Blindside Sport continues its countdown to the 2014 AFL Premiership season with an AFL Fantasy Midfielders Analysis of the ‘Bargain’ or ‘Value’ players in the competition. From the under-valued Marc Muprhy to the up and coming Jaeger O’Meara, the injury-plagued Dale Thomas and the ever-promising Shane Savage, we break down the prospects of these players for the Dream Team season ahead.
Don’t forget to check out our accompanying article on ‘Elite’ AFL Dream Team Midfielders.
Without a doubt the most prolific and frustrating Dream Team position, AFL Fantasy limits you to 10 midfielders for the 2014 season, eight of which will need to be played in your starting 22.
With 124 midfielders being priced at between $300,000 and $499,999 (our ‘Value’ category), decisions have to be made. We’re currently of the opinion that most teams will have TWO players from this category, with those going for a more unique squad structure wavering from this one way or another.
Many of the players priced in this category have been premium options in the past, meaning that there is significant potential for a bargain with some of the selections we’ve covered. Largely abiding by our rule of ‘go to extremes’ however, we’ve primarily focussed on players at the top and bottom of the price range, avoiding most names around the $400,000 mark unless significant value is on offer.
With many out-and-out premiums in Swan, Ablett and Pendlebury facing difficult or less ‘fantasy conducive’ fixtures to begin the season, and with defenders poised to get off to a prolific start, this year the midfield is emerging as a competition-defining position. More so than any other, 2014 looks to be the campaign in which unique selections to begin the season will be rewarded, with more conservative decisions leaving you in the wake of those deciding to do the research and chance their arm.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll examine options across all positions, from all teams and within two key price brackets; Elite and Value. Our rookie evaluation will follow but in the meantime, these are the players who have proven themselves in the AFL prior to this coming season.
Dan Hannebery (SYD – $481,900) and Adam Treloar (GWS – $482,100)
An early favourite for the Brownlow medal last season, there are no doubts over Dan Hannebery’s footballing ability. The inevitability of him being tagged and Sydney’s reluctance to assist an individual player to the detriment of the team however saw several low scores hinder what should have been a breakout fantasy year in 2013. Another year on and with the development of the Swans’ squad, Hannebery has another chance to get off the leash in 2014.
Beginning this coming season with fixtures against GWS, Collingwood, Adelaide, North Melbourne and Fremantle, five sides against which he posted centuries in 2013, this Sydney midfielder provides better value than more expensive teammates Kieran Jack and Josh P. Kennedy.
Another hard-nosed midfielder has emerged in Sydney, this time in the West. Whilst he appears to provide an alternative to the unpredictable nature of the Swans’ egalitarian scoring, this young Giant isn’t an option that seems viable this year. Adam Treloar is the epitome of consistency, scoring between 85 and 110 Dream Team points in 14 of his 20 games last season. Whilst Treloar’s most prolific scores came whilst tagging and he was freed up later in the year, we can only presume that it was fatigue that hindered his output at the back end of 2013. Touted as a future Brownlow Medallist, Treloar will average over 100 points per game at his peak and should average around 90 in 2014.
A ‘consider’ on his own merit but when you consider the wealth of options in his price range, it would take a brave coach and some stellar preseason form to justify his selection.
Marc Murphy (CAR – $463,500) and Dale Thomas (CAR – $346,400)
Comparable to Trent Cotchin, Murphy’s incredible 2012 was followed by a sub-par 2013 which, whilst lowering his price, has many concerned as to whether he is a legitimate Dream Team premium. With his modest production in the latter part of 2013 attributed to nagging injuries and his output over the first six weeks of the year still impressive (average of 108.83), Murphy is arguably the 3rd most appealing player in this price bracket.
With an exemplary record against his first four opposition for 2014, the retention of Chris Judd, addition of Dale Thomas and another preseason under the watchful eye of Mick Malthouse, expect Murphy to return to his best this coming season. As we mentioned with Scott Pendlebury, Murphy has the perfect balance of uncontested and contested disposals to be regarded amongst the fantasy elite when at his best. In his best Dream Team season to date (2011), he was 9th in the league in uncontested possessions and 11th in contested, almost identical to Pendlebury’s numbers last year. Such a balance allows players to exploit the benefits of racking up cheap disposals on the outside (Stanton), but ensures that their scoring floor is respectable given a constant involvement at stoppages (Priddis).
The only deterrent from selecting Murphy is that his new teammate in Dale Thomas is even more attractively priced. Whilst not boasting the fantasy pedigree of his Carlton captain, Thomas has demonstrated the potential to be an elite asset in the past, averaging 102.9 points per game in 2011. An injury-plagued 2013 sees him available at a significant discount, something very few coaches will have the courage to pass on this season. In fact, Dale Thomas should easily be a top 5 ‘most selected’ player heading into this coming campaign.
In 2011, Thomas ranked 18th in the AFL for possessions per game (25.5), ranked in the top 50 for average Inside 50s, effective disposals (17th) and uncontested disposals (14.7), making him not only a terrific individual player, but the perfect complement to a team already boasting the contested prowess of Chris Judd and Murphy.
Blindside Sport writer Nick Francis wrote more on Dale Thomas’ move to Carlton following his trade, needless to say he agrees with the vast majority of coaches in believing that ‘Daisy’ will be a fantasy success this year.
Colin Sylvia (FRE – $443,600)
We’ve already written a piece on the impact we believe Sylvia will have at Fremantle, however we’ll reiterate that the move seems mutually beneficial to both the former Demon and his new club. If Sylvia is allowed to play as an outside runner, linking the big-bodied Docker midfield with the half-forward line (the role he is most suited to), we feel he’ll be a revelation in the West.
Giving a mercurial spark to an otherwise over-regimented Ross Lyon side, Sylvia should continue to average 4 tackles per game at the very least given Ross Lyon’s emphasis on forward-pressure, however will increase his disposal numbers to in excess of those produced in 2009/2010 when he played an accompanying role to a very respectable inside midfield at Melbourne. An average in the mid 90s isn’t beyond the ageing prodigy, however the potential for his attitude to dissipate within a matter of weeks is proven and won’t be tolerated within a squad that has the talent to render him expendable.
Ryan Crowley (FRE – $318,000)
Crowley’s mention is nothing against him as an individual player, we have simply nominated him as the representative for all taggers in Fantasy AFL. The negative role played by players such as he, Andrew Raines, Mitch Wallis, Heath Hocking, Liam Shiels, Jaryd Cachia, Clinton Jones and Craig Bird aren’t generally conducive to significant Dream Team scores. Whilst there will be the odd exception and the likes of Shiels and Wallis harbour prospects of relinquishing this role in 2014, it is best to implement a blanket rule to avoid all players of this ilk.
Toby Greene (GWS – $415,100) and Dayne Zorko (BRI – $400,100)
These two players from our ‘avoid’ list in 2013 have been elevated this year, however only Zorko will provide coaches with guaranteed performance.
Toby Greene’s sensational 2012 was always product of the Giants’ opposition seeing no need to tag and Greene’s incredibly prolific work-rate when the prospect of an uncontested possession arose. Ranked 13th in the league for uncontested disposals in his rookie season, Greene’s numbers dropped across the board in 2013. Most indicatively, his average of 14.4 kicks per game in 2012 was reached just 3 times in 19 games last season, a sure sign that whilst he received more defensive attention, his work-rate didn’t adjust accordingly.
Selecting him this time around would be nothing more than a stab in the dark in the hope that his very modest average of 76 from 2013 increases.
Whilst Dayne Zorko also received increased defensive attention following a sublime rookie season, he demonstrated an aptitude to negotiating a tag. Despite only reaching the 20 disposal mark on 3 occasions, Zorko’s ability to score similarly to Greene (20 disposals on 16 occasions) shows an ability to compensate when the ball is harder to find. A new coach, an improving midfield and a renewed hope of a finals push in Brisbane should see Zorko average from the mid-80s to early 90s in 2014. Add that to his ability to be selected as a forward, and this Brisbane youngster is a fine, DPP-eligible selection.
Shane Savage (STK – $364,900)
A player mentioned in the same capacity last season, Savage made the most of his limited opportunities at Hawthorn (most memorably a Best on Ground against new club St Kilda) however never emerged as reliable Dream Team scorer. This season, in the talent vacuum that is the Saints’ midfield, Savage should finally get his chance. From Round 13, 2013 onwards, he averaged 88.56 in games unaffected by the sub-vest, a very respectable number for someone at his price. Even with such potential-proving numbers aside, a player of Savage’s quality is good enough to prove themselves this year if you provide him with a little faith from the outset.
Given Leigh Montagna’s Round 1 suspension, Savage is the perfect candidate for a one-off selection. Bring him in, watch him tear up Melbourne (in theory) and trade him out in the unlimited trade period before Round 2. Alternatively, look at his upcoming schedule of GWS and West Coast on the open expanses of Patersons and consider him promising a week-by-week proposition.
Bernie Vince (MEL – $449,300) and Jack Trengove (MEL – $422,500)
Two disappointing players who were initially identified as unfathomably talented, Vince and Trengove have united under Paul Roos at Melbourne for what they hope will be a career-defining resurgence. Under Roos, the attitude and work-rate issues evident with both will undoubtedly disappear, however which player then becomes the most enticing fantasy prospect?
The key to Vince’s scoring is his ability to get outside the contest and take uncontested marks. In his career-best year (2009), he recorded 132 marks in 22 matches. Since then, he has passed 80 marks in a season just once, leading to a natural reductions in his disposal count. Paul Roos won’t allow the former Crow to abandon his defensive responsibilities and go looking for open space, meaning that unless he plays as a loose half-back, it is unlikely that we’ll see Vince average over 100 points per game. Increased responsibility and the chance to move from under the shadow of Dangerfield, Sloane and Thompson may however be just what the 28-year-old needs to take his game to the next level. A very unique yet risky option with significant potential.
Conversely, Jack Trengove’s issues aren’t as easily identified from a statistical point. A contested player by necessity, he lacks the body and frankly the talent to emulate the production of Murphy, Cotchin and Pendlebury. A competent tackler who produced 5 a game in 2013, an inability to find the ball, even when not tagged is a serious concern. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise to see Roos transform the midfielder into a run-with player to accompany Jordie McKenzie given that even attempts to free him up along halfback have failed miserably in the past.
Jaeger O’Meara (GCS – $483,400)
It is with great hesitation that we discount Jaeger O’Meara from out Dream Team considerations for 2014. Have you see the size of this kid? O’Meara will be 20 when the 2014 AFL season starts, yet he is already regarded as potentially the greatest midfield talent the sport has seen. Despite the arrival of fellow prodigy Jack Martin, defensive attention will be focussed squarely on Jaeger and captain Gary Ablett, and whilst the latter will receive the Raines’ and Crowleys of the competition, O’Meara should have trouble improving on his incredible rookie season.
Initial opponents in Richmond (Conca), Fremantle (Suban) and Brisbane (Redden) boast second taggers with very respectable records, and when considering a modest average of 78.75 against the same teams from last season, it is hard to justify much a significant outlay on a 2nd year player, especially with Martin and Ablett more than likely already in your side.
In saying this, of any player we place on our ‘avoid’ list, O’Meara is by far the riskiest given his talent.
Bryce Gibbs (CAR – $481,500) and Dayne Beams (COL – $498,800)
Last season, Bryce Gibbs endured his worst season fantasy since 2008 as Mick Malthouse’s arrival saw pushed the former number 1 pick into the midfield. Unable to deal with the attention and unwilling to exhibit the work-rate necessary to maintain his lofty standards, Carlton will look for more out of their star half-back in 2014.
Whilst Gibbs rose to 54th in the AFL in contested disposals in 2013 (previous best was 98th in 2010), Gibbs fell to 89th in the league for uncontested possessions, a far cry from his the player placed 31st in 2012, 13th in 2011 and 27th in 2010. Malthouse seemed unwilling to allow the petulant Gibbs to return to half-back, even following a string of poor performances, and with Kade Simpson and Andrew Walker providing consistent defensive rebound, it looks as if 2014 will be much of the same for Bryce.
Carlton will improve, as will Gibbs, however it is unlikely that he presents greater value than fellow Blue Dale Thomas or Collingwood counterpart Dayne Beams.
Early season fixtures against Fremantle and Sydney may deter coaches from selecting the ever-reliable duo of Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury, however the outside running of Dayne Beams is unlikely to receive the negative influence of a tag to the same extent. After a career high 116.4 points per game in 2012, Beams’ injury-plagued 2013 puts him at a tremendous discount heading into the coming season. Another player who, like Dale Thomas, will find himself amongst the most-selected players in the competition, it is best to jump on what looks to be a fool-proof bandwagon.
Centuries against the emerging Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants, as well as the impressive Sydney Swans and Port Adelaide Power in a finals loss are testament to Beams’ ability to score no matter what the situation or opponent. A lock for 2014.
Allen Christensen (GEE – $470,600)
The most promising mid-priced Geelong alternative to Selwood and Johnson, Christensen’s increased role in the Cats’ midfield last season provided him with a breakout year on the fantasy front. Whilst concussion and injury stifled his production in the latter half of the season, when on the park his showing was arguably more impressive than his statistic suggest.
An ability to kick goals (21 for the year), rack up disposals (season high of 36 v Fremantle) and play a more contested style of football (9 tackles v Port Adelaide) render him a complete package in a side that has lost midfield stalwart Paul Chapman and exiled Jimmy Bartel to the back-pocket.
Presenting better value than team-mate Matthew Stokes, expect Christensen to find more consistency in 2014, proving that his 3 scores in excess of 115 represent his class more so than his four scores of 65 and below. If you exclude sub-impacted games, Christensen averaged 95.4 over the back portion of the season. That score should equate to a similar price tag to that of Sam Mitchell, however Stokes comes in some $47,100 cheaper than the Hawthorn legend.
Lachie Whitefield (GWS – $385,400) and Ben Cunnington (NM – $446,300)
Despite an impressive rookie season, Whitfield’s success in 2013 was overshadowed by the prowess of O’Meara and Wines in the race for the Rising Star award. Durable and with an elite disposal, expect the Giants to lean on their number 1 pick from last season in an attempt to emulate the Suns’ rise to prominence in Season 3.
Averaging 82.3 points for the latter half of the season, there is little to suggest that the fast-learning Whitfield won’t build upon his debut season and post an average encroaching on 90. With an elite ruck man and three powerhouse forwards to run off, much of our argument for Callan Ward‘s selection is applicable to Whitfield.
Ben Cunnington on the other hand is less predictable. Touted as a breakout candidate for 2013, Cunnington never amounted to anything more than a middle of the road squad player that coaches couldn’t wait to bail on. With just 5 centuries last season (just 2 scores over 110) and 11 scores under 80, it is hard to see how he made much progress at all from the year prior.
Off-season words of encouragement from Brent Harvey and coach Brad Scott in what seems to be heavily rehearsed rhetoric for the benefit of the media and player-confidence do little to convince us that this year, the breakout is for real. An average of 85 for a player at his price isn’t viable when you consider Colin Sylvia, Brandon Ellis and Marc Murphy are all within a similar price range and have much greater potential.
Hamish Hartlett (PTA – $446,600)
After the annual roller-coaster than is owning Hamish Hartlett in Dream Team, the Port Adelaide midfielder has lost the ability to be selected as a defender, has become $25,200 more expensive, is no more consistent, no more durable and if anything, his significance to Port has made him a more appealing target – for a tag. Essentially, he’s progressed in playing-ability, gone sideways in Dream Team ability, and yet has regressed in select-ability.
To justify a spot in our midfield, players need to demonstrate an ability to break a tag or at least compensate for lack of possessions with scoring in other categories. In his 6 scores of 100 or over in 2013, Hartlett kicked 10 goals, laid 21 tackles, took 32 marks and racked up an average of 26.67 possessions – an all-round midfielder. In his 6 scores of under 65, he laid 20 tackles (near identical defensive pressure), however he couldn’t get the ball, averaging just 12.34 disposals. The inability to transform his game to suit the situation is of great concern.
This isn’t a blight on Hartlett’s effort, as his tackling stats show that regardless of whether he is being tagged, he still applies defensive pressure, however it is an indictment of the young Port midfield’s ability to help their senior player out. Last year, it got to the stage where Hartlett would become a tagger should any player go to him at the opening bounce. Whilst this tactic worked for the Power for the most part, it doesn’t work for our fantasy team.
Whether you have your mind made up already, or whether your team will chop and change hundreds of times before the season begins in March, don’t forget to join the conversation, ask questions and pick up unique content in our Forums, on Facebook or on twitter @BlindsideSport.