Sam Docherty celebrates a goal during the elimination final between Carlton and Sydney at the MCG on September 8, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

THERE is a new level of confidence at the Blues and expectations are high as they gun for a top-four finish. From a Fantasy perspective, that should ensure access to a few more points throughout their star-studded line-up that surprisingly only managed one player averaging triple figures last year.

Sam Docherty (MID, $943,000) was the only Blue to average triple figures with an average of 104, slightly down from his previous season of 110 as he transitioned to the midfield, hence losing his defender status. 

A player who is certainly capable of adding plenty of points to his impressive average of 98 is Nic Newman (DEF, $885,000) who averaged 115 from round 17 including scores of 125, 138 and 139. 

Skipper Patrick Cripps (MID, $798,000) provides some value after dropping his average by 14 points last season, having pushed through some injury niggles throughout the year that kept him from his best.

OK, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed before we move on … the round two bye. There are justifiable concerns selecting a player for round one when we know they are going to miss the very next week, so watching their round zero game and factoring their score against their breakeven will play a big part in the eventual decision.

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Lock them in

Sam Walsh (MID, $854,000) is a star of the competition who battled injuries last season, both before the season started and during the year, which kept him from his best from a scoring perspective. After averaging 109 and 103 in the previous two years, last year he was restricted to 15 games and an average of just 95, at least 15 points below what I expect him to produce this season. His form in the finals was something to behold and a preview of what to expect in 2024 after he averaged 115, which included a whopping 140. If it wasn’t for Opening Round, he would be a walk-up selection at that price but given his round two bye, it makes the decision tricky.


Track their pre-season

Running half-back Zac Williams (DEF, $442,000) has received a huge discount and is one of the genuine bargains of the season following his return from an ACL injury. He is obviously a durability concern given he played no games last year and only nine in 2022, but his upside is undeniable given his ability to find the footy. From those games a couple of years ago, three caught my eye that reassure me of the bargain selection that he presents after scoring 98 from 27 touches, 103 from 27 disposals and 10 marks and a season-high 137 from 36 touches, five marks and five tackles … Not bad for a guy priced at 49. If he is fit for round one, I expect to see plenty of +6 action between Newman, Adam Saad and Williams which will make him hard to leave out, despite his early bye.

Dual-position tempter

Billy Wilson (DEF/MID, $201,000) is one of only two Blues holding DPP status this year and there is every chance he comes into calculations during the year as a downgrade target. After starting draft year at half-back playing for the Dandenong Stingrays, the versatile speedster eventually won his club's best and fairest award along with selection in the Coates Talent League Team of the Year while averaging 80. His ability to play multiple positions along with elite disposal will ensure he comes under regular consideration.

Bargain basement

Jaxon Binns (MID, $200,000) has made his intentions clear this pre-season regarding his intent to debut in the senior side. The VFL best-and-fairest winner, who was also selected in the VFL side of the year, has been turning heads at training and given his triple-figure average in the VFL last year, he is one we won't want to miss. Orazio Fantasia (FWD, $269,000) is too cheap to ignore if he finds his way into the team, despite his obvious durability concerns. He is priced at an average of just 30 and has averaged over 65 on five occasions, including highs of 73 and 79. However, he has only played more than 14 games in a season on two occasions, and has never reached 20.

Jaxon Binns during Carlton's training session at Ikon Park on November 27, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Draft sleeper

George Hewett (MID, $669,000) is going to be way down the list when sorted by average after managing just 74, well down from his breakout season in 2022 when he scored an impressive 98 points per game. Last year, he had an unfortunate run with injury and concussion, keeping him from his best and landing him in four dreaded vests. He averaged an impressive 101 in the last four games which shows his undoubted upside.

George Hewett in action during the elimination final between Carlton and Sydney at the MCG on September 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Buyer beware

Matthew Kennedy (MID, $673,000) looks a bargain price given he averaged 94 and 86 leading up to his steep drop to 76 last season. He managed just 14 games last year while also copping the vest on three occasions. When playing in the midfield, he looked capable of scoring in the vicinity of his best but was rarely given four quarters in there and his scoring dropped considerably when moving into an alternate role either forward or back. He also started in the green vest for the preliminary finals, so if the Blues are full strength to kick off the season, Kennedy will be up against it to get a start.

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