Keidean Coleman in action during the Toyota AFL Grand Final between Brisbane and Collingwood on September 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

LAST season's runners-up enjoyed a few highs in AFL Fantasy in 2023.

In his 18 games in his debut season, Will Ashcroft (MID, $748,000) made a big impact. He was thrust into the midfield rotation, averaging 44 per cent of Brisbane's centre bounce attendances (CBAs) as the third midfielder behind Lachie Neale (87 per cent) and Josh Dunkley (80 per cent).

Unfortunately, the father-son pick in the 2022 AFL Draft ruptured his ACL and isn't expected back until mid-season.

Hugh McCluggage (MID, $806,000) picked up some extra time as an inside midfielder where he averaged 97.3. This was up from his 80 average prior to Ashcroft's injury where he was utilised as a winger/half-forward. If he remains in this role, consider his 89.3 average a bit lower when building your Draft rankings as he could get closer to the 100-mark given the role.

Last year's Brownlow medallist, Lachie Neale (MID, $876,000), averaged 97 points, down from 2022's 107 and just his second sub-100 return since 2014. Did Dunkley's addition – along with Ashcroft – see his disposal count drop?

The most awkward thing about the Lions is their early bye. As they're playing the Blues in Opening Round, they have a bye fixtured for round two. It's why most Fantasy Classic coaches will be looking for Brisbane players as upgrade targets … unless there is a lot of value.

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Lock them in

If you checked the Fantasy scores during last year's Grand Final you would've seen Keidean Coleman (DEF, $628,000) at the top. At quarter-time, the half-back had racked up 13 disposals and seven marks to record 63 Fantasy points. By half-time, he reached triple figures and ended up with 127 to top all scorers on that last Saturday in September. It wasn't just the Grand Final where he performed. He had 106 in the preliminary final against the Blues plus averaged 93.5 in the last four home and away games (aka the AFL Fantasy finals). Coleman is set to take his sub-70 average to at least the mid-80s and offers plenty of value in Classic and Draft.

Track their pre-season

The first season at the Lions for Josh Dunkley (MID, $924,000) was a little disappointing for his owners who started with him … and used an early pick in Draft. After an average of 108.7 in 2022 at the Dogs, he had forward status and was a first-round target on Draft Day, carrying the average draft pick (ADP) of five. He lost $141,000 across the season with an injury and a poor finish with just one score over 100 in his last seven games. Can he maintain his tackles while adding extra marks and disposals to be a 110-plus guy for the second time in his career?

Dual-position tempter

At a touch over rookie price, Deven Robertson (MID/FWD, $348,000) will be hoping 2024 is his year. The 22-year-old extended his stay in Brisbane in the week following the Grand Final despite interest to return to Western Australia. He played 13 home and away games and all three of the Lions' finals. Robertson's season included some games playing as a substitute; however, his Fantasy scoring wasn't something to write home about with a top score of 67. Maybe we consider his 2021 and 2022 seasons where his top scores were in the 90s and he averaged more than 60 points per game. There's plenty of upside at this price point if his VFL form (107.9 average from 11 games) can translate to the big stage.

Deven Robertson celebrates a goal during the Toyota AFL Grand Final between Brisbane and Collingwood on September 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Bargain basement

There are a couple of Lions under $300k that should be on our watchlists. Kai Lohmann (FWD, $257,000) could have the best opportunity to add to his six games from last year. His average of 32.3 includes four substitute-affected matches. His other two games returned scores of 57 and 63. In the VFL he averaged 82. In the lead up to Lohmann's senior debut, he was averaging 97.3 Fantasy points across his six games for the Lions' reserves. Keep an eye out to see if the 20-year-old forward is named as he could be a bench option to help you increase the value of your squad.

Draft sleeper

Zac Bailey (MID/FWD, $654,000) has basically averaged about 70 Fantasy points for the last three seasons. While there doesn't appear to be a big correlation with Fantasy points and the number of centre bounces he attends, Bailey was at 23 per cent of the Lions' CBAs with a handful of games being the fourth midfielder in the rotation. Does the impact player he is keep him around that 70-mark or is there some improvement as he hits his seventh season? With just four Fantasy tons in his 117 games, let's hope he can find a ceiling and put a few points on his average in 2024.

Zac Bailey kicks a goal during the match between Melbourne and Brisbane at the MCG in round 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Custom stat star

Last season, Joe Daniher (FWD, $688,000) improved his Fantasy average from 56.5 to 76.2; his best since 2017 when he was at Essendon. Chopping out as Brisbane's second ruck allowed him to get up the ground more and therefore enjoyed his highest mark count since heading north. Coupled with his best season for number of kicks, he was a great Draft selection. If you're looking to put some extra weight on stat categories that favour forwards, Daniher should be a target after averaging 2.2 goals per game in 2023.

Buyer beware

In a year where we're looking for forwards who can throw up premium numbers, it might be strange putting a flag on Dayne Zorko (MID/FWD, $765,000). It has been over four years since he's played a full season and with his 35th birthday being celebrated before the season commences, it would take a brave coach to think he's playing all 23 games. His ranking in the top 10 forwards on average is fair, especially when you consider he went at 109 two seasons ago, but don't reach for him in Draft.

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