Saturday’s slate of five games does not bode well for the underdogs, with the very real possibility of a clean sweep of all the favorites against teams that really shouldn’t worry them. Sydney and Collingwood will look to rebound off home losses while Port Adelaide will be desperate to show last week’s Showdown was no fluke. GWS surely will see the North Melbourne bubble burst, and you feel like when it does, it’ll be ugly.
Let’s take a look at a closer look at each game.
North Melbourne vs GWS
Not a person alive expected the Kangaroos to be this competitive. While the team certainly has household names, their back and midfield units just do not have enough top level quality to have warranted any chance of making the finals, but their grit has earned them that title. GWS pose perhaps the greatest threat to that, with the star studded men in orange boasting an array of skills that should prove far too much for North Melbourne to hang with.
Gun: Dylan Shiel ($14.6m)
Dylan Shiel is yet to really take control of this team in the way he could and should, instead putting together strong months instead of strong seasons. This is the kind of game that could see him dominate, slicing through the ruck, throwing his shoulders back and driving into half forward. The 89 average is worrying but he is far, far too talented to keep scoring like this.
Dud: Jack Ziebell ($13.8m)
Jack Ziebell largely relies on tackling and contested possessions to drive up his scores and I can’t see him effectively doing either of those things against this fast Giants team. Ziebell has certainly over performed this year, coinciding with his team’s success, but this is too bad a matchup for him to have any value.
Point of Difference: Callan Ward ($14.5m)
The devilishly handsome Callan Ward has, in my opinion, been the most critical player for GWS so far this year. Stephen Coniglio is the obvious choice here, but Ward’s efficiency through the middle, his clearances and his decision making has been elite and he is allowing the superstar kids to play off the back of it. The 92 average will be beaten this week.
Gold Coast Suns vs Port Adelaide
The Power rocked the Crows last week with a stunning comeback in the dying seconds thanks to Showdown debutant Stephen Motlop. They must back up that performance with a blowout of the hapless Suns on the Gold Coast and I predict they will do just that. The return of Paddy Ryder only adds another element to this team overflowing with talent.
Gun: Jared Polec ($14.3m)
Jared Polec has been the key to Port’s success this year, with his drive through the half lines critical to the Power unlocking their opponents. It seems every time he touches the ball Polec is finding open pastures to run into, and his 102 average is evident of the impact that is having. An underpriced gun at the top of his game.
Dud: Tom Rockliff ($12.2m)
The marquee signing has totally failed to find a place in this Port Adelaide team and it is quickly looking like one of the worst deals in AFL footy. Once an absolute stud at Brisbane, Rocky is averaging 66 and should not even remotely come into consideration for your team.
Point of Difference: Sam Powell-Pepper ($10.2m)
The superstar youngster returned last week and had a few jaw dropping moments as he once again showed off his immense talent. Underpriced but could become a real value pick going forward if he can build on last year’s performances. There was enough from him in the Showdown to warrant consideration as soon as this week.
Essendon vs Geelong
The most interesting game of Round 9 features two teams full of promise who are yet to put together a really consistent month of footy. Geelong’s midfield is now at full strength and it is something to behold. Essendon’s engine room will have their work cut out for them, while the Bombers faithful wait for Joe Daniher to wake from his offseason slumber.
Gun: Gary Ablett ($15.8m)
I really think Gary Ablett can be a top level fantasy player even at his age and among Geelong’s talent. Ablett will be asked to play the Tom Mitchell role, cleaning the ball up and getting the ball to Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Tim Kelly who can rampage forward. Ablett should lead all 4 in disposals most weeks and he should do so at a high clip.
Dud: Zach Merrett ($15.6m)
People have been talking up Zach Merrett as a fantasy gun for years and I am a big fan, but he simply does not have the consistency to rely on each week. His 82 average is hugely worrying and until Essendon start playing to his strengths and giving him the space to use the ball more effectively, he is much too expensive a proposition.
Point of Difference: Tom Stewart ($11.3m)
Tom Stewart is fast becoming the man at the back for Geelong. He is one of the most reliable defenders in the game, he reads the game well, is effective with the boot and clean with the hands. He’s also averaging 82 points per game, and at just over $11m you could do a lot worse.
Sydney Swans vs Fremantle
The Swans shook off their home loss to the Kangaroos wth a big win over arch rivals Hawthorn at the MCG thanks to the emergence of forward Ben Ronke. Fremantle also had themselves a strong win last week but the talent disparity between these two sides should be too great and I don’t like Fremantle to win many away from home.
Gun: Jake Lloyd ($14.5m)
I thought about putting the aforementioned Ben Ronke here. Instead of that unfunny joke I am going for Jake Lloyd who may be the most improved player in the AFL. Lloyd is everything for Sydney coming out of the back, a very classy player who really has the tools to achieve anything in the AFL. He will have plenty of chances to glide forward and should top his 92 average.
Dud: Brandon Matera ($12m)
The big singing from the Titans has failed to put his mark on a Fremantle forward line in desperate need of class and goals. Matera certainly has both those things in spades, but his 69 average is proof he has failed to fit in so far. Sydney will totally control the game here and Matera has Jake Lloyd to attempt to shed. No chance.
Point of Difference: Zak Jones ($11.4m)
Zak Jones has had an interrupted start to 2018 but he showed me enough last week to suggest he can return to being fantasy relevant. Jones is one of the hottest commodities in the AFL with his contract running out and the expectation is that he returns home to Melbourne, possibly even to play with his older brother should Nathan make another run at it. Zak is averaging barely 70 so that is hardly tempting, however the Swans midfield outside of Josh Kennedy have lacked consistency and he can give them quality going forward.
St Kilda vs Collingwood
The Saints were dismantled by Fremantle last week, the latest nail in the coffin that is their season. There was so much promise in their young list last year but it seems each and every one of them have failed to take the next step. Collingwood are in the opposite situation, with their younger players making leaps while their star veterans are having career years. Their midfield trio of Adam Treloar, Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom are perhaps second only to Geelong’s star studded cast. This could get ugly.
Gun: Adam Treloar ($17.1m)
There would have been plenty among you who picked and stuck with Adam Treloar throughout last season as he put together a very average season by his lofty standards but he is now fulfilling the promise that had people anointing him the next Collingwood legend. St Kilda’s midfield has been overrun repeatedly this year and Treloar’s surges forward will prove too much for the Saints. He has also been spending more time forward and has found his radar in front of goal, adding further points to his score. He’s expensive but he will top 110 in this one.
Dud: Jack Steele ($13.8m) and Jack Billings ($13.3m)
Two of the three Jacks have had hugely underwhelming seasons and their decline has certainly coincided with St Kilda’s struggles. Jack Billings in particularly has been a huge disappointment. He has ability for days but they have struggled to get any kind of consistent play out of midfield and you wonder exactly what is going on inside the club. I can’t see any value in these two against a star and in form midfield.
Point of Difference: Sam Murray ($8.8m)
Sam Murray has been one of the finds of the season and a key part of the dominance of Collingwood’s midfield. His speed off halfback has been a Jason Johanissen-like weapon for the Pies, dragging forward opposition defence and creating space for their star midfielders. Averaging just under 80 and priced well under $10m, he is a great cheap option every week.
Carlton vs Melbourne
The Blues got off the mark this season with a strong performance over Essendon but that optimism was momentarily quashing midweek as star midfielder Ed Curnow was suspended while his brother Charlie narrowly escaped further punishment. Curnow has been a revelation this year and his loss will really hurt Carlton against a very strong Melbourne midfield. That might be enough to push this one in the Demons’ favour.
Gun: Clayton Oliver ($15.8m)
The kid is now a bonafide superstar and there is no two ways about it. Clayton Oliver has demonstrated last year was no fluke and he should now be in the forefront of your mind every time you are building your team. He’s regularly throwing together 30+ possession games at a high percentage, and should he turn handballs into a few more kicks he will be a top 5 scorer by the end of the season. Against a weakened Carlton midfield he could have another special game.
Dud: Matthew Kreuzer ($14.2m)
Matthew Kreuzer has again seen his season interrupted by injuries and unfortunately for him he comes up against the game’s premier ruckman this week. Max Gawn has been totally unstoppable this season and could have easily featured yet again in the category above. I can’t see Kruezer having too much enjoyment against a ruck who likes to play a similar game – getting up the ground, linking with forwards and kicking goals – but simply does it better. Avoid.
Point of Difference: Dale Thomas ($12.6m)
Dale Thomas has quietly had his best season in five years, making plays through the back, midfield and forward lines for Carlton. Their lack of success means his play has gone without much notice, but I certainly have, and the scores have followed. An 87 average for a below $13m player is well worth your consideration and without Ed Curnow the Blues will need more of Daisy if they’re going to have any chance. He will be in my team.
Brisbane Lions vs Hawthorn
Luke Hodge will for the first time come up against the team he won four premierships with, three of which he was the captain. It will be an emotional affair for the legendary midfielder who now takes place among the young Lions defensive unit. Hawthorn were poor last week against Sydney and I still am far from convinced of them as genuine finals contenders. Brisbane, yet again, are irrelevant.
Gun: Isaac Smith ($14.8m)
Isaac Smith has arguably had the best season of his career and the struggling Lions will surely allow him plenty of room to run and kick through the middle, meaning another big score is coming. His average has slipped just below 100, currently sitting at 96, but still one of the better averages for a player who was not consistent a fantasy option in the past. I don’t know who Brisbane play on him to stop his movement and I think another triple figure score is coming.
Dud: Dayne Beams ($14.7m)
Dayne Beams would be a superstar playing just about anywhere else, but he simply has to do too much every week for this Lions team. He has very few forwards to link up with and his fellow Dayne, Zorko, is having a poor season since Tom Rockliff left for Port Adelaide. His 92 average is strong but I think Tom Mitchell, Isaac Smith and Hawthorn’s midfield overrun the Lions here and Beams will suffer as a result.
Point of Difference: Alex Witherden ($13.7m)
I believe this is the first time I am featuring Alex Witherden in this category and that is wrong. Witherden came flying onto the scene midway through last year and quickly established himself as one of the finest young talents in the game. He will have plenty to do against Hawthorn who should dominate Brisbane through the middle. Plenty of traffic will be coming Witherden’s way and he is an elite intercept mark and a good user of the ball. Not the cheapest but an 86 average and plenty of upside.
West Coast Eagles vs Richmond
This is unquestionably the game of the week. The two best teams in the AFL. The premiers versus the great hope from the west. West Coast have defied the doubters (myself included) each and every week and there is no doubting they will be hosting a home final at some stage later in the season. Richmond have been the Richmond of last year, little else I can say other than that. This game isn’t about them, it’s about the Eagles notching up a result they can use to fuel a premiership run.
Gun: Andrew Gaff ($15.9m)
Andrew Gaff is one of the top midfielders in the game and you wouldn’t know it. If he were playing in Melbourne this guy would be a Brownlow favourite. Each and every week he’s racking up effective disposals in high numbers for his team and you cannot go wrong picking him. He will top his 105 average.
Dud: Toby Nankervis ($14.1m)
The big Nank has followed up the best season of his journeyman career with another strong showing this year, but he comes up against a fresh and motivated Nic Natanui at home with everything to play for this week and I think the Eagles star will be too much for him. Like Gawn and Kreuzer, the two play a similar game, Nankervis loving to get into full forward and take marks, but Natanui will be dictating the speed and flow of this game and I think it will be all too much for the Tigers ruck. Really bad matchup.
Point of Difference: Jack Darling ($12.6m)
Another of their unsung heroes but Jack Darling has become the target man for West Coast forward with Josh Kennedy in and out of the team and he has benefitted hugely from it. The 25-year-old is having the season of his life and if you’ve read anything about his off-field battles you can’t be anything but happy for the guy. On a fantasy standpoint, a 90 average and costing just $12.6m, an open and expansive game against the run and gun Tigers could see him with plenty of chances to take contested marks and kick goals.
That’s all for this weekend’s analysis. Good luck!