Oh no, not this guy again: the “why did I pick him” players

Players like Adam Hartlett destroyed fantasy team structures last year with disappointing seasons. Lest we forget.

Following on from my last post about players who have you asking why you didn’t pick them, here’s the flip side of the coin: players who tantalised you all through the preseason, got talked up in fantasy media, starred in the NAB, made the fashion pages perched on the arm of some perky starlet from Neighbours… and then before you can say Mitch Robinson you found out that he was injured, suspended, a late withdrawal, or just not very good.

I apologise in advance to those fantasy coaches who have only just got over the nightmares from last year, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to make you relive them. Let’s start with Adam Hartlett, shall we? Mooted as the solution to Carlton’s woes at finding a decent centre half forward, the perpetually proppy Hartlett got injured, then suspended, then injured again, eventually delivering four games for the year without reaching 50 in a game in either major fantasy competition. Or how about Albert Proud, who tore up the preseason with scores of 48, 107 and 57 but couldn’t find his name on the final team sheet for round 1, played two games in rounds 2 and 3 with very low time on ground, then was banished to the QAFL for reason known only to coach Leigh Matthews, with a cameo in round 7 and then nothing until round 18.

Or let us recount some of the many reasons we fantasy coaches hate Dean Laidley. There’s Scott D. Thompson, supposedly a lock in the Kangaroo 22, who played in rounds 1, 6, 7, 11, 12 and 21, and was no help at all during the worst of the backline shenanigans of 2008. Then there’s Lachie Hansen, who was one of the major causes of those shenanigans in the first place by not getting picked until round 13 despite strong pre-season form. Both played all four pre-season games, both made us despise Laidley even more.

I could go on and on about this, but let us recoil from the horrors of yesteryear and focus on not letting it happen again this year. Primary among the targets for my distrust in this pre-season are Ricky Petterd and Jack Grimes, as I have already touched on in my new year’s resolutions post. Petterd is by far the most popular starting cheapie in Fanplanner backlines, and third-most popular defender overall. I think most of you fantasy coaches out there are on board with me on the Laidley hatred, but I wonder how many of you even have an opinion on Dean Bailey yet. The Sword of Damocles is hanging over these two Demons, I fear. Having both of them might not even save you, as they are not exactly fighting for the same spot. I have seen several credible “best 22s” on the BigFooty boards that included neither player – not to mention some non-credible teams that had one or both (for some reason Demon fans hate taggers like James McDonald, Lynden Dunn and Clint Bartram, not to mention established backmen like Matthew Whelan and Paul Wheatley, and instead fill their best 22 with outside receivers).

Then there’s the other kind of mirage, the high-upside youngster who promises superstardom and delivers cod ordinariness. Chris Egan, Ricky Dyson and Kayne Pettifer were the most egregious examples of 2008. Some just aren’t cut out to be fantasy players… and then some just aren’t cut out for the AFL. Looking over this year’s crop, I think Jay Neagle is primed for this sort of fall, even with this mooted Gumby’s Box featuring four talls. Scott Gumbleton is clearly the better player of the two, and four is just too many talls to carry, which means Gumby taking the lead and relegating Neagle to Bendigo.

Speaking of over-rated tall forwards, there’s Taylor Walker. I think I am probably spending to much time talking about the young Crows this pre-season, because there’s just so much material that the Crow fans post on the boards. The only problem is that very few of you are taking any notice, judging from the Fanplanner. Walker is their saviour up forward in an attack that is desperately crying out for a reliable tall, and coach Neil Craig did nothing to douse the fires of fans’ passion with this story on AFL.com.au. Like Jarrad Grant of the Bulldogs, Walker has almost too many expectations on him, something that Tom Hawkins has struggled with (in addition to his chronic foot injury, that is). Tall forwards do not develop as slowly as ruckmen, but even Lance Franklin took two or three years to blossom into a fully-fledged senior player.

The other interesting aspect to that story is the bucket that Craig tips on Patrick Dangerfield, who is by far the most popular Adelaide youngster in the Fanplanner. Craig is a fitness fanatic, so the news that he’s disappointed with Dangerfield’s training regime last year (with a nice old backhander to the Geelong Falcons while he’s at it) is a bad sign for the kid’s 2009 prospects, particularly given how the coach handled Walker last year. Then again, there was another young Crow prospect last year who was a poor trainer and didn’t manage to meet most of Craig’s fitness ideals… Jason Porplyzia.

Tell me who you’re worried about amongst your cheapies in the comments. In particular, tell me if it’s making you think of changing your structure… I was looking over some old forum posts from early 2008 today, and I lost count of the amount of posts claiming that they settled for Hartlett as their seventh back because he was the only decent prospect. Wouldn’t that make you think of moving some money from elsewhere to buy someone better? Let me know your take on this issue.

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