THE FIRST weekend of the JLT Community Series has been outstanding, with a great mix of youth and experience hitting the park.
The intensity has certainly rivalled what we usually see in the last round of the pre-season which has been great from a Fantasy perspective.
Here are some of the key players to strut their stuff on the Fantasy stage in the opening games.
North Melbourne v Melbourne
Max Gawn (RUC, $605,000) played 86 per cent time on ground … basically that is all we needed to see from the big fella following last year's injury riddled season. He scored 77, including 39 hit-outs and will be the most popular starting ruck.
Michael Hibberd (DEF, $652,000) is one of a handful of premiums vying for a starting defender position. He did enough to justify selection with an impressive 27 possessions for 77 points. He only took three marks, a number which will increase during the season proper.
Bayley Fritsch (FWD, $210,000) backed up his impressive AFLX form with a score of 69 which included five scoring shots. He had already been earmarked for a debut prior to this performance and should be sitting in our teams at this point.
In short: Luke Davies-Uniacke (MID, $264,000) had plenty of opportunity playing 78 per cent game time but left coaches questioning his value after scoring just 31 points from nine touches. Give him another go.
Essendon v Richmond
Dustin Martin (MID, $800,000) looked unstoppable on his way to 77 from just 61 per cent time on ground. He is currently owned by less than 20 per cent of the competition which is incredibly low for such a gun.
Devon Smith (FWD, $575,000) is currently owned by less than 12 per cent of coaches but that will certainly increase by round one. He looked sensational on debut for his new club and was right at home in the middle where he attended 14 centre bounces, winning the ball on both the inside and outside. He looks a lock for a top-six forward position after scoring 93 points from his 81 per cent time on ground.
Jake Stringer (FWD, $403,000) has put on size and also got plenty of opportunity through the midfield, attending 13 centre bounces in his 46 per cent game time. What we learned from this was that size doesn’t matter, it's how you use it and his performance could only be described as anti-climactic. He scored 14 points and can be removed from consideration.
In short: Superstar Zach Merrett (MID, $825,000) copped a knock to the head after playing ten Pig-like minutes for 20 points and sat the game out. Darcy Parish (MID/FWD, $551,000) got plenty of opportunities through the midfield for 62 points while Jack Higgins (FWD/MID, $238,000) looks like he will be eased in at the top level after playing just 44 per cent of game time. Andrew McGrath (DEF, $496,000) stayed true to his word on the Traders Podcast and played up the ground. He was quiet most of the day before an impressive fourth term. He remains on the watch list. Ryan Garthwaite (DEF, $170,000) is being touted as a round one starter following his ten disposals as a key defender. He won’t be a huge scorer and his job security will be a concern.
Adelaide v Fremantle
Tom Doedee (DEF, $170,000) looks to have a stranglehold on the vacant position in the Crows backline after doing his job against the Dockers with 16 disposals, five marks and four tackles for 67 points. He is currently on my bench but performances like that will have him vying for the sixth on-field defensive spot in week one.
Andrew Brayshaw (MID, $268,000) obviously comes at an inflated price, but the No.2 pick certainly looked to be worth the extra cash and put his best foot forward to earn round one selection. He had 14 touches while running through the middle but what impressed me most was his six tackles. He will be in for me in round one if named.
Nat Fyfe (MID, $686,000) is not only back to his best … he could be set for a career-best season which is a big call considering he is a Brownlow medallist. Playing between forward and midfield, he dominated wherever he lined up, either kicking goals or earning clearances. He finished with a whopping 114 points from 27 touches, six marks and two goals and is owned by 22 per cent of the competition.
In short: The Crow mids are going to feast this year and Matt Crouch (MID, $752,000) gave us a preview in an impressive performance which included 36 possessions for 95 points while new teammate Bryce Gibbs (MID, $790,000) looks every chance of matching, if not bettering last year's thumping average after cruising to 95 from 27 possessions. Connor Blakely (MID, $646,000) and Nathan Wilson (DEF, $499,000) didn’t do enough to suggest they will own the famous half-back role that proved so Fantasy friendly for the Dockers last year.
West Coast v Port Adelaide
Jack Redden (MID, $588,000) had a great finish to 2017 that reminded everyone how good he was at the Lions. Well his form continued against the Power and he looks set to fill the shoes of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell after collecting 26 possessions and laying a trademark seven tackles for 118 points. One of the best mid-pricers available.
Dom Barry (MID, $170,000) embraced the opportunity of playing in an under-manned midfield and was one of the best players on the ground during the first half. The mature ager has thrown his hat in the ring for selection after gathering 20 possessions and kicking a goal for 80 points.
Liam Ryan (FWD, $220,000) didn’t set the world on fire but he did look lively, especially early. He collected seven possessions and kicked a goal for only 43 points but he will remain in my team at this stage.
In short: Andrew Gaff (MID, $709,000) went off for 35 touches and 125 in the shortened version of the game while Elliot Yeo (DEF, $692,000) played a variety of roles including midfield but finished with an underwhelming 70.