WHEN the new season of AFL Fantasy launched earlier this week, pages of notes, statistics, structure and ideas in my head were transferred into my first Fantasy Classic team.
Around 50 players have been in and out of my squad during these first few days and although I’m chopping and changing every time I log into Fantasy, this is going to be my year. I can feel it.
My main philosophy when selecting my initial team was to look for value. Players who I believe are underpriced are the first ones that I look to select. Tom Rockliff (MID, $579,000) signed his papers in September last year. Injury impacted his average in 2015, and dropping 30 points per game on his record-breaking 2014 season, the Brisbane Lions captain is walk-up start for the Warne Dawgs. More than half of the coaches who have already signed up agree with me, making the 25-year-old the most popular player selected in the first week of the game opening.
Sitting alongside 'Rocky' is Gary Ablett (MID, $581,000) and Dayne Beams (MID, $570,000) who are both premiums with upside to their Fantasy games from last season. I’m backing Bryce Gibbs (MID, $449,000) to return to a 100-plus average, while the discount applied to Tom Liberatore (MID, $443,000) makes him too cheap to ignore, provided he performs during the NAB Challenge.
I don’t often like starting with the top-priced players, but Stefan Martin (RUC, $631,000) is almost a must-have in my opinion. He enjoyed a massive 2015 that saw him average 32.5 hit-outs and 21.6 disposals to post 114.1 Fantasy points per game. With Matthew Leuenberger now at Essendon, we may even see Martin increase his output once again.
Leuenberger was in my plans as the second ruckman, however he has had a limited pre-season, so Matthew Lobbe (RUC, $431,000) replaces him in my squad. The suspension handed to Patrick Ryder means Lobbe will likely be the sole ruckman for the Power.
I have chased value down back, with not one of the top 10 defenders from last season getting a look-in. Elliot Yeo (DEF/MID, $436,000) and Matt Rosa (DEF/MID, $411,000) are proving to be popular selections early on with the hope they can boost their output by at least 10 points per game in 2016. Like Gibbs in the midfield, I’m hoping Kade Simpson (DEF, $474,000) will thrive under his new coach, Brendon Bolton, and finish as a top six defender.
Up forward, Dustin Martin (FWD/MID, $573,000) has to be a starter and newly commissioned dual position player Michael Barlow (FWD/MID, $515,000) lead the way as premiums. Ross Lyon said during his recent #AskTheCoach chat on AFL.com.au that Barlow would play more inside this season. He is a lock for me!
Lance Franklin (FWD, $452,000) is a bargain and by all reports, he is ready to have a big year.
As a Bombers supporter, I have included a few players who I think are value picks in what should be a very interesting year for Essendon and our Fantasy teams. The top-up players will be added to the game soon and I will be very keen to see what price Jonathan Simpkin comes in at. Anything under $300K will be value for the FWD/MID, who averaged more than 110 points in the VFL last season.
It’s fair to say this team will change a lot over the next seven weeks, especially when we see some NAB Challenge scores and we get a better handle on the best 22 for each club. There are a few players who I have selected who have some work to do to be named for round one, however I’m quite happy to have their names in this very early draft of the Warne Dawgs.
The pre-season AFL Record is the ultimate guide to a big season ahead and a must-have companion for those playing AFL Fantasy. The Traders have picked the best players in each position and have rated the top five Fantasy players to watch at each club. On sale Thursday (February 4) in Victoria and from February 8 in all other states and territories for $9.95. Look for it in newsagents and book stores.