THE OFFICIAL Fantasy game of the AFL opened in December and tens of thousands of keen coaches have started piecing together their Fantasy Classic teams.

Coaches are given a salary cap of $14.8 million, mirroring the AFL clubs' budget, to pick a squad of 30 players. That is an average of $493,333 per player. This means that you just can't fill your team with all the best players, you need a mix of the top-end premiums, bargain-basement rookies or mid-range players who you believe are under-priced.

Some of the brightest Fantasy minds – or those who can't get enough of footy – have been tinkering with their side since before Christmas. Plenty of discussion has been flying around on social media and we, The Traders, have run the numbers on all 18 clubs trying to find the best picks for the year.

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In weight of numbers, we trust … at this early stage of the pre-season anyway!

There's enough data from the players selected so far to see which players are the flavour of the month, before things heat up on the training track in February, the AAMI Community Series in March and the first bounce of the Toyota AFL Premiership season on Wednesday, March 16.

Defenders

The key names in the backline are James Sicily and Wayne Milera. They have missed a significant amount of football over the last couple of seasons and as a result, a 30 per cent discount was applied to their price. Reports out of Hawthorn and Adelaide suggest the pair are flying. If there are no hiccups, Sicily and Milera are the perfect mid-priced players to build your defence around. Throw in long-time premium picks like Jake Lloyd and Lachie Whitfield and you've got yourself a solid line.

Player

Club

Position

Price

Ownership

Lachie Whitfield

GWS

DEF/MID

$795,000

47%

James Sicily

Haw

DEF

$510,000

47%

Wayne Milera

Adel

DEF

$378,000

43%

Will Kelly

Coll

DEF/FWD

$191,000

41%

Will Gould

Syd

DEF

$190,000

35%

Jake Lloyd

Syd

DEF

$823,000

31%

Aaron Hall

NM

DEF

$914,000

22%

Nathan O'Driscoll

Frem

DEF/MID

$190,000

19%

Jack Crisp

Coll

DEF/MID

$854,000

19%

Sam Skinner

PA

DEF/FWD

$190,000

17%

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Midfielders

Nick Daicos was dominant as a junior, racking up huge numbers in the NAB League and Collingwood already seems keen to have him in its 22 come round one. As a result, Daicos is the most-selected player in Fantasy Classic. Quite a few bargain picks appear in the high ownership list. Matt Rowell has been backed by 44 per cent of the competition to regain the form of his debut season. Many are hoping Caleb Serong enjoys a third-year breakout season, taking his average into triple-figures.

Player

Club

Position

Price

Ownership

Nick Daicos

Coll

MID

$284,000

60%

Jason Horne-Francis

NM

MID

$290,000

57%

Matt Rowell

GCS

MID

$464,000

44%

Greg Clark

WCE

MID

$190,000

39%

Lachie Neale

BL

MID

$792,000

35%

Jack Steele

St K

MID

$1,018,000

31%

Tom Mitchell

Haw

MID

$969,000

30%

Caleb Serong

Frem

MID

$691,000

26%

Luke Valente

Frem

MID

$190,000

22%

Sam Walsh

Carl

MID

$914,000

19%

Jack Macrae

WB

MID

$972,000

17%

Matt Crouch

Adel

MID

$649,000

15%

Jye Caldwell

Ess

MID

$488,000

12%

Josh Ward

GWS

MID

$278,000

12%

Patrick Cripps

Carl

MID

$686,000

10%

Nick Daicos at Collingwood training in January 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Rucks

It's a mix of either Brodie Grundy or Max Gawn with a discounted Jarrod Witts or Braydon Preuss. The latter have plenty of upside and it will be important to watch how the Suns and Giants look to utilise their ruck department. If they're rucking solo, they'll make bulk coin and it'll be easier to upgrade to a premium big man during the season.

Player

Club

Position

Price

Ownership

Sam Hayes

PA

RUC

$190,000

35%

Brodie Grundy

Coll

RUC

$893,000

35%

Jarrod Witts

GCS

RUC

$572,000

28%

Braydon Preuss

GWS

RUC

$367,000

22%

Max Gawn

Melb

RUC

$911,000

20%

Sam Hayes kicks the footy during Port Adelaide training in January 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

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Forwards

It's going to be tough to pick between Dog duo Josh Dunkley and Adam Treloar, but plenty of coaches are locking in both. The best buds have both averaged well over 100 in the past and showed enough early on last season, when they were fit, that they can score with the best. Slotting them in with Mitch Duncan or Tim Taranto can give plenty of firepower in the line that is all about picking the MID/FWD dual-position players.

Player

Club

Position

Price

Ownership

Elijah Hollands

GCS

MID/FWD

$190,000

51%

Josh Dunkley

WB

MID/FWD

$767,000

43%

Will Kelly

Coll

DEF/FWD

$191,000

41%

Adam Treloar

WB

MID/FWD

$731,000

30%

Will Brodie

Frem

MID/FWD

$387,000

29%

Mitch Duncan

Geel

MID/FWD

$841,000

29%

Tim Taranto

GWS

MID/FWD

$904,000

25%

Ely Smith

BL

MID/FWD

$190,000

24%

Dustin Martin

Rich

MID/FWD

$682,000

23%

Josh Rachele

Adel

MID/FWD

$280,000

23%

Josh Dunkley and Adam Treloar celebrate the Bulldogs' win over Port Adelaide in a preliminary final on September 11, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Team Vanilla

A team put together using the ownership data looks pretty sweet! Compiling the knowledge base of the coaches who have been busy this summer playing with their Fantasy Classic teams looks to be a good place to start if you're just clicking into play AFL Fantasy for the first time.

The squad uses all but $1000 of the salary cap. Some players picked may have been further down the ownership order than others, but the budget is tight and some creative accounting needs to come into play.

Rookies – our sub-$300k players – are always tricky to nail right now. The majority come from our most selected and will definitely change as more information presents itself over the next couple of months.

Although some coaches like to have some points of difference, or 'uniques', in their squads, going vanilla isn't a bad thing… it's still a tasty flavour!

Get expert advice from The Traders during the pre-season in the Fantasy Hub. Follow AFL Fantasy on Twitter and 'like' the Facebook page to join in the conversation.