It’s time to face the music. Yes; the 2019 season is about to kick off later this week, and it’s time for me to reveal my Round 1 team.

Post JLT Cup Team Reveal - 2019
Post JLT Cup Team Reveal – 2019

Structure

My line-up is slightly less conventional than some with the presence of Josh Dunkley in my mid-field. The reasons are two-fold:

  1. Flexibility: The ability to cover gaps as needed by having a Midfield-Forward bridge is helpful in times of chaos. Also given the weakness of our forward rookies this year this allows me to ‘downgrade’ under-performing forward rookeis with stronger potential mid-field rookies (by swinging Dunkley forward).
  2. Fewer Trades: AFL Fantasy is about guessing which players are likely to end up among the best in their respective positions by years end. And given the amount of talent in the mid-field, it’s harder to get a gauge of this than in the forward line. Simply put; depsite the risk that the Bulldogs may adjust their mid-field rotations, I think it more likely that Dunkley will finish as a Top-6 forward than any of the $700k mid-fielders ending up as a Top-8 mid-fielder. And the fewer trades I have to make during the season means the fewer stepping stones I need to complete my team.

Rookies

My final rookie line-up will change once the Round 1 teams are announced. However, I like to pay up for my rookies – although they cost more (and so have less potential gain), they tend to have better job-security. And if they’re not playing they’re not generating the income I need to finish off my team (not to mention leaving me with inadequate bench cover). Secondly, investing money in my rookies means my money is invested on the field – and I can downgrade them as needed to fix up any problems that might arise.

When choosing rookies, I suggest you read Fry’s Cash Cows over at DT Talk.

Players

Defenders

Jake Lloyd – Lloyd really came into his own last season and finished off last year on fire averaging 109 in his last 5 games. I’m hoping this will be a harbinger of things to come. He’s also a player who should benefit from the new ‘kick-in’ rule. This year I’m expecting him to not only finish as a Top 6 Defender, but also improve on last year. Based on this, I’d prefer not to have to ‘chase’ his rising price.

Alex Witherden – A young and improving player in a young and improving team are the main reason why many are bullish on Witherden this year. He’s also a player who loves a kick-out so the new rules benefit him; although he will likely share this with the less consistent Daniel Rich (based on what we saw during the JLT).

Brodie Smith – Straight from the bargain-bin – Smith represents excellent value. I don’t think he will set the world on fire (he puts up as many scores in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s as he does 80’s), but given his JLT cup form he clearly looks to be up and going. At 20 points under-priced, I think he’s worth the risk.

Zach Williams – Another from the bargain-bin, Williams is similar to Smith; his up-side is too good to ignore. He’s more consistent than Smith and likewise has good job-security. But he comes with the same risks. At least if either of the Smith or Williams experiments fails I won’t be alone as they are both highly selected picks.

Mid-Fielders

Jack Macrae – Given the injury to Tom Mitchell, Jack Macrae is most likely to finish as Number 1 AFL Fantasy pig for 2019. He may attract more attention this year – or get injured. Or just as likely he will smash out a 160 and with a ‘C’ next to his name can make or break your team.

Patrick Cripps – You know what you’re getting with Cripps; big-bodied, tackles, marks, and wins his own ball. He’s used to being the best in his team and he’s very seldom is he tagged out of the game. He finished on fire with 121 in his last 5, and give his JLT form he looks on track to have another good year in 2019.

Angus Brayshaw – Brayshaw is still a young player in a team that should feature strongly in the Finals. He’s lost his defender status (which has dropped his ownership). But his figures are excellent as a bonafide mid-fielder, including 122 in his last 5 (which would have ranked him as a Top 4 mid-fielder). And his JLT cup form did him no harm as one of the highest points-per-minute of any player. Given these factors, I see him improving even more in 2019 and becoming a Top 8 mid.

Josh Dunkley – This is probably my most controversial pick – but his inclusion in the mid-field is structural. I see him as a Top 6 forward at seasons end and with him in the mid-field gives me additional flexibility – in both the mid-field and forward lines. There is some risk around the Bulldog’s mid-field rotations (and whether he will be pushed forward), but in the JLT 2 (the dress rehearsal for the real thing) he continued in the same role as last year. All the same, he’s more likely to finish as a Top 6 forward than a $700k mid finishing as a Top 8 mid.

Brad Crouch – The older Crouch brother is priced at 72 – and should smash that. It helped seeing him back at the end of last season (including 121 in the finals). He’s had a full pre-season and a strong JLT campaign which has helped his popularity. The big concern for Brad Crouch is injury; but I currently have him as a risk worth taking as he should score well and be a valuable stepping-stone towards my final team.

Rucks

Brodie Grundy – Brodie Grundy was not only number one ruck last year – but also one of the best Fantasy players overall. And given the uncertainty around other Rucks with competition for spots, Grundy is also one of the least risky options. I don’t see any reasons to think he won’t continue to dominate.

Max Gawn – Gawn is a Fantasy premium ruck. A lot has been written about how Preuss’ inclusion will affect Gawn’s output. Given how he was used in the JLT, I can only see Gawn continuing to score well and should finish as second best ruck. I’m a big advocate for setting and forgetting your rucks; there is a much smaller pool of available players – and few rookies come in and make an impact. So for this reason it’s an area of the ground I like to pay up and go for stability.

Forwards

Patrick Dangerfield – Dangerfield’s forward status means he’s most likely to finish as the highest scoring AFL Fantasy forward. Rumours from the Cattery also have Ablett and Dahlhaus spending most of their time up forward – so hopefully that will mean more mid-field minutes for Dangerfield.

Isaac Heeney – Heeney has only been in the competition for 4 seasons, and is still on an upward trajectory as a player – so his scores should likewise improve. There’s also the potential of more mid-field rotations with the departure of Hannebery. He’s also had good JLT form – which hopefully bodes well for a Top 6 forward finish.

Tim Kelly – Kelly was a sensation last year – and what is most pleasing to see was his second half of last year where he averaged 97. There’s no reason he can’t continue in his good form which would make him a Top 6 forward.

Notable Omissions

Rory Laird – I think Laird will be the number one Defender at the end of the season. However, I also think he has the least scope for improvement. So I’m locking him in as an upgrade target.

Lachie Whitfield – Whitfield should finish as a Top 6 Defender and has some scope for improvement in him. I’ve just had Jake Lloyd as slightly ahead of him – mainly since Whitfield is such a damaging player and occasionally wears the tag.

Stephen Coniglio – I’ve chosen Cripps over Coniglio because Coniglio has moved up the tagging pecking order with Shiels departure. Still an excellent pick, and monstered the JLT, and who will probably have another excellent year.

Todd Goldstein – Preuss leaving to Melbourne puts Goldstein back as clear number 1 ruck at North Melbourne. And Goldstein should put out some good scores this year making the spot for R2 interesting to say the least. However, Goldstein is also coming into his 13th season – and I have to wonder whether he’s going to reclaim his form of years past or whether he will go the way of Aaron Sandilands. His JLT game didn’t do him any harm – but with the risk around Gawn reducing, I just see Gawn as a safer pick.

Devon Smith – Smith is an excellent Fantasy player in that he gets so many tackles that it doesn’t really matter how his team is travelling for him to post a good score. And he will probably finish as a Top 6 forward. However, I worry that Sheil’s inclusion will mean more time forward for Smith – so I’d prefer to wait and see. For this reason I have Dunkley ahead of him (despite some risk of his own).

James Worpel – I think Worpel will be one the biggest beneficiaries of Tom Mitchell’s injury which makes him a very attractive option. But as a young player he’s prone to a few stinkers as last year showed. I’d be more keen on him if I didn’t have similar risks elsewhere on the ground (e.g. Smith, Williams and Crouch). The way I look at it is if he starts the season as one of the shining lights of the competition I can easily trade to him without paying too much of a penalty.