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Fry’s Cash Cows – 2021 AFL Fantasy Rookie Guide

With everyone chasing cash cows, Fry does a deep dive on everything rookies ahead of the 2021 season!

One more sleep. That’s all that separates AFL Fantasy coaches from the commencement of the 2021 season, putting months of planning, over-thinking and refreshing Twitter into action. As is always the case, a new fantasy campaign brings with it the chance to try different tactics when picking your initial side, but make no mistake rookies/cash cows will once again play an important role in the most successful teams.

After another preseason of coaches panicking when it came to rookies, we have arrived at Round 1 breathing a sigh of relief with a viable number of youngsters to choose from. A surplus of basement-priced ruckmen, top draft picks, mature agers and a lacklustre group of defenders are all unpacked in the comprehensive DT Talk cash cow guide for 2021 – helping you make those difficult final choices to round out your starting squad of 30 before footy returns!

If you missed out on my AAMI Series cash cow watchlist be sure to check it out here.

Rookie/cash cows picks are defined as players who are priced at $300,000 or lower


1. Tom Highmore, Saints

AFL Fantasy Price: $182,000
AAMI Series Score: 37 from 57% TOG
2019 Average (NEAFL): 101.8
2020 Average (SANFL): 72.5
Projected Average: 66

Named as a member of the 2019 NEAFL team of the year, Tom Highmore made the switch to the SANFL last season – a decision that saw the mature-ager drafted by the Saints 45th overall. Now, as the injuries pile up in St Kilda’s defence, Highmore is a chance to be thrust into a tall defensive role as soon as this weekend against GWS. Ben Patton, Jarryn Geary and James Frawley are all sidelined for the foreseeable future which paves the way for Highmore to string games together as long as he can hold Jake Carlisle out of the best-22. Highmore is best served on our benches, but the intercept defender has shown enough scoring prowess at state level to be trusted on the field to start the season.

2. Lachlan Jones, Power

AFL Fantasy Price: $240,000
AAMI Series Score: 43 from 42% TOG
2019 Average (SANFL U-18): 71.0
2020 Average (SANFL): 50.6
Projected Average: 59

While Lachlan Jones is perhaps the most physically ready draftee, he faces a battle to cement himself in Port Adelaide’s senior side. Having won a SANFL league premiership with the Eagles last year, Jones has further demonstrated this preseason that he can compete with the big boys, however, I do wonder just how many points he’ll score each time out for the Power. Those concerns may lead some coaches to abort Operation Lachie Jones, but scoring 43 points from 42% game time vs. Adelaide is a good sign for his fantasy future. If he’s selected to play early, it’s worth considering Jones for a place on your field as I wouldn’t recommend paying $240K to leave him on your bench.

3. Jacob Koschitzke, Hawks

AFL Fantasy Price: $170,000
AAMI Series Score: 95 from 84% TOG
2019 Average (VFL): 31.0
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 55

An eye-catching performance in the AAMI Series against North Melbourne means Jacob Koschitzke is firming as one of Hawthorn’s multiple debutants to kick off the year. A six-goal haul fuelled an impressive score of 95 from Kosi, although it would be unfair to expect the same weekly output from a third-year tall. When it comes to starting the year with Koschitzke, it’s worth proceeding with some caution as his place amongst the Hawks’ team is far from set in stone. Still, Kosi has likely done enough to solidify a place for Round 1 and he may be able to hold Mitch Lewis out of the side long enough to serve his purpose as a cash cow.

4. Connor Idun, Giants

AFL Fantasy Price: $221,000
AAMI Series Score: 60 from 88% TOG
2019 Average (AFL): 33.0
2020 Average (AFL): 38.1
Projected Average: 52

Isaac Cumming was the mainstream, cheap Giant coaches we were focusing on throughout the preseason, but that title has since been passed onto Connor Idun. For just $50K more than a basement rookie, Idun seems set to fill a void left in the GWS backline, even if his scoring pedigree leaves a lot to be desired. Having played just three games in two seasons so far, Idun should produce the best fantasy numbers of his short career in 2021, with every chance the young defender performs consistently for the coaches who invest in him. There are still more cons than pros in my eyes when it comes to picking Idun, but given the scarcity of defensive rookies to start the year, those who are running with cheaper options in their defence may be tempted by the young Giant.

5. Nikolas Cox, Bombers

AFL Fantasy Price: $256,000
AAMI Series Score: 28 from 80% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 59.4
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 53

Essendon’s versatile tall Nikolas Cox is hard to pin-point in AFL Fantasy circles, despite the talk of him slotting into a points-friendly role. Having played his junior footy as a key-tall, Cox possesses the athleticism and foot skills to excel in a variety of roles, however, he hasn’t shown the greatest track record of high point totals yet. The Bombers seem keen to utilise Cox as a winger/half-forward which could see his fantasy points totals trend upwards, however, given his increased price tag, I’d rather trust some of the cheaper rookie options over the first-year Don.

Best of the rest – Defenders

Jordan Butts (Crows, $207K) and Nick Murray (Crows, $170K) could also be on display early in the frame for Adelaide despite both appearing on the injury list ahead of this weekend. You’d expect Butts, to be ahead of Murray in the pecking order, but the Crows duo could both still line-up in Round 1. Hawthorn’s top draftee Denver Grainger-Barras (Hawks, $260K) might not make it this weekend, but he doesn’t seem set to stay out of the team for long, especially given the injuries to some of their talls.

I wouldn’t be investing in DGB from a fantasy perspective though, with a WAFL average of 40.3 a year ago enough to scare you off. Lachie Young (Kangaroos, $276K) is too rich for my blood and his 45 points in the AAMI Series didn’t make me think otherwise, while popular preseason picks Will Gould (Swans, $170K) and Trent Bianco (Magpies, $170K) will have to start the season on the outside looking in. The pair of basement priced defenders are ones to watch closely throughout the year, along with Kieren Briggs (Giants, $170K), who might come into the Giants team and support Flynn in the ruck department.

Deeeeep Dive

Not every cash cow can be in the mix for a Round 1 game, however, that doesn’t mean their names aren’t worth remembering. In no particular order, here are some of the other rookie priced defenders to consider throughout the season.
Matthew Ling (Swans, $219K)
Jacob Wehr (Giants, $170K)
Josh Worrell (Crows, $170K)
Joel Jeffery (Suns, $170K)
Bailey Laurie (Demons, $228K)
Sam De Koning (Cats, $170K)
Heath Chapman (Dockers, $244K)
Isaac Chugg (Magpies, $170K)



1. Tom Powell, Kangaroos

AFL Fantasy Price: $246,000
AAMI Series Score: 64 from 67% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 94.6
2020 Average (SANFL U-18): 118.5
Projected Average: 73

I was hesitant on selecting Tom Powell at the beginning of the preseason, but a lot has changed in a few short months. On the eve of the new fantasy season, only four players have a higher ownership than Powell, with North Melbourne’s young gun poised to be one of, if not the best cash cow in season 2021. A ridiculous scoring clip in the SANFL U-18 comp gives some insight into what type of player the Roos have at their disposal and providing Powell gets the opportunity we expect him to this season, he should be in every Classic side when lockout strikes.

2. Errol Gulden, Swans

AFL Fantasy Price: $208,000
AAMI Series Score: 72 from 81% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 106.7
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 66

With an aging midfield crop, the Swans could turn to generation next across the board with the likes of Dylan Stephens and/or James Rowbottom eager for more chances this year. 2020 draftee Errol Gulden is one who is in a good position to beat out his fellow young teammates for a weekly place in the team, with Sydney already confirming the former academy prospect will make his debut vs. Brisbane. Pinch-hitting between the midfield and the forward line should see Gulden score at a reasonable clip, making the Swans young gun one to invest in early.

3. Will Phillips, Kangaroos

AFL Fantasy Price: $266,000
AAMI Series Score: 11 from 22% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 77.0
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 68

I’m wary of placing Will Phillips too high in the pecking order, but I still rate the Kangaroos rookie as perhaps the most complete midfield prospect last years draft had to offer. Having sat out the 2020 season like a lot of his draft peers, Phillips may have to bide his time before he’s handed a debut with North wary of overloading the first-year MID. With that said, when Phillips does come into their side, I expect him to put his hand up for a regular role and score at a decent clip in the process. $266K sounds like a lot to fork over for a rookie, but if he performs we can trust Phillips to start in our midfield during the year.

4. Connor Downie, Hawks

AFL Fantasy Price: $202,000
AAMI Series Score: 63 from 78% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 59.4
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 63

An open spot in Hawthorn’s lineup could be Connor Downie’s to lose after his strong showing this preseason. The exit of Tom Scully and Isaac Smith leaves the Hawks in need of two new wingmen on their team sheet, with Downie hardly put a foot wrong since being drafted – well and truly building his case for an early-season debut. That early-season debut may not come against Essendon to kick off the season, but Downie’s fantasy numbers indicate he’ll serve his purpose for coaches when he does get picked by the Hawks.

5. Tanner Bruhn, Giants

AFL Fantasy Price: $248,000
AAMI Series Score: 66 from 82% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 74.5
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 64

Another confirmed debutant for Round 1, coaches are hopeful of Tanner Bruhn kickstarting his fantasy career the right way. Drafted by GWS with the 12th overall pick, Bruhn has had his path to the AFL interrupted by injury and last year’s COVID cancellations, although he proved a fortnight ago that he certainly belongs in the AFL. Four goals to go along with 11 disposals helped Bruhn score 66 points against the Swans and I expect the young Giant to score around that mark on a weekly basis. He costs a bit more than some of the other popular MID rookies, but Bruhn is shaping up to be amongst the league’s most successful cash cows this year – providing he can string consistent games together at GWS.

6. James Jordan, Demons

AFL Fantasy Price: $170,000
AAMI Series Score: 49 from 79% TOG
2019 Average (VFL): 64.7
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 57

James Jordan started the 2021 fantasy season as largely unknown, but the Melbourne midfielder is now in line to be picked for their side to clash with Fremantle to commence the season. Having been drafted back in 2018, Jordan performed well in the VFL, but no state-league competition last year meant he wasn’t able to put his foot forward and push for senior selection. In the AAMI Series however, Jordan did his job splitting his time as an inside-mid and forward, doing enough to suggest we can trust him on our benches to start the Fantasy season.

7. Charlie Lazzaro, Kangaroos

AFL Fantasy Price: $200,000
AAMI Series Score: 14 from 35% TOG
2019 Average (VFL): 76.3
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 61

A third relevant North rookie in the midfield?! Believe it! With the Kangaroos ushering in a new era under David Noble, there’s a chance that their top three draft selections from a season ago could all play valuable minutes in their new-look midfield. Charlie Lazzaro enters his rookie season in a similar position to Will Phillips, having not played at all last year and eager to show his worth as soon as possible for North Melbourne. There are understandable questions over his job security, but don’t be surprised if Lazzaro excels from the moment he takes the field.

Best of the rest – Midfielders

It seems like 2021 may finally be the year that Richmond gets more senior games into the young bodies of Riley Collier-Dawkins (Tigers, $170K) and Thomson Dow (Tigers, $192K). Both managed to appear in the preseason game vs. Collingwood, however, there’s no doubt they’re lower in the pecking order than some of their star-studded teammate. Personally, I like Dow’s chances of fantasy success a tad more than RCD, but both loom as wise picks when they eventually break into the Tigers’ outfit. Lachlan McNeil (Bulldogs, $170K) is another one to watch closely, with the Round 1 chance quickly sticking his hand up for games with the Bulldogs – albeit very few, given their powerful on-paper midfield.

Brad Crouch’s two-game suspension could see St Kilda giving Jack Bytel (Saints, $299K) an opportunity to commence the year. 26 points from 18% TOG against Carlton raises some eyebrows, but Bytel’s inflated price and potential short-term stay mean I’d rather look elsewhere. Finn Maginness (Hawks, $279K) is another juiced-up cash cow prospect looking to breakthrough, but I can’t justify paying that much given his uncertain role with Hawthorn. Slightly cheaper than Bytel and Mead, Luke Pedlar (Crows, $250K) could be in line for games as a rookie and he’ll likely score well when he does.

Deeeeep Dive

Not every cash cow can be in the mix for a Round 1 game, however, that doesn’t mean their names aren’t worth remembering. In no particular order, here are some of the other rookie priced midfielders to consider throughout the season.

Jackson Mead (Power, $170K)
Jeremy Sharp (Suns, $221K)
Sam Berry (Crows, $216K)
Cooper Stephens (Cats, $170K)
Nick Shipley (Giants, $170K)
Reef McInnis (Magpies, $226K)
Brody Kemp (Blues, $170K)
Zane Trew (Eagles, $170K)
Lachlan Bramble (Hawks, $170K)
Nathan O’Driscoll (Dockers, $218K)
Luke Valente (Dockers, $170K)


1. Matt Flynn, Giants

AFL Fantasy Price: $170,000
AAMI Series Score: DNP
2019 Average (NEAFL): 81.2
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 66

The Giants confirmed that Matthew Flynn will FINALLY make his debut in Round 1, nearly 2,000 days after he was drafted with the 41st pick in 2015 – which means he should be a lock for your starting fantasy side. I don’t have the kahuna’s to play Flynn at R2, but those who are brave enough can justify their selection with Braydon Preuss out for up to another four months. Flynn is every chance to push his average north of 70, although if Kieren Briggs or even Shane Mumford come in to shoulder the ruck load that’ll dent Flynn’s scoring output.

2. Lloyd Meek, Dockers

AFL Fantasy Price: $170,000
AAMI Series Score: 70 from 83% TOG
2019 Average (WAFL): 78.4
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 57

Unproven Freo tall Lloyd Meek is another relevant ruck heading into a new fantasy season, with the fourth-year ruck finally poised to play his first senior game this weekend. His reward is a date with Max Gawn, but regardless I could see Meek holding his place in the Dockers’ side for at least the early portion of the year. Sean Darcy has struggled to stay on the park his whole career and Rory Lobb’s timeline is still in the air following a knee injury, all but paving the way for Meek to matter in the fantasy realm.

3. Paul Hunter, Saints

AFL Fantasy Price: $170,000
AAMI Series Score: 60 from 76% TOG
2019 Average (SANFL): 67.9
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 61

With Rowan Marshall struck down by a foot injury and Paddy Ryder returning to WA, Paul Hunter is in line to lead the ruck division for St Kilda in his AFL debut. However, the former Crow, who was picked up by the Saints as an SSP signing less than a month ago, will likely split time in the middle with Shaun McKernan. In Hunter’s favour is the fact he attended 28 of St Kilda’s 38 CBA’s during the AAMI series and the Saints clearly plan to let him play. Unfortunately, it seems like Hunter is playing on borrowed time, with Marshall and Ryder both potentially back a few short weeks from now. He still may serve his purpose as a cash cow in that time, but I’d rather roll the dice with the other two rookies rucks.

Best of the rest – Rucks

There is a clear top-3 in the rookie ruck department, but we might be set for a few other relevant names join the mix during the season. Tom Fullarton (Lions, $170K) will look to fill the shoes Stef Martin left and serves as a back-up ruckman for the Lions with his 39 points in the last match an encouraging sign. Another top draft product in Riley Thilthorpe (Crows, $268K) may provide value for coaches if he can step into the right role at Adelaide, however, the No. 2 overall pick will have his work cut out for him early on. Lastly, expect to see Josh Treacy (Dockers, $170K) at some point this season for the Dockers, with a WAFL suspension keeping him out of action for at least the first two rounds.

Deeeeep Dive

Not every cash cow can be in the mix for a Round 1 game, however, that doesn’t mean their names aren’t worth remembering. In no particular order, here are some of the other rookie priced ruckmen to consider throughout the season.
Jordan Sweet (Bulldogs, $170K)
Sam Hayes (Power, $170K)
Nick Bryan (Bombers, $170K)
Bailey Williams (Eagles, $271K)
Joel Amartey (Swans, $170K)
Max Lynch (Magpies, $172K)


1. Braeden Campbell, Swans

AFL Fantasy Price: $262,000
AAMI Series Score: 57 from 80% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 91
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 67

Another confirmed debutant! The 5th pick in 2020’s AFL draft, Braeden Campbell didn’t have to wait long before his first game as a Swan. While he isn’t the greatest accumulator of the footy, Campbell’s awesome kicking ability and line-breaking speed has seen him rise in fantasy relevance over the preseason, culminating in 30% of coaches bringing him into their side. Despite being available as a MID/FWD, the Sydney prospect is slated to join their back-6, but I have faith in his fantasy game no matter where the Swans play him. Expect Campbell to vie for honours as the top forward cash cow this year.

2. Archie Perkins, Bombers

AFL Fantasy Price: $254,000
AAMI Series Score: 11 from 19% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 68.4
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 65

By the time you’re reading this you might already know if Essendon is playing Archie Perkins on the weekend or not – either way, I’m expecting big things from the Bombers’ newest x-factor. Perkins didn’t get much of a chance to showcase his talents in the AAMI Series, playing all his minutes in the fourth quarter for one disposal and a pair of tackles. It might take some time for the Essendon cash cow to find his feet and build towards regular AFL games, but if he gets a chance, Perkins will have some big games in the upcoming season and the coaches who invest in him will be rewarded.

3. Miles Bergman, Power

AFL Fantasy Price: $170,000
AAMI Series Score: 86 from 79% TOG
2019 Average (NAB League): 77.5
2020 Average: N/A
Projected Average: 70

I’ve flip-flopped over where I fall with Miles Bergman in the last week, but there is no doubt the Port Adelaide youngster can play. The first-rounder didn’t have a great start to his career, injuring his ankle in the preseason and missing the chance to put his name in the selection frame with the benefit of state-level footy. Doing all the right things this summer has made Bergman every chance to earn an AFL debut in Round 1, but I do have concerns over how regularly he’ll play in Port’s top side throughout the year. Either way, given his low price tag it’s smart to roll the dice on Bergman and hope he thrives, allowing him to feature weekly in the Power’s best 22.

4. James Rowe, Crows

AFL Fantasy Price: $196,000
AAMI Series Score: 58 from 82% TOG
2019 Average (SANFL): 61.1
2020 Average (SANFL): 70.3
Projected Average: 58

While job security is questionable for the last two cash cows, James Rowe appears to have found a home in the Adelaide forward line. Two stellar years in the SANFL led to the Crows selecting the mature-age sharpshooter in the last draft and all signs point to him taking to the field when they take on Geelong. While Rowe could see 15-20 games for Adelaide this year, most of his noteworthy scores feature a bag in front of the big sticks and it’s fair to assume the Crows won’t be in that position a lot during season 2021. I’m not predicting all doom and gloom for Rowe, but he’s a bench player only.

5. Chad Warner, Swans

AFL Fantasy Price: $192,000
AAMI Series Score: 70 from 70% TOG
2019 Average (WAFL Colts): 107.1
2020 Average (AFL): 33.5
Projected Average: 61

It’s clear that a lot of Sydney’s young prospects are hungry for a chance at the top level and Chad Warner is no exception. He managed to play two games for the Swans in his rookie year, but with another preseason under his belt, Warner offers a lot more upside heading into this fantasy season. His exciting AAMI Series effort has him set up for a berth in Round 1 with Warner firming to spend his time between the midfield and the forward line this year. If he can carve out a niche in Sydney’s team he could become very important for fantasy coaches.

Best of the rest – Forwards

The value doesn’t stop at five, with Sydney giving fantasy coaches more relevant news by announcing Logan McDonald (Swans, $264K) as their third debutant ahead of this weekend. The traditional rule tells us to avoid the power forward, but Lance Franklin and Sam Reid aren’t getting any younger. McDonald and Magpies first-rounder Oliver Henry (Magpies, $238K) both received the greatest news a draftee could get heading in to Round 1 and Collingwood’s exciting forward prospect is another player to consider for your starting outfit.

If you’re going to pick someone that isn’t in the top-5 though, I’d be siding with Tyler Brockman (Hawks, $180K) with the talented forward also set to play his first senior game this weekend. His DPP status is a big bonus for coaches considering him for their first side and he has done everything right since arriving at Hawthorn to pinch a spot in their 22. Speaking of spots Ned Cahill (Bombers, $189K) could be another player to consider after switching from attack to defence in an effort to play consistent games at Essendon. I have worries over his scoring ability though, with his teammate Harrison Jones (Bombers, $170K) in the same boat. The duo should have solid job security this year, but I’d only trust them on the pine.

Deeeeep Dive

Not every cash cow can be in the mix for a Round 1 game, however, that doesn’t mean their names aren’t worth remembering. In no particular order, here are some of the other rookie priced forwards to consider throughout the season.
Ely Smith (Lions, $170K)
Alec Waterman (Bombers, $170K)
Nakia Cockatoo (Lions, $243K)
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Bulldogs, $270K)
Will Kelly (Magpies, $172K)
Finlay Macrae (Magpies, $234K)
Francis Evans (Cats, $170K)
Maurice Rioli (Tigers, $170K)
Deven Robertson (Lions, $186K)
Atu Bosenavulagi (Kangaroos, $206K)
Sam Flanders (Suns, $253K)
Hugo Ralphsmith (Tigers, $170K)
Elijah Hollands (Suns, $258K)
Sam Philp (Blues, $203K)
Jake Bowey (Demons, $230K)

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER@SportsbyFry for all things AFL Fantasy (and more)! Feel free to hit me up with any questions you have throughout the season. Good Luck! ✌️

An Australian coffee/burrito enthusiast who is the frustrated owner of 16 fantasy teams. Writer for SportsbyFry and DT Talk ?

Recent Comments

  • Ben on Calvin’s Captains – Rd. 19: “Williams hasn’t been giving up that much points to opposition rucks. Doubt marshall will go huge.Jul 20, 13:33
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