For many of us, AFL football wouldn’t be the same without fantasy footy. Yet believe it or not, there was a time when fans didn’t spend hours obsessing over player stats, role changes and the like, in pursuit of fantasy glory in whatever their preferred format might be.
However, just because fantasy footy didn’t exist, doesn’t mean we can’t take a look back in time to see how some of the players from the past, would of performed in fantasy football if it did exist when they took to the field.
In each week of the 2021 season, we’ll delve into historical statistics to find a player of the past who would’ve excelled from a fantasy perspective in the corresponding round of football, and that player will be named our Fantasy Flashback ‘Player of the Round’.
In Round 16 of the 1982 season reigning premiers Carlton met St Kilda at Waverley Park in a match the Blues were expected to win easily. Although the Blue’s side was stacked full of stars that day – including four members of the club’s Team of the Century in Bruce Doull, Wayne Johnston, Geoff Southby and Mike Fitzpatrick, it was a former farmer from Western Australia playing in just his third game who led the Blues to a comfortable 78-point victory.
After debuting at centre half forward in Round 8 against Footscray Ross Ditchburn was quickly dropped following a lacklustre seven disposal effort which netted just the one goal. However, returning to the senior side in Round 15 – this time at full forward, Ditchburn booted six goals against the Demons to the surprise of many so-called experts, who had vociferously condemned the drafting of the almost unknown former Claremont player the previous year’s inaugural interstate draft.
Those experts were even more surprised the following week against the Saints, when Ditchburn collected 18 kicks and five handballs, took 13 marks and booted 12.2 which would have also given him a massive 175 fantasy points had fantasy footy existed in 1982, and earns Ross Ditchburn our Fantasy Flashback’s Player of the Round for Round 16.
Little was known about Ditchburn prior to him being drafted by Carlton in 1981, and that is probably the case again today, as he would only go onto play another 25 games of VFL football, before returning home to the family farm in Kukerin due to the failing health of his father.
Although, as a fantasy prospect Ditchburn wouldn’t have been on the radar of too many fantasy coaches given he would have averaged just 76.6 and 51.7 fantasy points in his two seasons of VFL football, he did achieve quite a lot in his short time in the game. He was Carlton’s leading goal kicker and was awarded the club’s best first year player in his debut season, which also happened to end with Carlton claiming their 14th Premiership. And while Ditchburn managed just the one disposal in the decider, he did retire with a premiership medallion around his neck and is a deserved recipient of DT Talk’s Fantasy Flashback’s Player of the Round.