|5 & 12
One way to put yourself on a map before you’ve even played an AFL game is to have your parents bless you with a unique name, and unlike the full side of 22 we could select of AFL playing ‘Jacks’, there is quite literally only one Errol. Interestingly enough, Errol credits his brother for giving him plenty of advice growing up, but maybe Adam simply didn’t have the name for AFL footy. It is however Errol’s incredible composure, high footy IQ, lethal foot skills and HUGE 3rd year breakout that leads us to ask, where is this kids ceiling?
Why should I pick him?
Let’s go back to the very start and work our way forward. Errol was born on the 18th of July, 2002 in Sydney… okay maybe not that far back. At just 11 Gulden joined the Sydney Swans academy and he was named an under 16 All Australia, suggesting he was primed for an AFL career. We all may remember his debut century in 2021 which left us scrambling to get him into our teams, which he followed by what Champion Data described as having ‘two of the best ever games recorded by a debutant’, with a 93 and 98 giving him a 99.7 avg from his first 3 games.
We didn’t see these heights continue however we did see glimpses throughout the rest of 2021 and an average of 72.6 is nothing to be ashamed of year 1. 2022 saw an 83 avg with more consistency shown and his first real ceiling score of 155 against the Giants, before his preseason 188 really got tongues wagging in 2023.
It is at this point I must announce that following his ownership rising by 20% after this game, I said on the @HatChatAFL podcast that we were all getting overinvested in preseason hype and he would be a bust. I was incorrect and have learnt the error of my ways when it comes to Mr Gulden. What came to follow was an All Australian, Best and Fairest, Top 5 Brownlow, top Fantasy Forward and top 5 Total Points season. I might have missed the mark slightly.
In a fantasy sense it was in Rd 8-9 that we saw back to back 150s to catapult him up the rankings. He then followed these for the rest of the year with 9 x 120+ scores and only 3 scores under 100, none of which slipped under 80, bringing him to both AFL and AFL fantasy stardom. His ability to fill all stat lines and particularly to average 5 Marks and Tackles a game really has allowed him to stand out where others have been unable.
Now into 2024, what upside is there for Gulden? Well first of all they have recruited the RuckPig Brodie Grundy, and having an elite talent in the ruck is sure to assist in terms of the Swans getting first hands to the ball. We also have seen Callum Mills’ offseason antics mean he will be missing the start of the season, leaving the door open for an increase in CBAs. The fact (which will also be discussed in why not to pick him) that Errol was able to average 112 with only 36% CBAs (almost the same as Tom Papley) means that theoretically the scope is absolutely there for even more growth in 2024. He’s also only 21 which makes this past year even more incredible, and even though he may only be 172cm (still taller than @DCCaterpillars) he’s standing tall amongst the elite mids of the competition.
One final exciting point when it comes to Errol is that we get to see him in the Opening Round, and can use that as a benchmark whether to pick him. Early in 2023 we saw a floor score of 71 against the demons, would him scoring this in the OR rule him out of selection or would you argue you get to avoid the floor and jump on for the ceilings?! Your choice.
Before his draft a comment was made that Gulden made an impression but ‘isn’t in the class of Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills and Nick Blakey’, but I’d certainly love to see what they’d say now. 17% of fantasy teams already have him and are hoping for a further 4th year breakout, and safe to say the sky is still the limit for this uniquely named Swans star.
Why shouldn’t I pick him?
Well frankly, if I couldn’t pick him when priced at 83, how in the world can I convince you to pick him priced at 112.5?! The first point I can almost copy and paste from my Rowan Marshall write up as unfortunately the top players of the comp come with a top price tag. For all those Sydneysiders reading this, unfortunately a million dollars won’t get you a CBD apartment but I’m sure you’re comforted knowing it will get you a Sydney Swans superstar in AFL Fantasy. It is however approximately 7% of our salary cap on one player which is a big ask as it limits your options on any other Uber premiums around that price. Are you willing to pick Errol over the likes of Bont, Dawson or Brayshaw?!
We also have to reflect on his understandable but unfortunate loss of forward status. As a Dual Position Player in 2023 his value was evident, but sliding back into that much more competitive ‘MID only’ space makes it much harder for him to stand out. In the forward line you could argue less upside is required when you are clearly top of your line, but you would need Gulden to eclipse 115 at least to start him at his price and I’m not sure how much scope there really is with his unique % of CBAs.
The last issue (and maybe the biggest when combined with the other 2) is his bye round. The damn opening round biting us again. Whilst we will undoubtedly be forced to have some players in our side miss these rounds, having one of our top 2-3 miss one may be the reason you don’t win a hat. The reality of the early byes is that you will be forced to have an extra rookie on field compared to most teams for each premium you have on the bye, even though it’s best 18. As such, missing a week of Errol Gulden could set you back 70-90 points compared to your opposition which might be the difference between winning and losing a hat (just ask @SanchFantasy). Let’s not forget the other ‘must have’ Swans and Pies on the same bye – Grundy, Daicos, Adams and Jordon – if you’re starting with 2-3 of those you simply can’t afford to have another.
Deck of DT Rating.
Before taking his bye into account I think Errol is a King, and maybe on the fringe of an Ace. As a 21 year old taking his game from strength to strength and with Mills missing the start of the year, there is every chance he starts the year with a bang albeit at a pretty hefty price. HOWEVER, and it’s a big however, that round 5 bye could be season destroying depending on how many players you have on the bye and the structure of your team. We really can’t understate the importance when playing for a hat not to miss out on points and as always, getting rookies off field is a sure fire way to do this, so don’t find a way to put more on field. There are plenty of solid alternatives who miss the bye and will leave you in a better position.
If however you’re playing with mates and just looking for a championship ring, there’s no reason you can’t put Australian Crawl on repeat and sing Errol at the top of your lungs.