The weekend of AFL saw a host of upsets as every side who won defeating a team placed higher on the ladder heading into the round. Thankfully the pattern of unexpected results finished there, with most gun players back to their dependable selves regarding their scores, with a few underwhelming exceptions in Robbie Gray and Rory Sloane. The round also saw once-doubted fantasy performers solidify their new-found reputations as consistent scorers, and a number of players impressing in their first matches of 2017. Here are a number of the best potential free agents who impressed:
BACK OF THE WEEK: Jimmy Webster
In a hard-fought upset win against quality opposition in GWS, Webster was everywhere. Running off half-back, he collected 17 kicks, 12 handballs, six marks and received two free kicks for a total of 99 points for the evening. While I doubted the rebounding Webster after his Round 4 ton, citing his poor averages in the past, he has gone on to impress in a number of games, and his want for the ball was impressive against the Giants. With a season average of 78, Webster has two tons to his name, along with three scores under 70, but if he continues to run hard off half back he should finish the season averaging close to 85. The Saints are playing attacking football out of defence, so if you liked what you saw from the young Tasmanian and can see him as your fifth defender, he is still available in 31% of all leagues.
Best of the rest:
In his first match of the season, Marco Paparone played on a half forward flank to score 106 points. The Lion had 19 kicks, nine handballs and nine marks en route to his ton in an impressive return to senior football. Plagued by hamstring and knee issues throughout 2016, Paparone had a strong season in 2015, averaging 74.5 from 22 games, including three scores of 100 points or more. If you think he can return to that level and stay injury-free, he’s available in 86% of leagues.
Scott D. Thompson and Daniel Talia both scored well for 102 and 91 points respectively in the match at Blundstone Arena, but I’d avoid picking up either key defender. Thompson (96% availability) hasn’t had a strong fantasy season since 2013, and often churns out sub-60 scores. Talia (89%) also loves a score below 50. If you must roll the dice on a tall defender, opt for Ben Reid (38%) who scored 113 against the Blues. Seemingly over the calf issues that all but wrote off his 2014/15 seasons, he had 20 kicks, a dozen marks, and three free kicks for on the weekend, but can also score below 70. In a deep league, he could be selected as bench over or as a loophole defender.
Darcy Byrne-Jones (70% availability) continued his run of good scores the week after a poor score with 96 points from 22 disposals, six marks and four tackles. He’d be worth a look if you’re playing in a keeper league and want a developing defender on your list, but for now the Port youngster isn’t consistent enough to warrant weekly selection.
I still like the look of Andy Otten (79 points) in his swingman role as a dual position defender/forward. After his shocking Round 1 performance, he’s only dipped below a score of 74 once, and can pinch hit in the ruck for extra points. An ideal consistent fifth defender if your backline is struggling, he’s available in 35% of all leagues Another DPP def/forward, Cale Hooker, scored 94 against the Dockers from ten marks and two goals, but I’d wait to see if he can return to the forms of seasons previous before considering the tall Bombers (34% availability).
Finally, Bulldog teenager Bailey Williams (94% availability) was good with 23 disposals and four tackles for 86 points, but is a long way off being relevant. Harry Cunningham (98 points) capitalised on the Swans’ flogging of Brisbane to kick two goals in a strong all-round performance. Available as a DPP defender/forward in 79% of leagues, he’s a defender to monitor across the next month.
CENTRE OF THE WEEK: Connor Blakely
Blakely has been a standout Docker this season, and back up his 29-disposal effort last week with another 29 touches against the Bombers. What impressed the most was the fact that 15 of these disposals came in the decisive final term, and when the match was in the balance Blakely stepped up to play a big part in overrunning of a more experienced Essendon side. Blakely also took nine marks and laid three big tackles on his way to 110 points, bringing his season average to 76. Bear in mind that this includes an off day against Port Adelaide in Round 2 where he scored a miniscule 17 points, and if you take away that game Blakely would be going at 86 points per game. At 21 years of age, Blakely is a big part of Fremantle’s midfield plans moving forward, and if your league is one of the 42% where he is a free agent, he is your number one target this week.
Best of the rest:
Veteran Sun Matt Rosa bounced back from a concussion last week to score 120 points from 26 disposals, 11 marks and six tackles against Geelong. He’s working his way back into form, as are the Suns, and has averaged as high as 91 in the past. While Rosa (55% availability) is not a long term option for those in a keeper league, he may be one to look at bringing in if you’re in need of a midfielder for this season.
Fellow Gold Coast Sun Alex Sexton (70% availability) played his third consecutive strong match, with his 104 points consisting of 22 possessions, eight marks, three tackles and two goals. He’s averaging 71 including three score of below 50, but looks to have worked his way into form, and could be worth considering as a bench midfielder.
Trent Dumont and Sam Petrevski-Seton both scored 93 on the weekend. Former centre of the week Dumont had 18 touches, eight tackles and two goals in the routing of Adelaide, and is averaging 81 points in his breakout season. He’s amazingly still available in 30% of all leagues. Petrevski-Seton starred against Collingwood, with 16 kicks, five handballs, four marks, three tackles and two goals. His 10 disposals and crucial goal in the second term broke the game apart, and while he’s had a few quiet games, looks a midfield keeper for the future. He’s averaging just over 72 in his first season, and the likely Rising Star nominated-Blue is currently available in 55% of leagues, a percentage which is likely to decrease dramatically this week.
Billy Hartung (42% availability in all leagues) made it four good matches a row with his 81 points from 15 kicks, five handballs and seven marks. He’s finally playing consistent football on a wing for the Hawks, and is averaging 80 points this year. from 22 disposals and 9 marks on the wing. Another wingman in Jared Polec also played well on the weekend, scoring 88 points from 19 kicks, seven handballs and four marks. He’s available in 42% of leagues and is averaging a touch over 75 points per game.
RUCK OF THE WEEK: Tom Boyd
With Tom Campbell recuperating from an ankle injury in the VFL, Boyd stepped in to ruck for the Bulldogs and despite losing the hit out count, was influential in scoring 95 points. Boyd had 19 disposals, 25 hit outs and five marks, and looked more at home in the role after a number of quiet weeks up forward. While this may not be a permanent role, Boyd is available as a dual position ruck/forward, and if you’re struggling to field a ruckman, he could be your short-term solution, or a handy back up ruck. With a previous high score of 70 this season, let’s hope that Boyd is able to build upon his performance to become more involved around the ground. If you liked what you saw, he’s available in 32% of leagues.
Best of the rest:
With Toby Nankervis suspended, rookie ruckman Ivan Soldo beat out veteran ruckman and cousin Ivan Maric at the selection table to debut for the Tigers. After playing a quiet game at VFL level last week, not a lot was expected of Soldo, but he shone in the ruck to win 42 hit outs, nine disposals and two tackles on his way to a respectable 75 points. While his position in the side is far from secure with the big Nank returning next week, Soldo did enough to suggest he could be a beast in the future, and is worth keeping an eye on. If you want to really hedge your bets and stash him away in a keeper league, he’s understandably available in a whopping 72% of leagues.
As mentioned last week, forward, Cameron Pedersen again played a big game for Melbourne as their ruck cover for the injured Max Gawn. He battled manfully against Big Ben McEvoy for 97 points, backing up his score of 98 last week. A more mobile player than most rucks, Pedersen’s score 16 disposals, six tackles and 15 hit outs. Available in 26% of leagues and a lock to gain ruck status after Round 9 when the next lot of dual position announcements are made, he is worth drafting in now and holding, even playing as your fifth forward until round 10.
FORWARD OF THE WEEK: Jack Sinclair
A controversial choice perhaps given that a couple of potential free agents scored considerably higher on the weekend, Sinclair played the best game of his short career so far against GWS on Friday night. The slightly built Saint collected 14 kicks, nine handballs, six marks and seven tackles on his way to 106 points. He played well in every quarter, and ran hard to receive the ball in many possession chains, suggesting that he could be a fantasy-relevant player this season after breaking into the side last week. He not has scored 82 and 106 for an average of 91 in his two matches, and looks a likely fantasy option for the season ahead. Sinclair is available in 64% of leagues as a pure forward.
Best of the rest:
Mason Wood had a day out against Adelaide, helping himself to 14 kicks, 10 handballs, 10 marks, five tackles and 2 goals for a total of 127 points. The high-flying Wood hasn’t missed a beat in his return from the knee injury that saw his 2016 season end early, and is now averaging 91 points from his three matches. Reluctant to name his as forward of the week due to his 35% availability, Wood has shown that he may be ready to leave behind his reputation as an inconsistent high-marking forward and move towards fantasy relevance, and if he can shake off the injury issues that have plagued him across his short career, he may be the steal of 2017.
Charlie Dixon is a player that was overlooked last week despite an output of 124 points, under the assumption that he was snapped up by most leagues. He backed up his score with a monster 125 point effort his round, consisting of 22 disposals, 10 marks, five tackles and three goals. Surprisingly still available in 34% of leagues after having booted 17 goals, Dixon has brushed over a couple of sub-60 scores in rounds four and five to average 85 points this season. Before getting too excited, be aware that Dixon has never averaged more than 72 points in a season, and there is a big gap between his best and worst football. If you decide he’s a good fit for your team, you’ll reap the rewards in a number of matches.
The much-maligned Fremantle big man Matt Taberner (96% availability) was great against Essendon on Sunday, kicking four goals from 18 disposals and nine marks for a nice score of 107 points. It was his first game for the year, and while he has struggled to perform consistently in the past, Taberner paired well with Cam McCarthy up forward and looked confident all match.
Small forwards Ryan Lester and Callum Ah Chee both played well for 94 and 87 points respectively. Brisbane’s Lester (88% availability) has been consistent, but not spectacular, for an average of 72, while young Sun Ah Chee (92%) laid five tackles and booted three goals against the Cats for a total ten majors in the past three weeks. Both should be looked at as long-term or emergency cover options only at this stage.
Lastly, Hawk forward target Tim O’Brien (95 points) and GWS’ Matthew Kennedy (90) both played their second strong match for the season. Consistency has been an issue for both players, and I’d opt for Kennedy (71%) out of the two, with his 76-point average from the last four matches, if I was desperate for forward line cover. If you’re blinded by the brown and gold, O’Brien can be picked up in 95% of leagues.