Bargain Buys: Assessing the defensive cheapie crop

We take a dive into the all-important bargain buys to begin the 2022 season, eyeing off the defenders to keep an eye on.

AFL Key Analysis Pre Season

With season 2022 fast approaching, there’s no better time to turn our attention towards everyone’s favourite class of SuperCoach players; the Cash Cows.

Picking the right rookies can make or break your SuperCoach season, with the ability to generate cash – particularly early on – often the difference-maker between finishing in the top 100 or making up the numbers outside of the top 1%.

Studying the cheapies can also help you make some tough structural decisions; don’t like any of the DEF options but love the FWDs? That’s fine – stock up with Defensive premos and make up your money by skimping on the Forwards.

While – as usual – the 2022 defensive line isn’t exactly stacked with sure-fire money-makers, there’s still more than enough to go around.

Let’s have a look – in no particular order – at 10 Cheapies who should be on your radar over the course of the preseason.

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Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (StK $162,300 DEF/MID) 

“NWM” – as he’ll no doubt be affectionately known among SuperCoaches – is objectively one of the more likely defensive cheapies to line up Round 1 in the AFL.

The Saints’ recruiting department were desperate to add some polish over the offseason and that’s exactly what NWM provides. He won’t light the world on fire from a scoring perspective, after averaging 83 in the SANFL reserves and 61 against men in the league side, but that’s usually not a luxury afforded to us when picking defensive rookies anyway.

Nick Coffield’s untimely injury has opened a hole in St Kilda’s half-back/wing which I suspect NWM will get first crack at. With a price-tag $40k higher than most other options around currently, you are paying a tad more than is ideal for a cheapie, but NWM’s job security should be fine and an average of 55-60 points per game is not out of the question.

Verdict: If there are other options around come Round 1 I’ll probably look elsewhere, but that’s an enormous ‘if’ at this stage.

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Garrett McDonagh (Ess $117,300 DEF)

Speaking of looking elsewhere, that brings us nicely to Essendon’s 25-year-old VFL recruit, Garrett McDonagh.

McDonagh was a handy scorer in the state league last season, chalking up a SuperCoach average of 84 after putting up 21 disposals, five intercepts, and five reb-50s per game for Richmond’s VFL team. By all reports he’s renowned as a hard-working, attacking defender with a huge kick and AFL-level composure.

My first instinct is that it would be a strange move for the Bombers – firmly in finals contention – to pick up a guy in his mid-20s and not give him a run straight away, but the bad news is that it’s hard to find a place for him in a backline that was surprisingly cohesive in 2021.

Jordan Ridley, Dyson Heppell, Jake Kelly, Jayden Laverde, Mason Redman and Nick Hind are walk-up starters in the Dons’ back six, which really only leaves one spot up for grabs down there. Aaron Francis, James Stewart, Tom Cutler and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher have all played decent AFL footy over the last couple of seasons and it’s difficult to see where exactly McDonagh slots into that arrangement.

Unfortunately, the most likely scenario is that McDonagh is there purely as a ready-made backup option should Heppell/Hind go down.

Verdict: A solid option if he plays Round 1, but I’d be surprised if he does.

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Josh Sinn (Port $157,800 DEF/MID)

Ken Hinkley has a well-established history of playing the kids; will Sinn be another one to make an early impact at AFL level?

The early signs are good, with reports the 12th pick in the 2021 draft has been spending the preseason training with the first-team midfield group. The 188cm left-footer has an impressive frame for an 18-year-old, is an elite-runner and is clearly rated by Port given they traded up from pick 14 to get him.

Again, though, there are real question marks around where Sinn fits in to one of the AFL’s premier defensive outfits. He will play at some stage this season (barring injury) but it’s hard to predict when exactly that opportunity will pop up, given two of Port’s first-picked players – Dan Houston and Ryan Burton – are effectively his rivals in that half-back/midfield position.

Still, where there’s a will there’s a way, and if Sinn continues to turn it on over the next few weeks there’s every chance he finds a way to squeeze in, even if it’s part of a forward or wing rotation.

Verdict: An average of 90 in the NAB league makes Sinn an extremely attractive prospect, and he will play at some stage this season, but I don’t see it being in Round 1. He will be a handy mid-year downgrade.

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Campbell Chesser (WCE $148,800 DEF/MID)

Another high draft pick (14), with excellent NAB league numbers (98 SuperCoach average) who plays as an attacking defender/midfielder, but will struggle to get a Round 1 gig in a contending side. Sound familiar?

I’m slightly higher on Chesser than I am Sinn as a starting option, purely because he brings an element the Eagles are sorely lacking (particularly on the defensive side of the ball); speed. The Sandringham product’s eye-catching pace makes him a point of difference in an ageing side which still has premiership aspirations and the earlier Adam Simpson can blood him the better it makes West Coast in the short/medium term.

One thing worth noting about Chesser: he was the only non-WA-based player taken in the National Draft by either of the Western Australian teams. Although this resulted in him spending Christmas in quarantine, it’s also a pretty big indicator of how much the Eagles like him and how essential they view him in their future plans.

Injuries are a worry; Chesser played just three games in the 2021 NAB League thanks to a meniscus injury. By all accounts he’s now fit and raring to go, but it may mean Simpsons takes a conservative approach early doors.

Verdict: In all likelihood more of a downgrade option than someone to start with. Will score well when he plays. 

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Charlie Dean (Coll $102,400 DEF)

Dean ticks a lot of boxes as a ready-made, mature age defender and an injury to the luckless Jordan Roughead means there’s a spot for the taking in Collingwood’s back half.

An average of 85 with eight intercepts (!!) per game was a big reason for Dean winning the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal for the VFL’s best young player in 2021. Those sort of intercept numbers are SuperCoach gold given (in theory anyway) they’re easily replicable at AFL level and there’s nothing to suggest Dean won’t be ready to go right off the bat.

Beggars can’t be choosers, but the bargain-basement price-tag is also a nice bonus.

Verdict: Dean is firmly locked into my Round 1 team and I suspect he’ll be in Collingwood’s as well. No-brainer if he plays.

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Darcy Wilmot (Bris $139,800 DEF)

There’s a Grant Birchall-sized hole in Brisbane’s defence leading into season 2022 and by all accounts Wilmot is a big chance to fill it.

The Northern Knights product was the youngest player taken in last year’s draft, but he’s been turning heads at the Lions in the preseason and will get a crack at AFL level, it’s just a matter of when.

An average of 87 in the NAB league doesn’t exactly light the world on fire, but again – similar to Dean – Wilmot’s game is built on finding his own ball and using it well when he gets it.

Verdict: There are a few candidates for the Birchall role – Keidean Coleman and Dayne Zorko to name a couple – but Wilmot appears to be firming by the day. Will be in my Round 1 team if he’s named.

Will Gould (Syd $123,900 DEF)

I know, I know…

I don’t need to tell you that Gould has had one of the more frustrating SuperCoach careers in recent memory. The constant hype has never resulted in anything more than frustration from coaches hoping for a defensive cash cow.

The difference this year (if we’re looking for silver linings, as all coaches do) is the departure of Jordan Dawson which leaves a stack of ball up for grabs coming out of Sydney’s defensive 50.

The major concern, though, is that you’d think a player with the wraps of Gould would be tearing up the VFL, and he’s just not whichever way you spin it. An average of 83 points per game last season – admittedly with two scores of 120+ – is promising without being anywhere close to spectacular.

Verdict: I’ll await Gould’s preseason performances with bated breath, and he’s currently sitting in my D8, but expectations are low.

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Sam Skinner (Port $123,900 DEF/FWD)

Skinner is proving one of the more popular defensive options so far – currently sitting in just over 25% of teams – and it’s easy to see why.

The 24-year-old utility spent five seasons at the Lions from 2015-2020, battling through a variety of injuries, including three ACL reconstructions. He moved to South Australia for the 2021 season and became an out-and-out SANFL star for South Adelaide.

Skinner initially moved around the field for the Panthers, before eventually settling into a defensive intercept role for the back half of the year. To say he thrived would be an understatement; an average of 103 from his last seven games says at all.

That stretch was capped by an 11 intercept mark, 10 contested mark, 147-point masterclass in a semi-final against the Redlegs, which – trust me on this – was one of the more dominant performances you’re likely to see at a state league level.

Everything said about Sinn above also applies to Skinner (albeit in a slightly different role); cracking this Port team is difficult.

Verdict: As with McDonagh, I do get the feeling Skinner is in the mix primarily as a ready-made backup option. That said, he’s clearly way too good to be languishing in the SANFL and it can’t be too long before he gets a crack. Watch with interest.

Bodhi Uwland (GCS $102,400 DEF/MID)

The buzz continues to build around the bargain-basement Bodhi, after a barnstorming 2021 campaign that caught the eye of Suns recruiters.

Uwland spent 2021 in the Gold Coast academy, meaning he was able to be added to the club’s list via pre-draft concessions. There’s little doubt he would’ve been a sought-after prospect otherwise, with a dominant 141 average in two NAB League games leading to six impressive VFL games as well (63 average).

The highlight of his draft year was undoubtedly a 112 point SuperCoach performance against the Swans in the VFL, which included 19 possessions and 10 intercepts. Those sort of numbers against men – many of them AFL listed – was more than enough to pique my interest.

Uwland is built solidly, tackles strongly and flies hard at the ball in the air. He’ll play for the Suns at some point this season, but I’m not sure it’ll be early on.

Verdict: I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall here. Uwland is a great option IF he’s picked Round 1, and a couple of Suns injuries makes that a chance, but it’s an outside one at best. Unfortunately more likely to be another downgrade target.

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Brodie Kemp (Carl $156,800 DEF)

The 17th pick in the 2019 draft had his first year rubbed out thanks to an ACL injury, but showed plenty of positive signs in the VFL in 2021 (SuperCoach average of 66) and was rewarded with a couple of games at senior level.

The attraction with Kemp as a SuperCoach option is his versatility; at 193cm he’s built to be that prototypical, Jordan Ridley-style intercepting, attacking defensive option. That was on full display in Round 23 last year, when he chalked up 14 possessions, seven spoils and a handful of rebound 50s at AFL level (53 SuperCoach points).

Long-term there’s a high possibility of Kemp being used all over the field, including through the midfield, but the word out of Carlton is he’s been training with the defenders over the preseason. The Blues have half-backs coming out the whazoo, but a two-year contract extension at the end of last year shows how highly rated he is internally. 

Verdict: I suspect Kemp gets an early run, and while I don’t expect huge things out of him from a SuperCoach perspective, the limited glances we’ve had of him at AFL level do give me an expectation that once he’s in the side he’ll be hard to displace. Firmly on the radar as a starting D5/6.

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