It was an up and down week in football, with some games hard to watch in trying conditions and others providing the free-flowing high scoring matches we all love to see. Fantasy scoring reflected this, with many players grinding out stats well below their usual output, while in other games players racked up the points. The good news is that many free agents capitalised, and you can too, even with a poor RFA priority position. While some of the free agents targets nominated last week failed to meet expectations (hang onto Sam Reid, the Sydney midfield did him no favours on Friday night), other names should be in the forefront of your mind after putting up impressive numbers across the weekend. Here are your Free Agent targets for Round 3:
BACK OF THE WEEK: Jayden Hunt
After 19 games in his first senior season last year for an average of just 56, Hunt (available in 27% of leagues) has started 2017 with a bang. He amassed 30 possessions through his hard running against the Cats, including 23 kicks, 9 marks and a goal on his way to a solid 129 points. An explosive defender who breaks lines with his run and carry, Hunt’s minutes per game have increased from 2016 and he looks to have cemented his spot in a new-look Demons side. While he only scored 66 in Round 2, his first round score of 88 and his showing on the weekend is enough to suggest he could have a breakout season and join the likes of Rory Laird and Jason Johannisen as fantasy-relevant attacking defenders.
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Much hyped in the pre-season, Curtly Hampton (29% availability) may have found his feet in Adelaide, with the ex-Giant clocking up a respectable 90 points in the Round 3 Showdown after back to back scores of 66. His score included 9 tackles, showing that he is more than an outside runner, and would be a handy bench inclusion, with potential to be your side’s fifth playing defender.
Another former GWS player, Lachie Plowman, scored 84 in the wet against the Bombers. He was quiet last week but his 87 in Round 1 means that the former number 3 pick, available in 44% of leagues, is worth considering. Jarrod Harbrow (41% availability) helped himself to 107 in the Suns’ flogging of Hawthorn, but has a history of injury and inconsistency. In the same game, Steven May scored 91 points, but is also capable of much lower scores as a key defender.
Youngsters Nic Newman (54%) and Darcy Byrne-Jones (79%) put up scores of 93 and 89 respectively, with Newman being particularly impressive for the disappointing Swans in just his second game. Jason Castagna (62%) scored 98 after a poor Round 2, while fellow Tiger Kamdyn McIntosh (78%) was in everything late to have 94 points. The much-maligned Hayden Crozier surprised with 89 points in his first match of 2017, and is available in 41% of all leagues.
I’ll mention that Kangaroos duo Aaron Mullett and Lachie Hanson both had scores of over 90 against GWS, but as key defenders with shaky job security I’d suggest avoiding bringing either of them into your side off the back of one good game. Robbie Tarrant (88 pts, 25% availability) continues to tempt after his Round 2 ton, but again I’d avoid as he is a dreaded key defender and has burned many fantasy coaches in the past.
CENTRE OF THE WEEK: Billy Stretch
In a strong fantasy week for Melbourne players, third year midfielder Billy Stretch would arguably be as good a free agent pick up as his team mate Hunt. Following scores of 83 and 83, Stretch collected 26 disposals and 5 tackles in the narrow loss to Geelong, cracking the fantasy ton for the third time in his short career with 101 points. What is remarkable about his score is that it was amassed despite Stretch only having 9 kicks, with a whopping 17 handballs. He had 20 handballs in Round 1 and 14 last week, so finding the football is clearly no issue. If Stretch can find space and get boot to ball more often, then it’s likely there are more fantasy tons to come, and it is just as likely that his availability in 49% of leagues will diminish greatly after the RFA period this week.
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Ross Lyon swinging the axe in favour of youth could be a godsend for fantasy coaches, with inclusion Brady Grey turning heads with 19 disposals, 5 tackles and the opening goal for a total of 95 points. The Tasmanian was delisted and then re-rookied after only 3 games across 2015-16, and has fought his back to senior football, where he’ll stay if Round 3’s performance is anything to go on. He had 10 tackles against Carlton in a game last year, and is worth a look if you are in need of a keeper midfielder. Fellow Docker Connor Blakely (45% availability) bounced back from a horrible 17 to score 90 this week, and should be on your watch list.
Reece Conca (55% availability) has started the year as well as his Tigers, with scores of 84, 69 and now 103 under his belt. Injured for most of the last 2 seasons, Conca averaged around 80 across 2013-14 and when fit is capable of scoring consistently. Speaking of consistency, Luke Dunstan (46%) scored 81 for the second week running, and Jake Melksham had 87 after a score of 80 in Round 2.
After dominating the NEAFL last year, Jake Barrett (69% availability) finally showed signs of his AFL fantasy potential in laying 10 tackles on his way to 91 points, and young Blue Sam Petrevski-Seton may find himself with a Rising Star nomination following his 8 tackle performance against Essendon in the wet. He scored 93, and is available in a generous 62% of leagues.
They may not be thought of as free agents, but Chris Masten (99 points) and Sam Menegola (102) are available in 18% and 22% of leagues respectively. Masten appears to have broken out of the form slump that plagued him in 2016, and is averaging 95 across 3 games so far. Menegola has been unable to break into the Geelong midfield, but averaged 95 in 6 games in 2016 and is as fantasy-relevant as second year midfielders get.
RUCK OF THE WEEK: Braydon Preuss
Preuss probably deserved to be named Ruck of the week in Round 2, but questions over his ability to score with Todd Goldstein in the same side hung over his head, and it was too easy to write off his 105 as a great one-off game. This week Big Preussy proved his relevance, with another score of 105 in a performance that overshadowed not only his ruck partner but established GWS big man Shane Mumford. Preuss continued to crash and bash his way to 26 hit outs, 16 disposals, 9 marks and 2 goals; one a 60 metre bomb off half a step. Coach Brad Scott has all but confirmed the 109kg rugby league convert’s place in the side, and if you’re playing in a keeper league and need a second ruckman, you should be looking at snapping up Preuss as soon as possible. Only 35% of leagues selected him after his 46 hit outs in Round 2, and so he currently remains available in 34%,.
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This week saw two other free agent ruckmen crack the fantasy ton. After dominating the VFL last week, Zac Smith (106 points, 39% availability) was brought in to battle Max Gawn. Smith’s scoring stagnated until Gawn limped off with a hamstring injury, and from then on he helped to propel Geelong on to a fast-finishing victory with 38 hit outs, 17 disposals and a goal. The injury-prone Matthew Leuenberger (108) also had a great first match of 2017, with a dominant 46 hit outs supported by 6 tackles. He is available in 25% of all leagues, and like Smith, has good job security, with other ruckmen having been dropped to make way for the players both the Geelong and Essendon coaches see as their first preferences.
With the injury to Gawn, it may be worth keeping an eye on the form of Jake Spencer, who has been biding his time in the VFL. With Jack Watts preferred as a forward, Spencer is likely to be given a month as preferred ruckman for the Dees.
FORWARD OF THE WEEK: Alex Neal-Bullen
Available as a coveted dual position centre/forward, Neal-Bullen collected a mammoth 25 kicks, 10 tackles and a goal to accumulate a staggering 141 points against formidable opponents Geelong in Round 3. Neal-Bullen was quiet in Round 2 (60) following his 110 points in the season opener, and as a result not many coaches chose him off the waiver wire, with the hyphenator remaining available in 21% of leagues. He is a proven ball-winner, having averaged 29 disposals across 17 matches in the VFL last season, and that trend looks set to continue at AFL level. It’s a no-brainer: If Neal-Bullen is available in your league, put in a restricted free agent request for him. If you don’t someone else will.
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‘Brandon Matera should’ve been forward of the week,’ I hear you say.
‘6 goals, 19 disposals and 107 points, what else does he have to do? ‘
Play like that more than once in a blue moon, for starters. Matera tore the hearts out of Hawks supporters in what was a strong finish for the small forward and his Gold Coast Suns. He ran hard, got other team mates involved, and kicked straight, half a dozen times through the big sticks. The problem with Matera from a fantasy perspective, is that he often doesn’t play half as well or score half as many points. His average has sat around the high 60’s for the past 4 seasons, and while he may seem like a quick fix to any forward line issues, I’d be looking at other players.
The lightning-quick Dean Kent (93% availability) had 22 disposals, 8 marks and kicked 2 goals on his way to 106 in his first match of the season for the Demons. With an injury-free season, Kent is a strong chance to improve on his 2016 average of a touch under 70. Young Magpie Tim Broomhead racked up 26 touches and 97 points on Friday night, and Geelong third-gamer Brandon Parfitt, available as a centre/forward in 86% of leagues, registered his first score of note with 23 touches and 5 tackles for 90.
Other centre/forwards to impress were Docker Ed Langdon (84 points, 56 % availability), Saint Blake Acres (85 points, 25%) and new Roo Nathan Hrovat (80 and 37%). I can’t believe that I’m mentioning Lion Lewis Taylor but he scored 81 to back up his previous scores of 77 and 92, and appears to have put last year’s contract issues behind him in a return to 2014 form. Ignore big Jesse White and his 87; there’s a reason he’s available in 63% of leagues. Don’t ignore the 80 points from long sleeve enthusiast Jack Silvagni, available in 88% of leagues. If you’re a Carlton fan or have room on your bench in a keeper league, he may be worth stashing away.
That’s it for the free agent targets following Round 3. May some of the players recommended see your side strengthened for the season ahead, and if you’re in a keeper league, hopefully longer. The waiver wire is THAT good this week for future guns.