Nick Daicos, Zac Fisher and Connor Budarick. Pictures: AFL Photos

FINDING the right balance in your starting team is difficult at the best of times, but when you throw in early byes, then it presents a major challenge. That is exactly what we face in 2024.

I'm content with where I have landed and from a structure point of view, it's quite different to what I've gone with previously. With so many value options further up the ground, I've loaded up my defence with four premiums. The midfield has a youthful look about it apart from a couple of veterans, while two Fantasy stalwarts lead the ruck brigade. The forward structure is different and has value picks aplenty.

>> Win a $70K Toyota in AFL Fantasy! Sign up NOW

Obviously, there are players that are missing that I wish I had like Tom Green, Isaac Heeney, Lachie Whitfield and Touk Miller – but the early byes have made me look elsewhere. Funds permitting, I'll be targeting that quartet as soon as upgrade season begins.


Not owning Nick Daicos (DEF/MID, $982,000) at the beginning of last season was brutal. I'm not making that mistake again even though Collingwood has the bye in round five. He's just coming off an equal career-high 16 contested possessions in Opening Round and from a role point of view – he spent 100 per cent of game time as a centre bounce midfielder. Attention from Sydney and a potential tag in round four is a reality – but I'll back him in.


Harry Sheezel (DEF, $878,000) is next in line after an excellent debut season. Like Daicos last year, there are no signs of second-year blues and the young Kangaroo should continue to find plenty of the ball. In his debut season he ranked ninth for uncontested possessions per game and 17th for handball receives per game.

I'm all aboard the Port Adelaide train as it plays seven of its first 10 matches at Adelaide Oval. Dan Houston (DEF, $837,000) was a solid scorer last season with 25 disposals and 98 points per game at home – ending the year with five tons from his last six games.

The inclusion of Hayden Young (DEF, $805,000) needs no explanation, while I'm also hoping that Zac Williams (DEF, $442,000) finally gets an injury free run. There has been plenty of hype around Gold Coast's Fantasy assets over the pre-season and one player I'm hoping can take the next step is Connor Budarick (DEF, $504,000). He matched Alex Sexton for disposals per minute on the weekend and had a much better kick-to-handball ratio.

Zach Reid (DEF, $253,000) and Blake Howes (DEF, $200,000) round out the bench.

Listen to the AFL Fantasy Podcast with The Traders at Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.


Marcus Bontempelli (MID, $1,056,000) took his game to another level last year – averaging over 110 points for the first time in his career. Even with an injury-interrupted pre-season, he doesn't look like slowing down and I'm happy to pay a premium for him.

As outlined above, Port Adelaide's great start to the year is a key factor in some of my selections which is why Connor Rozee (MID, $956,000) and the underpriced Ollie Wines (MID, $701,000) are both in my midfield.

Next up is Jai Newcombe (MID, $842,000). He's the player I'm expecting to go boom this year, like what Errol Gulden did last season. Newcombe built his game on pressure and tackling when he came into the AFL system, but his tackle numbers have declined in each of the last two seasons – while his disposals, contested possessions and clearances have been on the up. He's a well-rounded player and with Will Day missing, I'm hoping for a big year.

Jai Newcombe in action during Hawthorn's match simulation against the Western Bulldogs on February 23, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Nic Martin (MID, $769,000) has shown enough in his new role to earn selection – with Essendon's willingness to get the ball into his hands obvious over the pre-season. He's thriving in the roaming role and the fact that he has kick-ins in his locker only boosts his appeal.

The remaining five spots in the midfield are all template picks.


Max Gawn (RUC, $831,000) is a proud player and I'm sure he'll bounce back this week after having his colours lowered by ex-Demon Brodie Grundy in Opening Round. Gawn returns to the MCG this week, a venue he has averaged 103 over the last three seasons – scoring 113 against the Western Bulldogs in round one last year. Additionally, six of Melbourne's next eight games are at the MCG.

Grundy (RUC, $677,000) is a non-negotiable selection. He reminded everyone of his Fantasy worth in the season-opener – scoring 74 points in a rampant second half against Melbourne – finishing with 118 for the match. He faces Collingwood this Friday night and I'm sure he'll be looking to back that up with another strong showing.

Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn during Sydney's match against Melbourne in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


The forwards have seen the most changes to my team of any position. It began with Jack Macrae and that F1 spot has had plenty of occupants. Luke Jackson (RUC/FWD, $765,000) currently holds that spot, but I haven't discounted Isaac Heeney (FWD, $722,000) either. I'll make a final call on that before Sydney plays.

Zac Fisher (FWD, $623,000) has a Fantasy friendly role in defence and will surely get DPP status ahead of the first set of changes if he remains injury free. James Jordon (MID/FWD, $454,000) is way too cheap to ignore given he's best 22 at the Swans, but he only saw five centre bounces in Opening Round – playing 62 per cent of game time as a forward. Alex Sexton (FWD, $382,000) looks rejuvenated in the new role across half-back, and he picks himself, as does No.1 draft pick Harley Reid (MID/FWD, $300,000).

Zac Fisher in action during North Melbourne's AAMI Community Series match against St Kilda on March 3, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

I'm bullish on Charlie Lazzaro (MID/FWD, $288,000) and although he may not get many centre bounces, his work up the ground will help the Kangaroos transition the ball. He also doesn't mind getting his hands dirty at the bottom of packs. Darcy Wilson (MID/FWD, $249,000) oozes class and will be a Fantasy favourite for years to come, with pre-season bolter Seth Campbell (FWD, $200,000) rounding out the bench.

Aaron Cadman (FWD, $221,000) is my utility of choice.

Money in the bank: $37,000