It’s been the staple of the Ultimate Footy format since the format’s formative years in the early 2010s, and once again, the position changes have rolled around again. So far, there’s a maximum of three games of data to correspond from, along with any preconceived thoughts established in the JLT Series for this week’s changes.
Before we take a look at some potential changes, let’s run through a few things:
This is pure speculation. While many of these names may likely earn a positional upgrade, this isn’t the real deal. Position changes are announced on Wednesday, April 12.
The team at Footy Prophet do not run Ultimate Footy. While it’s flattering to think so, it’s not us, and we have minimal inside knowledge on what tricks Ultimate Footy has up their sleeve.
It’s only Round 3. As you’ll see below, a few of the heavyweights may be in discussion to gain a position. However, as we have previously known, Ultimate Footy tend to run a conservative ship when it comes to these matters. And while it may be frustrating, it’s important to know that we’re only three weeks into the season, meaning if they miss out this time, there is still plenty of opportunity for a position add to happen.
Players can only have two positions. That one is general knowledge, but a frequent question is if X player, despite him being a forward/midfielder already, can gain defender status. No, no they can’t.
Heat maps aren’t the only data used. Important to know this one, and to a point, those maps can be a bit deceiving. While they certainly bare some weight, Ultimate Footy acknowledges an array of data, from the experts at Champion Data. So just because you saw Nick Riewoldt take a mark in the back pocket on TV, that won’t earn him defender status.
Ed, lock it in
Robbie Gray – ADD FORWARD
He’s the biggest fish of this crop of position changes, and something the guys at Ultimate Footy will acknowledge, but surely this one has to happen. Gray is the quintessential midfield/forward type and his position should rectify that. On average, Gray has attended nine fewer centre bounces from this season to last, spending much more time forward in games this season.
Zac Jones and Curtly Hampton – ADD MIDFIELD
After previous seasons spent across half-back, both Jones and Hampton have been thrown a fantasy lifeline with a new role in their respective teams’ midfields. Their scoring so far has been shaky, however we’ve seen glimpses of what both are potentially capable of in the future. While both of these changes likely bare minimal impact in Ultimate Footy teams, it’d be nice to see fantasy imitate reality once again.
Jason Castagna, Jacob Weitering, Andy Otten and Harry Taylor – ADD FORWARD
Similar situations within each of their teams has resulted in this quartet spending plenty of time inside fifty so far this season. Castagna has been deployed as a small forward across all three games, while Otten and Taylor, despite varying levels of success in their new roles, have both been spent the majority of time across the three games down forward. At worst, we’ll see those three pick up a new position, with Weitering being a bit more touch and go this week.
Will Hoskin-Elliott. Charlie Cameron and Shaun Higgins – ADD MIDFIELD
In similar vein to Hampton and Jones, Hoskin-Elliott and Cameron have both been revelations this season, enjoying greater freedom and time further afield which has seen their scores skyrocket. For Higgins, it’s more a case of returning to an old role, his customary outside midfielder post where he can run and carry, lifting his average back around the 90 mark once again.
Shaun McKernan – ADD RUCK
Until last weekend, McKernan was Essendon’s sole and only ruckman. He wasn’t pinch-hitting as a Mr Fix It like Jack Watts, McKernan was the guy and averaging the 16th most hitouts per game this season. Leuenberger’s return in Round 3 forced McKernan out of the side, so we may have to wait until Round 6 for this change to happen.
Jake Barrett – ADD FORWARD
Brisbane already has a crowded engine room, which has left Barrett to merely rotate through there; spending most of his time at his new club floating across half-forward. Where a half-forward spends their time on the ground is normally hard to interpret, and Barrett is no exception. This move is common sense however. Make it happen Ultimate Footy.
Other likely players who will be strongly considered: Ryan Lester, Wayne Milera (both add midfield), Reece Conca, Lachie Weller and Dan Houston (all add defence).
No cigar, this time
Brandon Ellis – ADD DEFENDER
There’s no doubt that Ellis will come under consideration for defender status, but it’s unlikely Ultimate Footy will pull this trigger on Wednesday. There is no doubt Ellis has spent plenty of time as a rebounding defender so far in 2017, but likely not enough to warrant a change, largely due to him continually drifting further afield week on week.
Brent Stanton – ADD DEFENDER
Yes, he is a defender now, and he is a better change than Ellis to gain defensive eligibility. After Round 1, Stanton would have been a lock, however he has drifted since, spending more time further afield since, which will ultimately undermine him in his quest for a positional upgrade. He’s a big fish in a small pond, and after Ultimate Footy pulled the trigger on Marcus Bontempelli as a forward at Round 3 last season, they’ll ensure everything is absolutely definitive, which at this stage, it’s not.
Mitch Robinson – ADD FORWARD
Similarly to Stanton, Round 1 actually saw Robinson play as a forward, however that theme hasn’t transferred into recent weeks, playing in the midfield against both Essendon and St Kilda. If we split his possessions down into the defence – extending to the centre square parallel, the midfield – the wings and centre square, and the forward line – extending to the other centre square parallel, Robinson has collected 50% of his disposals in the midfield.
Justin Westhoff – ADD DEFENDER
With Jackson Trengove setting up camp down forward as the second ruckman, Westhoff has floated further afield, finding just 13% of his disposals in the forward third so far this season. Yes, he has moved to defence, but he has accumulated roughly the same amount of possessions in the defensive and midfield thirds. He’ll definitely be one that could gain a position in the future, but after three rounds, the data remains inconclusive.
Other likely players who will discussed, but unlikely to gain anything: Jake Melksham (add defender) and Mark Blicavs (add ruck)
You’ve got, no chance!
Jack Watts – ADD RUCK
Watts has been lending a hand to Max Gawn in the ruck, but even the latter’s injury won’t help Watts’ case to pick up ruck status. We’ve seen in the past, with Kurt Tippett in 2015, that Ultimate Footy leave no grey area when it comes to secondary ruckmen. His 15 hitouts are also less than similar pinch-hit ruckmen Tyrone Vickery and Levi Casboult.
Peter Wright – ADD RUCK
Right now, he’s a forward and lends a hand occasionally. Next.
Liam Picken – ADD FORWARD
Usually when coaches advocate for a player to earn both defender and forward status, it usually means that player is just a really good midfielder. Case in point, Liam Picken. He’s currently tracking at 31% in the defensive third, and only 22% in the forward third. Turns out, he’s just really good at gut running – who knew!
You can follow me on Twitter @AntWingardFP, but please don’t @ me about position changes.
For more information about Ultimate Footy’s position changes, see here.