I love this time of the season. The race for the finals turns otherwise uninteresting games into gripping encounters with serious consequences. Based solely on ladder position, both Hawthorn and Melbourne should easily account for their opponents (Lions and Bulldogs respectively). However, these ‘must-win’ games have a tendency to do funny things to team psychology and nothing in football is ever guaranteed - just ask Geelong. The Hawks have turned Launceston into somewhat of a fortress and rarely lose down in Tasmania. However, only a few weeks ago the Lions turned in the best performance of the year when they knocked the Hawks over and have also won two games on the trot. With a tough run home, Melbourne cannot afford to drop games that it should win and this game is exactly that. The Demon’s form at the MCG has been poor this year winning only 2 out of 7 games. However, it’s worth noting that 4/5 of these losses have been against top 8 teams. The Bombers have the slimmest of finals chance to play for and should easily account for the Suns while the Tigers face a GWS team that is also an outside chance to sneak into finals.
You know the deal by now. We play key forwards against Carlton and rucks against the Bulldogs. The last 9 weeks read like this: McEvoy 107 (injured in the last quarter), Stanley 102, Goldstein, 118, Ryder 102, Gawn 141, Grundy 121, Jacobs 78, Martin 114, Witts 131. That’s an average of 112. Today Max Gawn gets another crack and schooling the Dogs in the fine art of ruckwork. The only downside is that you’ll have to nearly $17K to get him.
Stef Martin is another expensive ruck in a great spot today. Jono Ceglar (who is himself a great play as a $6,400 solo ruck) will have to combat Martin’s ruck supremacy all by himself today. This opens the door to a huge Martin score.
Shaun McKernan has had some big scores this season and could be set from another 100 against the Suns. Gold Coast have been ok against opposition key forwards but I get the feeling this is going to be a big win for Essendon.
My takes: Ceglar, McKernan, Gawn.
For the 100th time since I’ve started writing these articles, I’m uninspired by the cheap defenders today. I have, however, been impressed by the courage and dash that Brad Lynch has shown so far and Teia Miles had a sneaky value game last week. Apart from these two, I’m casting my eyes a little higher up the salary ladder.
There’s chasing points, there’s chasing points and then there’s chasing Darcy Gardiner’s points. Well, in fact, chasing any of the Brisbane defenders points really. Brisbane’s backline went nuts last week with Hodge, Witherden, Gardiner and Cutler sharing 51 marks (most of them uncontested). Now Brisbane beat Hawthorn just a few weeks ago so it’s too much of a stretch to think they could do it again. If they do, it will be through denying the Hawks possession and this means another high scoring day for the Brisbane back six.
Bachar Houli rejoins the Tigers juggernaut at $10,000 this week. Houli’s has had a long injury layoff and could be a little rusty but he represents excellent value at this price. Nick Vlastiun should also have a good day mopping up intercepts against the Giants' makeshift forward line.
Targeting Essendon defenders could pay dividends today. Tarrant, Thompson, Carlisle and Tomlinson have all scored 100s against the Suns over the last three weeks. Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley are the clear picks but Matty Dea could also have one of his random massive scores. While these three will be clunking all the marks, Brendan Goddard should be able to do as he pleases across half-back and Andrew McGrath will rack them up as the rebounding link man.
It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Tom Cutler’s value. Cutler’s salary has skyrocketed on the back of his understanding 142 last week and sadly, he’s no longer a value play now that he’s over $13K. That said, if Brisbane can pull off an upset, Cutler will be a big reason why.
My takes: Dea, Houli, Hooker, Hurley.
The Suns are beginning to realise that if you kick the ball properly to a bloke with a three-metre reach then he’s going to mark it every damn time. Peter Wright has been great for someone who has missed most the year through injury. Wright has been presenting the ground and providing a little ruck relief as well. He’s a great chance to return value at $7,990.
Last week’s Value Hunter hero, Eric Hipwood gets another crack at Hawthorn. Earlier this season, Hipwood had an excellent 4 goal, 81 fp return against the Hawks. Similar to Darcy Gardiner, it will be interesting to see how many people chase points here.
Jack Higgins has been spending more time in the midfield recently - a trend likely to continue in the absence of Jack Graham. At $9,220, Higgins’ price is getting higher but I think it’s still reasonable considering the change in his role.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a big score from Alex Neal-Bullen. The Melbourne half-forward likes games on the softer side and scored well during Melbourne’s flat-track bully run earlier in the year. With a big win likely, I’m tempted to give ANB a run. Teammate Christian Petracca broke through for only the third 100 of his 53 game career. What was impressive about this effort was that Petracca failed to kick any goals in this career-best fantasy score.
I’d love to see Stewart Dew use Jack Martin more creatively, in particular, through the midfield. Martin is a gun and he’s right up there in terms of the most gifted players in the competition. I’d just love to see this talent transfer to some bigger fantasy scores.
Tom McDonald’s price has settled back down after a few lower scores. I don’t see a clear matchup for McDonald this week and he could really enjoy himself should this game get away from the Bulldogs.
Jack Riewoldt’s excellent form continues and this week he faces GWS who haven’t been great against the competition’s premier key forwards. My only concern is that Riewoldt’s price is getting a little high for someone who doesn’t regularly ton it up.
Luke Breust is in some kind of form. Over the last three weeks, he’s kicked 11 goals, taken 23 marks, laid 16 tackles and scored 3 x 100s (including last week’s mammoth 151 - a career-best score).
My takes: Wright, Higgins, ANB, McDonald.
Starting the bottom of the salary ladder, we find Travis Colyer who’s back at $5K. After exceeding value in his season debut, Colyer struggled to find the footy last week and returned a disappointing 24. As I’m mentioned a few times, I think the Bombers are in a great spot and I think Colyer can craft his way back to value.
Despite being on Melbourne’s list for 5 years, Jay Kennedy-Harris has only played 28 games. Drafted as a pressure forward, JKH struggled to make an impact (perhaps this was influenced by the arrival of Jeff Garlett the following year). During this time, JKH reinvented himself as a midfielder and he’s regularly named in Casey’s best players. JKH gets another chance tonight and he’ll be determined to prove the selectors right. Adam Kennedy is another $6,400 player that people will play today. I’d prefer JKH over Kennedy but can also see the Giants’ defender/midfielder getting close to value.
Dion Prestia is still at a great price, especially with Jack Graham out. Prestia has a safe floor and an excellent ceiling. With a couple of games now under his belt, I’m hoping a seriously big score is just around the corner. Shaun Grigg is the third Richmond midfielder who could see additional minutes today. Oh and I suppose I’ll mention that last year’s Brownlow winner is still at $12K.
There are plenty of $13K+ players in good spots today. Jaeger O’Meara, Dyson Heppell, Stephen Coniglio and Devon Smith are just some of the studs I’m looking at. But I also really like Callan Ward. Players like Ward can fly under the radar when there are higher profile players on a slate and I really like his matchup today.
My takes: JKH, Prestia, Ward, O’Meara.
There's enough value around today to target multiple studs. But as the people who played Tom Mitchell last week found out, if you do play a scrubs/studs lineup, your studs just have to hit if you're any chance of big money.