You’ll have to forgive me for taking a pretty relaxed approach to rookie hunting in round 16. The lack of league games meant most of my thinking actually revolved around next year’s DT season as I soaked up the match reviews from that annual showcase of future first-round picks, the national under-18 championships. Add to that my personal situation of having already used as many trades as there are arms in an underwater orgy involving two octopuses, a water rat and a walrus, and it was really hard to work up much enthusiasm about the kids coming through and making their debut at the moment. Even if you do have trades left to throw about, you can forget about downgrading and do a bit of sidewaysing instead, snapping up a fallen premium like Jimmy Bartel with a fattened-up cash cow like Dave Swallow. Speaking of Swallow, here comes our segment on “veteran” rookies, the three-or-more gamers…
So my nephew has been staying with us for a few days and, man, has the kid been giving Tiger Woods on the PS3 a thrashing or what? He plays as Tiger, “coz he’s got the maddest skillz”. He might speak like it’s 2005, but he speaks the truth: Tiger does indeed have the maddest skills – he’s a monster off the tee with a silky short game to boot. I mean, the man is so whack/prime/whatever that EA Sports went and named the whole game after him. With that in mind, I won’t be surprised if the AFL changes its name in a few years to the ADSL, or the Australian Dave Swallow League, because, by then, Swallow will be good enough to have earned the naming rights, just like Tiger. We’ve been privy to just how good he’s going to be for a little while now, but caught a glimpse of the post-Ablett possibilities when the Bald One broke down in the first half of the Gold Coast’s game against Sydney on Saturday night. Swallow scored a rookie round-high of 114 points in the game, which proved a profitable one for our young guns. Seven of the week’s top eight rookie scorers played in that game, with the only Swan amongst the Suns, Luke Parker, more than doubling his previous best with a 107. Essendon’s multi-position maestro Dyson Heppell, the fast-firming favourite for the Rising Star award, was the third-highest scorer with a 102 – his third strong score on the trot following a couple of 50s in rounds 12 and 13. A rest for Heppell is on the cards after coach James Hird flagged it last week, apparently, but one of my trusted Bombers sources – Ossie, Ossie, Ossie, Oi, Oi, Oi – says Hird will be guided by the player as to whether he needs a rest or not. One of the challengers for the Rising Star award, Jack Darling, will be hoping to pull a similar form reversal out of the hat after the West Coast forward’s 48 on the weekend meant he has failed to break through the 50-point barrier in any of his past four games.
According to my dubious book-keeping, there are currently 18 rookie-priced players who have played two games this season – all poised on the precipice of their crucial first price rise – but only three of them played that second game as recently as last week. Those three are Western Bulldogs forward Andrew Hooper, who’s listed as a defender in DT, Richmond tall forward Ben Griffiths and Collingwood midfielder Luke Rounds. Just a couple of points separated the three of them in round 16, with Hooper and Griffiths grabbing 45 points, while Rounds managed 43. Griffiths has been subbed off in both his games, the first after a knock with just 13 points to his name. That’s the same score that Rounds managed in his debut match too, in which he started as the sub. Hopper was far more productive in his first game, scoring 61 first-up, but damaged his chances of a third consecutive call-up with a pretty poor game on Sunday. A decent fourth quarter went some of the way to winning over Rocket Eade, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his name was missing from the Dogs’ team sheet on Thursday.
Just the three debutants in round 16, including a couple of DT-listed rucks in Gold Coast tall Rory Thompson and Collingwood’s Lachlan Keefe. Hawthorn defender and Saturday sub Riley Milne is the third, with Thompson taking the honour of being the highest scorer with a 77 against the Swans. Keep an eye out for Adelaide utility Daniel Talia and possibly Melbourne middie Sam Blease as well, as these guys got their first chance before last week’s bye and could hold their places in round 17.