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That's a wrap: The Traders' NAB Challenge review

The Traders' NAB Challenge Fantasy wrap The boys chat to Brent Harvey and Nick Dal Santo and hand pick the standout performances of the NAB Challenge
David Zaharakis of the Bombers in action during the 2013 AFL Round 22 match between the Carlton Blues and the Essendon Bombers at the MCG, Melbourne on August 24, 2013. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
David Zaharakis is reasonably priced and a 145 Fantasy point game in the NAB Challenge could force him onto your shopping list
THERE were some impressive individual scores throughout the NAB Challenge, and the fact the guys listed below have pumped out such big numbers means they all deserve some consideration.

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When looking at this list, it is hard not to get excited by some of the larger scores matched to cheaper players, but we have to remind ourselves that it is not the real deal. So it pays to keep a cool head and not jump on the likes of Heath Grundy who has not averaged over 64 Fantasy points in the last two years.

The players who feature in the top 10 NAB Challenge performances that have locked themselves into my team based on this good form are:

Trent Cotchin: He was tagged against the Pies and still had an absolute field day. Looks ready to return to his best and is under-priced.

Matthew Wright: I must admit, Wright was very low on my watchlist, but two 100-point scores, including that big 139 make him hard to ignore as a forward.

Tom Mitchell: Although he is coming into his third year in the system, Mitchell is technically coming into his second year at senior level. With ‘second year blues’ a concern, he quashed that debate with a dominant 138 point display against the Giants.

Tom Rockliff: I was not surprised to see Rocky in the top ten. Get used to seeing him in the top scorers throughout the season.

Breakout candidates: I think Jack Trengove and Adam Treloar will both improve this year and average well above their asking price. Trengove looks set to flourish under Paul Roos and Treloar looks on track for a ‘third year breakout'.
 





And so to the final six games of the NAB Challenge, where the cream stubbornly refused to rise to the top, proving once again that in Fantasy-land, pre-season form comes with an asterisk bigger than Etihad Stadium.

CARLTON v ADELAIDE
February 24

After a disappointing score of 61 in his first NAB Challenge outing, Marc Murphy (MID, $463,500) put in a better performance in his second game to lead the Blues with 95 points. He was given plenty of space in this game so questions still linger about his struggle breaking a tag.

Bryce Gibbs (MID, $481,500) was on fire, and put himself back in contention for selection after collecting 21 disposals and scoring 87 points in just 51 per cent game time.

A big tick to Dale Thomas (MID, $346,400) who started the game extremely well, and most importantly got through unscathed. He finished with a respectable 70 Fantasy points from 66 per cent game time and remains one of the bargains of 2014.

Rookie Patrick Cripps (MID, $230,300) opened a few coaches eyes from his limited game time. Playing in just 43 per cent of the match, Cripps collected 14 possessions and laid six tackles for a useful score of 63 points.

After a fantastic start to his NAB Challenge (139 points against Port Adelaide), DPP Matthew Wright (FWD/MID $368,900) backed it up with 29 disposals and 111 points against the Blues. He must be highly considered based on this form and if his high possession role looks set to continue.

Patrick Dangerfield (FWD/MID $534,700) was very quiet during the first half where he played predominately forward. His low score of 58 is nothing to be concerned by and he should still be high on your priority list.

ESSENDON v PORT ADELAIDE
February 25

Despite losing his DPP, Dyson Heppell (MID, $514,900) reminded us he is still available in the midfield with a team high 104 Fantasy points, ahead of under-priced captain Jobe Watson (MID, $534,000) who laid eight tackles on his way to 84.

Paul Chapman (FWD/MID, $403,800) was more than steady in his debut for the Bombers with 24 touches and the Dons' third highest Fantasy score of 77. Not enough evidence to lock in or cross out Chappy based on this game, so he should remain on the watchlist.

Unfortunately reliable defender Michael Hibberd (DEF, $472,300) went down with a hamstring injury while on 35 points. A line can be placed through his name until a possible upgrade opportunity arises during the season.

The biggest news out of this game was form of Port's recruit Jared Polec (MID, $135,500). Despite his two years experience in the AFL system, Polec is rookie priced and was outstanding with 23 possessions and 96 Fantasy points. With this form, he is vying for a spot on the ground.

Veteran Kane Cornes (MID, $578,100) continues to defy age and looks set for another good Fantasy year. He collected 30 possessions and scored an impressive 115 points from 75 per cent game time.

WESTERN BULLDOGS v FREMANTLE
February 26

Second year player Jack Macrae [MID, $344,500] had an outstanding game, leading all scorers with 30 possessions and 129 points. He is awkwardly priced but would certainly be a unique selection.

Injury prone forward Shaun Higgins [FWD, $305,400] made his season debut following a large layoff in 2013 and he seemed to get through unscathed. Although he can cause coaches big headaches, the lack of cheap forwards ensures he has a spot on the watchlist. He scored a solid 58 points from 49 per cent game time.

I hoped that Mitch Honeychurch [FWD/MID, $135,500] would play a full game and work his way into the Dogs' best 22, and in turn give us a great dual-position bench option. Unfortunately he only played 40 per cent of the game for a score of 30.

If you were one of the coaches questioning whether Aaron Sandilands [RUC, $244,500] was worth selecting, fear not. It seems the hype surrounding Sandi having one of his best pre-seasons is true! The big man looked outstanding on his way to a team high 122 points including 47 hit-outs.

After finishing 2013 with his worst Fantasy average in 12 years, a drop of 20 points from 2012, Matthew Pavlich [FWD, $393,100] is a forgotten man. Early season signs are that his body is back on track after taking 11 marks and kicking 2.3 for a score of 95 points.

SYDNEY SWANS v WEST COAST
February 27

Craig Bird [FWD/MID, 387,300] put his hand up for selection in the forward line with an impressive 119 Fantasy points from 32 touches.

The ‘lock’ from this game is Gary Rohan [FWD, $138,400]. Despite copping a knock on his leg during the game, Rohan managed to kick three goals from his 13 possessions and scored a handy 80 points. He is the perfect bench option in the forward line.

I was impressed with the efforts of Jeremy Laidler [DEF, $135,500] who did his round one selection chances no harm by collecting 21 touches and 75 points.

On debut for his new club, Lance Franklin [FWD, 426,500] was extremely disappointing with just six possessions and 31 points, leaving serious question marks over his Fantasy selection.

Tom Derickx [RUC, $135,599] is one to keep an eye out for our bench. He scored 53 points with 17 hit-outs.

Mark Hutchings [MID, $480,200] was the Eagles' best with 124 points, but it was Xavier Ellis [MID, 135,500] who put himself into serious selection consideration, backing up his first impressive performance with 75 points.  He will be hard to leave out come round one.

MELBOURNE v GEELONG
February 28

Dom Tyson [MID, $218,400] is very close to a ‘must have’ after two great NAB Challenge games. He was outstanding against the Cats with 29 disposals and an impressive 114 points.

Another cheap option who looks too good to pass in the midfield is Viv Michie [MID, $193,900. He collected 19 possessions and took six marks for a score of 73.

Josh Caddy [FWD/MID, $343,500] has to be considered based on his DPP status alone, not to mention the fact that he was the Cats leading scorer with 121 points.

He played a great all round game vs the Demons with 29 touches, seven marks and five tackles. Strongly consider.

Hamish McIntosh [RUC, $344,700] certainly looked like a guy who has missed a lot of footy. Despite his tempting price, a score of 28 with ten hit-outs is not enough to earn a starting spot in our Fantasy teams.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY v ST KILDA
February 29

Tom Bugg [DEF, 295,000] put his hand up for a unique defender role with a big score of 125. He had 30 touches, ten marks and kicked a goal in a eye catching performance. He was on track for a 200-point Fantasy game at quarter time.

Despite his potential and cheap price, there look to be better options than Jonathon Patton [FWD, $204,100]. He played 80 per cent game time for a score of just 43 as he continues to find form after returning from injury.

St Kilda recruit Shane Savage [MID, $364,900] laid 10 tackles to go with his 18 possessions, helping him to reach a game high 94.

Ruck prospects Billy Longer [RUC, $194,400] and Tom Hickey [RUC, $282,700] were both disappointing with scores of 47 and 46 respectively with both players spending 80 per cent or more time on ground.