The world of AFL related media is vast, dynamic and fast paced. If you aren’t engaged on a daily basis, you’re bound to miss something in the flood of news articles, opinion pieces, videos and social media posts – and how relevant are they all to your Supercoach team anyway? This preseason, we’re solving your problem. Each week we’ll give you our take on the most Supercoach relevant media.
2016 SuperCoach Average: 74.9
2015 SuperCoach Average: 84.3
Carrying the tag of “the player drafted immediately before…” is a common saying these days, and more often than not it sticks to a player e.g. Richard Tambling. In Billings’ case though whilst the tag is no doubt carrying weight, Bontempelli now a Best and Fairest winner during a Premiership season, there are still many Saints fans that believe he has the skills and potential to make his own significant mark on the game. The skilful left-footer has already shown how damaging he can be and each year both Saints fans and SuperCoach followers wait anxiously to see whether it will be the year he takes the next step and becomes a premier forward midfielder.
In 2015, Billings showed positive signs before being struck down with a shin ailment that unfortunately halted his year and also impacted his 2016 preseason. It was noted during this time last year that Billings was expected to spend more time in the midfield, and although he had some impressive performances, including 30 disposals against Collingwood in Round 3, he was never able to find consistency and inevitably suffered an ankle injury which further hampered his performance and was dropped for a prolonged period of the season.
Once again, Alan Richardson has recently mentioned through “Ask the Coach” that he expects Billings to spend time in both forward and through the midfield, and there are a couple of reasons why this should interest SuperCoach fans more so than in 2016.
This will effectively be Billings’ second full pre-season, and with that we should see a bigger improvement than we saw from both 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. Richardson has stated that the focus will be on developing his strength and endurance to an elite level which will compliment the skilful qualities of his game and ultimately see him spend more time across the ground.
Organic development of his midfield capabilities
Playing predominantly as a forward for most of his early career, it was evident during last year that he was still developing his awareness of the midfielder role, at times fading out of games and not having an impact. Training with the midfield this preseason, the Saints coaching staff expect further improvement in developing his understanding and skills required to spend more time in the middle.
Strengthening of Saints contested possession
The likes of Armitage, Steven and Weller provide the bulk of the Saints grunt within the contested stoppages, and the Saints recent trade deals have shown a clear focus on strengthening this area with the introduction of Kobe Stevens and Jack Steele. Both bigger bodied players who thrive on contested football will be a welcome addition to the Saints midfield brigade and only benefit the Saint’s elite ball users by extracting the ball and getting it into their hands, Billings being a major beneficiary.
Whilst there are still question marks on when Billings will vindicate the Saints draft selection, signs point towards him taking another, and possibly the biggest step in his career thus far. Billings had a strong finish to last year, polling Trevor Barker Medal votes in four of the final five games, hence 2016 cannot be considered a write off in any sense. At $407k Billings is very unlikely to be in many Classic teams at Round 1, though monitor his early season performances as he attempts to shake the tag that Tambling was never able to.