I don’t know why I’m surprised. If being the resident rookie watcher at DT Talk for the past three or four years has taught me anything, it’s get the f^&* out of the house when Calvin gets his electric shock thingy out. Oh, yeah, and rookies are frustratingly inconsistent.
Whether it’s game-to-game, like Nick Duigan and Josh Toy scoring 40 points less in round five than in round four, or quarter-to-quarter, like David Swallow racking up 50 points in the fourth quarter after creeping to just 31 in the three before it, first-year AFL footballers are a notoriously volatile bunch.
Here’s hoping we get more of the highs and less of the lows in the fast-approaching round six, the last multi-bye round of an early-season set of three.
We’ve been lucky enough to get at least one hundred each round from our rookies so far this year, and it was Essendon def-mid Dyson Heppell’s turn in round five. Heppell was the exception to the inconsistency rule this round, scoring well again and bumping his price up to $251,400 and maintaining a negative breakeven, just, with a BE of -1 going into the Bombers’ game against Gold Coast. Worryingly, there has been some post-game talk that indicates Heppell may be due a rest this week.
Two of the top five rookie scorers this round were two gamers, so more about them later, but the next best scorer in this bracket was Gold Coast forward Brandon Matera, who bounced back from his round-four 50 to post an 84 in the Suns’ maiden win. Hugely under-selected teammate Trent McKenzie is next with an 82, pushing his price up another $30,000 for the 5000 coaches who took a punt on the big-kicking Sun.
Western Bulldogs midfielder Tom Liberatore (82) finally took the bragging rights in his battle against Carlton’s Ed Curnow (80), with Libba now earning a BE of 6 and Curnow up to a BE of 30. A green or red vest would throw a spanner in the works, but you’d think there’s still a couple of decent price rises left for these prized cash cows to come.
At the other end of the scale, the shit has already started to hit the fan after just five rounds. North Melbourne defender Robbie Tarrant had the dishonour of becoming the first rookie-priced player to lose money, dropping $6,400 after his third successive sub-40 score. You gotta feel for the coaches who brought him in after his round-one 100. Another to drop off immensely after an outstanding first round is Collingwood fwd-mid Andrew Krakouer, who’ll need to get to 45 before he builds on his $170k price tag, and that’s only after he breaks back into the competition’s best side.
Brisbane winger Rohan Bewick started well in round five, but a back injury and subsequent substitution saw him stranded on 21 points. While that score will put a dent in his earning potential for a few weeks (his BE is 47), the good news is that he’s to undergo a fitness test today with the possibility of lining up this week. The news isn’t as good for Ryan Lester owners though, with the tall Lion out for the rest of the season after foot surgery.
North Melbourne has promised a bit of a shake-up after they let Richmond roll them in the second-half, so fingers crossed that it won’t be Cam Richardson’s head on the chopping block. The heavily selected Kangaroos forward (for DT purposes) copped the green jacket in round five and scored just 14 points when finally given his chance. That leaves him with a BE of 40 and, as I said, no guarantee of game-time this week.
While a few cash cows came to a halt, others got started again. Mature-age defender Nick Lower came back into the Freo team and kicked the last-minute match-winning goal, hopefully securing his spot for a few more weeks. The bad news is, Freo has the bye this week, meaning Lower’s price resurrection is off to a stuttering start. Blokes with big breakevens can take heart from the efforts of Richmond’s Reece Conca, who, through increased confidence and midfield time, has turned his largish BE from a few weeks ago into a couple of decent price rises and a new BE of -12 following scores of 87 and 70.
Finally a word on one of the other villains of round five. A popular downgrade target from Greg Broughton, Josh Toy had many wishing they’d gone sideways to Jed Adcock instead, creeping to 17 by the last break but then putting in a decent effort in the final quarter to reach 37 by game’s end. The reason for the poor score was having to do a job on a key forward – in this case, Daniel Motlop. Here’s hoping he gets more of a loose-man role in round six.
It’s pretty rare to have one rookie ruck make you some cash, but it looks as though we’ll have at least two this year with Brisbane’s Broc McCauley following in the footsteps of Gold Coast big man Zac Smith. McCauley helped make up for absence of Big Cox by knocking out an 86, giving him a tasty BE of -53. A low initial price of $80k helps offset a low first-up score of 30.
Brisbane also boast the other most tempting downgrade target this week in the form of midfielder Jared Polec. Unlike McCauley, Polec comes at a high starting price courtesy of his early selection in last year’s draft. Following on from his solid pre-season form, Polec has pumped out a 67 and 83, seeing him enter this round with a BE of -37. A good-sized price rise is on the way, then. You could also consider Luke Thompson (Adel, def, $92,500, -32), Alex Johnson (Syd, fwd-def, $92,500, -2) or Luke Russell (GC, mid, $97,600, 12), but I wouldn’t unless you’re ultra desperate. Keep in mind that Russell’s score was sub-affected, having started with the green jacket against Port Adelaide.
Correct me if I’m wrong – it happens regularly – but there were three rookie-priced players to debut in round five: Gold Coast pair Sam Isles and Jack Hutchins and Western Bulldogs midfielder Mitch Wallis. Isles and Wallis had inglorious debuts, given the pre-season hype around the Gold Coast best and fairest winner and the TAC Cup ball magnet. Wallis was yet another victim of the sub rule, travelling all the way to Perth for three possies and 10 DT points, while Iles managed 17 disposals for 47 DT points. Expert bigger things from these two. Hutchins, meanwhile, doesn’t look the DTing type, scoring just 28 points in the Suns’ backline.
Port Adelaide def-mid Ben Jacobs, a popular pre-season pick before he struck down by glandular fever, played in the SANFL reserves on the weekend and was named among the best. Given the Power’s most-recent black out, he shouldn’t be more than a few weeks away from a call-up, you’d reckon. Another popular def-mid selection, Essendon’s Michael Hibberd, was first emergency for the Anzac Day game, so looks to be next in line if Heppell is indeed rested this week. Unfortunately for those looking to maintain their fwd-mid link now that Andrew Krakouer is exiting a lot of teams and Dion Prestia continues to frustrate his owners, Fremantle’s Tendai Mzungu is still 5-7 weeks away, while Adelaide’s Ian Callinan is listed as indefinite.
Apologies for the lateness of the Rooks this week (normally it’ll be up by Wednesday morning), but I wanted to give tbetta’s excellent Bullets post a bit of breathing space. Check it out if you haven’t already.