I’d love to open the final Rooks post of the season by announcing a recruiting coup to rival that made by the Melbourne Tigers this week, trading in a points-hungry DT dynamo that would have Roy quivering in his boots ahead of our grand final clash in the DT Talk All-Stars league. But that would require me having some trades left and, even if I did, I don’t think Roy’s the quivering type.
All that’s left to do then is to vote for the annual All-Rookie team and individual awards. Before we do, though, I’ll give you a brief snapshot of the season. After all, it’s been a record-breaking year for the rookies. That’s probably not too surprising given we had an entire team stacked with fresh meat dumped on our Dream Team doorsteps, but, Gold Coast aside, I’ve never seen as many clubs dish out debuts as there were in 2011.
Each year I use Grimlock’s fantastic FF Genie to keep track of the number of players who get a game after starting the season at rookie price (anything below number-one pick Dave Swallow’s $160,500 this year). In 2011, my little black book has 148 names in it. 148?! I actually thought we’d already cracked 150 this season, but realised that I’d added Richmond’s Pat Contin and Fremantle’s Viv Mitchie during the pre-season in anticipation of them getting a run at some stage this year. Contin, amongst others, is being bandied about as a possible inclusion for round 24, so we’re still a chance to reach the magical 150 mark. Gold Coast blooded 35 players who fell into the rookie-priced category, but we’ve also got to tip our hats to the Brisbane and Western Bulldogs selection panels for giving us 12 cheap Cubs and 11 inexpensive Pups to play with this year. While few of them turned out to be any good, especially those from Brisbane, you’ve got to give them credit for giving the kids a chance to prove their DT worth.
It hasn’t just been weight of numbers, however, that has made 2011 such a special year from a rookie perspective. The ability of kids to come in and knock out some big DT numbers right from the get-go has also been a feature this season. All in all, 27 rookies scored at least one ton in 2011. In fact, there were only two rounds where our rookies failed to get someone into three figures and they were close in both, with Hawthorn defender Paul Puopolo nabbing 99 in round 10 and Carlton midfielder Ed Curnow getting a 95 in round 12. When the season ends, the record books will show that there were three or more rookie centuries in at least half the rounds, with that having occurred in 12 rounds to date. In three rounds this year, five rookies got hundreds. That’s nuts.
With a game to go, Western Bulldogs new boy Jason Tutt has the highest average with 91.5 points per game (courtesy of his first-up 122, of course) but of those who’ve played at least three games, Essendon def-mid Dyson Heppell is the highest with 84.09ppg, Melbourne defender Stefan Martin is second with 82.75ppg and Gold Coast defender Danny Stanley is third with 80.48ppg. While Heppell’s numbers are about 25 points shy of the benchmark set by Fremantle midfielder Michael Barlow last year, it’s certainly nothing to scoff at. That man is a freak.
Hawthorn’s youngsters made the most of the team’s DT friendly game-style this season to dominate the single-game scoring chart, with Shane Savage taking first and second with his 164 (round 13) and 144 (round 8),while teammate Isaac Smith is third with his 138 (round 14). Fremantle’s Nick Lower popped in with a 130 in round 17, but then it’s back to the Hawks with Puopolo’s 129 last week and Savage again in fifth place with his 128 in round 14.
We know now that Savage can go extra-terrestrial with his scores, but at the start of the season he was hardly on the radar, with blokes like Jarrad Irons and Rohan Bewick in his spot. Looking back I’m happy to say, however, that most of this season’s rookstar’s got a mention in the pre-season report card, with the likes of Heppell, Stanley, Lower, Carlton’s Nick Duigan, West Coast’s Jack Darling and Melbourne’s Luke Tapscott all getting some love. We steered clear of West Coast’s Andrew Gaff due to the likelihood of him copping the odd subs vest, which turned out to be a pretty accurate call, for the first half of the season at least. Two who failed to make an impact on me in the pre-season were Curnow and Western Bulldogs mid Tom Liberatore, but they sure caught the attention once the season-proper kicked on…
Curnow and North Melbourne defender Robbie Tarrant were the heroes of round 1 with first-up hundreds, but whereas Tarrant dropped off the pace immediately, the Carlton midfielder was providing a glimpse of what was to come. Lower, Tapscott and Heppell all started well, and Irons was, at that stage, making the coaches who shelled out just $80k appear like geniuses.
Heppell and Tapscott backed up in round two, but not as big as Curnow and Liberatore, who forced coaches into making early trades to get their hands on the midfield pair before their prices skyrocketed. Curnow’s first price jump was to the tune of $77k, while Libba leapt $66k. As it turned out, Curnow scored three hundreds in his first six games, but suffered an injury in his seventh that saw him dumped as quickly as he was traded in.
Heppell was putting together some nice scores around this stage of the season, matched in the forward line by Darling, whose forward pressure was resulting in a high tackle count and, subsequently, some good DT figures. For the record, Heppell got his first ton in round 5 (he’s had another four since), while Darling cracked three figures for the first (and only) time in round 4.
It’s usually around round 6 that we start to cash in our earliest cash cows, so it’s unfortunate that this year’s round 6 threw out so many mixed signals. Curnow enjoyed another ton, but was injured the following week; Collingwood mid-fwd Andrew Krakouer followed up three 40s with a season-high 113; while Adelaide backline pair Brodie Smith and Luke Thompson put up their best scores of the season, only to stink it up in the subsequent weeks.
Round 7 marked the first time we saw Hawthorn pair Smith and Puopolo, and while Poo has played every Hawks game since, Smith backed up in round 8 and then kept his coaches waiting until round 13 for another appearance. Gold Coast ruckman Zac Smith hit a purple patch around rounds 7-11, excluding his round 9 bye, just before Martin went on his hot run that saw him average 99 from round 8 to 18. Since, of course, he’s been woeful. Round 8 was a worrying time for owners of Heppell, Lower, Tapscott and Darling, with all facing high breakevens in the face of minor form slumps. Those who held Tapscott were punished after he injured himself on 16 points in round 9. Those who ditched Lower were punished after he pumped out a big 119 against his old side, Port Adelaide. Hopefully you avoided being punished at all.
The most popular trade doing the rounds in, um, round 10 was for then-bubble boy Tendai Mzungu, the mature-age Fremantle mid-fwd. While obvious, hindsight shows that to be an almost essential bit of manoeuvring in this bye-riddled DT season. Round 13 sticks out for the aforementioned mammoth 164 produced by Savage, although his wasn’t the only star turn that week, with three Hawks and two Demons scoring 99 or more, including a 112 from Luke Bruest and 105 from Jeremy Howe. If you had either of those latter two on the field that day, can I borrow your crystal ball? Bruest and Howe might be club fan favourites, but together they’ve also combined for 10 scores of 50 or less this season.
As far as rookie-watching is concerned, the season was pretty much over by round 15, when most coaches had completed their downgrade trades and, incidentally, long-awaited Adelaide mid-fwd Ian Callinan did a hammy. Chook’s Rooks comments dropped from about 200 a week to 40, and that was mostly me talking up the up-coming Premier League fantasy season. The rookies who had helped build our brilliant teams in readiness for a crack at the 2011 DT flag were, from a trade point of view, dead to us. Where they came in handy was filling holes in our teams from week-to-week as we grappled with the byes, and few have done that better than Mzungu, which is why I’m betting he’ll be giving Heppell a run for his money in the next bit…
The Individual Awards
The Michael Barlow Award
Quite simply, this prestigious award goes to the most outstanding rookie-priced player of 2011.
The Nat Fyfe Award
You can see this rookie bucking conventional DT wisdom and stepping up to premium status in just their second year.
The Sam Mitchell Award
This award goes to the rookie that will take a couple of years to develop, but down the track will be an out-and-out gun (who, hopefully, will not take a week off during the all-important DT finals).
The Relton Roberts Award
Whether it’s because of a lower-than-expected scoring rate, an inability to convince the selection committee to give them a game or a promising season cut short due to injury, this award goes to the rookie who’s had the most disappointing season in 2011.
The All-Rookie Team
Vote for three players in the defence, midfield and forward line, and two in the ruck, please. (If you pick a dual-position player in one position, don’t vote for him again in another!) I’ve included a list of nominees, but feel free to vote for someone outside the players mentioned below (as long as they started the DT season <$160k).
Dyson Heppell, Stef Martin, Danny Stanley, Nick Lower, Cam Pederson, Paul Puopolo, Andy Otten, Michael Hibberd, Simon Buckley, Nick Duigan, Ben Jacobs, Shaun McKernan.
Dyson Heppell, Isaac Smith, Tendai Mzungu, Dave Swallow, Shane Savage, Ed Curnow, Andrew Krakouer, Trent McKenzie, Sam Isles, Tom Liberatore, Michael Evans, Michael Hibberd, Simon Buckley, Andrew Gaff, Allen Christensen, Daniel Harris, Dion Prestia, Ben Jacobs, Reece Conca, Shaun Atley, Rohan Bewick.
Matthew Lobbe, Zac Smith, Max Bailey, Broc McCauley, Nathan Vardy, Joel Tippett.
Isaac Smith, Tendai Mzungu, Matthew Lobbe, Andrew Krakouer, John Butcher, Jack Darling, Luke Dahlhaus, Luke Bruest, Dion Prestia, Jeremy Howe, Luke Tapscott, Brandon Matera, Kieren Harper, Cam Richardson.
To vote, copy and paste this in the comments and have your say!
The Barlow (1):
The Fyfe (1):
The Mitchell (1):
The Roberts (1):
The All-Rookie Team
Thanks for reading this year and putting up with the penis extension, Chinese swimmer and Hot Wheels references. Hopefully you haven’t been led astray too often. Look out for the announcement of the award winners, All-Rookie team and Roy’s victory speech some time soon.