The hardest part about writing this piece was setting on which version of my team to reveal!
Unfortunately, my worst SuperCoach quality is a chronic propensity for tinkering; compulsively changing my structure/team every few days until it becomes borderline unrecognisable.
This year I even made a pact with myself; every time I made a ‘major’ change – not just fiddling around with rookies but actually altering the core makeup of my side – I’d screenshot what was left and save it, so I could keep track of what odd areas my brain descends into over the pre-season.
As of today, there have been eleven iterations of my side, with structures as varied as full-blown Midprice Madness (six guys between $250-$450k) all the way to blanket Guns’n’Rooks.
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Currently I’ve settled somewhere in the middle. There are a couple of midpricers in the mix, but only those I’ve seen tangible signs in the pre-season that point to a scoring potential well above their price point.
Any injury concerns are a red flag – Sean Darcy, Aaron Hall, Wayne Milera and Will Day have each spent time in my team, but all have niggles appearing/reappearing which are enough of a turn-off to cause me to look elsewhere.
There are two locks in the above bunch; Lloyd and Ridley. Both would have to fall apart over the next three weeks to not find themselves in my side come Round 1.
Lloyd is the epitome of SuperCoach consistency, while the addition of lockdown defender Jake Kelly to the Essendon side, as well as the likelihood of an uptick in kickout taking, makes Ridley a must-have in my (admittedly Bombers-coloured) eyes.
Crisp is more of a placeholder than anything else, with Jayden Short and Lachie Whitfield the other major candidates here dependent on pre-season performances. I did have Aaron Hall locked into this spot until he was forced off the field in North Melbourne’s practice game this week with “hamstring tightness”.
For a 31-year-old with extensive injury history this is a major worry, and enough to put him on the outside looking into my current side.
As mentioned above, I’ve toyed with Milera or Day in the Sicily position, but ultimately at that price, and with a proven propensity for SuperCoach scoring (see: three straight 120+ scores in 2020), Sicily is difficult to ignore. The worry with him is – ironically – his versatility at both ends of the ground, but everything coming out of Hawthorn seems to suggest he’s locked into that rebounding defender role.
I’m an unabashed Sinner. The 18-year-old specimen from Port Adelaide has been in the gun from the get-go and a three-goal, midfield tackle-fest in Port’s hit-out earlier this week only solidified his position in my side.
The obvious caveat is that he will need to be selected Round 1, but that possibility is firming by the day given some of the chatter coming out of the Hinkley camp. Other candidates here are Darcy Wilmot or Connor Budarick/Keidean Coleman if I can free up some cash elsewhere.
Gould – the renowned SuperCoach teaser – will surely get first crack at the hole opened up by Jordan Dawson’s departure.
Dean, although likely to be used as a KPP in the first instance, appears to be in line for a Round 1 debut thanks to Jordan Roughead’s injury. McDonagh probably won’t play Round 1 but can be easily replaced by Brodie Kemp, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Nathan O’Driscoll or Campbell Chesser.
Talking broadly, the defensive structure of three premiums, one mid-pricer and four rookies is the line I feel most confident about.
Nothing of note needs to be said here regarding Macrae and Steele. They – along with Lloyd – were the first picked players in my side and have not spent a second out of it. Macrae might finish his career as the most consistent scorer in SuperCoach history and is a VC lock given the Bulldogs’ early fixture.
The only way is up for St Kilda’s Superman Steele, who is one player likely to benefit from the AFL’s tweaked interpretation of the holding-the-ball rule given he raked in a ridiculous 34 points per game in 2021 from tackles alone.
Oliver is another who should gain an extra handful of points per game thanks to the above. 55% of Oliver’s possessions in 2021 came in a contested fashion, which makes him effectively tag-proof. At 24-years-old he’s barely in the prime of his career and has improvement to come; if he can cut out a few of the five sub-100 scores from 2021, then look out.
Neale will be one of the highest selected players in SuperCoach this season and it’s not hard to see why. A stunted 2021 campaign, with injuries out the whazoo, means he’s priced at a mouthwatering average of 100.
That’s insane value for a guy who averaged 121 in 2019 (4th overall) and 134 in 2020 (1st overall). At 28 Neale is smack bang in his prime scoring years and is the leader of the engine room in a team that will again be contending for a flag. Don’t overthink this – he’s a lock.
Caldwell is the real POD here and it’s a pick made largely on eye-test. The 21-year-old has had an injury-affected start to his AFL career, which does mean there’s an element of speculation to his SuperCoach selection.
On the plus-side, it also means he’s priced at a basement average of just 49. The value here is evident in the 63 SuperCoach points he chalked up on just 70% game time in Essendon’s elimination final loss to the Dogs; a game in which – it’s worth noting – he was thrown straight in the guts by Ben Rutten after a full four months away from AFL footy.
That’s all well and good, but the tipping point for me was seeing Caldwell completely dominate the first half of Essendon’s intraclub game earlier this week, before being rested for the second half. He’s young, fit, skilled and a contested beast.
Horne-Francis and Daicos can’t really even be considered rookies at this point given how high their scoring potential is right off the bat. I have zero hesitation in shelling out the extra cash to get them in and will likely look to hold both until at least the byes.
Mead, Tsitas and MacDonald are largely placeholders while we wait and see which other rookie options materialise. Ideally one of these guys will turn in to a FWD DPP for extra flexibility. I like Chesser in the mids as a bit of a POD allowing a swap with Sinn in defence as the need arises, and the recent shoulder injury to Greg Clark does mean a higher chance of his selection in Round 1.
Other rookie candidates in those bench spots include Josh Ward, Dylan Stephens, Neil Erasmus, Cooper Stephens, Jake Soligo, Angus Sheldrick, Ben Hobbs or Jackson Hately.
Assuming Caldwell stays fit, I can’t see many changes occurring to my mid structure in the leadup to first lockout.
I desperately want to pick Brayden Preuss in that R2 spot, but there is some concerning chatter coming out of GWS about his job security and talk of a “battle” between him, Matt Flynn and Kieran Briggs for a spot in the side.
With the Caldwell gamble in the midfield that makes me reluctant to take too big of a risk on a guy who – let alone being a primary ruck – might not even hold his place at AFL level.
That being said, I do take the view that the rucks are a good place to go slightly off-piste.
By all accounts Grundy has been tearing up the preseason track at Collingwood and looks set to return to his 2018-19 130+ average heyday, where he was the undisputed King of SuperCoach. At 27-years-old he’s entering the traditional ruckman’s prime years and should – if Craig McRae has any sense – be the focal point of the Pies’ rebuild-on-the-fly.
It would be easy to fall into the safety of a Gawn/Grundy combination – and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who does – but there’s just enough buzz around Luke Jackson and his future as a primary ruck to give me pause for thought.
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Gawn is now in his 30s and with the Demons hellbent on a return to the pinnacle of the AFL I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spending chunks of the home and away season parked in the goal-square while Jackson does the heavy lifting.
Darcy was locked in to that R2 spot before leaving Fremantle’s training session earlier this week with Achilles tightness; never a great sign in the land of the giants. Marshall is next cab off the rank.
The Saints play two of the league’s friendliest ruck opponents in their first five games in the Suns and Hawks. Marshall has a career average of 124 and 99 against those teams respectively, which means at the very least he should hold his value over the all-important opening weeks. He also averages 103 against the Tigers, who the Saints play in Round 3.
All-in-all, I see Marshall as a medium-risk, high-reward alternative to the traditional G/G combo.
Comben at R3 is purely a placeholder with FWD flexibility. There may be other options – Jack Hayes or Sam Hayes to name a couple – but there is also an attraction to starting with a guaranteed non-playing VC loop option as well.
Of all the lines, the forwards are where the majority of my tinkering has taken place.
Starting with effectively three mid-price options in De Goey, Heeney and Coniglio is always going to cause some unease, but it’s a move borne out of necessity; there really are no sure-fire premium options outside of Duncan and potentially Josh Dunkley.
Duncan will be a Round 1 starter for me without question. His 2021 average of 99 included an injury-affected score of 10, without which he would’ve been close to 110. His role within Geelong’s setup is as SuperCoach-friendly as it gets, roaming wherever he pleases and even taking kickouts on occasion. Aside from durability, I have no concerns about locking him in.
Avoiding Dunkley is a decision which is causing me some angst. I have no doubt he’ll be in the top-six forward eligible players come season end, but a price-point of 103 is a worry given he scored just two tonnes in the final nine games of 2021. He shapes as more of a priority upgrade target.
De Goey’s questionable off-field behaviour has been well-documented, but I’m high on him as a SuperCoach option this season. He’s been training with the midfield group under McRae and a 110-point average from his final nine games of 2021 is an indicator of what that might entail should he be able to hold down significant engine room minutes.
Heeney has a breakeven of just 83 and despite burning SuperCoachers in the past (what is it with Sydney players?!) appears primed to finally make the move into the guts as the Swans continue their not-so-surprising resurgence.
Tom Harley told SEN earlier this week that Heeney lit up their intraclub game playing predominantly midfield, while also drifting forward as the dangerous goal-kicking option we know so well. With the dearth of forward-line premos, I expect him to finish the year fighting for one of those top six positions.
Coniglio has been a hot topic of discussion over the pre-season. His scoring credentials when fit and confident are unquestioned – a 108 average in 2018 says it all – but the GWS midfield is deep. Both Coniglio and Tim Taranto will spend time deep forward, particularly in the absence of Toby Greene, but the question is in what quantities?
Ultimately the price point is what does it for me here. Cogs has huge upside and a breakeven of just 48, for a guy who for all intents and purposes is neck-and-neck with the $528k Taranto, is compelling. Other candidates for this position include Cam Rayner and Keidean Coleman, both of whom fall (at the moment anyway) on the wrong side of calculated risk / insanity for me.
Josh Rachele has bolted into Round 1 calculations after a barnstorming pre-season. He’s got the build for senior footy and can score with the best of them, putting up 129 SuperCoach points per game in the 2021 NAB league playing large chunks as a forward.
Charlie Curnow, at $224k, is another candidate for this F5 spot depending on fitness/role.
Hollands will play Round 1 for the Suns and needs to be in your side. The 7th pick in the 2020 Draft, on the comeback trail from an ACL tear, is receiving an enormous amount of hype based on his VFL performances, especially a 112-point, 27-disposal (11 contested) effort in his final game of 2021.
Kelly and Parker are both sitting there as handy DPP placeholders with a chance at Round 1 selection. The mature-age Parker especially has been impressive, winning several of the Bulldogs’ fitness tests as he targets a vacant wing spot for last year’s grand finalists. Sam Skinner, Jesse Motlop, Luke Pedlar and Finn Maginness are others in contention here.
While it’s definitely not essential, I’m always a fan of leaving a little in the bank just in case of emergency. The extra number of trades this season (up to 35 total) means an added opportunity to rectify early mistakes should they arise. I like to give myself some wriggle room in the event of a must-have higher-priced rookie – Josh Ward for example.
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