SHOCKWAVES hit the AFL Fantasy community on Friday morning when the game’s No.1 player was rushed to hospital with a broken leg sustained in a tackling drill at training.
Tom Mitchell broke his own record for most Fantasy points scored in a season last year, finishing the year with an average of 129.2. Despite his hefty price tag, he was set to be one of the most popular selections in the upcoming season for his elite scoring and to carry the captaincy each week.
Fantasy Draft coaches with pick No.1 had the ball-magnet marked down as their first selection months out from the drafts taking place.
Hawthorn has said Mitchell will have surgery over the weekend and is likely to miss the 2019 season.
As the highest-priced player in the competition at $938,000, those starting with the 25-year-old will have some extra cash to use in managing their initial squad.
Coaches can save $48,000 by opting for Jack Macrae (MID, $890,000) to lead their midfield in 2019. Last season the Bulldog enjoyed a career-high average of 122.6.
Some pundits believe that Macrae can improve on that this year based on his ceiling. He scored 145, 151, 155 and 144 in a four-week block from round six, seeing his price rise by more than $100,000. In the Fantasy Grand Final in round 23, Macrae helped many of his owners raise the premiership cup with 190 against Richmond.
Macrae will likely become the consensus No.1 midfielder taken in Fantasy Draft.
Brodie Grundy and possibly Patrick Dangerfield are in the mix to be taken early in the first round depending on how coaches rank the positional value of rucks and forwards.
How Fantasy Drafts play out, especially those with captains on, will be different from League to League as the safest pick in the competition is unavailable for selection.
If we take a look at other Hawks that will may be worth selecting, Jaeger O’Meara (MID, $695,000) will have some added midfield responsibility. He played 20 games last season, overcoming knee injuries that have plagued his career. O’Meara may add to the impressive numbers he posted in the back-half of 2018 where he averaged 104 following the bye.
Chad Wingard (MID/FWD, $598,000) will be on the radar of many Fantasy coaches with a space opening up in the midfield. Showing he can score premium numbers and with the added flexibility of dual-position status, Wingard may find himself playing more midfield minutes than first expected in his first year at Hawthorn.
One player to look out for in Draft as a late-round selection is James Worpel (MID/FWD, $480,000). In his first season the 19-year-old averaged 83 in the last six rounds with a top score of 105. Worpel ranked third for disposals for the Hawks behind Mitchell and Liam Shiels.
Behind Mitchell and Macrae, the next highest-averaging midfielder from last season was Andrew Gaff (MID, $803,000), who will miss the first two rounds though suspension, and then Stephen Coniglio (MID, $801,000). The pair were the only other players with midfield status to average more than 110, got at 110.7 and 110.4 points per game respectively.
There is no doubt the Mitchell injury will see some unique starting midfields.
Young guns Patrick Cripps (MID, $793,000) and Clayton Oliver (MID, $792,000) look set to be Fantasy mainstays for the next decade due to their scoring prowess.
A talking point as each club’s Fantasy Classic prices are revealed is the value in the midfield. Coaches may look to save some dollars by selecting former premiums who come in this season at a bargain price, relative to what they have done before.
Zach Merrett (MID, $736,000) is projected to increase his output after averaging 101.5 last season. His numbers were adversely affected by concussion which ended his round one game before quarter-time and a couple of tags early in the season. The inclusion of Dylan Shiel (MID, $647,000) should help the 23-year-old Merrett improve his average towards the back-to-back 117-plus seasons he had in 2016/17.
Other premium players of the past that may help coaches save money in the midfield to spend elsewhere include Taylor Adams (MID, $690,000), Dustin Martin (MID, $674,000) and Rory Sloane (MID, $653,000).
Unfortunately, any Mitchell replacement won’t stack up to the Fantasy Pig who has played every game since joining the Hawks and scored a record number of points.
Captain selection will be all that bit harder now that we don’t have the man who went over 130 an incredible 13 times last season – including a top score of 195 – to get the all-important double points from.
Get expert advice from The Traders during the pre-season in the Fantasy Hub before the game opens up later this month. Follow AFL Fantasy on Twitter and 'like' the Facebook page to join in the conversation.