Jeppa’s Juniors – 2016 Defenders

As my namesake would say…I’m back baby, I’m back!

It’s time for some hardcore Fantasy and Dreamteam planning so I hope you’re ready? To kick off, I thought we’d look at the tricky defender options available.

Decent cheap defenders aren’t in abundance this season so plan carefully. With a lack of scoring punch evident, I think it is sensible to start with only one or two rookie priced defenders on your field. Essendon’s Mitch Brown is a lock for everyone and the others are on personal preference.

Considering role, job security and scoring ability, here are my best defender rookie options (not in order) TO START WITH this season…

1. Mitch Brown

AFL Fantasy Price: $194,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $121,300
Predicted Average: 72

Make no mistake, Mitch Brown has the best job security of any rookie priced player this season. The mature age recruit can play forward or back and he averaged an impressive 13 kicks, 6 handballs, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 1 goal and 87 Fantasy points for Sandringham in the VFL last season. I suspect Worsfold will start Brown down back and have him push forward in moments throughout each game…a bit like Harry Taylor at Geelong and how Adam Hunter was used many moons ago at West Coast. Brown’s forward dual position status is an added bonus and he needs to be in everyone’s team. An easy pick.


2. Nathan Broad

AFL Fantasy Price: $125,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $121,300
Predicted Average: 63

Broad is a mature age defender that meets a lot of Hardwick’s requirements. Athleticism and gut running are his two best traits and he’s great at reading the play. Broad hasn’t put a foot wrong this preseason and he was one of the better performers in the Tigers intra club match last weekend (source). Stats wise, he gets plenty of +6’s from an uncontested mark and kick game but surprisingly for a defender he doesn’t tackle that often. Broad still needs to work on his kicking efficiency too but my gut feel is that it’s either him or Jake Batchelor for a spot in Richmond’s back six. Watch him closely during the NAB Challenge.



3. Eric Mackenzie

jnr_mackenzieAFL Fantasy Price: $205,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $237,000
Predicted Average: 62

My insider at West Coast tells me Kenz is set for a big year after an excellent preseason to date. The 2014 Eagles best and fairest winner missed all of last season after rupturing his ACL but don’t worry he is in great physical condition and he hasn’t lost any of his speed. The Mackenzie Fantasy question is basically this…are you prepared to pay a little more for a star defender who is likely to average a sound 60 to 65 Fantasy points per game? Those coaches that start with Kenz will sleep better at night because he’s low risk.


4. Riley Bonner

AFL Fantasy Price: $158,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $121,300
Predicted Average: 61

Young Bonner has the tools to become a champion footballer. He’s a running machine who plays at half back and is up there with the best of them for score involvements. I shouldn’t compare him to Andrew McLeod but that’s how he plays. Port were thanking the heavens when he slipped through to pick 37 in the draft and us as coaches pick him up dirt cheap as a result. It should be noted that Bonner isn’t much of a tackler thus I expect his Fantasy scores to hover around 60. Still he’s decent bench back up to start the season if all goes to plan.


5. Marcus Adams

AFL Fantasy Price: $155,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $121,300
Predicted Average: 64

Not all AFL rooks are as fit and strong as mature age defender Marcus Adams. The West Perth product is doing plenty right this preseason and the Dogs are desperate for his presence down back. Last year in the WAFL, Adams averaged an impressive 12 kicks, 5 handballs, 6 marks, 3 tackles and 74 Fantasy points and in my opinion, he’s ahead of popular manchild and teammate Kieran Collins. To be totally honest, I am surprised there hasn’t been more Fantasy hype about Adams this preseason. Adams is currently sitting as my D6 in both Fantasy and Dreamteam. Put him on your watchlist!


6. Michael Hartley

AFL Fantasy Price: $125,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $121,300
Predicted Average: 59

Hartley is another mature age player ready for his shot at the big time. He was named in the 2015 VFL team of the season at centre half back and was also the joint winner of Coburg’s best and fairest award. Essendon obviously liked what they saw and after their latest intake of top up players, it appears Hartley is set for a starting key defender role in the black and red this season. Hartley isn’t going to be a huge scorer but he’s cheap as chips and is ideal for one of your bench spots. Don’t ignore him.


7. Aaron Mullett

jnr_mullettAFL Fantasy Price: $162,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $207,200
Predicted Average: 70

Mullett has been around for a while now but last season was one to forget for the 24 year old defender. A shoulder injury didn’t allow him to have any preseason, hindering his fitness base and he could never catch the pack ahead of him. Now with a clean bill of health, Mullett is ready to rock (source). He’s an attacking half back that averaged a notable 74 Fantasy points in 2013 however, competition for spots in North’s 22 is rife. With no guarantee to be selected each week, picking Mullett is a risk but it’s a case of high risk, high reward because he’s someone that can give you an excellent Fantasy return. Watch this space.


8. Matt Dea

jnr_deaAFL Fantasy Price: $170,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $163,500
Predicted Average: 62

Dea gets a second chance at the big time after being signed by Essendon as their 7th top up player for this season. Interestingly, the attacking defender is being reported as the likely replacement for suspended Fantasy favourite Michael Hibberd (source). Dea is a little pricey for a rookie and he was a pretty average scorer at Richmond but considering his mature body, experience and job security it might be worth starting him. I’m treading carefully at this stage but I’ll be looking intently at his NAB Challenge performances to see if he can consistently reach scores greater than 65.



9. Ciaran Byrne

jnr_byrneAFL Fantasy Price: $125,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $144,900
Predicted Average: 63

Byrne me once and I’m hoping it’s not a case of Byrne me twice. Ciaran’s 2015 season was cut short by injury but an excellent preseason to date has him back in Fantasy contention. A young Carlton team means there’s plenty of opportunity for the hard running Irishman and new coach Brendon Bolton has already endorsed him during the AFL’s ask the coach promotion (source). Note that Byrne is still rookie listed so he’s gona need to do everything right to get promoted before Round 1. He’s named to play tonight so let’s see what he can produce. Fingers crossed.


10. Kurt Heatherley

jnr_heatherleyAFL Fantasy Price: $125,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $128,200
Predicted Average: 54

Who you ask? Heatherley is another Hawthorn gem they’re yet to unveil. The key defender could fill the Brian Lake void and he’s recently been endorsed by teammate Josh Gibson (source). Unfortunately from an AFL Fantasy point of view, Heatherley is your stereotypical full back and he doesn’t get his hands on the ball too often. Note that he averaged just 13 possessions, 5 marks, 2 tackles and 63 Fantasy points at VFL last season so buyer beware. With injury prone Matt Spangher having an interrupted preseason, Heatherley could feature early in the season. You could do far worse at the D8 position! He’s also playing tonight in the NAB Challenge.


It appears that Aaron Francis and Andy Otten are not going to be ready for Round 1. Francis is being managed through a groin issue and Otten has almost overcome a knee problem but has lost most of his fitness base. Look to these players as trade down options during the season.

Brendon Whitecross and Curtly Hampton miss my top 10 for being expensive fringe players. Their job security could obviously change but at the minute it’s a no from me.

Other rookie priced defenders that could come into Fantasy and Dreamteam contention this season include Ryan Harwood, Sam Collins, Kieran Collins, Tyrone Leonardis, Alex Neal-Bullen, Jacob Weitering, Eric HipwoodClem Smith, Mitch Brown (WCE)Josh McGuinnessHarrison Wigg, Jeremy Finlayson, Zaine Cordy, Tom Lee, Sam Durdin, Harry Marsh, Nic Newman, Mitchell Hibberd, Darcy TuckerAlex Morgan, Josh Cowan, Jack Fitzpatrick, Anthony McDonal-Tipingwuti and Tim Mohr.

Look out for my post NAB Challenge analysis on the defender rookies that performed well, those that struggled and maybe one or two that snuck under the radar! Remember rooks are classified as players under $250,000 in either Fantasy or Dreamteam.

Pick three defenders...

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  • Great to have you back Jeppa & great article to start with

  • Thanks Jeppa, I’ve been hang out for this since the draft, always my favorite article well done!

  • All reports are that Jeppa is having his best pre-season ever – great stuff! We always ask fore more but… any thoughts on Josh Cowan, Jack Fitzpatrick, Ryan Harwood, Anthony McDonal-Tipingwuti and Tim Mohr?

    • Harwood is one I missed but he wouldn’t have made my Top 10. I personally wouldn’t start with Harwood but I can see the appeal in Fantasy.

      Fitzpatrick would be behind Ceglar but if injury hits Big Boy or Ceglar then sure.

      All in all, I wouldn’t start the season with any of the guys you’ve listed.

  • Great work as always Jeppa. One you may have missed is Big Jack Fitzpatrick, who the Hawks are thinking is a like for like replacement for The departed David Hale.

  • Welcome back for the Juniors Jeppa:) Back to the best straight away I see:) Thanks.

  • Tip top article Jeppa. Didn’t see Harwood in this list and the popular Hibberd. Any thoughts?

    • Probably a few names that could have been thrown in here though, Menegola, Menadue, Phillips, Mathieson, Kommer, few others, got some decent rookies getting around this season actually.

      • Gresham, Kennedy, Keays, O’Brien a few more.

      • You do realise this is about defenders, right?

        • Actually no Warnie, I didn’t, but thank you for pointing that out in a sarcastic manner, cheers.

          • You obviously didn’t read the article… “Defenders” was mentioned about four times in the opening paragraph. I’m taking a wild guess here, and saying that Jeppa will write another article for mid + fwd rookies leading up to round 1 (and maybe a line or two about ruck rookies).

          • Excuse me while I go back into my cave and top myself!

          • Just get some glasses….

          • Wasn’t meant to be as sarcastic as it came across, but there is a problem these days with some people who don’t read things properly (or at all). I am surprised you didn’t realise it was about defenders hence the heading, words throughout the article and.. well, the players who were listed.

          • There goes FevsBingles credibility… not only do you balls up your comment, but you take swipes at anyone (including Warnie who can be as sarcastic as he wants to be on his OWN BLOG) who dares to point out the error. Good luck for the rest of the season hombre!

          • Seriously Simon? Fevs made a mistake and been burned by Warnie, all in good fun….situation sorted! Is there any need for you to get up him about credibility and talk shite about his season. People come to this site to talk about footy. Not be dressed down by opportunistic douche bags….

          • You should consider your own advice, because your no better than Simon, with that last comment.

          • And you should consider your reply at that level too Martin. Martin who was having a go at Woz. Woz who was having a go at Fev. Fev who was having a go at Warnie.

            Shame on you.

          • I don’t believe Warnie was sarcastic you need to put your brain into gear before your mouth maybe ?… Read it next time dopey

          • Ah Woz mate, just having a laugh. No need for name calling. All fun and games on this site, right?

    • Harwood could easily jump up in my calculations for Fantasy if he has a good NAB Challenge. Wait and see.

  • Keen to see how Broad, Heatherley go, keeping an eye on Hartley and Byrne.

    C’mon Carlton!

  • Actually, you might be the man in the know Jeppa, what are your thoughts on Jed Lam from Carlton?

  • Newman and McGuiness both at basement price are tempting. Newman looked good off half-back in the Swans’ inter club match. Averaged 108 in the VFL two years ago.

    Harwood is my only back rookie. Averaged 65 and 70 in previous years. Very safe option. Brown will be a KPP, so he’s therefore a massive no for me.

    Hibberd’s a solid option if he gets early games, but it doesn’t look like it thus far.

    Hipwood is an awesome option if he can get early games. Wigg is another one.

    I’ve been keeping Neal-Bullen quiet. If he can get games, he’ll be an awesome option, but he comes at a hefty price tag.

    Nevertheless, welcome back and great article!

    • Yeah I really like Harwood over Brown too.

      I’m interested why you’re so high on Neal-Bullen? Have heard whispers of him as a good option this year but his scores from last year (even in non-vested games) were nothing to write home about.

      • I prefer Harwood over brown as well. Harwood isn’t a kpp and in 2014 averaged 72. Looks to be playing off half back this year and has had a full preseason so hopefully injury worries are behind him. Neal Bullen a bit too expensive for me. Not sure if Hipwood will play a lot assuming cutler and harwood start. I’ve heard Wigg could play but not sure where he fits with smith, laird, jaensch and henderson.

        • Wigg averaged 55 in the SANFL last season, so I don’t think he’ll be a high scorer early doors even if he gets a game.

        • Neal-Bullen was my first picked defender this year. Like any player that price, its a gamble as he could go boom. However I have since removed him from my team to try and fit in hyped players like Rosa as I want to see if Neal-Bullen can better his average frm last year in the NAB cup.

          I think the interest in Neal-Bullen is that he was one of the highested possession accumulaters in the Under 18 Carnival. As a youngester he was a very good aerobic runner, and he is meant to have a good attitude. He is a midfielder who will definately have a breakout season – whether that is this year is the gamble.

    • Yep. I may have put a line through Harwood too early. He prob will make my final rookie guide article.

  • Great read as always. Actually reckon you’ve gone unders on MacKenzies predicted average. He averaged 68 in his only year under Simmo so far, with Gov pushing up the ground and the Eagles new style of defending reckon hes a huge chance to add some intercept marks to his game and push the average up over 70. Lock for me in Fantasy, seriously considering in RDT.

  • Cheers Jeppa – just what I needed at this stage.

    Have SC draft league (drafting on 27/2 @ 10:30am WST)and need 6 players to round at a 10 team league – code 648024.

    Also have 5 spots in SC classic – 571534.

  • Thanks Jeppa – look forward to more gems during the season

    Thought: with so many rookie DEFs available this year that seem (so far) right to play round one (thanks Essendon) – how many is too many?
    One of the ideas I’m playing with is stacking the rest of my squad with premo’s and playing up to 5 rookies…

    • 2 starting rooks max. You wont score as well staring more def rooks. Best to have mid and fwd playing rooks on your field likely to score more.

      • Do you think we need to take into account where the good midpricers are? In DEF there is hardly anyone I’m comfortable picking, whereas MID and FWD are full of good midpricers, so at this stage I’m looking at starting three DEF rookies on field. Could you also make the argument that you won’t score as well starting more DEF midpricers? Or more DEF premiums? (when compared to other lines)

  • Thoughts on Dean Terlich thus year anyone?

    • Terlich injured at training the other day, so highly unlikely for round 1.

      On the outer anyway because of his poor disposal and decision making, so might not get a game at all this season.

  • Awesome Jeppa,
    Are these in your preferred order? Looking to pick 4 (D5,D6,B1,B2) and currently have Broad and Brown on field + Hartley and Adams on the bench.

    • Nah not in order. I will let you know though that Brown, Adams, Hartley and Broad are my current def rooks in my team. Shh though :)

  • Angus Litherland? priced at $205,000 in Fantasy and 237,000 in DT. clarko said recently in #AskTheCoach that “He’s had a great summer and is looking to consolidate his spot in the defensive half this season”.

    Thoughts anyone?

    • With a handful of rookie priced options available who seem likely to have more JS I don’t see the appeal in spending the extra $100k on a player who is fringe 22. But the reward will be his output in the Hawthorn backline if it pays off! Probably not a great option at $240k in limited trade format.

    • Pass. Not a high scorer even if he does play – av. 42.2 from 68.7% TOG last season.

  • Zaine cordy Jeppa?

  • Terrific to have you back Jeppa. As per usual ur write up is very informative.

    Being a Richmond fan there is spot for Broad in defence. One of our deficiencies last season was a good tall to backup Rance. There is talk of Chaplin playing forward.
    Broad’s competition will come from Astbury as he can play on talls, fitness will be his concern.
    Think Batchelor will play even if Broad is in the side. They had to use him to play on talls at times last year and was disadvantaged slightly by size.

    Rice from StKilda might be a smokey. He’s strong bodied, has exceptional pace and is a accurate kicker

  • Any thoughts on Thomas Cole Jeppa?

  • Anyone who is interested in joining a competitive cash league for fantasy classic, includes Jeppa himself and Lefty from leftys leftfielders please email me at No time wasters or beginners thanks

  • Awesome article dude

  • Mitch Hibberd?

  • Jeppa is back!!!!!!! Wooohoooo

  • Epic article Jeppa, love your work. Have considered all of those rookies especially Marcus Adams, being a Perth Boy. Just wanted your thoughts on Eric Hipwood? He’s personally under serious consideration.

    • Hipwood will need to play well in NAB Challenge for serious consideration. Im not putting a line through him but the way i see Lions starting R1 is with Schade, Walker & resting ruckman as tall forwards and Andrews, Merrett and McStay down back.

      No doubt he’ll feature at some point early in the season giving us a great trade down option.

  • Looks like Mitch Hibberd is straight out of my team

  • thoughts on Fiorini? not playing rd 1 NAB either, but heard good reports on him.

  • Kerridge put in a good showing tonight, bit to expensive for mine at this stage though.

    • Yeah, I thought he looked good. Could avg 70-80 If he stays in 22.
      7 Tackles as well. I’ll be watching his next 2 NAB games.

  • is mitchell brown on the outs or terrible scorer?

  • Forget the Rookies, how has your preseason been Jeppa? Sharper than ever?

  • Thanks Jeppa. Looking forward to another year of your keen assessment re rookies.

  • Thanks Jeppa. Really feels like Fantasy has started now the Jeppas Juniors articles are coming out. For me Cowan is a lock. Cats love him. Finally got his body right with a full pre season. Can see him averaging 70 as well as long as he stays fit. If he starts lock him in boys.

  • Thoughts on J Wagner in the backline? Mature aged recruit to Melbourne.

  • Brad Crouch or Matt crouch just as a selection for a midfielder???