Club-by-club AFL DFS observations for 2019:
Since we watched the AFL Premiership Cup fly west again in 2018, there have been many forms of Daily Fantasy Sports that have attempted to fill the void.
We’ve dabbled in NFL, NBA and BBLL (the extra L is for lottery).
We’ve donated money to Hedge Hopkins - the newly crowned King of AFLW DFS - and we’ve even thrown cash at the most meaningless form of DFS available - the JLT series!
While these sports have all had their moments, nothing can hold a candle to the number one DFS sport in Australia - AFL.
2019 promises to be an interesting season with AFL House implementing several new key rule changes, and it is likely that some of these changes will have some impact on fantasy scoring. Exactly how significant these impacts will be, depends on who you ask.
An even competition (well at least in the top half of the ladder) and a bumper crop of young talent add to the season’s intrigue.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been busy compiling this preview for you all. Some of these tips will be relevant directly to the upcoming AFL Round 1, others you might have to wait a while for, and the rest... well, they could be the most horrible takes ever published on the subject (or any subject for that matter). While I have written about several stars of the competition, I’ve also attempted to delve a little deeper into team lists in an attempt to find breakout contenders and potential value plays.
Finally, keep your eye out of the new Draftstars concept, Drop One. With this game type, only the scores of your best 8 players count, while the 9th player drops out.
It’s fantastic that Draftstars is trying to keep the market fresh, and potentially broaden the appeal of DFS in Australia. DFS players frequently complain about late changes killing their lineups, and Drop One does potentially solve that problem (unless you’re unlucky enough to cop multiple late changes or injuries). It will also be interesting to see the strategies people use when playing Drop One.
Will people simply burn a $5K fwd/def so that they can fit more studs in? Or will more even lineups be the key to Drop One success?
Let's get started on this season preview, then, shall we?
Adelaide’s nightmare 2018 season really began late in 2017, as the Crows attempted to move on from the pain of their Grand Final loss with a controversial preseason training camp. The rumours of players being deliberately tormented by the incessant playing of the Richmond theme song (YELLOW AND BLACK!) may or may not be true, but it sure makes for a good story.
A soft tissue injury plague and some terrible form of key players made 2018 a year to forget for the Crows faithful. With a fit list and healthier mindset, the Crows could easily get back to their best in 2019. A midfield of "Crouch-ing Brothers, Hidden Sloane" is a scary prospect, as is the half-back link work between Rory Laird, Brodie Smith, Wayne Milera and Paul Seedsman.
However, it is in front of the sticks where Adelaide’s biggest improvement needs to come. The Crows simply did not get enough out of key forwards last year. Statistically, Taylor Walker and Tom Lynch had their worst outputs in years and robbed the Crows of one of the historic strengths.
A preseason darling of fantasy writers, Brodie Smith looks set to make a big impact in 2019. Smith only played two games last year after rupturing his ACL in the 2017 AFL Finals series. Averaging 80 in 2017 at half back, Smith is one of Adelaide’s primary distributors, and, most importantly in 2019, takes the majority of Adelaide’s kick-ins. As mentioned in the introduction, the new rules for kick-in duties in 2019 may provide as much as a 10-15+ points boost to fantasy scores. I’m hoping that Smith’s price will be a little lower than it should be in Round 1. For these reasons, Brodie Smith will be one of my first picked in DFS, as well as other forms of AFL fantasy.
On any given night, you could make a case for playing any or all of Adelaide’s beastly midfielders. For me, however, Rory Sloane is my weapon of choice when it comes to the Crows on-ballers. Sloane was hampered by persistent injuries last year, and most of the 12 games he managed to play were injury affected, and as such, never got close to his best real life or fantasy form. Having signed a massive five year contract last year, Sloane looks committed to leading the Crows back to the top of the ladder. He appears fit and hungry, and I’ll be backing him to rediscover his fantastic 2017 fantasy form. During that season, Sloane averaged 107 and surpassed 130 an impressive nine times.
No, the other Tom Lynch. Like his forward line buddy and Captain, Taylor Walker, Lynch had a disappointing 2018. He was down in every measurable statistic and struggled to impact games with his trademark running ability and link work across half forward. At 28, Lynch is the prime of his career, and I’m predicting a return to form in 2019. Lynch’s fantasy ceiling is not reliant on scoring goals and his ability to fill the stat sheet is exactly what we want in AFL DFS.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
The Crows are one of 2019’s big improvers. It wasn’t so long ago that Adelaide was terrorising backlines, kicking monster scores each week. If they can stay fit and erase the memories of 2018, the trip to Adelaide Oval will once again cause nightmare for opposition coaches.
For the first time since the heady days of the early 2000's, there is a buzz around the Brisbane Lions. Having seemingly arrested the alarming trend of young players returning home to the southern states, the Lions are quietly building a terrific list. Brisbane have an underrated spine, with Harris Andrews and Eric Hipwood on the verge of breakout seasons.
Dayne Zorko, and new midfield recruit, Lachie Neale, lead a young and talented midfield, while Luke Hodge continues to mentor Alex Witherden and his backline comrades. There is a lot to like about Brisbane in 2019 and while they might just short of ending the longest AFL Finals drought (nine years) in 2019, the Lions are certainly moving in the right direction.
I mentioned Witherden last year, and he takes top billing at Brisbane in 2019. Out of all the kick-in specialists, I believe Witherden will see the highest fantasy benefit. Last year Witherden took just over 50 percent of Brisbane’s kick-ins (one of the highest percentages in the league, behind just Shannon Hurn, Jake Lloyd and Jayden Short). What separates Witherden from most of these other blokes is his preference to play on. Witherden played on from 40 percent of his kick-ins, and some quick maths demonstrates the fantasy bonus we could get with the new rule.
In 2018, Withereden averaged 6 kick-ins per game, and played on 2.4 times per game. This provided a small bonus of 7.2 fantasy points per game. If Witherden played on that much last year, imagine he plays on 80-90 percent in 2019. This would increase his “play on bonus” to nearly 15 points per game. This is exactly the kind of edge you need to take down a GPP.
Brisbane have some of the best young midfielders going around, and could even be forming the second incarnation of the Fab Four (if you’re too young to remember the first incarnation then Google it).
If Brisbane can keep McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Cam Rayner and Zac Bailey together, there’s no telling how good their midfield can become (it’s worth mentioning that Lachie Neale is also only 25). Of this group, however, it’s McCluggage I like the most. The kid is pure class and his game has very few holes. While his true fantasy potential has not yet been realised, we did see glimpses of his ceiling in the second half of 2018.
After the bye, McCluggage averaged 87.5 including 7 x 90+ scores (3 x 100s).
For sheer GPP winning upside, Tom Cutler is an attractive DFS prospect (as long as he retains his spot on Draftstars’ list of defenders). With his big frame and excellent endurance, Cutler has the rare ability to fill nearly every line of the stat sheet (his tackles counts are a little low and show that he does love an uncontested possession). Cutler had five games of over 20+ touches AND 10+ marks. It sounds crazy but this was the second highest number of 20+/10+ games last year by any player (Shannon Hurn with 6x)! Cutler’s consistency can be questionable and he does have a tendency to play better when the team is winning, but for sheer slate breaking ability, Cutler’s your man.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
Brisbane push for a drought-breaking AFL Finals birth.
Champion Data have ranked the Lions as having the 3rd easiest draw and with double-ups against the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast Suns in 2019, the Lions could be knocking on the door of the eight come season’s end.
While we saw some improvements in the Blues last year, their 2018 season was - predictably - poor. The combination of a young list and a lack of established top tier players made it difficult for the Blues to stay competitive. Still, there was a glimmer of hope in the eyes of Carlton supporters at season’s end. Patrick Cripps is a bona fide star of the game, Charlie Curnow looks like the reincarnation of Anthony Koutafides, and youngsters Zac Fisher, Harry McKay and Sam Petrevski-Seton have all shown promising signs.
Add in boom recruit Sam Walsh, Liam Stocker and VFL sensation Michael Gibbons and it’s not all doom and gloom for Carlton.
I don’t usually like writing up stud players in my articles but I’ll make an exception for one Patrick Cripps. I’m not quite sure how he manages to dance through congestion the way he does. At 195cm and 93kgs, Cripps is one of the biggest pure midfielders in the AFL. Cripps’ fantasy output reached new levels in 2018 with an average of 109.3 (including 14 x 100s). What I love about Cripps this season, is that instead of heading the bench for his rest, Cripps is likely to rest inside forward 50. With his height and strength, it’s not a stretch to see Cripps regularly kicking a few goals a game.
At first glance, Zac Fisher’s numbers don’t scream out at you. In fact, they don’t even look that great at second glance! Yet, I feel like the speedy Blue is on the verge of something big in 2019. Fisher’s main assets are his speed and precision kicking, but he’s also an elite decision maker and his contested work is underrated. Fisher will play a dual role this year: the Isaac Smith/Jared Polec handball-receive role on a wing, and he’ll be used in short bursts around the stoppages. I’d love to see Fisher get a little more hungry around the ball and add some bigger tackle counts to the stat column though. That said, with some more help on-ball, I think we’re going to continue to see Fisher’s star rise this year.
The former Swan had a frustrating 2018. With his trade papers clearly marked early in the season, Newman struggled to break into the weakest Sydney team we’ve seen in many years. Newman burst onto the scene in 2017 as a mature age rookie, averaging 86.6 off a half-back flank, but did struggle towards the second half of that season. Injury and baffling selection decisions kept him to just 10 games in 2018, and he soon found his way to Carlton during trade week. Sam Docherty’s unfortunate pre-season injury means the evergreen Kade Simpson will need plenty of assistance rebounding the ball out of Carlton’s backline.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
Sam Walsh is as good as they say he is.
The number one draft pick shattered all kinds of fantasy records in his TAC Cup year and has had fantasy pundits in a tizz all summer. Normally, I’m a little wary of hyped up first year players like Walsh, and I do expect that he’s going to have some poor scoring games. However, Walsh’s scoring potential benefits from Carlton’s lack of midfield depth. In fact, Carlton’s midfield is thinner than Matthew Kreuzer’s chances of getting through the season without an injury. Paddy Cripps is in desperate need of a midfield deputy, and it seems that Walsh is certain to get an early audition for this role.
The only possible way I could have been happier on Grand Final day last year was if it had been Melbourne who stole that AFL Premiership Cup away from Collingwood rather than West Coast. It was an example of the purest form of schadenfreude... and it was magnificent. Yet, we do have to pay the Pies a fair amount of credit. The execution of their 2018 game plan was excellent. The decision to leave first year player Jaidyn Stephenson as the lone target inside 50 was simply inspired, and almost reaped the ultimate reward.
The Pies were fantasy gold in 2018, with Collingwood midfield combinations my stack of choice whenever they were on a slate. Collingwood had the highest total fantasy points, the highest number of 100's per game and the highest number of 120's per game. Oh, and they also had a brand new superstar ruck in Brodie Grundy.
The only challenging aspect of playing Collingwood players in DFS is making sure you’ve got the right ones! The absence of Taylor Adams in the early part of the season should make this task a little easier for a while.
It’s a case of now or never for Josh Thomas in 2019. It’s been two full seasons since the half-forward/midfielder’s drug ban and at 27, the time is nigh for Thomas to take his game to the next level. Thomas played 22 games last year, so it’s hardly like he’s playing for a place in Collingwood’s best 22. However, he does need to influence the game more often, and for longer periods of time. While Adams is out with injury, Thomas is one of several Pies who will see extra midfield time. Thomas has flashed a seriously high ceiling in the past and I’m hoping to see it more often in 2019.
I hate seeing footballers have their careers cut short due to continued injury - especially good ones. For this reason, I truly hope that Jamie Elliott is finally over his long injury issues. A dynamic and freakishly talented player, it’s easy to forget how damaging Elliott can be. His fantasy upside is excellent and he has the ability to consistently kick multiple goals per game. Coupled with his sensational marking ability, Elliott will be high on my hit list, especially if his salary provides value.
After a blistering start to 2018, the long season seemed to catch up with the Collingwood champion. After battling through injury in the second half of the year, Pendlebury looks rested and ready to lead his team towards the ultimate prize once again. While everyone else is jamming in Brayden Sier and Rupert Willis to get Taylor Adam’s missing midfield minutes, I’ll be turning to captain Scott Pendlebury. Everyone’s favourite former AIS level basketballer has a truly elite fantasy record - over the past nine years, Pendlebury has scored 100+ in 70% of his games. Now, such a long trend isn’t exactly relevant in DFS but it’s just a reminder of how good this guy is.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
The Pies mount another serious challenge for the flag.
Their draw is tough but a game plan that suits each of the new rule changes perfectly will make the Pies tough to beat.
Essendon finished the season just one game off an AFL Finals berth, yet you’d have to call season 2018 a disappointment. This time last year, Essendon fans were celebrating their trade week triumph and dreaming of September, but, this promise failed to materialise with the Bombers unable to consistently implement their game plan. From a fantasy perspective however, Essendon provided a steady source of points, especially their multi-faceted midfield. The addition of Dylan Shiel to that midfield makes me a little cautious. Dyson Heppell, Zack Merrett, Devon Smith and Shiel could potentially all take points away from each other ,while utilities like David Zaharakis and Kyle Langford may spend less time in the guts in 2019.
The lanky defender burst onto the scene last year with one of the best statistical debuts in recent years, pulling in 7 marks to go with 25 disposals against Geelong last year. He then struggled in his second and third games before injuring his knee. Ridley has had an excellent JLT series and looks set to play the fantasy friendly floating defender role this season. Ridley’s preseason form may make him a popular choice in the early rounds, but as long as his salary offers value, he’s definitely worth consideration.
I’m going to mention several ‘situational plays’ in this preview, and Zac Clarke is the first. By situational plays, I mean these are players who you would only roster given the right situation. Zac Clarke for example: I wouldn’t play the backup ruckman if Tom Bellchambers, Joe Daniher and Shaun McKernan were all in the same team. In fact, I probably wouldn’t play any of them. However, we now know that Daniher will be missing for a month and Shaun McKernan failed to impress during the JLT series. This leaves Bellchambers and Clarke. Assuming we get Clarke at a discounted price, I’d be willing to give him a run.
Believe the hype, people, this kid can play. McGrath’s move into the midfield has been widely touted for the whole preseason, and in the JLT we got a glimpse of what it might look like. McGrath’s line-breaking ability will be a huge factor this season and his teammates will be keen to get the ball into his hands. While I’m not convinced that he has absolute monster scoring ability in him week after week, McGrath will be an excellent play if the price is right.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
Aaron Francis becomes the best player in the competition who you never play in DFS.
If wasn’t too long ago that we weren’t sure whether we’d ever see Francis play another game of senior footy. Thankfully, he's dealt with his physical and mental health issues and this year, I predict that we’ll see him become one of the Bomber’s most important players. Francis has elite vision and skills, and makes smart decisions on the ground. However, I’m not convinced that Francis can translate his skills into fantasy output.
Fremantle have the spent last 10,000 trade periods hunting a key forward. From Travis Cloke to Jack Riewoldt and everyone in between, the Dockers have never been able to land their big fish. Until now.
There was never any doubt that Jesse Hogan would return to his native Western Australia at some stage of his career; the Demons simply chose to trade Hogan while his value was at its highest. And, Fremantle weren’t done there. The additions of GWS ruck/fwd Rory Lobb, and Richmond's Reece Conca provide some much needed depth to a talented young list. The departure of gun on=baller, Lachie Neale, hurts, but it facilitated the aforementioned trades and will also allow Fremantle to better develop its emerging midfielders.
It may take this new-look Dockers side a while to gel, and I don’t expect them to play AFL Finals this season, however, they’re definitely moving in the right direction and provide DFS players will several viable targets.
Fremantle have some form in picking gun VFL players (Michael Barlow), so I’m willing to give former Williamston midfielder, Brett Bewley, a try. A former TAC Cup captain, Bewley was overlooked in his draft year and has since been one of the VFL best young players. He possesses both an inside (4.2 tackles per game) and outside game (4.2 uncontested marks and 8.5 handball receives per game), and also has a prodigious left boot. Even with the young midfield that Fremantle has, I think that Bewley will play plenty of football this year and he’ll fit straight into AFL level when he does. Bewley will be bottom priced to start the season but don’t expect that to last long.
It won’t be long until the Brayshaws become the AFL’s new premier football family. Free from his concussion issues, older brother Angus enjoyed a breakout season while former number #2 draft pick Andrew was slowly building momentum until Andrew Gaff *cough* intervened *cough*. Brayshaw averaged 19.8 touches, 3 marks and 4.5 tackles over his last 5 games (including the “Gaff Game”). His elite running ability gives him an edge over his opposition, and personnel changes in Fremantle’s engine room opens up more midfield time.
This is another situational play for now. With Connor Blakely missing for the first chunk of the season, Ed Langdon will be relied upon to produce some half-back drive. Langdon had an excellent 2018 in his own right, averaging 88, including an impressive ten 100's. Blakely’s absence will allow him some more opportunities to improve his scoring consistency as well. Langdon is also part of Fremantle’s midfield rotation which further adds to his fantasy value.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
Jesse Hogan establishes himself as the best forward in the competition.
Hogan started reeling in some Riewoldt-esque numbers last year, and I’m expecting more of the same in AFL 2019. He may take a few weeks to find his feet at Optus Stadium, but once he does, look out.
The Cats are a hard team to write about this year. For every reason that makes me think they’ll play AFL Finals in 2019, there is another reason that makes me think they’ll slip down the ladder. If it wasn’t for one of the best home ground advantages in Victorian football, then I think this slip would be at firmer odds. As amazing as Geelong’s top 5 players are, the gap between those guys and the rest of Geelong’s list is concerning. If Geelong are to play finals, then they’ll need more from their second tier players and youngsters this year.
From a fantasy perspective, the Cats stud midfielders are always worth considering - depending on salary - however, as I’m not about to sit here and tout Dangerfield and co. Let’s try to look a little bit deeper.
Some DFS players have a strange aversion to rostering too many players from the same team in their lineups. I’ll admit, it does sometimes make me uneasy to look at a lineup and see it mainly filled by one team. But, it shouldn’t. I’m not a huge subscriber to the “they’ll take too many points off each other” theory in most situations. With Brandon Parfitt, the fact that Geelong’s key mids are such fantasy beasts is actually a good thing. Although Parfitt certainly loves a bit of contested ball, it’s on the outside where his skills best complement those of his teammates. Parfitt is a running machine and his stamina allow him to rack up some impressive statlines. Having shown tremendous upside on a few occasions last year, Parfitt definitely provides you with GPP winning potential.
There are few of us around Fantasy Insider HQ who believe that the new rule changes are going to led some huge scores from key forwards. Tom Hawkins could be in for a significant fantasy boost as teams struggle to plug defensive holes due to the 6-6-6 starting structure. Hawkins took his game to a new level in 2018, achieving career-high averages in kicks, total disposals, marks and goals. Averaging 88 fantasy points across 20 games, Hawkins also scored more 100's and 90's than in any previous year. Granted, a lot of Hawkins’ increased fantasy output was achieved from his work presenting up the ground, however, if we can pencil in a few more games played and 1-2 more goals per game via the new 6-6-6, then Hawkins’ DFS appeal becomes apparent.
The first year Geelong defender rocketed up in draft calculations during the second half of the year. A hard-running half-back, Clark is blessed with an elite kick and just seems to make good decisions. Excluding Zac Tuohy and Tom Stewart, Geelong’s back line has never been a rich source of fantasy points. I think Jordan Clark bucks that trend and regularly contributes value-exceeding games. If Clark is well priced for his expected Round One debut, then he’ll be a terrific value option.
Roody's Note: I’d love to see Charlie Constable be given a decent go but with Geelong’s midfield overflowing with talent, it’s just hard to see this eventuating early in the season unless injuries hit.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF…
Geelong misses AFLW Finals this year.
With too little left to too few, the once mighty Cats could be in for a reality check in 2019
Gold Coast Suns
Last year, I asked you whether I really had to write up the Suns and this year, I’m begging you to let me stop! Anything could happen on Suns' slates this year - records will fall against a list that is arguably worse than when this team first debuted in 2011. Pre-season injuries to key defenders Jack Leslie and Rory Thompson make their backline even more susceptible than it already was. This uncertainty makes for some tempting GPP plays. To take down a GPP you need to take calculated risks - you need to structure your lineups based on best-case scenario and cross your fingers. This is exactly what the Suns will provide for us in 2019.
However, my guess is that they’ll provide this fantasy upside for the opponents, rather than for their own players. As such, proceed with extreme caution when rostering Suns players as their scoring potential could be seriously reduced by the absolute floggings that lie waiting on the horizon.
Injury, form and circumstance have conspired against 'Two Metre Peter' in his first few seasons of AFL footy. As a result, we’ve only seen glimpses of his ability, both in real life and in the fantasy footy realm. I don’t read too much into preseason form, but Wright was impressive against the Swans in JLT. He presented well at centre half forward, and wasn’t afraid to lead a little further down the ground as well. He took 7 marks in both JLT games and it also appeared that Stewie Dew was prepared to risk Wright a little more in a supporting ruck role. Wright is also a genuine goal kicker and whether it’s inside 50 or a long bomb, he has the ability to kick multiple goals per game - if, that is, the ball makes it to him.
The forgotten man of the Suns midfield, he battled admirably through every game of the 2018 season. Miller had an interesting year, being employed as a tagger with far more frequency than in seasons past. This didn’t impact his output too much, but we didn’t see some of the huge fantasy scores Miller has scored in the past. Still, he averaged 88 and reached 100+ on five occasions. The Suns need experienced bodies to help their young midfield, so my guess is that Miller will be asked to play a similar role in 2019. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Miller’s fantasy potential as, unlike some other Suns players, as a tagger, Miller will still be around the football most of the time!
I hope you don’t think I’m lazy writing up Fiorini for the second year in a row. Like I said, there aren’t many Suns players who you can rely on in terms of fantasy upside this year. Fironi, however, remains someone who has a ceiling that I’m willing to chase. It’s been a frustrating couple of years for Fiorini and fantasy coaches alike. Since his ridiculous second game score of 166, the Suns midfielder has only played 24 out of 44 possible AFL games. The fact that his career fantasy average is 91+ is testament to his clear fantasy appeal (and to that insane second game score!). Fiorini possesses a complete stat filling game and is equally suited to an inside and outside midfield role. Salary and game script would be the only things stopping me from playing a lot Fiorini this season.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
Things get real ugly for the Suns this season. Multiple records will be broken and unless we see some big upsets, there is a real chance the Suns could finish without a win at all this year.
Similar to Geelong, for the Giants to take the next step this year, a lot of their improvement must come from their second and third tier players. We know exactly what we’re going to get from the Giants’ stars each week. Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield and Stephen Coniglio are going to rack up insane stat lines and if you can jam them all into your lineups then by all means, go for it. Toby Greene has been a source of fantasy goodness in the past and it will be interesting to see whether he can get back to his best. It’s a crucial year in the Giants’ development with a failure to go deep in AFL Finals seen as a huge disappointment.
I am Shaw that Heath will find his way into some of my early round lineups (see what I did there?). Outside of Lachie Whitfield, I see the Giants’ back six as being a little unsettled. Zac Williams has been dealing with injury and the Giants are trialling players like Finlayson, Cummings and Perryman as running defenders. This is why I’m looking so closely at old man Shaw. At 33, Shaw is now one of the oldest veterans in the competition. However, he has hardly missed any games over the past five years with injury. He’ll be important to the Giants’ defensive structure this season, and his ability to put up some absolute massive fantasy scores cannot be doubted.
Playing key forwards in DFS can be risky. A quiet day in front of goal can spell disaster for your lineup. So when I do roster key forwards, I like to play blokes who have other avenues to fantasy production. Jeremy Cameron’s ability to lead up the ground, gathering marks and disposals along the way, makes him a very attractive proposition. When Cameron is quiet, he’ll still have his 5 marks, 15 touches and a goal or two (this gives him a floor in the mid to high 60's). But when he is is cooking, he has real 120+ upside. In 2016, Cameron averaged over 100 which is incredible as a key forward. This may have been three years ago, but I can’t see why Cameron can’t hit those lofty heights again.
After flashing his potential in previous seasons, Tomlinson had a much more consistent year (both in real life and fantasy) in 2018, with the tall utility averaging a modest 74 across 22 games. Now, this average might not impress you that much, but if you’ve watched Tomlinson play, then you’ll know why I’m touting him. He’s a solid unit at 194cm and 96kg, but his endurance is elite. Tomlinson is one of the best runners at GWS, regularly finishing runner up to their former time trial specialist in Tom Scully. He’s an excellent mark and can also provide some ruck support when required. Tomlinson is rarely heavily owned and is a great way to get exposure to the fantasy friendly Giants.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF…
The Ferrari finally begins to purr.
We’ve seen glimpses of the scary scoring ability the Giants possess in the past. But in 2019, I think we’ll see the Giants cause some major waves.
Last year I made an analogy between Hawthorn’s rebuild, and trying to change a tyre while driving a car. Well, you know the car that Alastair Clarkson was driving? During preseason, the whole damn chassis collapsed.
A long term injury to Tom Mitchell is a significant blow to Hawthorn’s AFL Finals chances in 2019, and Clarkson will have to work his patented magic to cover for this loss. Hawthorn’s list is at an interesting stage with veteran leaders Shaun Burgoyne, James Frawley, Jarryd Roughead and Isaac Smith all now over 30. The young midfield brigade in Liam Shiels and Jaeger O’Meara will need to step up, as will generation next players James Cousins, James Worpel and Harry Morrison.
I’m genuinely intrigued by Hawthorn this season and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in Alastair Clarkson’s Guide to Genius Coaching.
The mere fact that JOM played 20 games last year surprised many football writers and fans. The fact that in each one of the games JOM significantly influenced the game, however, surprised no one. There isn’t a football fan in Australia who ever doubted JOM’s skill or ability. Instead, we just wondered if we’d ever see that ability on a regular basis. Well, now we know, and without Tom Mitchell around, I expect to see JOM’s fantasy output go through the roof. O'Meara has an exceptional dual inside and outside game and with more confidence in his body, he should thrive with the added responsible this season will demand.
While it’s true that all Hawthorn midfielders receive ‘Mitchell bumps,’ I’m particularly bullish about rostering James Cousins, especially in the early rounds of the season. Cousins was given a fair run in the midfield during the JLT series, returning scores of 111 and 81. These performances also included an average of 6.5 marks and 4 tackles. Healthy stat lines like these are exactly what we want from a DFS midfielder. The other advantage that Cousins provides is salary relief. Banking an 80-100 score from a value player like Cousins will allow you to spend up in other positions.
As I approach a significant time in my own life, I’ve begun to reconsider the way that we look at older players in fantasy football. Your mouse hovers over a veteran like Burgoyne and there’s a little voice inside your head that tells you “but he’s so old.” What you should really be doing is listening to the other voice inside your head that tells you “but he’s so good.” As Hawthorn reshuffles the magnets to cover the loss of Mitchell, Burgoyne’s utility role becomes even more important. He’ll alternate between half-forward and half-back, racking up disposals at will. I probably wouldn’t play Burgoyne if he was over $12K, but anything less than that and he’s on my list.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
You see Tom Mitchell playing A LOT earlier that you think.
In my 39 years of being a Melbourne supporter, I can’t remember the expectations regarding our list and its potential ever being so high. Naturally, this scares the shit out of me. When the Demons were switched on last year, they looked like the best team in the competition. With multiple avenues to goal and a lightning fast game plan, Melbourne was able to put some huge scores on the board. The Demons were the second highest scoring fantasy team in the league in 2018, with points coming from a number of different positions. We had Max Gawn dominating in the ruck, DPP players like Harmes and ANB tonning it up in the forward line and we even had a glorious few weeks when Angus Brayshaw was a defender. Steep salaries would be the only thing that would stop me rostering multiple Demons in every lineup. The key Melbourne DFS players are clear to see. For that reason, I’ll try to find us some alternative angles to Melbourne’s ample supply of fantasy goodness.
This time last year, Fritsch was one of the most frequently mentioned players on SuperCoach twitter. It didn’t take us long to see why. The mature-age rookie immediately looked at home at AFL level and excelled in a number of positions around the ground. Fritsch had a solid debut fantasy season, demonstrating a high floor and strong ceiling. Fritsch was unceremoniously dropped on the eve of the now infamous Perth semi-final (which turned out being a good thing for him!) and he’ll be keen to prove to selectors that he deserves his spot in Melbourne’s best 22. I’m a sucker for versatile players in DFS, and Fritsch is exactly that. While I’m hoping that Fritsch settles into a more permanent half-back/wing position, I’m confident he can earn points in varoius positions. I’m backing Fritsch to consolidate his strong fantasy debut season and flash more of that upside this year.
I think that I’d really dislike Petracca if he played for another club. He’s got that mix of arrogance and freakish ability that would make you hate him more the better he plays. The knocks on Petracca are obvious and oft-repeated - he needs to impact the game more frequently and for longer periods. With another preseason under his belt, I think there is every chance that in 2019 we see Petracca start to actualise his potential on a more consistent basis. Petracca scored over 90 points on eight occasions last year, turning two of those scores into 100's. I’ll eat my proverbial hat if he doesn’t build on that 100 tally this year. Petracca’s explosive midfield work will be called upon more often, and the loss of Jesse Hogan means the Demons will need more out of Petracca when he goes forward, as well. I expect this dual role will see Petracca log a high TOG and allow him to continue to improve his fantasy output.
After a breakout 2017, Jayden Hunt struggled to break his way into a purring Melbourne machine. The line-breaking half back looked a shadow of his former self, and played out most of the season in the VFL. If Hunt can rediscover his speed and form, then he could become the perfect weapon for the new 6-6-6 era. Each time Hunt gets the ball, he is a legitimate chance to move it 100+ metres on his own. It was also interesting to see Hunt used in the forward line during the JLT, although I’m not convinced that this is where he plays his best footy. Hunt has flashed some serious upside in the past and while this prediction could easily blow up in my face, Hunt could easily provide that POD difference you need to a win a GPP.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
That Jayden Hunt prediction goes down as my worst take since I started writing for Fantasy Insider.
Written off by most commentators at the beginning of 2018 as potential wooden spoon contenders, North Melbourne surprisingly finished only one game short of finals. The Roos rediscovered their 'Shinboner Spirit' to grind out a number of hard-fought wins - the kind of games they had been losing far too frequently in seasons past.
Career-best seasons from Shaun Higgins, Ben Cunnington and Jack Zeibell and a return to form for ruckman Todd Goldstein were pivotal to North Melbourne’s success.
Oh yeah, and having a forward like Ben Brown definitely helps too.
The Roos split the Josh Kelly War Chest to invest in a number of recycled players. Jared Polec, Jasper Pittard, Aaron Hall and Dom Tyson provide excellent support to North Melbourne’s senior players. Polec in particular will give the Roos some much needed speed across the ground.
A word of warning - be cautious of players from other clubs in the early rounds. It often takes these players a bit of time to get used to new structures and new game plans and this can affect fantasy scoring.
The young midfielder started to flash his serious upside towards the end of last season - averaging 104 over his last five games. It’s worth noting that North Melbourne’s season was still on the line in these games and were far from dead rubbers. Dumont has triple-threat upside (disposals, marks and tackles) and also loves kicking a goal. My only concern is whether the arrival of Hall and Tyson reduces Dumont’s midfield time or even worse, relegates him to a tagging role. If I’m Brad Scott, I’m putting time into my youngsters and letting Dumont really establish himself as a key part of North Melbourne’s midfield.
Know this now - rostering Ahern is high risk, high reward. Ahern is now simply one of a number of midfielders/half-forwards who will rotate through various positions on the ground. Ahern may be stuck in the forward pocket for half a game or he could see 5+ centre bounces. If this kind of uncertainty makes you nervous, then I completely understand. But what I love about Ahern is his ability to score fantasy points in a hurry. Remember folks, this is not Supercoach or AFL Fantasy - we don’t need Ahern to consistently score 100's. We need him to kick three goals in a quarter and spend the rest of the game racking up disposals in the midfield.
I can qualify this JLT-influenced recommendation by bragging that I actually played MacMillan in his 40-possession, 11-mark preseason game against St Kilda. Now I would also like to qualify that qualification by reminding everyone that #preseasondoesntmatter. What is relevant, however, is MacMillan’s role in the North Melbourne backline. Last season, MacMillan took 31% of North’s kick-ins. Of the 69 (tee hee) kick-ins taken by MacMillan, he played on 20 times. Considering the penetration MacMillan gets with his booming kicks, I would expect to see him playing on this season more often than not. Similar to Dumont, the new North Melbourne recruits may impact MacMillan negatively, but I’m still confident having him in my player pool.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
After taking a few weeks to gel, North Melbourne continue their rapid improvement and play finals in 2019.
It was a disappointing year for the Power, who finished a game short of AFL Finals. Considering the talent on Port’s list in 2018, you can understand the frustration of Power fans. Consistency is something Port has struggled with for the last few years, and this won’t be helped by off-season departures of Jared Polec, Chad Wingard and, to a lesser extent, Jasper Pittard.
Hawthorn flanker Ryan Burton and West Coast ruckman Scott Lycett join the Power this year but if Port are going to improve on their 2018 season, more growth is needed from their second tier players.
My other general concern with Port is how they manage their forward line height. I doubt whether Paddy Ryder, Scott Lycett, Justin Westhoff, Charlie Dixon and Todd Marshall can all play in the same team, especially if the season proper is played with the same speed we saw in the JLT.
I’m winding back the clock with a few of these Port players, and my first one is Robbie Gray. The nuggety half-forward/midfielder burst out of the fantasy blocks in 2018 and by Round 8 Gray was averaging 107 points per game. After Round 9, however, Gray only averaged 73 points. This drop off was dramatic and I’m sure many people were like me and burnt many lineups hunting that Robbie Gray bounce-back which never eventuated. That said, Gray looked fit and hungry in his JLT appearances and I was interested to see him spend significant time in the midfield. As we’ve known for years, Gray’s ceiling is monstrous and can score fantasy points in the blink of an eye. I’ll be keen to see his starting salary, but if it’s fair, then I’ll be all the way with Robbie Gray.
My second 'Benjamin Button' prediction was somewhat spoiled by his insane score of 178 in JLT2. I couldn’t wait to play Rockliff in Round 1, especially if Ollie Wines wasn’t ready to go. Sadly, Rockliff totally scuttled my plans with one of the biggest fantasy scores we’ve seen in recent times. While I don’t expect to see repeat performances of this score, Rockliff is certainly back on my radar. If you need to know why, then you probably shouldn’t be playing this game. Last year was only the second time in 8 seasons that Rockliff has finished a season averaging less than 100 points. Still not impressed? Then go back to 2014 when the King of Pigs averaged 134 points over 18 games. If Rockliff can wind back the clock, there is no telling what he could do this season.
This is a purely positional recommendation but for as long as we can select Lycett as a ruck/forward, then he’s going to be in my player pool. Now I know this recommendation goes against two points I’ve already made:
(a) that Port are too tall, and;
(b) avoid players in new teams.
However, Paddy Ryder doesn’t look 100% fit and it seems as though Lycett will be trusted as the number one ruck. Lycett is capable of 100+ scores and it will be interesting to see whether he gets a boost from the new ruck rules. If he’s only a available as a ruck and it’s a multigame slate, then I probably won’t roster him but when the situation is right, he’s a fine GPP play.\
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
Tom Rockliff records the biggest fantasy score of the year. He’s back baby!
I think I’d rather write another Suns preview than write up Richmond again. Not including the AFLW Finals series, Richmond featured in eight single slate DFS contests last year (more than any other club). Writing fantasy advice for the third worst fantasy scoring side in the competition on eight separate occasions was more painful than watching Jimmy Stynes run over the mark back in 1987. With multiple DPP forwards, multiple 80-110 midfielders and multiple 70-90 defenders, Richmond’s list was never really conducive to elite DFS plays. In 2019, I’m sad to say that not much as changed. The effects of Tom Lynch’s arrival will be interesting to see on a real footy and fantasy perspective. Lynch’s opening price of $11,670 is fantastic. It’s expensive enough to ensure that he’s not chalk, but cheap enough to make him a viable play. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll now go through my normal pre-Richmond write up ritual of watching the 1987 AFL Preliminary Final.
It’s going to be a big year for the Rioli clan. For different reasons, both Daniel and cousin Willie are due for breakout seasons. Daniel Rioli had a delayed start to last year because of injury. He didn’t play until Round 13 and finished the season averaging a modest 66 points per game. You might wonder then, why I’m writing him up in my preview? Well, I’m glad you asked. We know that Rioli is an excellent pressure forward and that he can easily contribute 4+ tackles and 2+ goals per game. What I think we’ll see this year is Richmond begin to let Rioli off the leash for some midfield stints. The absence of Josh Caddy in the early part of this season also add to Rioli’s appeal.
There are hardly any bona fide slate-breakers on Richmond’s list - hardly any players who can single-handedly catapult towards a podium finish in a GPP tournament. One of these players is Dion Prestia. Admittedly, it has been a while since we’ve seen the full height of Prestia’s ceiling. Despite an average of 86 last season, Prestia only raised the bat at 100 once in eleven games. However, if you go back to 2017 and further, you’ll see that when he does pass 100, he notches some impressive scores. In fact, over his entire career, in games where Prestia passes 100, his average score is 118. Granted, we haven’t seen that upside often enough since he made the move to Punt Road, but I’d rather roster Prestia and chase that upside than another one of Richmond’s bland as white bread midfielders.
It’s often difficult for first year players to break into good teams like Richmond. However, if Jack Ross does get a chance early on, he’s definitely going to be on my radar. An inside midfielder with excellent running ability - at 6’1 and 87kgs - Ross has a big frame from a first year player. He uses his body well around the contest, and was a clearance machine for Oakleigh in the TAC Cup. Despite an interrupted season with the Chargers, Ross still took home their Best & Fairest. When he does get a chance, Ross could very easily pop up for a value 70+ score.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
The arrival of Tom Lynch totally scuttles Richmond’s game plan.
There’s no doubt that Lynch is a gun, but for so long Richmond have based their game plan around a solo key forward in Jack Riewoldt. I’m predicting that it is going to take longer than expected for Lynch and Richmond to learn how to live together.
St Kilda FC
Unfortunately, Saints supporters, I think it’s going to be a long year. The Saints’ list is at an interesting stage in its life cycle, and at the moment it more closely resembles a caterpillar’s cocoon than it does the butterfly which eventually emerges.
The Saints have been hit hard by injury during the preseason and JLT competition. Best 22 players Dan Hannebery, Nathan Brown, Jake Carlisle, Billy Longer, Paddy McCartin, Dylan Roberton and Jack Steven will miss time early in the season, if not more. While this does open opportunities for other players, it makes the Saints extremely vulnerable on the field, especially down back.
St Kilda does still have several attractive fantasy players but just be wary that Saints games could get very ugly this season.
Since we first saw him destroy the NEAFL while waiting for a proper run at GWS, fantasy coaches have been waiting for Jack Steele to unleash his beast mode. Towards the end of 2018, we finally saw Steele’s full fantasy potential. Steele averaged 122.5 points over the last month of the season including an average of 29 disposals, 6.5 marks and 7.8 tackles. These are huge numbers and Steele’s two JLT tons suggest that he’ll be able to continue this form into 2019. Steele will also receive a slight bump in output for as long as Jack Steven is out.
Upside, upside, upside. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that. Although Billings wasn’t able to back up from his breakout 2017 campaign, it’s clear that the talented half-forward/midfield has upside to burn. And you know what, I’m not even that scared of the variance of Billings’ fantasy output. In fact, it’s what makes him such a viable GPP play. Plenty of coaches will pivot away from Billings, scared off by his occasional low floor games. What these coaches don’t realise is that a player like Billings is exactly who can win you a GPP. The one thing that I hope changes soon is his DPP status. As they’re available as both a forward and a midfielder (as is the case with Billings) DPP's automatically attract higher ownership levels. Again, that’s absolutely fine in the case of Billings, in which case fading him is just as viable as rostering him.
With Billy Longer still a few weeks away and Lewis Pierce recovering from a concussion sustained in JLT1, I’m hoping that we get at least a few weeks of Rowan Marshall as the Saints’ sole ruck. Let me be very clear. If you’re a ruckman in a team that plays multiple rucks, then good luck getting into my lineups. I would not play Marshall if Pierce is fit as they’d simply eat into each other’s production far too much. However, if Marshall is left to ruck alone, then add him to your player pool. Marshall caught my eye last year and I was impressed with his mobility and versatility. Marshall is a competitive ruckman but can also collect a decent amount of disposals (averaged 13.4 disposals per game last year).
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
St Kilda are the first team to lose a coach this season.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from Sydney in 2019. So strong is the famous Sydney culture that no matter how bad their team looks on paper, you always feel weird discounting them from AFL Finals contention.
That said, I think this season will be the biggest test Sydney have faced in some time. The Swans will hope that Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy can rediscover their midfield mojo, and that Buddy Franklin can defy logic by dominating again despite not having trained properly all summer.
Significant expectations follow the development of Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney and Jake Lloyd and they’ll need help to carry this burden.
Write Sydney off at your peril, but I can see things being tougher than usual for the Swans this year.
I could be completely overestimating the impact of the new kick-in rule, but Jake Lloyd should be one of the major beneficiaries from this change. Especially when he plays at the SCG, I can legitimately see Lloyd playing on 100% of the time. Lloyd took 147 kick-ins last year and played on 30% of the time. This percentage should skyrocket this year, and although he’ll be expensive, I’m backing Lloyd to become the highest averaging defender in the league.
Quick, without looking, guess how old Luke Parker is? 28? 30? No and no. I had to do a double take when I realised that Luke Parker is still only 26. There are no excuses then, for Parker not to arrest the form and fantasy production slump we witnessed last year. Now you could say that my use of the word “slump” is a little unfair on Parker as he did still average 95 fantasy points. However, if you remove his penultimate round score of 143, that average drops lower. What we saw last year from Parker that we have never seen before from him was a low fantasy floor. Parker looked sharp in both JLT games and if he’s given more midfield time than he was last year then he’ll be hard to ignore.
My recommendation of Callum Sinclair is dependent on two situations. First, I’d play Sinclair if he was the sole Sydney ruck on a slate. Sinclair demonstrated terrific upside last year and his ability to slide forward to snag some glorious +12's (mark, kick and a goal) is handy in GPPs. If Sydney play Sinclair and Naismith together (once the latter is fit) then they both become easy fades. The other situation in which I’d play Sinclair is if Buddy Franklin was to miss. Aliir Aliir showed during the JLT that he handle ruck duties (provided the Swans are not playing a monster solo ruck), leaving Sinclair to play as a key forward. Matching up on the 200cm Swan would be a challenge for all defenders, especially in the context of 6-6-6. Playing Sinclair is definitely a ‘horse-for-courses’ strategy but should the right situation present itself, then he’s a fine play.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
The Swans somehow find a way to play finals despite having their weakest list in years.
West Coast Eagles
There aren’t many barriers in the way of West Coast’s AFL Premiership defense in 2019. Courtesy of one of the biggest home ground advantages in football, the Eagles are as close to a top four certainty as we have this year.
The Eagles have managed to keep their playing list largely intact, apart from one major issue - their ruck division. With Nic Naitanui injured - again - and the departure of Scott Lycett to Port Adelaide, the Eagles will rely heavily on Nathan Vardy and new recruit, Tom Hickey. Neither of these guys fill me with confidence and the Eagles could be exposed here.
Injuries to forwards Josh Kennedy and Jamie Cripps will also need to managed in the early rounds.
I mentioned earlier that it was going to be a big year for the Rioli family. This time it’s Willie’s turn in the spotlight. Small forwards are even more riskier to roster than key forwards, but I just have a hunch that Rioli is going to take the next step this season. We know the kind of forward pressure that Rioli can apply, but this season, I think we’ll see more half-forward link work from him as well. We saw a little of this towards the end of last year and again in the JLT. If we can get Rioli for $9K or under, then I’ll be very keen to give him a run.
I don’t know about you, but I like my DFS players with 130+ upside. Aside from a Josh Kennedy goal-scoring bonanza, Jack Redden has the highest fantasy ceiling in his team. True, he also has the ability to go missing and lump you with an 80. But his massive upside cannot be ignored, especially on smaller slates.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
The Eagles go back to back.
I’m not sure that I have the patience required to be a Bulldogs supporter.
It’s not a matter of the ability of the playing list - the Bulldogs have talented young players all over the ground. Instead, it’s a matter of how these players are coached and moved to different positions so frequently. After dominating JLT1 as an intercept defender, Aaron Naughton was thrown forward in JLT2. Now, I’m not an idiot, I understand the value of defenders playing the odd game (or % of a game) as a forward, or dropping a developing midfielder behind the ball - varying a player’s position for the sake of their overall development is nothing new. It’s just the sheer number of times that Luke Beverage has done this to his players over the last few years.
For the DFS coach, the variable of Bulldogs’ positioning does make selecting the right player a little challenging at times.
Let’s see whether we can navigate through some Beveragisms (or is that just Beverages?) to find some decent Bulldogs plays.
Don’t even start to second guess yourself. If you can fit Macrae into your lineup, then do it. What Macrae was doing in fantasy football last year was otherworldly. Macrae finished the season averaging 33 touches, 5.8 marks and 5.4 tackles per game. At the moment, Macrae has one of most complete inside/outside games in football, and his supreme running ability allows him to negate hard tags. He’ll be expensive this year but with the value that we should be able to find in the early rounds, you should easily be able to fit him into your lineups.
The Dogs have several talented running players on their list. Whilst they all have some upside, it’s Bailey Williams that I’ll be turning to first up. Williams was on the verge of a breakout season in 2018, finishing the season with an average of 80 (including 20 disposals and 5 marks per game). I’m expecting these numbers to continue to increase this year. As I’ve mentioned previously, running players like Williams will be critical in 2019. While Williams isn’t the accumulator that Macrae or Lachie Hunter are, his drive off half-back and the wing will be a crucial element of the Dogs’ ball movement this season.
Note: there are two Bailey Williams' this year. Bailey W Williams is a first year ruck-forward who plays for West Coast - has an amazing draft tape too this kid!
After watching this kid play, it’s hard not to start imagining just how good he could become. Smith has it all. Elite endurance, exceptional kicking skills and footy IQ to burn. Smith captained the Sandringham Dragons in the TAC Cup last year and was named the MVP in the Under 18 Championship, so we know he can stand up when it matters. What’s impressive about Smith’s game tape and JLT performances, is the way that the moves both when he has the ball, and when he doesn’t have the ball. Smith has great anticipation of where to move next and this is an excellent sign of his innate football ability. I expect to see Smith very early in the year and once he’s in, you watch him stay in for the rest of the season.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF...
Josh Schache silences his doubters and kicks 40 goals this year. And Bailey Smith upstages Sam Walsh to win the Rising Star.
CARLTON v RICHMOND PODCAST 👇