The stakes were high in Round 22, thanks to the increased importance of League matches and the do-or-die Preliminary Finals. Trades, as they have been for a while now, were scarce for most coaches; particularly the overall-centric types. As such, we started to see donuts here and there to coaches who have sustained injury and poor luck, but lost the ability to stabilise themselves through trading weeks ago.
Hopefully you cleverly stashed away a couple of trades for the playoffs and tasted victory in your Prelim Final accordingly. If not, I doubt you’re bothering to read this, and like GWS have iced your season early and are already looking towards pre-season for 2013. Let’s take a quick look at the big issues out of Round 22:
Benching one of your star players is a taboo that many coaches shy away from purely because of the nature of the act on some bizarre quasi-religious level, and some because of the higher levels of stress that come with making a decision against the grain.
Benching Premos had very mixed results this week, with many coaches mistakenly backing in Gibson (60) in the midfield over Thompson (92), Priddis (109) or Rockliff (69); meanwhile, giving Franklin (67) another week off in the forward line wouldn’t have been a terrible move with Zorko (113), Treloar (99) and Martin (119) all popular DTers resigned to the bench this week.
When whispers of an Ablett bug surfaced on Friday, the Swan vs Ablett quandary became much easier to solve. Swan started with a bang, but he drifted out of the contest and finished on 119; meanwhile Ablett was shadowed by Carrazzo as well as the flu, culminating in just 89 points. Another battle victory to Swanny, and one to late mail as well.
Unfortunately, though, late mail lost the war this week. Talk of a Cox withdrawal hit breaking point on Twitter by Saturday afternoon, with respected media outlets joining the chorus and some smaller news sites mistakenly reporting the rumour as fact. As we all know, Coxy took to the field and squeezed out an 87 despite copping a heavy knock midway through the contest. If I were a betting man, I’d say rumour will be rife again this week (especially false reports due to DT Grand Finals), and it’ll be up to us to sort out the fact from the fiction.
Stevie J Tag
With Selwood sitting meekly on the sidelines with the General, Picken had lost his prime target and had to recalibrate – unfortunately for some, he set his sights on Stevie J.
Picken’s a super tagger and Sunday was no different, limiting SJ to 20 disposals and zero goals; well below his late-season output. 78 points wasn’t a devastating effort by any means, but for all those who had traded him in over the past fortnight, it certainly had fresh psychological impact.
Makers and Breakers
Why is it that the one year I’m not on Team O’Keefe, he dominates? Maybe it’s because he missed Round 1 and he’s 31 years young… Anyway, those who had the cash to bring in ROK have been rewarded massively over the tail end of the season, with the veteran DTer averaging 129.7 points a game over the fantasy finals. O’Keefe had a hefty 142 points this week, amazingly pushing his price to the 5th-highest in the competition.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, many coaches lost faith in Dusty this week, which may in turn have lost them a Prelim. Martin’s form has been patchy to say the least, but one workmanlike effort and 119 points later and he’s back in the good graces again – at least for those who didn’t bench him.
Duffield has come way out of left field, but his recent scores at just 3.2% ownership are quite amazing. We all know he suffered that mid-year slump and was actually dropped for a month, but since his return (not counting his games with the vest) he’s been incredible. His 125-point effort brings his 5-round average to 103.4 points – seriously impressive, considering he was priced at $285k immediately before that streak.
After a few lean weeks (not to mention a mid-week injury scare, clutching his knee at training), Pendles has finally produced a score which remunerates all the coaches who help him over his injury lay-off. He was the equal-highest scoring Pie this week, which isn’t a bad effort when you share a changeroom with players of the ilk of Swan and Beams.
After two sub-90 scores, many coaches were easily able to justify swinging Zorko to the bench in favour of a ‘bigger’ name. Those who kept the faith, however (or those without any forward cover, I guess), sustained a very handy boost from his 113 point outing. Let’s not forget he’s in the top 8 forwards so far this season…
Choosing the Breakers is usually reasonably difficult at this time of the season, because we are all so hypersensitive to every small perceived failure that it’s so easy to point the finger at so many players. Thankfully, Goldstein made my job a little easier this week, embarrassing himself to a meagre 24 points. Words can’t really describe how much Sandilands dominated him… Let’s just say that Goldy was forced to ‘pick up the soap’ this week, and we’ll get close.
It turns out that late mail claiming Sam Mitchell is suffering legitimate soreness may have been right on the money this week. He was tagged by Bird (not even a real tagger, by the way. Usually used in a forward tag capacity) to just 51 points, which I imagine is akin to spitting in the face of all the DT coaches who welcomed him back after his late withdrawal in Round 21.
It’s been a sudden and violent fall from the DT elite for Tom Rockliff and his fantasy shareholders. His highest score has been 82 in the last five weeks, which has to have alarm bells ringing. Rocky is too good for these types of scores, and certainly too good to play as a permanent forward. Intuition says that he’s carrying some kind of niggling injury, and has been all season. Optimism says that he’ll be cheap as chips next season, and dare I say it – a Mid/Fwd DPP?
So, we waited 7 weeks for a mere 67 points? Get your act together for Round 23 Buddy, and all of your recent sins will be forgiven; including skipping out of the country for the Olympics.
It’s probably fair to say that Beau Waters hasn’t been the same player we all know and love over the last four weeks, at least from a DT perspective. As for why, it’s hard to say. Late-season fatigue, his dodgy knee, or simply more attention from the opposition could all explain his recent drop off in production. Beau had just 53 points this week, with alarmingly low Mark and Tackle figures (3 and 1, respectively) a large factor.
In seasons past, a little concept call the ‘rest’, normally enforced by General Soreness, has crept into our game. Traditionally, sides that have already locked away a top spot will rest a bunch of their stars against a minnow side in preparation for a tough finals series. However, this season has been so close at the top end that no Top 8 side will enter Round 23 without a significant carrot dangling for them.
So weirdly, any ‘rests’ or late withdrawals are probably more likely to come from teams not in finals contention; teams keen to get an early start on 2013. Here’s an in-depth look at what’s on the line for each match-up and how that might affect our DTers.
Safe as Houses
Richmond vs Port Adelaide
Hardwick said a few weeks ago that Richmond won’t ice their stars for an early start to next season, and will play the year out. And no-one has any players from Port anyway.
Hawthorn vs West Coast
Both sides will go all out this Friday night, will plenty on the line for both clubs. Eagles need to win to beat Collingwood in the race for 4th spot and a second chance, while Hawks will risk losing a home final if they falter against the Eagles and both Sydney & Adelaide (interstate clubs!) are victorious. If guys like Mitchell, Franklin and Cox are more than 70% fit, they’ll play.
Geelong vs Sydney
Again, there’s plenty at stake here. Sydney really wants that home final (given they play the SCG significantly better than any other club), and a win would secure them that privilege regardless of the results in the Hawthorn and Adelaide matches thanks to their superior percentage. Likewise, Geelong has to fight to hold onto 6th spot and earn that home final. Guns like Goodes, O’Keefe, Stevie J, Chapman and Selwood will all play if they have a heartbeat this week you’d think.
St. Kilda vs Carlton
With the Top 8 now set after Round 22’s results, St. Kilda and Carlton will basically play off for 9th. Expect any players who’ve been fronting up with consistent niggles to be possibly iced up in preparation for 2013 – this includes Mitch Robinson (calf and eye) and Nick Riewoldt (knee – already ruled out), who they’ve elected not to risk in a game that effectively means less than nothing.
Essendon vs Collingwood
Essendon’s year is over, so anyone under any shred of doubt won’t be risked given their already monumental injury list. We shouldn’t see Ryder again (knee), while there’s every chance that someone like Zaharakis or Stanton will be pulled after seemingly tiring late this season. As for the Pies, this game is a must-win if they want to make the Top 4, and if the Eagles win, it’ll come down to percentage. They’ll go all out, but don’t be surprised if they rest Heath Shaw this week anyway; Heater has apparently been battling soreness for over a month now.
Adelaide vs Gold Coast
Two weeks ago, this would have been a real danger game for Thompson or Dangerfield owners, but then the Crows dropped a game to the lowly Lions and suddenly Adelaide can’t afford to mess with their form. If Adelaide wants any chance of making the Top 2 this week, they’ll need a win – and they’ll need to win big to increase those odds. I’m more worried about Ablett, who obviously was carrying a virus last week and could theoretically be rested this week if flu-like symptoms dog him for another week.
Brisbane vs Western Bulldogs
Boyd isn’t the type of player to call it quits on a season early, and being the Captain, he has a moral obligation to hang around. As for Lake, Adcock and Rockliff, well, they have a little more wriggle room. Lake was a late withdrawal last week and could easily miss again, Adcock has a history of injury and could be cotton-wooled for 2013, and Rockliff hasn’t seemed like himself all season. Any could be given an early holiday this week, but odds are that they’ll march out as per usual.
Severe Weather Warning
GWS vs North Melbourne & Fremantle vs Melbourne
This is where it gets interesting. If Sydney beats Geelong, then North & Fremantle still have a chance to sneak into 6th – it all depends on percentage at that point, and it will basically come down to whoever smashes their meek opponents by more. In this situation, it’s hard to see either side resting any key players, although Pavlich is still under an injury cloud regardless.
However, if Geelong trumps the Swans at home (as expected), then Freo and North are consigned to playing off for 7th and 8th, no better and no worse. There is almost no advantage finishing 7th then 8th, especially with the Top 4 so close on their best day. Critically, the Geelong game will finish prior to both the North game (twilight) and both will be over by the time the Freo game (evening) kicks off. It won’t take a genius on the Freo coaching staff to figure out that if they finish 8th and Eagles finish 5th, then they score a home final against a team they belted a month ago… Could a couple of guns be pulled out late? We all know both Fyfe and Sandi are underdone, and no doubt they wouldn’t risk Pavlich if 6th spot weren’t up for grabs. Exciting stuff – watch this space!
At this stage of the game, you’re one of two coaches. You’re either the coach who has a superior team coming up against a weaker opponent, and all you need is for your players to deliver what they have all year – it’s yours to lose.
Or, you’re the coach that, when you look player-for-player against your Grand Final opponent, is a little pessimistic about your chances. By no means are you in the favourable position and you really need a few things to go your way.
Let’s call these coaches Captain Vanilla and Captain Courageous.
You just need to hold it together and not choke – so Swan will be your Captain. He should absolutely smash the Bombers at the MCG (I’ll be there cheering him on!), especially after a disappointing three weeks for him personally, spurring him on. But you’ve got a trade or two left, so who to snap up? Who will put up that guaranteed 90? Here’s my top 5:
Note that C.R. stands for Consistency Rating – The lower it is, the more consistent the player this season.
A year ago I’d never have though I’d be saying this, but Dangerfield is one of the most reliable DTers going around. His CR is raised due to 4 scores of 130+ this season, but he never fails. Danger has scored over 75 points every game since Round 9; however, he’s a little on the pricey side.
4. Michael Barlow – $455,800 – CR = 9.3
Barlow’s score chart is incredible. He’s played 21 games this season and he’s scored between 100 and 109 on 13 occasions! Absolute lock for the ton this week – great upgrade on someone like Gibson for just an extra $23k.
3. Nat Fyfe – $405,100 – CR = 9.1
Fyfe is probably the best option for consistency on a value basis. He’s averaged 91.8 in his last five and he’s getting fitter each week. If you have a sneaky $50k, he’s a perfect upgrade from someone like Devon Smith.
2. Dyson Heppell – $364,600 – CR = 7.7
Heppell epitomises consistency – how else can you average 85 points per game, but only top the ton twice all season? Remarkable uniformity.
1. Dayne Beams – $557,900 – CR = 7.0
To average 116.5 points per game, whilst keeping your CR down at 7 is an incredible effort. None of the other players to average over 110 even get close! If you somehow don’t have him, get on now! Oh wait; he’s the 3rd most expensive player in the league… Beamer will be my first picked for years to come.
You really need that edge this week… The only way you’ll win is by whipping something out of nowhere. A unique Captain is a great start, but you really need to bring in someone who can do that something special. But who?
Normally Goodes is as solid as ever around finals time, but a forward line role has rendered his scoring unpredictable. However, he’s had a pair of 137-point scores in the last couple of months, and is still cheap enough that he’s available to most coaches… A risk, but a good one.
4. Andrew Swallow – $475,600 – CR = 29.3
Spitter is like a light switch – he’s either on or off. He’s had 6 scores of 125+, but only one score in the 100-125 range. Always a chance to go bang!
3. Harley Bennell – $409,300 – CR = 32.9
Harley had a 156-point game a month ago and has been threatening to explode again ever since. Being a young’un amongst young’uns, he’s always a chance to be tagged out of games; but the fact that he’s scored over 80 in 8 of his last 10 attempts shows that he’s more hit than miss.
2. Aaron Sandilands – $355,800 – CR = 36.5
You’re just as likely to suffer a stroke from screaming about his latest injury as you are a 110-point score, such is the life of a Sandilands owner. He does seem to have his gear in order though, so I’m expecting another ton against a very weak Melbourne ruck brigade. Giles owners should be on the look-out – you’ll actually pocket $30k with a trade down to the big 211.
1. Steve Johnson – $437,000 – CR = 45.7
Stevie J – the ultimate coach’s headache! We all know his scoring graph looks like a heartbeat monitor, there’s no denying that. But we all know he can bust out a massive score, being one of a handful of players in the competition to top 170 DT points twice.
# Anyone noticed that Duffield has become a DT gun while M. Johnson has suddenly slipped back into DT obscurity? I see a DT thief… Duffield averaged 72.3 points up til Round 16, while MJ was going at 88.6. Seems like there was a swift role switch, because since then, they’ve averaged 95.7 and 67.7 points respectively!
# No longer can we expect a Premium coming off a multi-week injury to produce a decent score in their return game. Mitch Robinson posted 48 and 39 in the fortnight following his calf injury, Zaharakis has offered similar scores of 44 and 32, and Buddy managed just 67 points himself this week. I guess reflex trading isn’t always a bad thing…
# If you have Sylvia in your side, then beware. Crowley has tagged opposition players to an average of 22 points less than their regular output so far this season, which means that if Colon cops the Creepy tag (because let’s be honest… who else has been any good for the Dees midfield lately?), he’s set for a 60-odd score.
This is it. The last dance. The final stand. The ultimate challege. The Grand Final.
Winning a premiership is never easy, so pray for some mercy from the DT Gods and roll with the punches as they come; starting with the MRP findings, followed by Team Selection, the last-minute rumour mill and the inevitable late withdrawals. Hopefully, you have a trade or two up your sleeve to right the ship, or at least you’ve established solid cover to this point. I’ve taken the liberty of forecasting some issues you might have for Round 23:
Which Forward to Bench?
With Franklin finally fit again and the likes of Treloar and Zorko throwing their hats in the ring, it’s very possible you’ll have 8 or 9 forward-eligible guns to choose from this week. Figuring out who’ll be the lowest scorer of the bunch is an impossible task, but it’s one we have to attempt. Dunny does it better than most, so check out the Friday Scramble for more in-detail analysis.
Swan or Smokey
Some teams make the Grand Final through whatever means, but unfortunately are far inferior to their drawn opponents – think Port Adelaide in 2007. In this scenario, you have to go with a smokey Captain if you’re the underdog. You never know – their perma-Captain (a Swan or Ablett type) could get injured in the 2nd quarter and bang – you’re back in with a chance.
A good practice is researching your opponent and setting one of your uniques as Captain – that way, if your chosen player dominates, you get twice the reward.
A couple of guys to look at is Dangerfield against the Suns (142 projected, with a solid history against them), Ryan O’Keefe (incredible form, although it is at Simmonds) and Bryce Gibbs (had 130, 141 and 125 in a row before this week, and you can be sure no-one else will).
Late withdrawals have been part of the game for a while now, and it’s a necessary avenue for teams to select the strongest side possible. Unfortunately, we’re seeing an absurd number of last-minute changes lately and we should expect this to continue in Round 23.
While predicating late withdrawals is rarely easy, fixing them after lockout is simply impossible. The only way to be prepared is to have sufficient cover across multiple lines. Smart coaches will have reinforced their side through downgrading to rookies with solid JS (Spurr, Shaw, Gibson, Zorko), or have strategically hung onto rookies with consistent scoring rather than cashing them in (Devon Smith, Treloar, Greene, Bugg, Morris, Giles). If not, then you risk running the gauntlet this week, and a Premiership could go begging because of it.
Tweet me @Tbetta9 for all things fantasy.