Melbourne had Australia’s sporting public transfixed upon it all week, but it was for the city’s hosting of rugby league rather than their unrivaled state sport. With the NRL packing up the MCG, it hands the keys back to the AFL, and there are a number of truly mouthwatering fixtures to win back the neutral fans, starting with Saturday afternoon’s blockbuster between Geelong and North Melbourne.
There will also be plenty of chances for some of the top teams, GWS and Sydney included, to remind everyone of their premiership credentials and continue their quest for a top 4 finish against much lesser opponents. There’s something for everyone.
Geelong vs North Melbourne
The Kangaroos rolled through Brisbane last week to cement their place in the top 8 after a wobbly couple of weeks. They continue to defy all expectations and are looking more and more like they will be there come September. Geelong, despite having the same record as their opponents, seemingly have nothing to prove to anyone and are looking more like the team everyone thought they’d be before the season started.
Gun: Joel Selwood ($16.2m)
North Melbourne have gotten to the position they are in through hard nosed, blue collar footy. In other words, Joel Selwood footy. This game is made for him, it’ll be rough and tough around the contest, plenty of chances for clearances and tackles, and probably not so much room to run. Selwood is averaging the most of Geelong’s star trio and is coming off an astonishing 136 last week.
Dud: Gary Ablett ($16.1m)
The little master was stellar against his former team last week, racking up 119 points and controlling the game from start to finish. His scores, however, have been rocky this year, usually following up the big scores we know he is capable of with frustrating 80s. North Melbourne will look to limit his quick service for Patrick Dangerfield by getting physical with the ageing star. I think he’s the worst option of Geelong’s big 3 for this week.
Point of Difference: Jack Ziebell ($14.1m)
Much like Joel Selwood, Jack Ziebell thrives when games are dragged into the dirt and if the Kangaroos are going to stick with their star-studded opponents that’s exactly what they’ll have to do. Ziebell hasn’t been a consistent contributor this year, and his fantasy value has certainly faded over the past year or two, but I think there is enough promise here for him to be an intriguing left field pick. His battle with Selwood will be one to watch.
GWS vs Gold Coast
The Giants reminded everyone of what they are capable last week, storming home to beat the Crows in Adelaide in a virtuoso performance from the young GWS stars. I can’t see any other way than GWS racking up a cricket score on a Suns team that are going nowhere fast. The speculation surround their lone hope, Tom Lynch, can’t be helping either.
Gun: Stephen Coniglio ($16.4m)
The most consistent Giant by a mile, Stephen Coniglio has shot himself into Brownlow discussions after finally overcoming a shocking run of injuries. He has been either the best on ground or close to it every week for GWS and should rack up 35+ touches in this one. He’s also found his goal kicking boots, regularly chipping in with a couple of majors. An absolute star and should score 120+.
Dud: Any Gold Coast Sun
I really can’t see any value in any Suns here, outside maybe of Jarrod Witts. I think we will see the entire team looking at high 70s and below, as GWS win this by more than 70. There isn’t enough ball winners on this team to worry the star studded Giants, and I can’t see anyone offering anything in the way of value.
Point of Difference: Jonathon Patton ($10.9m)
Big Jon Patton has failed to hit the heights he reached last year, where during one 5 or 6 game stretch he was absolutely unstoppable, but you feel it’s only a matter of time for him to kick a bag full of goals. This could be the game. The Suns will get absolutely rolled here so there will be plenty of chances for Patton. Hopefully Jeremy Cameron goes looking for the ball deeper and gives Patton wide spaces and one-on-one battles.
St. Kilda vs Sydney
Sydney kicked away late from Carlton last week but the Blues managed to stick with the Swans for long parts of the game and at times even led. The Swans still don’t appear to be running at full gear, with injuries hardly helping their continuity. They will have their chance to rectify a lot of their inconsistencies this week against a hapless St Kilda side fresh off another, albeit slightly closer, loss.
Gun: Isaac Heeney ($14.7m)
This should be the ideal game for Isaac Heeney, who is playing some of the best footy of his career at the moment. Heeney has again been splitting time between midfield and forward, and this year he seems to have found more balance in the free roaming role. There will be plenty of chances for Heeney both to get his hands on the ball in midfield and get forward to take inside 50s and kick goals. A lot of upside for him here.
Dud: Jack Billings ($12.9m)
Maybe the most talented player at the club, certainly the most frustrating, Jack Billings has failed to take the next step in his career this season and his fantasy value is suffering as a result. A 69 average for someone of this class is just not good enough, it seems he is totally sapped of confidence and Sydney is not the team to try and find that against. Avoid.
Point of Difference: Shane Stevanage ($13.1m)
Very quietly, Shane Stevanage has emerged as a decent fantasy option in each week, largely because of all the defending the Saints have to do. The 84 average isn’t mid blowing, but we saw last week how effective he can be when his midfield get even the tiniest bit of pressure from the service into their defensive half. He put up 98 against the Eagles last week and I think he can go somewhere close to that again here.
Brisbane vs Essendon
A late rally in the second quarter was about all Essendon could take out of their absolute hiding at the hands of the premiers last week. Richmond toweled up their opponents in a display reminding the AFL they still have to get through the Tigers. Thankfully for Essendon, they have the Lions this week, who have certainly assembled a nice mixture of young talent but still are a long way off competing.
Gun: Devon Smith ($14.7m)
Devon Smith is having the breakout year everyone expected, and despite playing on a team that lost by nearly 80 last week, he still put in a stellar performance. He is thriving with the interchanging role between forward and midfield, and seems to be growing in confidence every week. Everyone has known the talent he’s had for awhile, and it seems he timed his move perfectly. An average of 102 and coming off a 129 despite that result. Winner.
Dud: Cale Hooker ($11.7m)
Cale Hooker’s change in role following the additions of a plethora of free agent signings has significantly impacted his fantasy value and he now should not be a part of your plans at any stage. He is getting limited chances to go forward and has failed to cement himself when playing in the backline, averaging just 67 and coming off a 58 last week despite all the balls coming into the defensive 50. Cross him off your list.
Point of Difference: Jake String ($10.1m)
Like Devon Smith, Jake Stringer was fantastic last week in a team that were completely destroyed, and perhaps he has found his place in his new team. Stringer was unplayable at times charging out of the contest and getting the ball into the forward 50, and he reminded everyone of his class kicking with a couple of fine finishes. He, like Smith, has all the ability in the world, but certainly took longer than his teammate to get acclimatised to his new colours. At that price, it’s worth a gamble.
Fremantle vs Adelaide
Adelaide were poor in the second half last week, being outrun by a Giants team that has been very up and down this year in front of their home fans. They will be stinging to get out and right the ship following that blip, and they come up against a Nat Fyfe-less Dockers team, reeling from the suspension of their star. That may be all the Crows need to notch up a big win.
Gun: Bryce Gibbs ($16.4m)
You’re probably as bored reading about Bryce Gibbs and Rory Laird as I am writing about them. The aforementioned absence of Nat Fyfe means Gibbs should be able to totally control midfield and should be putting up another big triple figure score. He had an astonishing 142 in last week’s loss, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have another 35 touches in this one.
Dud: Rory Atkins ($13.2m)
For the team’s favourite tagger and someone who is a very up and down fantasy performer, $13.2m is just far too much for me to invest in Rory Atkins. With Fyfe out, we may see Atkins following Lachie Neale and cutting off whatever remaining service the Dockers’ forwards will reliably have. Atkins is just as likely to get his medial average of 82 as he is to put together a low 50, as he did last week. Not for me.
Point of Difference: Michael Walters ($11.9m)
The loss of Fyfe means Michael Walters will need to be at his running best if Free are going to stand a chance. Quietly, he is averaging 90 and has hit triple figures several times including last week’s 102. He will surely see his touches increase as will his time spent in midfield, and that could see him match that average, which for $11.9m I’ll take.
Melbourne vs Collingwood
This is the game of the weekend, and hopefully will draw a crowd in excess of 80,000. Melbourne each week are looking more and more like the real deal, although the crushing season ending injury to Jake Lever will take some sting out of their current optimism. Collingwood’s run has stalled a bit in recent weeks, but both these teams are very much in the top 4 conversation. The Brodie Grundy-Max Gawn battle between the game’s best ruckman will be worth tuning in for alone.
Gun: Steele Sidebottom ($16.7m)
In a game that may be chaotic and end-to-end, the calmness of Steele Sidebottom may prove to go a huge way in deciding the winner. The veteran is having a fantastic throwback season, where he has given Adam Treloar all the freedom to run forward and create havoc. He is the most important ingredient to Collingwood winning and he should get plenty of it in this one.
Dud: Christian Salem ($13.1m)
A very high price for someone who is not really contributing huge scores (82 average) and coming up against one of the best midfields in the game, this is not the week to be investing in Christian Salem. He will have his hands full trying to chase down Adam Treloar and get away from Taylor Adams. Avoid.
Point of Difference: Taylor Adams ($14.9m)
One of the best fantasy producers of last year, Taylor Adams had a poor start to the season by those standards but he looks to be getting back to his best and is now relevant again. The tough tackling former defender put up 100 in his best score of the year last week and is seeing his average creep towards 90 after being as low as the high 70s. This could be the ideal game for Adams, frantic with lots of tackling and chances to win the ball in turnovers. Not cheap but could be a winning play.
That’s all for this week’s picks and analysis. Now be sure to get your fantasy lineups in. Good luck!