Zach Merrett, Brodie Grundy and Ryley Sanders. Pictures: AFL Photos/Phil Hillyard

AFL FANTASY has officially opened and Calvin has been hard at work creating a team that he believes is destined to win in 2024.

The early byes

The eight teams that play in the Opening Round will have one early bye over rounds 2, 3, 5 and 6. During these four rounds, only your best scoring 18 players will count towards your overall score. This adjustment should enable you to field a full team for those rounds. However, we need to be mindful of the players we are selecting, especially if they have one of these early byes.

In Team Calvinator, I have deliberately targeted premium players who will not be playing in Opening Round and therefore won't have an early bye.

St Kilda defenders Jack Sinclair (DEF, $922,000) and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (DEF, $824,000) fit into this category alongside Hayden Young (DEF, $805,000), who looks set to spend more time in the Dockers' midfield in 2024.

Marcus Bontempelli (MID, $1,056,000) and Zach Merrett (MID, $1,019,000) headline the midfield brigade and although they are very expensive, we all need captain options and these two stars will certainly provide that.

Marcus Bontempelli during the round 24 match between Geelong and the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium, August 26, 2023. Pictures: AFL Photos

Hunting value

One of the most important components of picking a team is hunting for those under-priced players who are set to fire in the new season. This is where my rule of avoiding players with an early bye can go out the window.

Keidean Coleman (DEF, $628,000) ticks this box and appears to have taken over the Daniel Rich role that saw him average 102 over the AFL Finals Series. Zac Williams (DEF, $422,000) is another player that presents as value and is priced at an average of just 49 after missing the entire 2023 season.

Even though Brodie Grundy (RUC, $677,000) has a bye in round five, he can still be picked and is currently the third most selected player behind Harley Reid (MID/FWD, $300,000) and Nick Daicos (DEF/MID, $982,000). Grundy joins Sydney to be its No.1 ruckman, a role that saw him average over 100 for six years at Collingwood.

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Decimated forwards

Last season, we had so many options up forward, but in 2024… things have changed. With only four players available who averaged over 90 last season, it's going to be trickier than ever.

Fantasy coaches are hoping that Jack Macrae (MID/FWD, $829,000) can get back to his best after averaging under 100 for the first time in the last six years. Sam Flanders (MID/FWD, $809,000) is also shaping up to be a popular pick. He averaged 113 in his last seven games, but will he have the same midfield role under a new coach?

Hawthorn's Dylan Moore (FWD, $794,000) also makes my initial team based on the fact he doesn't have an early bye and our options are limited. Unless we get more forwards added as the season progresses, he could also end up being a top six forward.

Sam Flanders in action during round 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The rookies

At this stage of the season, rookies are placeholders. As we learn more over the pre-season, we can be interchanging these positions with players who are likely to debut in round one.

Expect to see top draft picks Reid (MID/FWD, $300,000) and Colby McKercher (MID, $297,000) feature in early games. McKercher is an elite scorer and a 'Fantasy Pig' in the making. He averaged 111 in the Coates Talent League, the highest of all rookies, and should slot straight into the Kangaroos' team.

NOTE: $49,000 salary cap unused