It was a relatively quiet round for prospective free agents, with the established guns of the competition firing again. But never fear, some underrated players still fought hard for their share of the footy, and there are some quality players likely to be on your waiver wire still ripe for the picking. Some of the players mentioned below have previously been named as position players of the week, but for various reasons, are still available in many leagues. Let’s launch into which players you can add to strengthen your side this week:
BACK OF THE WEEK: Nic Newman
It’s been a strange start to the season for the Sydney defender, who has found himself in and out of the side a number of times already, despite reasonable form, from an outside perspective at least. Dropped for the clash against the Roos on the weekend, Newman found himself taking to the field after Oliver Florent was a late withdrawal , and he made the most of his opportunity. Newman racked up the touches off half back, collecting 19 kicks, 16 handballs, taking 11 marks and laying four tackles on his way to a game-high score of 135 points. Despite his shaky job security, he has scored reasonably in the five games he’s played this season, with a low of 66 and a couple of 70s for an average of 88 points per game. He’s not going to score like he did on the weekend every week, but has only played one game where he has touched the ball less than 19 times, and in his first season of senior football has shown he may well develop into a fantasy-relevant defender. If Longmire plays him. Ideal for a bench spot, or fifth defender cover if you’re playing the bye weeks, Newman is available in 38% of all leagues.
Best of the rest:
After a good game against the Saints last week where he scored 81 points, running Giant Nathan Wilson rebounded hard off half back against the Pies to score an even 100, highlighted by 20 kicks, seven marks and three tackles. With the exception of one very poor game, Wilson gets his hands on the ball enough, but wasn’t taking many marks. He appears to be running more and as a result finding himself part of the possession chain coming our of defence. He’s only averaging 67, but looks to be building towards a Johannissen-type role, and if you like what you’ve seen over the past fortnight and have room on your bench, he’s available in 79% of leagues.
Young Hawk Daniel Howe, a dual position mid/back, had a big game in Tasmania for a score of 103. He had 11 kicks, 10 handballs, 10 marks, three tackles and a goal in his breakout game, but be aware that he hasn’t managed a score above 66 in his three previous games this season. Howe can be snapped up in 71% of leagues if your backline situation is dire, and you like his DPP eligibility.
Not many other potential free agent defender impressed across the weekend. Sam Gilbert (86% availability) scored 95 from 23 touches and nine marks, but I would avoid bringing him in, as the ageing Saint is averaging just over 63 this year. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti tore Geelong apart with his run and ball delivery on his way to a season-high score of 89 from 17 disposals, four tackles and three goals. Mentioned all year in this column as strictly a bench option at this stage, the DPP defender/forward is averaging 70 and is still available in 46% of leagues.
CENTRE OF THE WEEK: Dom Sheed
The Eagles’ midfielders had a night out against the Bulldogs on Friday night, and outside mid Sheed was no exception, gathering 16 kicks, seven handballs, seven marks, laying two tackles and kicking two goals on his way to 103 points. Sheed has astrong 2015 campaign, averaging 70 from 20 games, but his 2016 season was derailed by a serious pectoral injury, and as a result had fallen under the radar of most fantasy coaches. This season he has scored under 50 twice, with a 72 and a 99 making up his other two scores from five games played for an average of 74. One thing to keep in mind is that until Friday night, Sheed had never spent more than 76% of game time on the field, and as the season progresses, he is likely to play more minutes, as he did against the Bulldogs, resulting in higher scores. Available in 53% of leagues, Sheed is a good bench option or final field midfielder for now, but in a keeper league could prove to be a great value pick moving forward.
Best of the rest:
Three former Centre of the Week nominees had strong matches on the weekend. Jared Polec enjoyed his trip to China, racking up 29 touches, seven marks, six tackles and a goal on his way to 127 points. He’s had a huge month to average just under 82 points per game after a slow start to the season, and can still be snapped up in 39% of leagues, with his bye round coming up this week.
Connor Blakely (29% availability) continued his breakout season with 97 points in the win over Richmond, where he had eight kicks, 17 handballs, five marks and six tackles for 97 points. I honestly can’t believe I’m still referring to last week’s centre pick as a free agent. Averaging 79 for the year (including a score of 17) and going at 89 over the last five weeks, you must bring him in if he’s available in your league.
Brayden Fiorini was highlighted after his 31-disposal performance in Round 4, and while he went on to play a stinker the following week, was on Sun to play well on the weekend, collecting 14 kicks, 10 handballs, 10 marks and three tackles for 104 points. Available in 42% of leagues, Fiorini is only 19 years old, and will have some off games as he develops his craft, but when he plays well, he goes big. If you’re in a keeper league, bring him in as he looks like a strong prospect once he is able to put these kind of performances together consistently. Bear in mind the Suns also have the bye this week!
Billy Hartung (46% availability) scored 98 points against the hapless Lions from 15 kicks, 11 handballs, eight marks and a goal. He’s put together a solid five weeks of football, averaging almost 86 over that time, for a season average of 83. A model of consistency, Hartung is an ideal centre to fill your final field spot as he flourishes in a new-look Hawks midfield.
Despite his questionable job security, Luke Dunstan has scored well when selected, racking up 28 disposals, four marks and four tackles for 98 points against the Blues. Despite his 45 point game in Round 5, Dunstan (53% availability) is averaging 74 points per game, and in a deeper league would be worth picking up from the waiver wire. Docker Ed Langdon scored 85 points from 22 touches five marks and three tackles. Not quite playing the consistent football you require to field a midfielder, Langdon is available as a dual position centre/forward in 48% of leagues, and is worth keeping an eye on as Fremantle continue to put together wins.
RUCK OF THE WEEK: Nathan Vardy
Another scarce week for potential free agents ruckmen, but if you selected and loopholed Vardy in the hopes that he’d play alright on Friday night, you would have been pleasantly surprised by the big man’s output. The former Cat (48% availability) was a constant presence for the Eagles, working hard for 12 disposals, five marks, 21 hit outs and four tackles on his way to a respectable 86 points. If he hadn’t missed an easy set shot for goal, Vardy would’ve scored in the 90’s, well above his previous season-high output of 69 points. He’s not going to play this well every week, but is West Coast’s number one ruckman until Lycett comes back, and should be good for 60 points a game if you want to avoid a donut.
Best of the rest:
This week, Billy Longer IS ‘the rest.’ The first ruck merry-go-round made up of St Kilda’s Longer and Tom Hickey has continued this season, with Hickey ‘managed’ for a fortnight and now injured for a while, meaning Billy is the number one ruckman at the Saints, for now. He scored 64 points against the Blues from 32 hit outs, six disposals and four tackles. When up and about, Longer (39% availability) is capable of better scores, but for now only bring him in as bench cover if you’re playing the bye rounds.
FORWARD OF THE WEEK: Michael Walters
It was hard to overlook Walters this week, with the Docker absolutely racking up the touches on his way to a huge score of 137 points. Walters feasted on the Tigers to help himself to 19 kicks, 19 handballs, seven marks, four tackles, two free kicks and three behinds. Imagine if he’d kicked straight! Walters is coming off the back of a big 2016, where he averaged 81 points from 22 matches, up on the 71 points from 20 games played in 2015. Injured in 2014, he also had a huge year in 2013, going at 82 points per game. Fantasy coaches seem hesitant to pick Walters, as he ended last season with a run of below-average scores, and started this year very slowly. I say back him in if you belong to one of the 36% of leagues where he’s available. He looks to have a new midfield role and has flourished across the past fortnight, providing run to a Dockers’ midfield that looked stagnant in the early rounds. With five average scores, certainly be wary, but I expect Walters to go at 80 plus for the rest of the season, especially if he’s not stuck up forward.
Best of the rest:
Ryan Lester (79% availability) had 20 disposals, six marks, eight tackles and a goal for 106 points against the Hawks. He has been piecing together a very nice season, especially across the last month, and is averaging 76 points per game.
Former Forward of the Week Sam Reid bounced back from a poor showing last round to score 113 points from 14 kicks, eight handballs, a dozen marks and three goals. As a tall forward, he isn’t always going to be consistent, but is travelling nicely for an average of 77. Available in 37% of leagues, the big man would be suited to a bench role or fifth forward spot as he develops, depending on the opposition backline.
Power dual position mid/forward Karl Amon (68% availability) collected 13 kicks, 13 handballs, 7 marks and a goal from the wing to score 102 points against the Suns. He has now scored 101, 90, and 103 in his last three games, and looks like a promising scorer when on. George Hewett, another DPP mid/forward, scored 103 from 29 disposals, five marks, two tackles and a goal. He’s been quietly putting a nice season together, and is averaging 78 despite four games where he’s scored below 70, and is available in 40% of leagues.
Orazio Fantasia was electric for 94 points against Geelong from 18 disposals, five marks, four free kicks and three goals. Great to watch but not always a high scorer, he is available in 30 % of leagues. Docker key forward Matt Taberner was again solid in his second game for the year, backing up last week’s 107 with a score of 90 against the Tigers. While he only slotted the two goals, he played a good all-round game consisting of 12 disposals, six marks, four tackles and 12 hit outs, and is worth a look if your league makes up the 48% where he’s available.
Another key forward, Jack Redpath (88% availability), was impressive in his comeback game following an ACL reconstruction last year, booting three goals from 12 kicks and ten marks for 88 points. Dean Towers (87%) had 20 touches, six marks and five tackles for his score of 92, and could be worth monitoring as the season unfolds. Shane Kersten (93%) scored 98 points from 14 kicks, 11 marks and two goals, but is a notorious inconsistent scorer and I would avoid him, despite his score of 88 last week. Of these three, if you must choose one, I’d be going for Redpath without a doubt.