THE NAB Challenge is the ultimate guide for AFL Fantasy coaches as we run a magnifying glass over each team, hunting out players who might have new roles or rookies who are making the most of their chances.
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Hawthorn v Carlton, Aurora Stadium
Hawthorn and Carlton kicked off this year's NAB Challenge, and despite a new-look Carlton team shaped by Brendon Bolton, the Hawks were just too good once again.
Jordan Lewis (MID, $613,000) started his year with a game-high 123pts, and surprisingly is only owned by 4 per cent of AFL Fantasy coaches. Also impressive were the ever-reliable Sam Mitchell (MID, $574,000) who racked up 109pts, and Luke Hodge (MID, $615,000) who didn’t get out of second gear for his 60pts in just 58 per cent game time.
However, it was Daniel Howe (DEF, $265,000) who caught everyone’s attention early with 40pts in the opening term. Howe played four games last year and even scored 98pts in the final round. He finished with 111pts for the night and is certainly a player on the watch list of many Fantasy coaches, but as we know, cracking this Hawks line-up is a very tough task.
Roy’s boy Bryce Gibbs (MID, $449,000) failed to impress with 58pts from 84 per cent game time and Dale Thomas (FWD/MID, $354,000) showed glimpses of his best with 65pts playing off the wing. Other Carlton players on our watch list for the night were Jed Lamb (FWD, $189,000) and Ciaran Byrne (DEF, $125,000). Unfortunately, they also failed to fire, only managing 34pts and 23pts respectively.
The biggest shining light for the Carlton fans and Fantasy coaches was former Crow Sam Kerridge (FWD/MID, $299,000). His 88pts from 28 disposals certainly caught everyone’s attention and now finds him in 14 per cent of Fantasy teams.
Fremantle v Richmond, Rushton Park
This game was never going to be pretty, with a near full strength Fremantle line-up taking on a much younger and inexperienced Richmond outfit.
Michael Barlow (FWD/MID, $515,000) took advantage of his return to the midfield, dominating the game with 125pts. Barlow averaged 111 in 2014, only to receive a change in role last year, which effectively dropped his average to 93. After his performance at the weekend, many Fantasy coaches will now be restructuring their teams to make room for the star in their forward line.
Darcy Tucker ($158,000, DEF) was the Fantasy buzz name of the night though, floating across half-back for 21 possessions and eight marks. He amassed 94pts and did so in just 62 per cent of game time. With Fremantle playing what was close to a full strength team, Tucker might now have his foot in the door for a round one debut along with Connor Blakely ($137,000, MID) who had 59pts for the night.
After sitting out the first half, Brownlow medallist Nathan Fyfe (MID, $581,000) looked sharp. He racked up a quickfire 58pts in just 44 per cent time on ground.
For the young Tigers, bargain basement players Nathan Broad (DEF, $125,000) and rookie Adam Marcon (MID, $125,000), both did enough to impress scoring 60 and 62 points respectively.
St Kilda v North Melbourne, Norm Minns Oval
With many stars on the sideline, including North Melbourne’s Daniel Wells (FWD/MID, $293,000), it was Sebastian Ross (MID, $394,000) who led the way with a game-high 107pts from his 26 disposals.
Former Hawk Jed Anderson (FWD/MID, $224,000) is currently owned by 29 per cent of Fantasy coaches but his popularity is slowly dropping after he only managed 49pts in nearly a full game.
Although he showed some positive signs, St Kilda’s No.18 draft pick Jade Gresham (MID, $187,000) scored just 37pts in 73 per cent game time. Gresham comes with a Fantasy game and averaged 29 touches and 122pts in the TAC Cup last year. Don’t rule him out just yet.
With no one wanting to spend-up heavily in the backline, Luke McDonald (DEF, $285,000) is one who really has his hand held high. He had the second highest score for the Roos of 74pts and looms as a breakout contender for 2016.
Sydney Swans v Port Adelaide, BISP
Like many games during the first weekend of the NAB Challenge, this game had many contradicting factors. From the weather being hot and humid to then torrential rain and the Sydney Swans playing with a strong line-up, compared the Power who had many of their stars on ice.
The downpour in the second half did nothing to help Lance Franklin (FWD, $452,000) who dominated the Swans' intra-club match last week. He managed just 27pts for the day in difficult conditions for a forward.
Luke Parker (MID, $533,000) and Tom Mitchell (MID, $593,000) found the ball 32 times each for their scores of 100 and 92 respectively.
Dan Hannebery (MID, $613,000) had a quiet day for his 42pts but it was young gun Callum Mills (MID, $227,000) with his 81pts who stole the show. He was sensational and although he’s dearer than most rookies, he is certainly worth the extra price in your midfield.
For Port Adelaide, Sam Gray (FWD/MID, $427,000) topped the leaderboard with 78pts. Gray is currently owned by 4 per cent of Fantasy coaches, who must have taken note of the way he finished his season last year with scores of 120, 117 and 115.
Adelaide v West Coast, Unley Oval
It’s hard to really look deeply into a game that the Crows won by 100 points. However, a few interesting findings came out of this one-sided affair. Dean Gore (MID, $125,000) is a lock on your midfield bench … for now. He scored 78pts in just over a half and looked right at home in the midfield for the Crows.
Matt Crouch (MID, $396,000) averaged 81 last year when he didn’t wear the vest and knocked up exactly that number with 24 disposals. This kid is a ball-winning machine, just like his brother Brad Crouch (MID, $415,000) who was rested for the match.
To show how bad it was for the under-manned Eagles, Fraser McInnes (FWD, $269,000) topped scored for them with just 57pts from a team high 13 possessions.
Some 23,344 coaches currently own Elliot Yeo (DEF/MID, $436,000). He scored 37pts and only managed five disposals for the day. Although this would be enough for you to warrant a ‘rage trade’, he does need one more chance to prove himself - and that’s coming from me who experienced the ‘Yo-Yeo Effect’ firsthand last year when he averaged 41 between rounds 19 to 22. The string hasn’t snapped for me just yet, but it’s close.
Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast, Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex
Finally, on Sunday afternoon we saw a depleted Brisbane Lions taking on an under-manned Gold Coast. With all the guns sitting this one out, it was time for the rookies to shine.
Rhys Mathieson (MID, $158,000) did just that scoring an impressive 55pts. He averaged 96pts in the TAC Cup this year and looks ready to go. Slightly more expensive, Ben Keays (MID, $176,000) looked sharp at times for his 59pts and can produce big numbers on his day. He averaged 130 in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, racking up 29 touches a game.
Ryan Harwood (DEF, $198,000) has flown under the Fantasy radar this pre-season and should be considered. He scored 66 and is only in 2 per cent of Fantasy teams.
Top scoring for the game though was Mitch Robinson (FWD/MID, $504,000). He ended 2015 like a steam train, averaging 117 in his last seven games. He’s only owned by 3 per cent of Fantasy coaches and is a great ‘player of difference’ in your forward line.
The much hyped Matt Rosa (DEF, $411,000) did enough to impress despite only scoring 53. He found the ball 19 times, the second highest for the Suns, just behind Jesse Lonergan (DEF/MID, 346,000) with his 23 touches and 81pts.
Follow @CalvinDT for more Fantasy updates and news and be sure to join @RoyDT next week on AFL.com.au for his review of the second week of the NAB Challenge.