The challenge: pick the best Fantasy team possible where every player on the field costs between $350,000 and $450,000.
FANTASY, say the wise coaches of a statistical persuasion, is a game of guns and rookies. That is, elite performers who deliver every week and promoted rookies who will score well enough initially to boost your bank balance before being ruthlessly discarded faster than Ryan O’Keefe at a 2014 Swans’ selection meeting.
But what about those in the middle? If you just look at the top and bottom price brackets, are you missing out on some of Fantasy’s best and brightest?
So here is a Fantasy team replete only with the best mid-priced options money can buy. Some come to us discounted through a 2014 season wracked with injury, some are gun youngsters threatening serious break-out years.
There’s no point leaving too much cash on your bench, so for the purpose of this exercise, we’ve placed the cheapest options possible in those eight slots (and yes, that does mean promoted rookies).
The backline is all about ball-winning and distribution. We’ve banked on one final year of Fantasy glory for former elite Sam Fisher and a breakout for Curtly Hampton, who should be helped by the Giants’ acquisition of Joel Patfull.
Is this finally the year we stop hearing about Shaun Atley’s potential move to the midfield and start seeing some serious Fantasy point production? Here’s hoping.
Kade Kolodjashnij delivered everything Fantasy coaches could have hoped for last year and with Nick Malceski at his side, he’s every chance to be a leading distributor and outside runner for the exciting Suns.
We’ve opted for two Tigers in the other slots - Bachar Houli who is ever-reliable and Alex Rance who is not. But Rance got it together in a big way late last year and the 2014 All Australian looks a smart pick with free agency potentially looming.
The midfield is a classic veterans v second-years mix. Five seasons ago, a midfield of Dale Thomas, Adam Cooney and Daniel Wells would have settled most battles. We’re banking on a late-career yelp from each of them - after all, only Wells has reached the age of 30.
The smooth-moving duo of James Aish and Josh Kelly join the grunt of Saint Luke Dunstan in what we believe can bring home a safe 250 points each week
Nic Naitanui heads the ruck division. The dreadlocked one could deliver a century average, or miss most of the season with injury but he’s ready to be named for round one so, let’s call the glass half full.
Ben McEvoy is his offsider, although feel free to swap in Jonathon Ceglar if you’re a Hawk fan in the know.
Up front, there’s plenty of quality and excitement, starting with Chad Wingard, new Lion Allen Christensen and ‘The Bont’. We’ll back Sharrod Wellingham in for a belated return to form given encouraging words on his pre-season efforts from his coach.
And, like every other Fantasy coach, we’ve been seduced by Tom Mitchell (in a good way). NEAFL form may not be the strongest of indicators but 64 touches in a match demands respect – even if it doesn’t come from John Longmire.
The first lockout in NAB AFL Fantasy is 7.20pm AEDT on Thursday night. You must have a complete squad of 30 players at the start of both the Thursday and Saturday games to register a score for round one.