance Franklin to have a poor start given their respective schedules and histories, which makes it unbalanced that Buddy is so much more popular.
Matthew Richardson, on the other hand, is in a bare two DT and four SC teams at last count. This is perhaps understandable given his age, the fact that he suffered with stress-related injuries for the second half of 2008, and that his change in role to the wing was the major factor in those injuries, making it probable that it can’t be sustained over the course of a season. Nevertheless, even with the hotspots, bruising and soreness he still managed to be the #3 forward this season, and if Richmond is going to challenge for top four this year then he’s got to get even more leather.
Still on the injury-plagued, I’m a little surprised that Adam Goodes is still only in about 10% of sides. Reclassifying him as a CTR/FWD is perhaps too hopeful, but he’s a midfielder in forward’s clothing so he deserves to be in more squads, especially in Super Coach where you can never have too many Swans.
You lot are the ones who are using the Fanplanner, so how much consideration have you given to the above names? Can you see any “uniques” you would now look at again?