CONSISTENCY is hard to find and even harder to maintain.
AFL Fantasy coaches look to their defenders to provide week after week, as often their output is the difference between victory and defeat.
On average points a round, here are the top 10 defenders of 2012 – but can they back it up in 2013?
1. Brett Deledio (Richmond)
Total number of selections (in 2012): 164,075
2012 points average: 110.4
2012 total points: 2,428
2013 price: $568,600 (MID)
Can he replicate 2012 form? Deledio was a model of fantasy production consistency in 2012. His average of 110.4 points a game ranked him in the top 10 in the competition last year and he looks set to build on that in 2013. Floating between the midfield and half-back, Deledio averaged 27.5 disposals last season and was named an All Australian. His durability is remarkable, missing just three games since he was drafted in 2008. Can only be picked as a midfielder this season, which puts his value down slightly. But that really shouldn't be much of a barrier.
2. Brendon Goddard (St Kilda/Essendon)
Total Number of selections: 151,995
2012 points average: 97.3
2012 total points: 1,946
2013 price: $501,300 (DEF/MID)
Can he replicate 2012 form? Goddard's new beginning at Essendon could be fantastic news for fantasy owners. He is already one of the most sought after players in the competition, but being freed up in the Bombers' midfield could take his game to even greater heights. He rarely misses a target, and more importantly, teammates look to give to him on every possible occasion. He is a guaranteed possession winner, even in defence, so Goddard should be at the top of your fantasy wish list.
3. Heath Scotland (Carlton)
Total Number of selections: 99,868
2012 points average: 95.8
2012 total points: 2,011
2013 price: $493,400 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? Continuing the theme of consistency, Scotland is one of those players who regularly does the job. He averaged the most disposals a game of any defender in 2012 for the second season in a row, and continually finds ways to intercept the ball going inside 50. He kicks the ball on both feet, and rarely coughs it up. It will be interesting to see what Mick Malthouse has in store for him this season, but he should be strongly considered for your team regardless. Misses the first two games of the season (against Richmond and Collingwood) due to a club-imposed suspension.
4. Jack Grimes (Melbourne)
Total Number of Selections: 24,594
2012 points average: 92
2012 total points: 1,932
2013 price: $474,000 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? After years of injury frustration, Grimes was finally able to string together consistent games at AFL level. The Melbourne co-captain played 21 matches in 2012, averaging 22.2 disposals a game. It was easily his best season, capped by finishing runner-up in the club's best and fairest. He never is lacking in effort, and his skills are first-rate. Still only 23, the Demons defender is on an upward curve. A very solid fantasy option, and fingers crossed he is well and truly over his injury woes.
5. Beau Waters (West Coast)
Total Number of selections: 62,908
2012 points average: 91.6
2012 total points: 1,741
2013 price: $472,100 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? Waters became one of the best players in the competition, earning All-Australian honours, with a superb 2012 season. He mopped up in defence and engineered many attacking moves from the back half. His kicking is a key facet of his game, registering a near 80 per cent disposal efficiency rating. The way he can come off his man and help out his fellow defenders is perhaps his biggest asset. If he can avoid the odd brain fade and resulting suspension, then he's a fantasy star.
6. Grant Birchall (Hawthorn)
Total Number of selections: 50,062
2012 points average: 88.4
2012 total points: 1,768
2013 price: $455,400 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? Birchall was already one of the League's best rebounding defenders, but took his game to another level in 2012. He was named on the half-back flank in the All Australian team, after averaging 23.1 disposals a game. His precise kicking and football nous make Birchall a key cog in the Hawks' engine. He doesn't always rack up big fantasy numbers, but consistently edges the 100-point mark. One of the primary defender options you need to consider.
7. Matt Suckling (Hawthorn)
Total Number of selections: 56,468
2012 points average: 82.9
2012 total points: 1,823
2013 price: $426,900 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? The Hawthorn defender is renowned for his damaging left boot. He can kick the cover off the ball, if necessary, but can also be a little more subtle and pierce the footy through a weak spot in the opposition's zone. While he is listed as a defender, Suckling spends a fair bit of his time up the ground in attacking positions. He can also make an impact on the scoreboard, often receiving a handball and bombing it from outside 50. Can be hot and cold, but don't let that stop you from picking him up.
8. Pearce Hanley (Brisbane Lions)
Total Number of selections: 18,751
2012 points average: 82.6
2012 total points: 1,816
2013 price: $425,300 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? The Irishman took the next step in his development, playing consistently well, to finish third in the Lions' best and fairest count. Hanley has worked hard to refine his game, and the benefits are telling. His kicking cannot be questioned, while his dash from defence makes him difficult to contain. His defensive one-on-one work has also improved dramatically. Fronts up for coach Michael Voss week after week, having not missed any games in the past two seasons. A very worthy fantasy option, but there's a few ahead of him.
9. Michael Johnson (Fremantle)
Total Number of selections: 45,506
2012 points average: 82.5
2012 total points: 1,815
2013 price: $425,000 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? Johnson enjoyed a career-best year, placing third in Fremantle's best and fairest, under new coach Ross Lyon. The Lyon appointment seemed to invigorate Johnson who became a key playmaker. He was given more of a licence to float around defence and create attacking forays for Lyon. He averaged the second-most disposals of any key defender and used the ball well from the back half. Still tends to fly under the radar, so Johnson might be an intuitive fantasy selection.
10. Bachar Houli (Richmond)
Total Number of selections: 10,132
2012 points average: 79.1
2012 total points: 1,739
2013 price: $407,200 (DEF)
Can he replicate 2012 form? Since shifting club allegiances from Essendon two years ago, Houli has well and truly made his mark at the Tigers. He has played all 44 games, averaging 21.4 disposals in his 22 games in 2012. He has a real knack of finding space, which allows him to usually distribute the ball under minimal pressure. Houli has a good sense for the game and is adept at choosing the right time to sag off his opponent and pull in the intercept mark. A solid fantasy scorer, but needs to spend more time in the midfield if he's going to regularly crack scores of 100.
Ben Guthrie is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter- @AFL_BenGuthrie