Hawks vs Demons
No matter how many times I keep trying to nail that lid shut, it just keeps on flying off! Again, I’ll try to maintain as objective as possible throughout this article but can you blame me for getting excited!? The Dees were impressive last week and if not for some wayward kicking in the second quarter, the final margin would have completely blown out. Yet no matter how impressive that victory was, the same questions continue to be asked of Melbourne - can they stand up to the pressure of a big game? Like most footy fans, I was expecting Hawthorn to fire a bigger and better shot at Richmond last week than they did. Nash, Roughead, Ceglar and McEvoy are all over 193cm and against a small Richmond side in the wet, the decision to play them all was strange. We also expected a lot from Clarkson who responded brilliantly in his press conference when he said: “Occasionally you’ll win a game of footy with something spectacular… every side that’s won premierships is system-based, none of it tactics.” The scary thing for Clarkson and his Hawks is that Melbourne’s system is looking pretty damn good at the moment.
Melbourne does not have a good recent history against Hawthorn. However, there is a very good reason for this recent trend - Hawthorn’s peak coincided with one of the darkest periods of Melbourne’s history. Speaking of dark days, that’s exactly what us Melbourne fans called our Round 4 game against Hawthorn this year. After leading by 21 points during the first quarter, Melbourne gave away 16 of the last 17 goals for the match in what was easily their worst performance of the year. I don’t think this result will have much bearing today as finals football tends to bear little resemblance to regular season results.
There will be plenty of fantasy points on offer tonight with the 2nd and 3rd ranked fantasy teams going at it. As I mentioned last week, Hawthorn’s fantasy averages are inflated by super pig Tom Mitchell but it’s not like he is their only avenue to fantasy gold. Hawthorn have been relatively tight with the points they’ve given away to opposition teams, whereas Melbourne sit around the middle of the table. The Demons have also given up a considerable amount of points to opposition mids. And then, of course, there’s game script to consider. I hope and expect Melbourne to start this game exactly how they started against Geelong. If they can apply that same kind of pressure, Hawthorn won’t get a chance to score many fantasy points at all.
Ins and Outs
I didn’t expect to have much to write about here and then Hawthorn dropped a bomb. Literally. Jaeger O’Meara is a massive out for the Hawks and his absence could have serious implications on his team’s chances of victory. However, the door now opens for Howe, Worpel and even Morrison to divvy up JOM’s midfield minutes. The Hawks also brought in David Mirra and Taylor Duryea for Jon Ceglar and Ryan Schoenmakers. Predictably, the Demons named an unchanged lineup.
We’re a bit spoilt here as you don’t often get so many viable options in a single slate, let alone a final. From me there a four real options tonight - Max Gawn, Ben McEvoy, Jarryd Roughead and Sam Weideman. Let me start at the cheapest and work my way up. Weideman exploded last week and announced himself in remarkable fashion. Despite his huge score of 118, Weideman’s price has only increased by $1,400. This means that Weideman is very much in play again tonight and in fact, he’ll probably be one of the highest owned players on the slate. I don’t think that we can expect another 100 from Weideman but he should get close to value.
Key forwards have been one of Melbourne’s big weaknesses over recent years and Jarryd Roughead has smashed the Dees in recent games. Behind Tom Mitchell, Roughie actually has the best 5 game average against Melbourne with 107. Unfortunately, 2018 has not been a great fantasy year for Roughead with only one score above 100 this year. At $10K, you could get away with an 80 from the Hawks' captain but you’ll want to make sure you’ve used the rest of your cash wisely.
Finally, we have our two key rucks - Gawn and McEvoy. Gawn destroyed his Melbourne counterpart in Round 4, amassing a season-high 66 hitouts. Gawn also soundly beat McEvoy around the ground. McEvoy struggled last week but has otherwise impressed since his return from injury. Without Ceglar around, McEvoy’s stocks increase but I still expect Weideman to be the highest owned ruck.
My takes: Weideman (value/chalk), Gawn (highest scoring but hard to fit).
Not a lot to see here. It’s finals football so the opportunities for loose half-back possessions (what we absolutely love as fantasy coaches) are few and far between. Instead, we’ve got our usual assortment of low floor, low ceiling sub $10K defenders, some reasonable mid-priced options and a couple of pricey guns. In the first of these brackets, I like Blake Hardwick and Ryan Burton. The ball should be down in Hawthorn’s backline a lot tonight and Hardwick and Burton are two of Hawthorn’s preferred rebound players. Neither have high ceilings but you’d be happy to snag a 70-85 out of either player. Taylor Duryea is an option at $8,400. Like Hardwick and Burton, his ceiling is low but he could easily jag a 60-75 tonight.
Of the mid-pricers, Jordan Lewis comes up against his old team and while it may not be a ‘revenge game’ Lewis would love to send his former club out of the finals. Lewis has been solid over the last few weeks, playing a similar role to Nick Haynes as the ‘chaos ball’ intercepter. Christian Salem has hit form at the right time, coming off consecutive 100s across half-back. Although his disposal was suspect last Friday, he remains Melbourne’s preferred distributor and he also loves an old-fashioned give-and-get on the wing. Shaun Burgoyne was down last week but you’d be brave to write him off in a final.
Finally, high ceiling players Tom McDonald, James Sicily and Angus Brayshaw are all in play. Sicily, in particular, is a decent play. He looked rusty last week and not just because he’s a redhead. Sicily struggled with the pace of the game and also with the fact that he actually had to defend. I see Sicily’s game as one of the most important parts of this contest. If he gets free and is allowed to be more creative, Hawthorn are a good chance to win. However, if Sicily’s impact is negated, then it will be difficult for the Hawks to get their drive going.
My takes: Hardwick, Salem, Lewis, Sicily.
The first person I’ll mention in the sub $10K crew is Mitch Hannan. If I followed another club I might not have the appreciation for Hannan that I do. He’s no frills kind of player and you know that you’ll get a honest performance from him every week. When I include Hannan in my teams, I don’t expect a 100+ score but he’ll have played his part if he pulls in a 70-85 score today.
If he doesn’t send someone to hospital with one of his crunching tackles, Aaron vandenBerg could have a value game. As expected, vandenBerg’s midfield minutes did drop with Viney returning but the bull was still active around stoppage and across half-forward.
I had Ryan Schoenmakers in my teams last week before he was a late out. I don’t love his upside (if there is one) but rostering Schoey does give you the flexibility to build Gawn and Mitchell teams.
Alex Neal-Bullen would be highly owned and his ability to score 100s is clear. ANB is still spending much of his time across half-forward but he has also played some defensive-forward roles, most recently his underrated shut down job on Mitch Duncan. I’m struggling to find this kind of match up for ANB against Hawthorn, so he could be let off the chain a bit.
Luke Breust tore Melbourne apart in Round 4 and if Neville Jetta isn’t at his best, Breust could very well do it again. Breust has had some huge scores this year but if he doesn’t hit the scoreboard, then he struggles to produce decent fantasy scores.
Finally, James Harmes seems to be feeding off the added pressure his faced sense becoming Melbourne’s designated tagger. Harmes has taken his game to another level and while he’ll face one of the toughest tasks in football (stopping Tom Mitchell), I don’t see why he won’t have another excellent scoring night.
My takes: Hannan (value), ANB (punt play), Harmes.
The ownerships of Harry Morrison and James Worpel went up as soon as JOM’s injury was announced. Worpel in particular will now be highly and with good reason as he’ll get the majority of JOM’s rotations.
In rostering Jake Melksham and Dom Tyson last week, I picked just about the only Melbourne players not to hit value! Melksham had a off night and couldn’t get his link game working and Tyson was pushed out of the midfield to an extent due to Viney’s return. Both players have great ceilings and both will be low owned tonight on the back of their most recent performances.
Ricky Henderson and Isaac Smith both had great scoring nights last week. Henderson in fact had his highest score of the season (113) and was busy playing his regular wing role. Henderson is priced well for his solid floor and Smith is priced well for his ceiling (which admittedly, he hasn’t hit since July).
I didn’t include this next player in my forward line overview but I really think this could be the night that Christian Petracca really announces himself. Petracca was a bit fumbly last week but I’m backing him in to break this game open with 3+ goals and 20+ possessions. Jack Viney jumped out of the gates against Geelong, registering 9 tackles by half time (including one crunching run-down on GAJ). As expected, Viney tired late but he’ll be better for the run.
Finally, Clayton Oliver and Liam Shiels are both just a little underpriced tonight. Shiels will have even more responsibility tonight and will largely go unchecked. Oliver is likely to get some attention from Daniel Howe but Clarry will love the contested nature of this game, so I’m happy to pay up for him tonight.
If I wasn’t confident before I heard the JOM news, I am now. Melbourne has no excuses tonight and if they hit Hawthorn with the same ferocity that smacked Geelong in the gob, then Demons fans should start planning their trips to Perth. I’m all in on Melbourne tonight but will try to find some points of difference in my lineups.