Rooks On The Radar: Midfielders

Want to get your Harry Houdini on and turn that under-performing mid-pricer into Dane Swan with a wave of your wand by round eight? Well, you’re going to need some help from these guys for that kind of magic trick. The best midfield rookies are heralded for their ability to make big bucks fast, with scoring punch worthy of a place on in your starting 22 (at least until the Pig or some other premium upgrade takes their place). How many and which ones you pick in your original squad will depend on a number of factors, including how much upside you see in the midfield premiums and mid-pricers this year and how strongly you rate the rookies in the other positions. Perhaps the biggest influence on your midfield rookie head count, however, is whether you predict solid game time for a lot or just a few. I happily (okay, a little nervously) started four midfield rookies in 2010, because I was reasonably sure at the conclusion of the NAB CUP that each of Tom Scully, Jack Trengove, Dustin Martin and Michael Barlow was going to see a fair chuck of action in their first years at AFL level. The bench duo (Mitch Duncan and Mitch Farmer) provided DP links to the back and forward lines. It turned out to be a pretty profitable plan of attack, in hindsight, with Scully, Trengove and Martin making bucketloads of cash and Barlow, as every coach on the planet fondly recalls, would’ve been a season-long keeper had it not been for the Rhys Palmer disaster. Last year, I started just one rookie in my midfield, wooed, regrettably, by a couple of mid-pricers, but mostly due to a lack of confidence in so many of the Gold Coast Suns kids because of the rotation policy in place at the first-year club. This year, I’ll again let the NAB Cup games provide a guide as to who’s looking likely to snag a spot in the all-important engine room.


Friday, Feb 17 – Richmond/Hawthorn/North Melbourne

Each of these clubs have produced decent rookie-priced options in the midfield over the past couple of years but, this season, the cupboard’s seemingly bare. Hopefully someone steps into the bright Friday night lights to change that.

Saturday, Feb 18 – GWS/Collingwood/Western Bulldogs

As you’d expect, this is where the bulk of your scouting will be done. It’s real mixed bag in the GWS midfield, too. There’re a few really young kids, a couple of mature-age choices and one pensioner-age pick. Some of the Blacktown boys are as cheap as chips and others are asking top (rookie) dollar. Dylan Shiel ($104,200), who averaged 96 DT points in 10 NEAFL games for the Giants last year, is the one I’ll be most looking forward to tracking after the former Dandenong ball-magnet missed last week’s intra-club clash with appendicitis. The only player to average more DTs for the Giants last year was Anthony Miles, who’s priced the same as Shiel but is a year older at 20. While that 103ppg average over 14 NEAFL games has had DT coaches salivating, Miles failed to have a huge impact in the intra-club game and, for what it’s worth, missed the cut in coach Kevin Sheedy’s projected round-one team. Also absent from that list was Dom Tyson, the second-most expensive option in the GWS midfield at $170,700 after he was taken with the third pick in last year’s draft. The kid certainly has DT nous, averaging 103 points for Oakleigh in the TAC Cup last year.  The costliest Giant in this bracket is Stephen Coniglio who, courtesy of being taken with pick number two, has been slapped with a $175,200 price tag. The WAFL product showed his undoubted ability with a stand-out performance in the intra-club and will be hard to leave out if he plays just as impressively during the NAB Cup. There’s another Stephen C worth monitoring at Blackstown: Stephen Clifton – a $121,800 mature-age recruit who averaged 84 points (fourth for the Giants after Miles, Shiel and ruckman Jon Giles) in the NEAFL after three premierships and a Liston Medal win with North Ballarat in the VFL. You can read more about Clifton (and a bunch of others) in Damian Stone’s outstanding post on mature-age rookies here. Ex-Melbourne captain James McDonald (he was named on the ball when Sheedy peered into his crystal ball!) is another obvious one to keep tabs on, as is ex-Western Bulldog (not Swan) Sam Reid. Speaking of the ‘Doggies, take a minute off Giant stalking for two seconds to have a look at Clay Smith $107,700, who could come in for some games under new coach Brendan McCartney after impressing in their recent intra-club match. The 17th pick in the draft, he averaged a Swan-like 119 DT points in the TAC Cup last season.

Sunday, Feb 19 – West Coast/Essendon/Fremantle

It’s a bit of a long shot, given the number of players returning from injury to crowd the Fremantle midfield, (not to mention the forwards trying to get a piece of the action),  but 18-year-old Lachie Neale ($98,700) has pushed his case for selection with a great game in the Dockers’ intra-club match. His last competitive outing was a doozie, collecting 40 possessions in Glenelg’s loss in the SANFL under-18 grand final. That came after Neale spent the last third of the 2011 season playing seniors, averaging almost 20 touches. West Coast’s Koby Stevens ($104,200) will be the other one to pay attention to in this group of three. For the best low-down on this third-year Eagle, revisit tBetta’s excellent Deck of DT article.

Friday, Feb 24 – St Kilda/Sydney/Geelong

One of my favourite rookies from 2009 is back on the radar, with Geelong midfielder Simon Hogan ($133,600) seemingly first in line to step into shoes hung up last season by Cameron Ling. Something of a unique selection back then, Hogan had me sold as a real-life midfielder listed as a forward in Dream Team, playing for a Cats side that racked up DT tons for fun. He’s no longer listed as a forward, but he’s still at Geelong and he hasn’t lost the ability to get his hands on the footy, finishing just outside the top 10 possession-getters in the latter stages of the VFL last year after getting on top of the depression that saw him sit out the first half of the season.

It’s a shame we won’t see Sydney father-son selection Tom Mitchell, who’s recovering from knee surgery, as the kid was a genuine DT demi-god at junior level. Keep him in mind for a downgrade once he gets his body right and, seeing it’s Sydney, earns his stripes in the seconds.

We will, however, be lucky enough to see how far St Kilda’s Tom Ledger ($163,200) has progressed from last year (by all reports, it’s quite a bit), and whether new teammate Seb Ross ($98,700) can continue the kind of form that saw him draw praise for an intra-club run-with role on Brendan Goddard.

Saturday, Feb 25 – Gold Coast/Melbourne/Brisbane

At 24 years of age, Kyal Horsley ($119,800) could add some experience, albeit at WAFL level, not AFL, to the Gold Coast midfield. He averaged 24 touches for Subiaco last year, but is rookie-listed so will need an upgrade before we see him in the season-proper.

Sunday, Feb 26 – Port Adelaide/Carlton/Adelaide

Of the three-way in SA, Port Adelaide first-round pick Chad Wingard ($157,200) looms as the one to watch, having completed his first AFL pre-season in which has been “taking it pretty easy, er, I mean, working really hard”.

I’m on the Twitter and trying hard not to break it. @ChookDT for all your rookie-related info.


  • First! So good to see you back, one of the best parts of DT TALK!

  • James McDonald…. What does everyone think? How will he go?

    Anyone know any news on S. Docherty from Brisbane? Reckon he will play much this year?

    • I’m all over McDonald. Sure, he’s 35, but only two years ago he averaged 95 with Melbourne and Sheedy’s named him at Ruck-Rover in his ‘Round 1 Team’. I think expecting a 70-75 from him is a modest expectation, and you don’t recruit a 35 year old out of retirement and not play him. Reports around the club are saying that he’s been one of the best on the track, too. And hey, he’s 98k.

      And I think Docherty had in injury, that’s why he hasn’t been talked about much recently.

    • but to answer your question. Docherty had sugery and will miss the nab cup. could still play round 1 if fit

    • Docherty has had a few niggles, he will play games throughout the season but probably wont get his chance until midseason i think

  • There are too many rookies to think about. Goddamn it. Thanks anyway, Chook.

  • Nice one again Chook. So many tasty choices – you could nearly just have Swan and Ablett and then just rookies.

  • Great article champ! So many options and I will be missing much of the nab cup unfortunately :( will have to rely on you Chook and good old

  • North has a couple to watch – McKenzie and Gibson (still rookie listed). Both should get a run through the NAB Cup if fit. Do you have any info on those 2 Chook?

  • The North Melbourne cupboard looks bare?
    Plain lazy Chook… Try again next week once you’ve seen Sam Gibson play this Friday night :)

      • I’ve heard he kicked ass at the intra-match.

        I have been looking for someone at Melbourne to do the same. Melbourne is ripe for the picking for anyone who (James Magner/Toman Couch) is willing to put their head over the ball and their body on the line.

  • Great piece Chook, thanks.

    I thought Brendan Lee (ESS) might rate a mention based on seeing him in so many draft sides.

    Ahead of the NAB Cup, my thinking is that GWS will get properly pounded this year and that their rookies may struggle to make big scores even if they get games. However, they do make it all the more interesting from DT perspective.

    • yeah was thinking him as well. the bomber put 2 players on the LTI list so 2 rookies can be elevated with Lee a front runner. Also Kavanagh is one to watch….not sure if hes injured etc but if he plays could be one to watch

  • Essendon do have 2 lti’s atm.. lee has been burning up the track.. he may well be a good 10 rd bet…. AND he will be playing on his home track this weekend…….

    I expect him to be in 40% of teams after this weekend!

    Gibson is the other one that will shine i reckon this weekend…

  • Fantastic again Chook, you have a knack of making the complicated things simple.

    Sooo many options, resigned to the fact that I may have to burn a trade prior to round 3, just like with Curnow last year.

  • All pre-season I have had Dylan Shiel slotted into my mids. Appendicitis takes about three weeks for recovery and leaves a 2-3 inch scar on the lower side of the stomach. Any knock to that scar could delay a return further, so we might not even see him during NAB cup. If this occurs, he might end up being a nice downgrade option when he is on the bubble and not a round 1 lock after all. Guess we’ll have to wait and see over the next 30 or so days…

  • Blackstown, Chook…?

  • Cheers Chook!
    Can’t wait to go digging for some gems!
    2 more sleeps- not that I’m doing much sleeping :-)

  • Love your work chook – great to have you back again.

    I’ll also be keeping my eye on Alex Woodward from the Hawks; Brad McKenzie from North; Darren Pfeiffer from Port; and we can’t forget Adam Treloar from GWS. Otherwise spot on!

  • Cheers Chook. Once again excellent work.

  • The question is what combination of Rookies & Premiums do we go with in the midfield? Add to this the seemingly cheap options of Barlow and Hayes – the midfield looks crowded for opportunities. Pendles/Swan, Ablett & Boyd are the obvious ones. Do we go with Hayes/Barlow and MacDonald then the rest with youngsters or add in someone like a Murphy or go both Barlow and Hayes?

  • Hey has anyone used the foxtel on xbox 360?, thinking of getting it for the nab cup. has anyone had problems?. Wish i could just buy the footy channel for a month but it comes in a stupid package…

    • i had it…..

      got rid of it and bought the real thing.

      It was always buffering, using up downloads as well.

      and there is only one fox sports channel called fox play. (dont know if thats changed)

      so it was usually rugby or cricket in pakistan on instead of what i wanted.

      they would show match replays on bigpond channel but nothing live…

      get the real thing!,

    • I’m using it and liking it so far. 2 things though:
      -If HD is a deal-breaker for you then I wouldnt bother
      -A decent broadband(>3Mbps) that is either with telstra or unlimited data

      The best thing though is the flexibility. No contracts or start up fees, so why not try it for a month?

      • Thats what i like about it, no contracts. Everything else is pretty sweet, quick speeds and 100gb/month so that doesn’t worry me. There’s actually a fox footy channel now need to do a bit more research to see if nab cup and replays of games all day etc and no other sports.

  • With all this smorgasbord of midfield joy I’m seriously now considering cutting back to just 3 premo’s and the rest mids. Anyone else thinking along these lines?

    • has been my philosophy from day dot.

      As chook has pointed out, with THAT many rookie mids to make you money ( and more importantly, quickly) its a great straetgy to go the 3/3 split. would much prefer Clfton smashing out 100’s ala Barlow v.2010 than playing Beau wilkes for 50……

    • interesting theory… if you pick the right rooks it will result in more $$ made for upgrades. Only problem is that unless your Fwds Rucks and Defenders give you heaps of points, you could find yourself 50 points behind the rest of the comp from the start with most teams having 4 x premo mids scoring 115+ from the get go

      • And I guess you run the extra risk of the rookies being green/red vested and not increasing as quickly.

      • Good thinking though let say Barlow down to McDonald. He or another rookie could score 70-80 every week while Barlow could score 100-110, you could be losing 30-40 a week there but at the moment I have Armstrong and Conca in my back line so that $380k spare (including piggy bank money) could upgrade both of them too premos and could give you another 20-30 points extra EACH while giving you an extra rookie priced player earning you money. I’m open to the idea.

    • the rest mids – always planned to fill my midfield with mids…

  • I meant the rest rookies, not mids

  • Clearly port Adelaide could only fit one chad into their squad…

    • There was a handover ceremony.

      Big Chaddy had to get drunk in the park and and sing the Port Adelaide team song in reverse, while little Chaddy had to steal big Chaddy’s car stero and find enough money in the change jar to buy them both pies.

      Apparently, it went well, although Big Chaddy was attacked by a dog. This worked out OK as Little Chaddy hit the mongrel with a club lock. When a single drop of the dogs blood was spilled onto the Port Adelaide park, both Chaddies were forever spiritually connected.

      On a sad note the dog’s minor injuries became infected by boganstaffe, which is fatal.

  • Wingard or Luke Brown??
    Luke Brown saves me 65k though

  • Love your work Chook!

    I’m attending the Ess/Freo/WCE nab cup games, so looking (rookie-wise) primarily at Kobe, Stevens, Lachie Neale and rookie Bomber Brendan Lee, who is a WA local. All in the mids, all tearing up pre-season so far!

    • I will also be there, keen to see Josh Hills role

    • Yep got my tickets for that already..

      Amidst the multitude of rookie options to watch, Im also keen to see Lyon’s game style and roles given to Suban, Duffield, Broughton and Lee Spurr!

      O and of course would be nice for Bombers to learn to win at Subi for once!

  • not that they are rooks but if you were choosing would you go porplyzia or rohan?

    • Everyone will go Porpz… I however am going Rohan.
      Not afraid to say it either because most people tihnk wtf? Gary Rohan? He’s not DT relevant!
      The Kid is a superstar, and will be a super DT star soon… come season’s end, they will be screaming his name like they do mine “maximus maximus maximus”

      • Rohan is super risky.

        Imagine McCaffer! Kicked three in the 2010 grannie I think. If fit and firing, in a squad with Johnson / Dids in and out of, Kracker has gone walkabout, McCaffer could play 20 and get back to his average of around 70.

        I only told you guys because I like you.

        Anyone who wants to be in the DT Madness league, there are still spots. Everyone is from DT Talk. All players who have a crack are welcome, just message me,

        Cheers GJB

        • I am with TKOL on this one. Rohan is the one. He has done a full preseason and is apparently ripping it up. This kid is quick and can kick goals.

          My smokey is playing Friday night for North. I reckon Warren at $140,000 could be the one. Keep an eye on him. Thinking a direct swap Zorko for Warren at the moment.

  • Brad mckenzie and Sierakowski are not named in Fridays nab cup squad :(…grrr was hoping Sierakowski would get a run. Everyone else of interest for us are named though (rooks)

  • Thanks for the write up, dig it.

  • No mention of Elliot Kavanagh??

  • Is Brad Hill a mid or fwd? Can’t be fucked looking it up. Not that it will make much difference I guess. That kid is not getting a game in the Hawks lineup this year I would think!

    Chook, what gives? A bloke averages 28 possies in the VFL and does not get a mention in Chooks Rooks?

    Oh, I get it! He is ‘Your boy” and you are trying to stop the word getting out. Even the AFL website have him as one of their ‘five to watch’ on friday night for Nth.

    Must admit a second bite at the Hogan pie is tempting. I didn’t realise it was depression that kept him out for a good part of last season or was that just shit stirring?

    Agree that Bruce (Brendan) Lee has got to come into calculations now that senior spots have opened up due to LTI’s.

  • I might get Brendan Lee into my team solely out of respect.

    After all he is The Crow.

    A moments silence please.

    • he’s also a bloody good pick! Lets hope he’s not as prone to freakish accidents at work as his namesake.

  • Im keen to see Mitchell Grigg get a run for Adelaide (hopefully he gets named). The kid looks like a star in the making