Tom is back putting players head-to-head in Versus. Today he looks at premium midfielders for the second time.
Luke Parker ($663,000) v Dan Hannebery ($655,000)
Luke Parker has been one of the competitions premier midfielder since he endured a breakout year in 2014. He still continues to press his claim as one of the drafts best steals after being taken with pick 40 back in 2010. A hard-edged midfielder who is known for his courageous marks running back with the flight, Parker is equally as damaging when resting up forward and last year kicked a career-high 25 majors for the Grand Finalists. The Langwarrin product endured his best season to-date in 2016 and was awarded with the Swans Best And Fairest, selection in the All-Australian team and a doubled his career votes with a second place finish in the Brownlow Medal. The newly-appointed vice-captain also averaged 111 Fantasy points – ranking him fifth behind fellow midfielders Dangerfield, Merrett, Neale and Treloar for total points scored. The Swans only lost five home and away games in 2016 and Parker scored under 95 on five occasions. He did not crack the ton when his side lost and posted scores of 96, 69, 59, 66 and 83. However mixed in with these below average scores was fourteen tons including eight over 120. These statistics prove that Parker can and most likely will go huge if the Swans get up. Against the Western Bulldogs in round 15, Luke managed 34 disposals, 5 marks, 10 tackles, and 3 goals on his way to a score of 158. He was again impressive against the Saints at Etihad Stadium. Parker also finished with 3 goals but added 9 marks and 33 touches for a score of 144 Fantasy points. In other games, Parker racked up 40 disposals (v Collingwood) and 17 tackles (v Melbourne) – both proving to be career-high numbers. The Swans midfield oozes depth. The likes of Kennedy, Hannebery and K.Jack are ever-present and will, at-times, be joined by Lloyd, Heeney, Mills and Florent. Parker’s injury woes have seen him miss significant chunks of football in the past, but he managed to play at least 80% TOG in all 22 outings last year. If he can manage similar game-time in 2017, Parker’s ferocious tackling and prolific scoreboard impact will see him again score heavily.
Whilst Parker may posses the higher ceiling, Dan Hannebery’s consistency is what has made him a genuine premium Fantasy option for the best part of three years. A balanced midfielder, meaning he is equally as damaging on the outside as inside, Hannebery is productive, has excellent endurance (a regular top 5 in Sydney’s long distance time trials) and, like Parker, holds nothing back. A three time All-Australian, premiership player and rising star winner, Dan’s 2016 season started on a strange note. He played only a half of football against the Pies but still managed a score of 76 Fantasy points before being knocked out by Steele Sidebottom. This caused uproar for owners of Sidebottom, who eventually copped a two week suspension, and Hannebery who looked destined to spend some time on the sidelines. However in typical fashion, Hannebery overcame the concussion and took to the MCG the following week, scoring 96 in the Swans win over Carlton. ‘Hanners’ 31 disposals, 3 marks and 5 tackles in the battle of the bridge saw him post the first of fifteen tons. And it was the start of a run of six consecutive tons, the highest of which came against Brisbane at the Gabba. In what proved to be a much closer encounter than first expected, the Swans just got over the line with Hannebery brilliant. The 25 year-old, 33 touches, 2 marks and 13 tackles for a Fantasy score of 136. Even though his direct opponent, Dayne Zorko, managed 148 points. The run ended with a 99 point haul against Hawthorn who assigned Liam Shiels to a run-with role with him. Hannebery finished off the year strongly with scores of 145, 129, 128, 105 and 100. Hanners concluded his year with an average of 108 – the second highest tally of his career. In the Swans first official hit-out since the Grand Final, Hannebery, like Kannedy and Parker, spent time up forward whilst the younger midfielders roamed the centre. He finished with a score of 54 from 78% TOG. Don’t read too much into his pre-season form though. There is simply no reason as to why you shouldn’t select Hannebery. Our midfields are not short of options with many uber premiums destined for signature years. With a current ownership of 6%, he could prove to be a match-winning unique.
Verdict: Two of the best midfielders in the AFL. Both of them belong in red and white and are available as uber-premium options in Fantasy. Hannebery is the more consistent of the pair, but Parker goes big more regularly. As with all comparisons, people will have different opinions, but I prefer the consistency of Hanners.
Tom Mitchell ($638,000) v Lachie Neale ($671,000)
Tom Mitchell joined Jaeger O’Meara in making the trip down to the football capital in the off-season with the hope of rejuvenating the Hawks midfield. The former Swan never seemed to be a fan of John Longmire’s but that didn’t stop him from churning out big Fantasy numbers during his stint in NSW. After arriving in Sydney as a father-son recruit, Mitchell did not play a game in his debut year but averaged 90 points from his 12 games in 2013 and 86 from 6 outings the following year. But in 2015, ‘Titch’ finally strung multiple games together and finished with an average of 106 Fantasy points. A ball-winning inside midfielder with terrific skills by hand, Mitchell was used as a tagger at various stages in 2016 but, as is the case with Carlton’s Ed Curnow, this did not restrict his Fantasy ability. Titch started the year with a 132 against Collingwood thanks to 30 disposals, 9 tackles and a somewhat rare 3 goals. He was even better against Carlton, scoring 143 Fantasy points. After another ton against GWS, the Crows managed to stop his ball gathering, resulting in a score of 60. Mitchell managed more big disposal numbers in the next few weeks, notably 37 against Essendon and 41 against North Melbourne. The later performance resulted in a huge score of 163 points. It could have been even better if his kick:handball ratio was flipped (11 kicks and 30 handballs). Mitchell’s list of run-with roles is headlined by superstar midfielders Gary Ablett, Dylan Shiel and Patrick Dangerfield. He finished the year with an average of 104 including twelve hundreds, seven over 120. Titch will join the likes of Liam Shiels and Isaac Smith in the brown and gold outfits new look midfield. He looks set to be their prime accumulator alongside O’Meara but it remains to be seen whether his negating will be called upon over Shiels. However during The Traders 3rd quarter interview with Luke Hodge, the former skipper indicated that Shiels would be used as a tagger if that’s what the situation calls for. Mitchell has a very high ceiling and should be good for an average of at least 105 in 2017.
In what was a difficult year for Fremantle, Lachie Neale stood up and led the way through the centre of the ground. The South-Australian inside midfielder stands just 177cm but impressed with his at-times enormous disposal numbers and precise hands in close. Neale collected a minimum of 40-disposals five times in 2016 and produced some massive Fantasy returns. A player of difference for the majority of the year, Neale started his campaign with a standard 106 in the big loss to Fremantle despite spending just 71% TOG. He was the away sides best player though, collecting 32 disposals. He backed this up with 98 against Gold Coast and 79 against West Coast. In the corresponding derby in 2015, Neale was best afield with 42 touches and 3 goals. 132 Fantasy points in the high scoring afair with North Melbourne meant coaches started to realise his 2015 101 point average was not a one-off. Another 130 Fantasy points were scored at the expense of Carlton, despite the Blues emerging victorious by four points. Lachie continued to rack up big numbers through the middle part of the season where his team finally got a win on the board. His 38 possessions against Hawthorn only led to a score of 108 because of a rather lopsided kick:handball ratio of 8:30. Neale managed a career-high 42 disposals against Gold Coast and equalled that figure a week later. The highest Fantasy scoring game of 2016 for the Glenelg under-18 came in his sides heavy loss to GWS. His 40 disposals were backed up by 6 marks and 12 tackles, leading to a score of 169. It was a season to remember for Neale who was his sides run away best and fairest winner and best player in most games. His clearance work was excellent helped him average 111 Fantasy points – ranking him the fourth highest scorer. He is prone to the odd shocker and was tagged out of it on three main occasions in 2016. But he had the most disposals in the competition last year and should benefit from the return of newly-appointed skipper Nat Fyfe. Neale is priced at $671,000 in 2017 but will reward owners with regular big scores.
Verdict: I admit to being a huge fan of Lachie Neale and was one of a few coaches to pick him from the start of the year. Both him and Mitchell are two of the biggest accumulators in the competition but I favour the safer option in Neale as there is no reason why he can’t go 110+ again. Mitchell, on the other hand, may struggle to fit into a new club. But there’s no doubting his output.