With one round to go, only two teams per Ultimate Footy league remain; congratulations and good luck if you made your Grand Final. For most of us, thoughts are already on next season, and which players are worth hanging onto after ultimately falling short of success. If you’re in a keeper league, which the majority of leagues are likely to be, then this week is your last chance to snap up players from the waiver wire.
Most leagues won’t finalise their definite keepers until the week prior to next year’s draft, but this week gives you the opportunity to pounce on injured players that may have been delisted during the season by other coaches, and to decide which young players you think are likely to break out in season 2018.
The leagues I participate in have a rookie keeper rule, where each side is required to hold three players with 50 games or less to their name, along with a dozen or so other keepers. This is worth considering if you don’t yet have that process in place, and for a guide, players who fit that category will have ‘rookie’ in bold next to their name below.
Here is a bumper-sized list of free agents (at least a 30% availability in all leagues) that should be targeted this week, with the opportunity to offload retirees and underperformers for potential talent a must for all coaches:
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Nathan Wilson (30% availability):
The rebounding GWS defender has played 20 matches this season for an average of 72, up on his 64 points per game from 2016. Likely to further improve as a scorer, with a lean patch early in the season affecting his average.
Kade Kolojdashnij (47%):
A solid defensive option who looked set to go big this year, KK’s season was cut short by injuries and lingering concussion symptoms. He still managed to score at 86 points per game from his 11 matches, and at 22 years of age, has a lot of consistent football ahead of him.
Caleb Marchbank (51%):
The former Giant had a brilliant start to the year for Carlton, surprising many with his consistency, with only one score below 70 up to Round 12. Ran out of puff in the latter half of the season and was affected by injury before being cotton-wooled. Worth a look as a ROOKIE keeper with under 50 games to his name.
Tom Cutler (39%):
Another injury-affected year for the 22 year old Lion, but averaged 76 from his 12 matches including a score of 3 when injured in Round 4. ROOKIE
Harry Perryman (85%):
The first year DPP back/centre gave us a taste of what to expect in season to come, averaging 55 from his eight matches. A 20 disposal, six tackle game in Round 17 was a highlight. ROOKIE
Patrick Cripps (45% availability):
Not much needs to be said here; Cripps is a contested beast and will average over 100 per game next season, after just falling short across his past two with averages of 99.5 (2016) and 98.3 in his injury-affected 2017. A priority to bring in if he’s unbelievably available in your league.
David Armitage (57%):
Armitage endured a frustrating season, managing just the two appearances before repeated groin issues saw his year over. Capable of going huge, the tough midfielder average 107 points in 2015.
Connor Blakely (38%):
One of the shining lights at Fremantle, the youngster stepped up in a big way to shut down opposition mids while finding a lot of the ball himself. His average of 92 includes scores of 17 and 8, with seven big tons. ROOKIE
Michael Barlow (62%):
The former Docker made an instant impression at his new club, averaging 95 points per game before another sickening leg injury cut his season short. His only score below 82 was the 44 he put up against the Blues in Round 4, highlighting his consistency. The proven scorer has confirmed he’ll return in 2018.
Ed Curnow (40%):
Carlton’s time-trial king was probably overshadowed by the performances of younger brother Charlie, but before he sustained a serious larynx injury the 27 year old midfielder managed six tons to average 88 from his 13 matches. Curnow averaged a shade under 102 in season 2016.
Mitch Robinson (67%):
The antagonistic Lion averaged 83 across seven matches, including the 23 point game where sustained the foot fracture that cut his season short. Robinson has been remarkably consistent in recent seasons, and should be good for a similar output next year.
Anthony Miles (53%):
The inside midfielder has endured a tough season, playing just five matches for Richmond after three solid seasons, with the arrival of Dion Prestia affecting his job security. Miles is only 25 years old, with the proven scorer is likely to be given senior opportunities elsewhere next season.
Ryan Griffen (79%):
The veteran Giant has seen only three games of action since last season’s Preliminary Final due to an ankle injury that derailed his 2017 campaign, but the former Bulldog should be a solid contributor next year, with an average in the eighties predicted. Has scored as high as 105 per game in a season before.
Sam Powell-Pepper (39%):
The heir to the Fend-Off Throne has had a brilliant debut season, scoring over 70 a dozen times to average exactly 70 points per game, which includes a dismal outing against a rampaging Adelaide outfit. A top three contender for the Rising Star award, SPP is the ideal developing keeper midfielder. ROOKIE
Others to consider:
Mark Blicavs (42%; 2017 average of 79; 2015 average of 97),
Will Setterfield (80%; debut 2017 average of 50) ROOKIE
Darcy Tucker (78%; 2017 average of 63) ROOKIE
Jack Graham (90%; debut game score of 84) ROOKIE
Nic Naitanui (67% availability):
If you struggled with your ruck position this season, look no further than Nic Nat. With his entire season written off after a knee injury late last year, Naitanui will be itching to go in 2018. The high-leaping Eagle averaged 88 in 2015 and 84 from his 12 games last season, so don’t be surprised if he returns in career-best form.
Aaron Sandilands (61%):
Big Sandi has suffered some unusual injuries in recent season, but the Fremantle stalwart will go around again in 2018, which is likely to be his last season. While you’d be brave to have him as your sole ruckman, Sandilands’ record (when fit) speaks for itself, and if you bring him in you’ll have a solid 80 points per week without concern.
Braydon Preuss (31%):
The Big Roo dominated the VFL in 2017, and has managed two tons from his eight senior outing to date, averaging 67. The Kangaroos’ juggled Preuss, Todd Goldstein and Majak Daw in the ruck as they sought to determine their preferred combo, but project player Preuss is likely to hone his craft over summer and seriously challenge as the number one ruckman in 2018. ROOKIE
Scott Lycett (62%):
West Coast couldn’t catch a break in 2017, with both Naitanui and DPP ruck/forward Lycett missing in action due to long term injuries. While Drew Petrie and Nathan Vardy have performed admirable ruck roles this season, there is no doubt Lycett fits into the Eagles’ 2018 plans. The 24 year old averaged 80 points from his 20 matches in 2016, and proved he can score well alongside first choice Natainui. ROOKIE
Allen Christensen (74% availability):
Christensen had an impressive 2015 season at Brisbane where he averaged 83 points from all 22 matches, but injuries have sidelined the former Cat for effectively the last year and a half. With a huge block of conditioning under his belt, expect DPP mid/forward Christensen to return to his best alongside the improving Lion cubs in 2018.
Harley Bennell (30%):
After a much-publicised absence from football after repeated calf injuries, the former Sun played his first game for the Dockers on the weekend, kicking two goals in the first term before Richmond took control. Averages of between 85 and 92 across season 2013-15 prove just how damaging the DPP mid/forward can be, and if the prodigious talent can stay fit over the pre-season, there’s no ceiling on what he can put up in 2018.
Angus Brayshaw (31%):
A series of head knocks sidelined the tough Demon midfielder for much of season 2017, but the helmeted Brayshaw hasn’t missed a beat upon his return, and will play a big part in how Melbourne finish up the season. Going at 75 points from his four matches, Brayshaw is an ideal forward keeper, especially with his mid/forward DPP and rookie status. ROOKIE
Jacob Hopper (35%):
The injury-prone Giant is back on the park, and while his scoring hasn’t been in the elite category, Hopper is touted to become a superstar. Available as a DPP mid/forward, the 20 year old was taken with pick 7 in the 2015 National Draft after displaying both inside and outside abilities, and will reward those coaches who snap him up sooner rather than later. ROOKIE
Cyril Rioli (67%):
Rioli was on every coach’s hit-list coming into this year following his incredible 2016 season where he booted 44 goals to average 85 points per game. Unfortunately, his 2017 campaign was cut short following a knee injury, but if you can sneak him into your squad this week in preparation for next season, it will pay dividends.
Taylor Garner (56%):
Garner has shown a lot of promise in the latter half of season 2017 alongside emerging spearhead Ben Brown. The medium-tall forward can fly high for marks as well as apply pressure at ground level, and his last month of football suggests he’s every chance to improve on his 2017 average of 70 next season. ROOKIE
Tim Taranto (70%):
Taranto showed a lot of promise in his 12-match debut season, with his bravery and football smarts seeing him a regular in the side until an ankle injury hit the highly-rated draftee. Taranto will build on his debut season average of 61, and has a huge ceiling given his average of 120 in his last junior year. With his DPP mid/forward status as a bonus, he should be locked away as soon as possible. ROOKIE
Lin Jong (70%):
Jong was unlucky to miss last year’s Grand Final after sustaining a collarbone injury, and after showing promise in 2017 had his season cruelled by an ACL tear. Likely to return in the back half of 2018, Jong has shown he’s capable of scoring well, if the mid/forward gets a decent run at it. ROOKIE
Others to consider:
Michael Walters (44% availability; 2017 average of 80; DPP mid/forward)
Ryan Clarke (48%; 2017 average of 66; four game average of 86; DPP mid/fwd) ROOKIE
Josh Dunkley (51%; 2016 average of 80; DPP mid/fwd) ROOKIE
Jacob Allison (73%; 2017 average of 72 from four games; DPP mid/fwd) ROOKIE
Mitch Honeychurch (72%; 2017 average of 70; DPP mid/fwd) ROOKIE
Hugh McCluggage (61%; 2017 average of 61; DPP mid/fwd) ROOKIE
Mitch McGovern (74%; 2017 average of 68) ROOKIE
Ben Ainsworth (69%; 2017 average of 59; DPP mid/fwd) ROOKIE
Tom Bell (84%; 2015 average of 89)
Top 5 Proven Performers:
Top 12 Rookie Keepers: