Breakout candidates: SC players ready to rise

We take a look at the players ready for a breakout SuperCoach season that should be firmly on your round 1 radar.

AFL Key Analysis Pre Season

One of the reasons we all love SuperCoach so much is the myriad strategies open to players when choosing who to pick in their initial teams.

Sure, you can lean on the tried and tested “Guns ‘n’ Rooks” method – pick a team with a clear dividing line between premium stars and basement cheapies – and do pretty well in the overall rankings.

You might make the top 5,000, or even push the top 1,000 if a few coinflip trade decisions go your way.

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The uncomfortable truth though is that without taking a few risks with your starting side, there’s little chance you’ll be up with the big dogs in the top 500 (or higher!).

In 2021, for example, starting with the likes of Darcy Parish, Touk Miller, Jack Steele, Sean Darcy or Callum Mills would’ve made the difference between comparative mediocrity and SuperCoach superstardom.

A quick note here: my definition of “Breakout” is a player who goes from fringe or unknown SuperCoach commodity to a true top-10-in-their-position candidate. These are uncommon; that’s the point, and it’s what makes picking them so valuable.

So, who’s a chance to make the leap from Afterthought to Must-Have in season 2022? Let’s take a look at the candidates.

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Will Day (DEF, $345,700, Haw)

Will Day is a rare breed; it’s not often you come across a player who is so clearly going to be a star – after 16 AFL games no less – that his ascension is widely accepted across the AFL landscape. But that’s where we are with the 20-year-old Hawk.

Whereas much of the discussion regarding other players in this piece will focus on whether they have the capacity – whether that’s due to injury or ability – to become premium SuperCoach players, the only question we need to ask about Day is when his star will rise. More importantly, will it be in 2022?

The most enticing part of Day’s SuperCoach package to date is his ceiling; it’s HIGH. He started 2021 on fire by pumping out a 122 in Rd 1 before an untimely ankle injury the following week.

On return in Rd 12 he then went 43, 65, 112 before again tweaking that ankle; an average of 85 in four non-injury-affected games.

With the Hawks in full rebuild mode and the ball likely to spend a decent chunk of time in their backline, an 85 average could be the floor for Day in 2022, with some serious upward growth on the cards as well.

While $345k is a tricky price-range, it’s worth remembering that means Day is priced at a measly 64 average; you can rest assured he’ll be making some decent cash at a bare minimum. The upside, with the realistic potential to finish the season as a top-10 defender cannot be ignored.

Day is a Round 1 lock for me.

Breakout Rating:

9.5/10

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Jack Lukosius (DEF, $438,400, GCS)

Full disclosure here; I own a huge swathe of property on Lukosius Island. 

The languid right-footer has captivated my attention since I was lucky enough to see his SANFL debut live as a 17-year-old for Woodville West Torrens in a Preliminary Final. He kicked four goals that day and was utterly dominant, despite giving away at least 20kg in size to his mature opponents. 

Unfortunately Luko’s stage-league exploits haven’t quite translated to elite AFL performance just yet, but something inside me knows it’s coming.

Players with a skill level like his – suss here for proof https://twitter.com/RestingPlayers/status/1376386429513691136 – don’t languish on the outer for too long (unless their name happens to be Jack Watts).

The issue for the 21-year-old thus far in his career has been a lack of defined role, with Suns coach Stuart Dew using him interchangeably as a forward, defender and wingman in 2021.

While his SuperCoach average last year wasn’t overly spectacular (80.5) his stats were reasonably good; 20 disposals and 8 marks per game to go along with 6 rebound-50s and 4 inside-50s.

Jack Bowes’ unfortunate shoulder injury, which will sideline him for up to four months, leaves a gaping hole in the Suns’ defensive rebounding outfit, which Lukosius and his delicious right peg will hopefully be poised to fill.

“Hopefully” being the operative word there; I’m not prepared to start pushing the Lukosius bandwagon just yet, but will await his preseason performances with bated breath.

Breakout Rating:

6/10

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Wayne Milera (DEF, $271,100, Adl)

Injuries have cruelled the career of the Crows’ talented rebounding defender so far; is 2022 finally the year he gets a good run at it?

As with many on this list, scoring potential is not a worry for Milera. It’s purely a question of whether he can get on the park and stay there.

The 24-year-old has managed just one full game in the last two seasons, but it was an impressive one; a 96 in Rd 1 2020 against the Swans. 

The last time we saw Milera at full-flight was the start of 2019, when he managed scores of 82, 105, 109 and 86 in the first four rounds of the season before suffering a dislocated shoulder.

Upon returning in Rd 10 ​​he managed to go 80+ in six of his final 12 games, including a 96, 97 and a barnstorming 114.

Just to ram the point home; back in the final 11 games of 2018 he scored less than 70 just once, while putting up three tons and averaging 89.

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The scoring is there – the body is iffy. Milera is still not taking part in a full contact training schedule as he continues to rehab a ruptured patella tendon, despite looking “really fit… [with] great muscle definition” (Adelaide CEO Tim Silvers). 

A five-year deal given to him back in 2020 shows how highly the Crows rate their dashing defender and a current breakeven of 50 makes him an attractive defensive point of difference.

I love the way Milera goes about his football – and have held him in a Keeper league since 2016 as a result – but I just can’t pick him in salary cap games without seeing him string a few games together.

He would need to play a full slate of pres-eason games and manage to crack the Rd 1 Crows team before I really consider finding a way to get him in to my side.

Breakout Rating:

5/10

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Jye Caldwell (MID, $266,700, Ess)   

Things we know about Jye Caldwell:

  • Elite ball-winner
  • Huge internal expectations
  • Looks like an adonis

Things we don’t know about Jye Caldwell:

  • Whether his body is made of tissue paper

It’s really as simple as that when it comes to the former GWS pick 11; do you trust his body? If “yes”, that price makes him a lock. If “no”, look elsewhere.

Despite an enormous amount of hype, and an exorbitant four-year, $2 million+ (if rumours are to be believed) deal with the Bombers, Caldwell is yet to play 15 AFL games in his three seasons in the league.

His SuperCoach apex is a score of 84 back in 2020, while he averaged 70 across three injury-affected games in 2021. On paper there’s nothing to suggest that the 21-year-old is worth a second glance.

What stats can’t tell you, though, is quite how good Caldwell has looked when approaching full fitness. His 22-disposal Rd 1 2021 performance against the Hawks was dominant, while a nine disposal first quarter (before running out of steam – understandably after a four month injury layoff) in the Dons’ Elimination Final loss to the Bulldogs should’ve sent alarm bells ringing in SuperCoach lounge-rooms across the country.

Given a Rd 1 breakeven of 49 is a fait accompli for a midfield CBA specialist like Caldwell, it all comes down to his fitness. I, for one, will be watching his pre-season performances like a hawk.

Breakout Rating:

7/10

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Caleb Serong (MID, $451,000, Freo)

Fremantle’s 2020 Rising Star winner sits firmly in that Will Day category of “when”, not “if” he becomes a bona fide SuperCoach must-have.

Perhaps a little differently to Day, though, Serong not only passes the eye-test but has some runs on the board (at junior and senior level) (1), whilst also finding himself in a rebuilding team with myriad midfield opportunities (2) AND with an enticing role-change on the cards (3). 

That’s a lot of third-year breakout boxes being ticked. Let’s have a closer look at all three of those points.

(1) Serong averaged 130 at the 2019 u18 National Carnival and 123 in his final NAB league season with Gippsland. 

In his last three AFL games of 2021, he averaged 118 thanks to an elite 32 disposals (10 contested) and seven clearances per game in that span.

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy I’m not sure what will.

(2) Much has been made of Nat Fyfe’s shift to near perma-forward over the course of 2021 and there’s nothing to suggest that will change in 2022. David Mundy will turn 37 (!!) during this season. Adam Cerra is now at Carlton.

That’s a large chunk of midfield time up for grabs and it’s hard to see a world in which a guy who won the Coaches Association Best Young Player Award in 2021, as well as the aforementioned Rising Star in 2020, doesn’t snap up a decent portion of it. 

(3) While his 2021 campaign was impressive enough as-is, it can’t be ignored that Serong spent much of it playing as Justin Longmuir’s designated midfield tagger.

Longmuir described it as pushing Serong to “earn his stripes” as a midfielder, which he duly did, notching up seven 20+ possession outings in a row, with a SuperCoach average of 100 to finish the season. Given his season average was 83 it’s easy to see the difference some midfield freedom made to his scoring.

I’m supremely confident Serong becomes a 95+ average player this season, but is this the year he makes the leap to 100+ or even 110+? For me, it’s a wait and see approach at this point, with an early sideways trade to jump on him if need be the most likely option.

Breakout Rating:

9/10

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Cam Rayner (FWD, $278,600, Bris)

The former number 1 overall draft pick has been a hot topic of conversation this pre-season (and a few pre-seasons prior as well!), with his uber-cheap price-tag proving attractive to a lot of coaches.

The dynamic mid/forward ruptured his ACL in a practice match early in 2021, which means he comes into this season at a bargain-basement $278k and with a breakeven of just 51. 

While Rayner’s consistency – both in actually staying on the park as well as producing scores when he’s on there – is a worry, an average of 73 in 15 games in 2020 – including scores of 125 and 114 in two of his last three regular games – is a decent indicator of what you can reasonably expect from the Lions young gun.

Is he a forward line keeper? Probably not, but it’s a chance. Will he (assuming no injuries) be one of the first Lions picked every week and generate $100-$150k+ in cash? Very likely.

Rayner is currently sitting in my team and it’ll take a few fairly disastrous preseason performances to dislodge him.

Breakout Rating:

7.5/10

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Keidean Coleman (DEF/FWD, $263,200, Bris)

The Lions have been a very tough team to crack in the last few seasons – for good reason – but the 21-year-old from Katherine came into the side in round 9 last year and didn’t look back.

While from a SuperCoach perspective, his first 10 games weren’t much to write home about, the last three performances of the season were what raised a few eyebrows.

An 87 in Rd 23 (from only 14 disposals), followed by a 90 in the Qualifying Final against Melbourne (from 18 touches), rounded out with a 77 in the semi-final loss to the Dogs (from 15 touches) were three seriously impressive, efficient performances from the young swingman.

The key here though is the potential for an increased role following the retirement of Grant Birchall.

Daniel Rich will clearly continue to take the bulk of the ball coming out of the backline, but the Lions need someone else to step up as well, and SuperCoachers will be watching closely to see whether that someone is Coleman.

The early signs are good. The Lions played an intra-club game on Thursday and by all accounts Coleman stepped seamlessly into a major half-back role and was impressive. 

My spidey senses are starting to tingle, but the worry is that such a crucial role in a contending team will instead be handed to a veteran, with Dayne Zorko a prime candidate. 

This is a wait-and-see bet at best, but with Coleman priced at just 48 I have him very high on my preseason watchlist

Breakout Rating:

8/10

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