Shai Bolton celebrates a goal with Dustin Martin during the R8 match between Richmond and West Coast at the MCG on May 6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

DURING the first half of last year, new recruit Tim Taranto (MID, $1,015,000) was the talk of the town for Fantasy coaches … but things changed after the bye.

The leader of the infamous 'ton run' (the most weeks scoring 100 or more from round one), racked up 14 Fantasy tons at an average of 125, was a perfect start to Taranto's time at Tigerland.

Post-bye, Taranto averaged 93.3 from his final nine games. While his average still ended up as 112.4, the top Richmond player and eighth overall, there are a few questions as to why this happened.

Richmond had a change of coach mid-season when Andrew McQualter took over from Damien Hardwick. Was this a factor? How do things look in 2024 as Adem Yze starts his tenure as head coach? There are plenty of unknowns and it might be enough to scare Fantasy coaches off picking many Tigers but there could be a bit of gold for Fantasy Draft coaches willing to take a punt.

Will Jayden Short (DEF, $835,000) be a key player in their back half? Gaining defender status has thrust him back in the Fantasy conversation as he looks to be one of the first off the board on Draft day when coaches are hunting defenders. Maybe with that all-important forward status Liam Baker (DEF/FWD, $630,000) can be an option if he can find the form that saw him score three Fantasy tons in his first five games last year.

Time will tell and the pre-season will be a must-watch for the Tigers.

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Lock them in

It was a career-year for Tigers captain Toby Nankervis (RUC, $923,000). Averaging 102.2, Nank ranked third for average Fantasy points for rucks and was one of only three players to manage a triple-figure return. The big man hadn't previously averaged more than 90 in a season, but blitzed that over his 15 games with a consistent season outside of his syndesmosis injury and suspension. With Ivan Soldo moving on, Nank's role shouldn't be an issue and Draft coaches should be looking to pick him up as the ruck run commences.

Track their pre-season

A foot injury kept Tom Lynch (FWD, $563,000) to just four games last season. Although he isn't expected to ramp up training until the new year, coaches should monitor his fitness leading into their Fantasy Draft day as Lynch has a 51.8 average next to his name. With forward options limited and seemingly a position to leave until late in drafts, Lynch could be a deep pick who could prove value. Jack Riewoldt's retirement may help him take his average up to the 70 points he's achieved across his career.

Tom Lynch on the bench during the round 4 match between Richmond and the Western Bulldogs at the MCG, April 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Dual-position tempter

A career-high average of 86.8 for Shai Bolton (MID/FWD, $783,000) ranks him as the eighth-best forward available in 2024. He attended more than half of Richmond's centre bounces and was an important player up forward, kicking 31 goals. Will the 25-year-old have more responsibility around the ball and hit the perfect mix of being a MID/FWD? If so, those who draft Bolton will be happy if he can remain durable.


Bargain basement

Battling a hamstring injury that kept him out for the 2023 season, Josh Gibcus (DEF, $256,000) didn't have an opportunity to add to his 17 games in his debut season. With a discount that prices him with other rookies, the defender should be considered as a cash cow option if named. We shouldn't expect massive scores considering the role (and his average that only just cracked 40 in 2022), but we should pop him in the rookie-priced player black book.

Draft sleeper

Jacob Hopper (MID, $729,000) has had two seasons where he's averaged 90-plus in his career. While he would've liked to have been on the park more often in his first year as a Tiger, there were some promising signs. Hopper's Fantasy average was brought down by injury affected games. There most certainly is upside from his 80.8 average as many coaches will think the 26-year-old can put a few points on his 2023 return.

Custom stat star

It has been a while since Dustin Martin (FWD, $812,000) has been ranked as one of the top available forwards in Fantasy, but he's just one of two with an average of 90 or more available as a FWD. It's hard to consider Dusty as a starting pick for Classic, but in a Draft league with custom stats, his forward status might be invaluable if he hits similar disposal numbers and ticks along goal assists and inside 50s while getting an opportunity to play up the ground.

Buyer beware

Having not played since 2020, Sam Naismith (RUC, $521,000) received a hefty 45 per cent discount on his most recent average. That average was 77 in that COVID-affected year which was equivalent to more than 95 based on the multiplied used due to 16-minute quarters. While the discount is hefty, $521,000 is a lot to play for a back-up ruck. Pass.

Sam Naismith in action during a Richmond training session at Punt Road Oval on November 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

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