Sam Flanders in action during Gold Coast's match simulation against Brisbane on February 22, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

IT WAS our first taste of club-versus-club footy for the year. What else was there to do than make some wholesale changes to our AFL Fantasy Classic teams based on a practice match.

Coaches should take a lot of things from the match simulation games with a grain of salt. Yes, it was better than the intraclub games where you need two sets of midfielders and it was against an opponent rather than the guys you share a change room with. However, you need to know who's there and who's not.

Player X had bulk centre bounce attendances … but a Brownlow Medallist was sitting out, the player with the most CBAs last year was at a wedding and his offsider just played a quarter.

With that said, it helps us gather information and can help us decide who should remain on the watchlist ahead of the AAMI Community Series.

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Stocks up

Harry Sheezel (DEF, $878,000)
I'll put my hand up and say I was worried that Sheezel's output may not match his stellar debut season, but that may prove to be a bad call. He looks like he'll be playing off half-back again with time in the midfield. Sheezel gathered heaps of the ball and may have had the highest Fantasy score of all the match simulations as he generated a lot of play and got involved in everything.

Sam Flanders (MID/FWD, $809,000)
Picking up from where he left off last season, Flanders was a regular member of the Suns' centre bounce attendees. Coach Damien Hardwick said last week they were going to look to "feed him" as much as possible and this was on show against the Lions. The role is there for Flanders to be the No.1 Fantasy forward this year.

Sam Flanders during the practice match between Brisbane and Gold Coast at Brighton Homes Arena on February 22, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Nic Martin (MID, $769,000)
We've heard about the shift to half-back for Martin and it is real. What is also real is his ability to get plenty of the ball. This was on show against the Saints (as the ball spent a fair bit of time in Essendon's back-half) but he was clean with his disposals and there was a want for the pill to be in his hands. At a good price to launch into with the likelihood of dual-position status being added after round six.

Ollie Wines (MID, $701,000)
What we have heard from the club is true; Wines is off the wing and playing on the inside. There's plenty of value in Wines priced at under 80. Could we see 20-points upside to be a smash play as a mid-priced midfielder? Wines attended the most centre bounces of the Port Adelaide midfielders in the time he was on the ground.

Ollie Wines handballs past James Borlase during the practice match between Port Adelaide and Adelaide at Alberton Oval on February 23, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Brodie Grundy (RUC, $677,000)
Grundy's first game for the Swans was a positive one as he had the better of the Giants' Kieren Briggs. Looking like he was back to his 'Ruck Pig' days, he gathered the ball around the ground with some strong marking to go with his efforts at stoppages. He'll remain the most popular ruck in Fantasy Classic.

James Harmes (MID/FWD, $637,000)
Bevo was doing Bevo things in the first of two practice matches the Dogs played against the Hawks. Harmes was a key figure in the midfield across the four quarters which was missing Marcus Bontempelli who didn't feature until the later in the day. He was third in line behind Tom Liberatore and Ryley Sanders in the tight formation. One to watch if there's a mix of midfield time with his likely half-forward role as he has shown he can rack up decent Fantasy scores.

Zac Fisher (FWD, $623,000)
A couple of hamstring issues in the pre-season had a few coaches putting a line through the former Blue. He played the first half and had a stack of the Sherrin in the half-back role alongside Colby McKercher and Harry Sheezel. With forwards hard to pick, Fisher should be back on the radar as an under-priced option who can increase their average based on his 86 average in the role for Carlton at the end of last season.

George Wardlaw (MID, $552,000)
Wardlaw was the most used midfielder in the first two periods of North Melbourne's win against the Pies. He was put on ice following this but there was enough to see that he would be a mainstay as an inside midfielder this season. Wardlaw tackles and can find the ball to be a sure thing to increase in value. A definite Draft sleeper but also a mid-priced Classic midfielder to consider.

Nat Fyfe (FWD, $491,000)
He's back in the midfield and that's all we need to know. The permanent shift in the middle after having to play forward in the last few seasons should be a bonus for Fantasy as there is upside in the role. Fyfe was the most used player at centre bounces for the Dockers and gathered plenty of possessions. The only issue was the lack of marks and tackles, but hopefully they come, and an 80-plus average isn't out of question … we just need his body to stay healthy.

Nat Fyfe warms up before the practice match between West Coast and Fremantle at Mineral Resources Park on February 24, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

James Jordon (MID/FWD, $454,000)
Looking to have cemented a spot on the wing, Jordon's days in the substitute vest will hopefully be over at the Swans. He even managed to have a stint on the ball at various stages of the game. Taylor Adams, who also moved to Sydney in the off-season, missed the match, therefore it'll be important to watch the AAMI Community Series game.

Thomson Dow (MID, $407,000)
The Tigers were missing a few first-choice players – especially midfielders – in Tim Taranto, Dustin Martin, Dion Prestia and Liam Baker who is touted to spend some more time in the midfield, but Dow took his chance against the Dees. The 22-year-old played in the middle and is a player to consider late in a start-up Draft Keeper League.

Thomson Dow and Ed Langdon in action during the match simulation between Melbourne and Richmond at Casey Fields on February 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Alex Sexton (FWD, $382,000)
Sexton is back. The role flagged by Sam Flanders on The Traders' podcast is real. The Suns looked for the forward-turned-defender as they transitioned out of defence and while his disposal may have been a little shaky at times, the ball was in his hands plenty of times. There's upside, but let's hope it's not Charlie Constable 2.0.

Colby McKercher (MID, $297,000)
There's a good reason McKercher's ownership is so high. He was a prolific ball-winner for Tasmania in the Coates Talent League and for the Allies in the U18 Championships and his game against the Pies saw that and more. The Fantasy-friendly role off half-back saw him involved in moving the ball out of defence combined with linking up in play further up the field. The Roos will be looking to get the ball in his hands as much as possible to use his elite decision making and take advantage of his damaging left foot.

Ryley Sanders (MID, $285,000)
Like fellow Tassie kid McKercher, Sanders comes as advertised. Lock him in. He was at the opening bounce and had the first clearance of the game. A first quarter goal just meant we threw away the key for the lock.

Darcy Wilson (MID/FWD, $249,000)
Wilson looked good on the wing. He showed his pace and ended up with the ball in his hands a few times taking some marks. While scoring may be sporadic, he is another rookie-priced FWD option that is putting their hand up for round one.

Stocks down

Cam Guthrie (MID, $762,000)
A quad injury in the opening minutes to Guthrie means we can put a line through the value midfield pick as a starting option. There are a few midfielders priced in the 80s with upside, but with the 31-year-old's injury, we can't consider him.


Jy Simpkin (MID, $684,000)
It's hard to see Simpkin being a Fantasy option as a MID-only player. In 2022 he attended 83 per cent of North Melbourne's centre-bounces and that figure dropped to 60 per cent. Simpkin dropped further down the pecking order in the game against the Pies as he appeared to be spending more time as a half-forward.

Connor Macdonald (FWD, $638,000)
Some coaches have been considering the Hawk in their teams but the inside midfield time wasn't there. He didn't attend a centre-bounce and although there were some positives in his game, it was another 'CMac' who saw plenty of usage at stoppage. Cam Mackenzie had plenty of time playing as a midfielder with Henry Hustwaite another who took their opportunity to play in the middle.

Connor Macdonald in action during the match simulation between the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn at Whitten Oval on February 23, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Marcus Windhager (DEF/MID, $570,000)
The Saints lost Windhager early in the first term as he broke his hand. It was deja vu as it was nearly a year to the day that he suffered the same injury against the Bombers at the same venue. The club say it's a minor setback and may still play round one, but he was unavailable for the opening game last year.

Bailey Humphrey (FWD, $463,000)
Gold Coast's midfield mix was tight, and while Humphrey had some stints in the engine room and looked good, he could be more important to the Suns as a forward. The key players in the midfield mix included Touk Miller, Matt Rowell, Sam Flanders and Noah Anderson.

Finlay Macrae (MID/FWD, $310,000)
Macrae got off to a good start against the Roos, but he faded as the game went on. The Magpies were missing quite a few first-choice players including Tom Mitchell, Scott Pendlebury, Jack Crisp and Steele Sidebottom. Does he remain in the 22? Is he a sub-risk? At that price, we'd want him to be playing on-field.

Marty Hore (DEF, $307,000)
Didn't come on until later in the game with the B-side. Does this mean he's borderline? With most who are buying into Hore as a member of their squad, he's likely on-field for that price and if job security is low, we may have to avoid. That said, if he's part of the Dees' AAMI Community Series team, he can remain training with our Fantasy squad.

Harley Reid (MID/FWD, $300,000)
This isn't going to stop us picking him, but Reid struggled to get his hands on it and his Fantasy score would've been quite low. He played a mix of midfield and half-back. It's more a case of tempering expectations, especially those who are looking to grab him in the first 20 forward picks in Fantasy Draft.

Harley Reid in action during the practice match between West Coast and Fremantle at Mineral Resources Park on February 24, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Daniel Curtin (DEF/MID, $279,000)
Curtin has had a few niggles this pre-season and he wasn't sighted until the second-half of the game. Does this mean he's not a lock for round one? If he's on your field, you probably need to re-think the call. Not only for job security, but potential scoring as he was relatively quiet when he was on the ground.

Josh Sinn (MID, $257,000)
A bit has been spoken about Sinn's half-back role for the Power. While he may have been training there, he didn't appear until after half-time against the Crows. He found some of the ball and the price would be right if he's in the 22, but there are concerns now about where he fits into Port Adelaide's plans.

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