The Good Old Days
Wow. What a difference a full squad makes! I don’t care what anyone says; scoring in the lofty heights of 2300+ is so much more satisfying than scoring 1600 and finding ways to justify it as an acceptable score. And in the end, that’s what we all play it for: enjoyment!
It was a huge week across the board in Round 14. There was an unheard of 75 players to make it to the ton this week, including 28 with 120+ and 10 heroes with 130 or more. It’s weeks like these where it seems that you’re more praying to avoid low scores than you are cheering on big scores – I’m not sure I like it from that perspective (especially if you have a unique like Griffen or Sloane, for instance), but I certainly like seeing an inflated score at the end of the round, if only for visual gratification.
Of course, the Captain call was huge this week, with the Swan delivering some real blows to Ablett in their fantasy rivalry. Now that they’re both fit, who to crown will be a huge call every week for the foreseeable future – as an owner of both, I kind of envy those who have one or the other, just to avoid the ulcer-inducing decision weighing you down each week!
Makers and Breakers
As Calvin said on DT Talk Live this week, Swan and Ablett were almost inseparable. The numbers and form were pristine for both, making it a real flip of the coin. You’d be a very happy coach if it landed Swanny-side up for you, given he exploded for 172 while Ablett struggled to 102. He’s now 6 points clear as the highest averaging player this season, an incredible feat. It’ll be hard to look past him with the Captaincy this week, given he’s averaged 148.7 in his last three matches.
In a week like this, when everyone is scoring well, it’s the unique players that set your week apart. Those who haven’t fully upgraded their midfield, or have Pendles languishing on their bench, may have faced the shaky prospect of starting Sam Gibson this week. The mature-age ball-magnet (such a cliché these days…) really stepped it up this week, avoiding a vest and smashing out a 110. His JS should be strong for the next couple of weeks, especially with the Kangaroos in rare form.
Two popular under-priced midfielders at seasons start would now be unique 6th midfielders as we near the end of upgrade season. I’m talking about Barlow and Hayes, of course. Hayes had a stand-out game, filling the stat sheet in almost every category for a total of 122. Meanwhile, Barlow continued his outstandingly consistent form, notching his 6th ton on the burst with a gratuitous 120. Fun fact: Barlow has scored 8 hundreds this season, but this is the only one to reach 110 or more points!
Jamie Elliot, take a bow. I probably didn’t give him his due over the MBRs, where he was fantastic in delivering exactly what we needed from him – JS and 60 points. Now, when the going is a little less tough, he’s still going a great click, scoring 95 in Round 14. A shot in the arm for his job security for those who had him benched, and incredible for those who were sweating on him after Chapman withdrew late with a groin issue.
A few weeks ago, Travis Cloke reached a fork in the road. He was coming off a horror game in which he managed just 24 points, and his BE was in danger of exceeding the double-ton. Coaches saw value in picking him up knowing what he can do, and those who took the plunge were rewarded with a 112, 86 and 85. He took a huge backwards step in Round 14 though, scoring just 42 when he looked like he was going to remove those dirty basement scores from his game.
The next two up in the Breakers are the Shaw ‘brothers’, Sam and Heath. Sam (32) may have actually scored by half time this week, but we were relying on him in the absence of a few popular mid-pricers and he gave us nothing. He can gladly slide back onto the bench, which is lucky, because he probably won’t get a gig in Round 15. Heath (59) reverted back to his old ‘SeeShaw’ ways, after an imposter notched a three-peat of 110+ scores not too long ago.
With most teams set elsewhere, many ruck lines are under renovation at the moment. Someone asked me last week, “Who should I upgrade out of Kreuzer and Giles”, a suggestion to which I scoffed at. 30 seconds later I was erasing my reply and silently apologising for my outburst after I actually checked the stats. Kreuzer has been a slowly sinking ship lately and he’ll always struggle to justify selection if he continues to dish up a score like 53 once a month.
Jed Adcock sneaks in here purely for his lacklustre first half. He showed just how hard it must be to handle a tag (a new wave of kudos to those guys who do it week in, week out) with just 15 points at the main change. To his credit, he saved his game with some brilliant junk-time (the whole 2nd half, really) accumulation of the footy and finished on 65. It could have been much worse.
The Luck Factor
One of the most critical ingredients for a successful Dream Team is, and always will be, luck. You can set the perfect squad on the surest path for Round 1, but after that, luck largely fills the sails of your fantasy boat.
A big criticism of the way DreamTeam has been set up this year regards the byes and the increased effect that luck has on your team over those three weeks. I was a big advocate of working to a bye structure over the pre-season, but you may as well have gone in blind with the injuries and suspensions that occurred over the MBR period. This is part of the reason that I believe the MBRs need to be tackled differently by the DT powers-that-be to avoid alienating their entire target audience – the casual DTers hated the donuts, and the fanatical DTers hate it when their knowledge and nous aren’t rewarded.
There was a fair bit of discussion in last week’s Bullets about this point, and the main argument against was that it’s all relative. The representatives for this view went on to explain that yes, 1600 is a terrible score – but if the average was 1500 that week, then it’s still a good week relatively, despite how many donuts you had. This much is true – but it’s where the donuts come from that hurt. Many coaches employed sound bye structures and trading strategies but were just plain unlucky. And that matters, because bad luck over the MBRs is crushing.
Every team has its ups and downs over the course of a season, with the variations of the scores and availabilities of individual players in each team compounding to give the illusion of form or momentum. That’s what we’ve come to expect, and as every team goes through this over season, it all comes out in the wash. If your team is hit with bad luck selection wise (I’m talking injury, suspension, rookies out of the side, etc.) in a normal round, then most of the time you can cover that thanks to the emergency system. This means that often, instead of losing 100 points, you might only lost 40, for instance. If you hit that unlucky patch over the MBRs, however, there is no remedy – and that’s what makes the MBRs a three week period where planning might help, but is ultimately ruled by luck.
Every season it seems that our rookies are out to get us. How many times have you looked to fill your M6 slot, had three similar rookies to choose from and managed to pick the worst option of the lot? Every bloody time, I’m sure of it. In fact, I’m almost certain that to win the FJ Cruiser, you have to get incredibly lucky with on-field selections, as well as your Captain choices.
When you crunch the numbers, you realise just how critical these 50-50 decisions can be. Captaining Ablett over Swan: 70 points. Starting Sam Shaw over Ellis: 18 points. Playing Horsley over Gibson: 51 points. Backing in Devon Smith over Elliot: 30 points. Add them all up, and you’re left with 169 points less than you could have earned with the exact same squad. It just took a little luck.
As I said, luck will always play a play in DT, and so it should. AFL teams are hit by injuries at inopportune times, just as I’m sure they could be better served in the heat of battle with slightly different personnel than the one they chose. But, in the end, any rule change for the MBRs that makes ‘luck’ less influential in DT is fine by me.
Cheap and Unusual
Upgrade season is finally coming to a close, with most coaches down to 8 trades or less and boasting quasi-complete squads. It’s the perfect time to re-evaluate your trading strategy for the run home. Putting aside 4 trades for LTIs/finals and it’s likely you only have 1 or 2 upgrades left in you. Some have more players to upgrade than upgrades left though, so what’s the solution? A unique cheapie, that’s what. Here’s a list of a few risky unique picks who could give you a boost heading into DT finals:
Pearce Hanley – $377,900 Defender – 85.9 avg, 4.3% owned
With a BE of -1, now’s the perfect time to scoop up the talented Irishman. He’s scored 134 and 120 in the last two weeks, and with most coaches preferring his teammate Jed Adcock, you’re almost guaranteed a P.O.D each game over the run home. Don’t forget that the Lions have a favourable run home, either.
Shannon Hurn – $359,200 Defender – 80.3 avg, 12.0%
I was very surprised to see Hurn with such a (relatively) high competition-wide ownership, although I think it’s a bit of a skew figure as I haven’t come up against one team with ‘The Leg’ in it. This is surprising in itself, because he is a very competent DTer. His consistency is exceptional, scoring 73 or more in each of his last 8 matches.
Michael Barlow – $452,700 Midfielder – 93.5 avg, 4.7%
I singled him out in the Makers this week, but he deserves another mention here. Yes, he was once a little cheaper, but he is still priced miles below what he’s capable of and what he is poised to do over the 2nd half of the season. There’s been a lot of coverage about how Barlow’s now finally playing ‘pain-free’, and we’re starting to see the results in his 5-round average of 106.4.
Andrew Swallow – $434,500 Midfielder – 99.5 avg, 4.1%
Spitter has forever been on the periphery of the DT elite – consistently producing big scores too often interspersed by frustratingly average totals. It’s been a similar story for him this season as he fights tight tags and fluctuating team form. Now that the Roos seem to have clicked, will Swallow finally display some consistency? Could be worth the risk at this price.
Daniel Cross – $396,500 Midfielder – 91.6 avg, 0.9%
Okay, here’s one from way left field. If you’re looking for someone under 400k who can boost their average considerably, Cross could be your guy. He’s currently under-priced thanks to two poor weeks on the trot a few rounds back, but he’s been back on track with a three-round average of 95.7. He’s a former DT gun, averaging 103.2 a game as recently as 2010 – could he make a return to form?
Jonathon Griffin – $362,400 Ruck – 78.7 avg, 1.2%
Looking to upgrade your 2nd ruckman? Well, with Sandi out for the short-term, Griffin could be that unique boost to power you up the rankings in the run home. Since the 211 has been out, Griffin has averaged 94 points from three games, a fantastic return for someone at his price. It’s not without risk obviously, with Sandi tipped to return in Round 22, right around the critical DT finals.
Ben McEvoy – $387,900 Ruck – 84.1 avg, 1.2%
He’s cheap, he’s unique and he’s set for a big finish to the season. His Round 14 score of 113 was his first ton for the season, but at his price, he doesn’t have to score 100 every week to justify selection. Whether McEvoy can stay fit will be the litmus test for his worth in the run home.
Shaun Higgins – $353,400 Mid/Fwd – 76.7 avg, 2.7%
He should probably be on your ‘Never Again’ list, but in desperate times… He hasn’t topped the ton all season, but he’s been slowly increasing his output over the past few weeks with a 90 point average in that time. And, amazingly, Higgins has played all 13 games so far this season. It’s a huge risk, but you can guarantee it’ll shake things up a little.
Colin Sylvia – $305,900 Mid/Fwd – 58.5 avg, 1.1%
It’s been a long time coming, but has Sylvia finally pulled his finger out? Colon’s season numbers are nauseating, but in his defence, Melbourne are pathetic and he hasn’t been fully fit all year. He’s scored 84 and 100 in the last two weeks though, which could signal that he’s turned a corner? At his price, he’s even worth a look as M7/F8 cover.
Well there you go. Just a handful of players who could give you that unique edge for a little less coin – but do you have the balls to take the risk?! Let me know in the comments, and suggest any uniques you’re considering for the run home.
There are a few little nuts and bolts that aren’t big enough for their own Bullet, but are worth mentioning anyway. Here are a few tidbits out of Round 14.
- The Kangaroos have really rallied over the last few weeks, if the ‘flame’ icon on the DT website is anything to go by. So I glazed over the stats and sure enough, they’ve averaged 1631 points in their last 3 matches, more than 100 points their season average. Get on the Roos!
- Over the pre-season, I put together a piece for the Deck of DT on a certain player, none other than Chris Masten. Well, here’s an overdue shout-out to all the Haters (you know who you are – if you don’t, check out the comments here). He’s averaged 90.2 after 14 rounds, just a shade beneath the 91 I projected for him pre-season, to which I copped a fair whack. He’s also shot up $120k since season’s start. A win for the mid-pricer.
- Nick Riewoldt had his first failure against the Roos in his last 12 starts against them, scoring just 47 on Sunday. In his previous 7 matches against them he averaged 124.4 points, including every score 99 or above. Incredible stats really.
- Dayne Zorko, despite his 69 point ‘failure’, has cracked the $400k barrier in a record time of 7 games. It’s a fork in the road now for Zorko – will he forge his own path and continue to average 90+ for the rest of the year, or will he tire and fade away like Magner and Horsely before him?
- Brendan Goddard is slowly etching his name into my DT sh*t list this season. He hasn’t scored more than 81 in any of his last three starts, which is really not what you paid $474k for at this beginning of the year. What frustrates me the most is that I picked him to drop off this year and started without him, then was swindled into picking him up after he had three 90+ scores to kick off 2012. Oh, and now he’s been rubbed out for the next fortnight! Not happy, mate.
- Marty Clarke obviously doesn’t like being dropped. The Irishman went off with a bang in the Pies VFL side, collecting a reported 31 touches and a couple of sausage rolls after his first omission of the year. Nothing like a first-up BOG performance to see you promoted.
This is the question on many coaches lips, I’d say; especially those who haven’t fully upgraded just yet. One rookie on the bubble is Tom Campbell, who’d be a perfect guy to get in for Orren Stephenson at his rookie price, provided he keeps his spot in the team this week. Apart from that, it’s slim pickings.
If you’re absolutely determined to upgrade though, you have two options. Trade in a basement-priced rookie, and pray that you don’t have to rely on them to play at any point in the next 10 weeks. Option 2 is to trade in a player that you think has a decent chance of debuting over the next few weeks, and sacrificing that extra $10k or so. It’s tough call, but in the end it’s one you have to make either way.
Personally, I like someone like Mark Baguley – from all reports, he’s in the mix to be promoted, is basement priced at $85,800 and is a Mid-Def. If you’re looking for someone who’s a fair chance to play in the near future, check out guys like Tom Mitchell, or those who have already played like Elliot Yeo or Jordan Murdoch.
Wait, there’s isn’t one…? Well, it’s a no-contest for me: Ivan Maric. What he’s managed to do at his starting price and perceived ability makes him the pick of the season, no doubt. He’s the only non-rookie in the Top 9 biggest price-gainers this season, 3rd overall with a $225,300 windfall. He’s also managed to average 103 points per game (a whopping 44 point increase on his 2011 average!) whilst dropping below 85 just once.
Amazing stat! If I didn’t have the numbers in front of me then I would have said it wasn’t possible… You’d only be able to do it with a heap of either goals or hit-outs, surely. 20 minutes of research proved fruitless – I couldn’t locate anyone who’s even gotten close! Go Lobbe.
Frankly, I waffled on enough this week, so I’ll keep this Bullet brief. Keep any eye on the injury front: Franklin, Sexton and Shiel are already confirmed out for this week, while Chapman and Pendles should return. The MRP has also rules out Goddard for two (as I mentioned earlier), and if you are unlucky to harbour Jackson, Guerra, T. Walker or Crameri as uniques then they’re all out for multiple weeks.
Sidenote – DT Talk Tbetta League is up to 7th overall! Great effort by all those involved.
Tweet me at @Tbetta9 for all things fantasy.