The Watchlist is back and it’s bigger and better than before! Every year FP’s Matt Palf uses a scoring algorithm – the U50 Score- to take a look at the best AFL talent with less than 50 games under their belt in a hope to find this season’s breakout fantasy stars. We’ll be bringing you the 2017 picks position by position.
For more info on the U50 Score click here
Two words – Max Gawn. I have bigged up Gawn each year since my first Watchlist/Sleeper article back before the 2014 season, and despite an average of 92 in 2015, I was confident he could go bigger last year. He duly obliged, adding a further 15 points to his average to become the number one ruck in fantasy land. Of the rest of my selections, there wasn’t much to crow about, however. Shaun McKernan failed to build on his fantastic finish to 2015, and the move East for Callum Sinclair didn’t bring with it the expected boost. Tom Nicholls remained consistent and may be worth another crack next year.
With two of the best young rucks breaking out in 2016, there are decidedly slim pickings when it comes to inexperienced rucks ready to take the next step up this year. Here are the ones that stand the best chance.
Scott Lycett (U50:125 | 49 games | 24yo | UF Avg:80)
Having made his first appearance in my Watchlist two years ago, Lycett still just qualifies this year with only 49 games under his belt. The West Coast big man had an inconsistent season that was marred by off-field incidents, but when he was ‘on’, he was fantastic. Lycett managed three 100+ scores, including a big 136 against Port Adelaide, but conversely was responsible for one of the most dismal performances of the year when he could only muster two touches and eight points against GWS in Round 21. I’m still of the opinion he could turn out to be a fantasy ruckman, however, and would be a solid get as a backup.
Tom Nicholls (U50:96 | 25 games | 25yo | UF Avg:77)
Nicholls failed to progress as hoped after emerging as the Suns’ number one ruck at the end of 2015, and this year shapes as a make or break season. Despite inconsistencies, he again showed ability as a fantasy player with five scores over 88 including a top score of 117 in Round 4. The arrival of Jarrod Witts casts a big shadow over his prospects in 2017, however, and his role preseason should be monitored.
Tom Campbell (U50:91 | 35 games | 25yo | UF Avg:76)
Campbell is certainly a bit of a long-shot considering he hasn’t managed 10 games in any of his five seasons so far, and that he wasn’t in the Premiership winning Bulldogs side. He did, however, show that had fantasy potential in the nine appearances he did have before injury, achieving a high of 105 on his seasonal debut, and registering 70+ in seven games. His VFL stats also offering encouragement with two 100+ seasons in the last three years. The big question is whether he will be required by a team that functioned very well without him; the answer is probably not, but if he looks like making the best 22 then he would be a capable depth player with some upside.
Jarrod Witts (U50:N/A | 40 games | 24yo | UF Avg:54)
I’m breaking with convention by including Witts, as he failed to register a U50 score last season with just two lacklustre performances. That being said, I feel he’s definitely worth a mention due to his circumstances. Witts made my Watchlist ahead of the 2015 season after a promising year in which he overtook Brodie Grundy for the number one ruck spot at the Pies. He has failed to build on that promise since, but a move to the Gold Coast could be just the thing to kickstart his career. At 24, he is still young for a ruck, and his returns of 95 and 109 in the VFL over the last two years indicate he could be heading in the right direction – his average of 157 over three games at the end of the year was particularly noteworthy. In a battle with Nicholls for the number one spot, but definitely one to watch.
Just Missed Out
One young ruck who could be ready to take the next step is Richmond new boy Toby Nankervis (U50:84). The big Tassie failed to take off at Sydney, but followers of junior footy will be well aware of the numbers he can put up, averaging 103 in the TAC Cup and 104 over the short format Championship games. His scoring has been consistently high in the NEAFL with a 2016 average of 2016 of 101, and if he looks like playing for the Tigers he could be an interesting option.
Jonathon Ceglar (U50:88) was another who was heading in the right direction, but a torn ACL in August all but rules him out for 2017. Ceglar appeared in my Watchlist back in 2015, and while his output hasn’t really changed over the last two years, his game-time and importance has been steadily building. He’s another with solid VFL scores, and has shown in the past that he can put up some handy scores at senior level – one to watch on his return.