With just two wins separating second and ninth, we are gearing up for one of the most exciting runs home in recent memory.
Richmond have distinguished themselves as the team to beat once again and are surging towards the minor premiership, but the remaining seven finals positions are far from guaranteed. Back-to-back losses has seen Sydney fall from second to fifth, four wins in five has seen Hawthorn leap GWS and North Melbourne into the eight and Collingwood can’t lose right now. The final order is anyone’s guess.
Let’s break down the fantasy plays from each game.
Hawthorn vs Brisbane
Hawthorn have surged back into finals contention and indeed into the finals places with four wins in their last five. They’ve found a flow between their lines, something that has been really lacking through the opening two-thirds of the season. Luke Bruest has been sensation when given time up front, kicking 6 goals last week, and Liam Shiels is having the best year of his career. They should do this one comfortably and further state their claims for finals footy.
Gun: Liam Shiels ($14.9m)
Liam Shiels has been the most consistent Hawk this year not named Tom Mitchell or James Sicily, and has given Hawthorn the classy outlet needed to get forward and link up their defenders and forwards. From a fantasy standpoint, his 101 average has him ranked just outside the top 25 players, but having Luke Bruest and his intelligent running now spending more time forward, there should be more options for Shiels to increase his kicks to marks inside 50.
Dud: Stef Martin ($15.8)
As of five weeks ago Stef Martin was the second highest average in the game, but a lean month has seen him plummet to 18th and he is trending in all the wrong directions. Ben McEvoy returned to form with a strong showing last week and Hawthorn’s efficiency and uncontested marking style of play means there could be a limit of hit outs, meaning S-Mart has even less value. There are simply too many great choices in the ruck right now to pick Martin.
Point of Difference: Jaegar O’Meara ($13.9m)
Jaegar O’Meara is starting to look like the elite midfielder he promised to be before knee injuries derailed his career. He looks fit, strong (those arms) and he’s got his touch back with the footy. Plenty would have been burned by going in too early on Jaegar in the past 18 months but I think now is the time if you want to get one someone who is easy to root for and has the game to match it.
Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs
Melbourne finally broke their three-game losing streak by flogging Fremantle last week, but that is hardly any kind of achievement. I feel like we are destined to see the Demons disappoint again. On paper they’re a top 4 side, and at their best they certainly can match anyone in that class, but there’s still that aura of failure around them that makes me nervous and I’m not even a Melbourne fan. I hope I’m wrong, because they can be so wonderful to watch, but I can’t see this season ending any differently than years gone by. They shouldn’t have any trouble with the Dogs though.
Gun: Clayton Oliver ($17.1m)
Clayton Oliver was near perfect last week, throwing up 35 efficient touches 7 tackles and two goals. He truly is class personified, and should be one of the first players atop your list every week. With Jackson Macrae still missing, the midfield will be his.
Dud: Luke Dahlhaus ($12.9m)
Luke Dahlhaus had a few nice touches last week, particularly when spending a bit of time off halfback, but that still only translated into 62 points. Dahlhaus won’t have any easier time of it against Melbourne’s star-studded midfield and hugely versatile forward line. I can’t see his luck even remotely changing here.
Point of Difference: Tom McDonald ($12.3m)
Big Tom McDonald should be given a real license to roam forward, grab contested marks and kick goals. The Bulldogs have nothing in the way of a target inside 50 and no reliable goal kickers, so he should be able to do as he pleases. He’s averaged 88 this season, and his big scores have come when he has done just that. Last week’s very quiet 82 shouldn’t deter you from looking at him at a very affordable $12.3m.
Gold Coast vs Essendon
Essendon’s season started with plenty of promise, but has subsequently deteriorated and it would be a minor miracle if they were to find their way back to the finals. The Bombers were on a three-game winning streak until they ran into the Collingwood buzzsaw last week, and that likely was the final nail in the coffin of their season. A win here would potentially shrink the gap to the top eight to just a win, but only if a series of very unlikely results go their way. They still are lacking class in the forward line, and that should be the focus again in the offseason. Gold Coast look likely to lose Tom Lynch and somehow become even more of an irrelevant team.
Gun: Devon Smith ($15.5m)
Without a shadow of a doubt Devon Smith has been the shining light and biggest positive for Essendon this season. He has quite simply been brilliant, excelling with an enhanced role and the influence to play prolonged periods in midfield. He promises to be an elite player for years to come, and certainly has emerged as one of the best fantasy players in the AFL. A breakout year with a 107 average rewarded everyone who believed in him at the start of the year. He knocked out a 150 last week. There isn’t much else to say, superstar in the making.
Dud: David Swallow ($14.1m)
David Swallow was a popular choice early in the season, but his season has failed to take off and he shouldn’t be anywhere in your considerations. Still way overpriced at $14.1m, Swallow has failed to stand out among a pile of dirt, averaging just 78. He threw up a 52 last week, a score insulting to his price tag. If you’re even thinking about spending that money on him, I can’t help you.
Point of Difference: Touk Miller ($14.1m)
Another Sun who has had a really disappointing year, Touk Miller really is too talented to be playing in this black hole of a team. You can see often he gets frustrated playing in a side of sub-par AFL players, but when he’s on he can go huge. Touk is still averaging 92 on the year, far from a poor mark, and showed last week he’s still got triple-figure scores up his sleeve. He’d be a real POD for you and against the free-running Bombers he might have another big one in him.
GWS vs Richmond
Plenty picked this as the Grand Final to-be before the season started. Richmond have more than held up their end of the bargain, while GWS find themselves in a real fight to just make the eight. Had Jeremy Cameron not been rubbed out for five weeks this would really be a mouthwatering affair, but I feel like without his goals the Tigers should prove far too strong for a Giants team that just don’t look right this year.
Gun: Jack Riewoldt ($13.3m)
Jack Riewoldt hasn’t had an outstanding year as far as fantasy scoring goes, but he has had an electric month and is absolutely peaking at the right time. He’s a cheaper option but is absolutely the man going forward for Richmond right now and the return of Daniel Rioli has taken even more of the pressure off him. Successive scores of 93+ means he’s ripe for the picking.
Dud: Dyan Shiel ($14.9m)
The conundrum of Dylan Shiel and Josh Kelly failing to fit together continues for GWS, as it appears either one or the other can star for the Giants but not both. Earlier in the year it appeared Stephen Coniglio was taking touches away from Kelly, but it now appears Shiel’s run and drive off the contest has been quelled by Kelly’s resurgence as one of the game’s best. While JK has surged into the top 10 scorers, Shiel has slid in the opposite direction. Hard to warrant his selection coming up against Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and the Tigers midfield.
Point of Difference: Nick Vlaustin ($12.8m)
Nick Vlaustin emerged as one of the PODs of the last month with a series of impressive performances matched by strong fantasy outputs. His ownership will have cooled after missing last week through suspension, so astute owners will have him in their sights against a team that will be banging it forward as much as possible. Vlaustin threw up a 111 last time he played (against Sydney) so he is capable of monumental scores, and while he might not hit that, he should be a comfortable scorer in the 90-region.
Collingwood vs West Coast
For me this is the most interesting game of the round. Adam Treloar’s potentially season-ending injury certainly derailed what was looking more and more like an assault on the Grand Final by Collingwood, and the Pies will have to find a way to supplement his line-breaking running against a team that is just as athletic as they are. West Coast have had a putrid month of footy, falling off from first place by losing three-straight. They bounced back with a big win over GWS last week, but this is another kettle of fish. The Eagles will have to overcome their MCG hoodoo to plant themselves in the top 4.
Gun: Elliott Yeo ($16.4m)
Elliott Yeo has backed up his All-Australian year last year with arguably an even better All-Australian year this year. He is a megastar, and is so crucial to the Eagles in every way possible. He is an elite intercept marker, a dynamic swing option off halfback, a wonderful tagger, a dominant ball winner and can even kick goals. He’s a complete joke. A 105 average and coming off a 118, Yeo will be everywhere in this one. The only sad thing is we don’t get to see him and Treloar go head to head.
Dud: Brodie Grundy ($18.1m) and Nic Natanui ($12.8m)
Very, very difficult for me to put the highest scorer in the game (Brodie Grundy) in this category but I feel like these two athletic freaks might just cancel each other out. Few can match Grundy in that area, but Nic Nat certainly can when fit and his last month he has looked better and better. The Eagles star smashed out 115 last week in one of the best showings of his season, and he will be able to track the graceful Grundy up and down the MCG. By no means do I think Nic Nat wins this duel, but I think he does just enough to justify leaving both these two out of your teams.
Point of Difference: Jordan De Goey ($12.7m)
Jordan De Goey’s golden month has coincidentally coincided with his contract talks. How interesting. Nonetheless he is an absolute gun when he’s on his game and in games like this one that should be expansive and flowing, De Goey will have plenty of chances to stampede down the wing and get into the forward 50. He’s dragging his average closer to the 90s with a series of triple-figure scores and I’m backing him to grab another.
North Melbourne vs Sydney
Sydney have had the most puzzling month of footy. Six weeks ago they began surging and looked to be a lock for the top 4 and likely making yet another Grand Final appearance, before two poor losses in succession have left everyone scratching their head. They seem to continually be making uncharacteristic mistakes and failing to find Big Buddy up front, which ended up costing them the game last week. One more goal will see him hit 900, and he should be able to do more than that against a North Melbourne team that has vastly overachieved this year but still refuse to go away.
Gun: Jake Lloyd ($15.8m)
There isn’t really anywhere else you can go other than Jake Lloyd right now. He’s forged his way to being the 11th best scorer in the game, going at 108 points per game and has quickly emerged as one of the best defenders in the competition. I read last week that Sydney may not agree with that analysis, and have hit Lloyd with a very low contract offer, which may see him leave the club. As a Swans fan, I am disgusted that the side will potentially allow the best young player at the club not named Isaac Heeney to walk for the second time in three seasons. Ask Hawthorn fans how the other one worked out. SHOW HIM THE MONEY SYDNEY!
Dud: Jarrad McVeigh ($13m)
Jarrad McVeigh was one of Sydney’s best and most consistent through the opening month of the season, but the revitalising of the Swans’ veteran midfield combined with the emergence of Jake Lloyd at the back has decreased his effectiveness. His average is teetering above 80 at the moment and he has put together a month of mostly 70s.
Point of Difference: Luke Parker ($15m)
Luke Parker has looked rejuvenated in recent weeks, returning to the form that saw him racking up Brownlow votes in years gone by. He seems to have found a better balance in his game, creating space in midfield and getting forward into the attacking 50. He’s kicked two goals in each of his last two games and that is supplementing triple-digit scores. Like Parker a lot right now.
Fremantle vs Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide have won 5 in a row and would be easily the hottest team in the competition right now if not for Collingwood. They are peaking at the right time, and absolutely no one wants to play them in the finals particularly if they get a home final. The Adelaide Oval will always be their biggest weapon, even greater than the plethora of talent they have. This should be a riot.
Gun: Chad Wingard ($13.7m)
Chad Wingard quietly has had a brilliant month. The flashy midfielder/forward has found it difficult to have sustained success this season, much like the rest of the Power team (a result of the stack of stars), but he’s become an extremely efficient player and recently has got that electric run forward. His 88 average is climbing and last week’s 106 will only help. A goal or two and he could top 110.
Dud: David Mundy ($13.7m)
David Mundy started the season positively and looked like he could potentially help a team bereft of goal kickers actually kick goals. That has faded, and in a game where his Nat Fyfe-less side has next to no chance, I can’t see him getting nearly enough opportunities to supplement his score with shots at goal.
Point of Difference: Sam Powell-Pepper ($12.2m)
I said to a friend last year I’d take Sam Powell-Pepper’s future over Ollie Wines’. He disagreed strongly, and he looked right through the majority of this year, but I’m standing by it. I think this kid I just mega talented, a physical freak with the skills and touch to be elite. Yes, that sounds like Wines as well, but SPP just seems to have more prolonged influence and reads games that bit better. Anyways he’s driven his average up to 87 and he’s still at a relatively cheap price. Get on him before it goes above $13m.
That’s all for this weekend’s daily fantasy AFL picks, now be sure to get your lineups in. Good luck!