Gee Wiz, let's start off by saying firstly how good was it to be able to watch a game of footy with a crowd cheering in the stands, be able to look down at your phone and see live score updates and think fuck yeah all is restored back to normal. I did get to half time though feeling like I'd just watched a full game of footy as with the longer quarters again it was a real reality check to how long a game of footy used to be.
The Saints came out firing and piled on the pressure early. The game in general was played at a frantic pace with lots of space being opened up and the ball was able to get out the back on numerous occasions. Both teams looked to play very direct footy and there wasn't much chip mark going on at all. If this looks to become the normality in 2021 with the new rule changes it poses some interesting questions from a fantasy perspective. With less chip mark do we see players like Lloyd and Docherty take a hit? With higher scoring do we see more centre bounces and therefore more points for inside mids and rucks? With teams looking to move the ball quickly do we see wingman with outside speed become more relevant? There is no much to dissect so lets get into the takeaways from both sides.
Sam Walsh: Looks to be a solid option and is one that I'll most likely start with this year. Definitely has that inside role now and seeing that he was able to put up averages of 92 and 97 playing almost purely as an outside mid it's only a matter of how much does he improve. Third year in the system and has already managed to achieve more than most top picks in his first two seasons. The kid is special and destined for a big year. I expect he averages around the 110 mark.
Patrick Cripps: Attended the most centre bounces out of all the Carlton players and spent a decent amount of time in the middle in the first quarter/half of the game. The issue is that Cripps also spent a large chunk of time forward playing deep and while it does mean he can play 90% TOG it's not overly that relevant if half of that time is out of the goal square. I think if that's Crippa's role this season he probably won't average that much over 100 if that at all. Not an option for mine as there are plenty of guys around the same price or cheaper that look to spend more minutes in the midfield.
Paddy Dow: Had the role we were looking for as fantasy coaches. Attended the third most centre bounces for the blues (ahead of popular pick Zac Williams) which indicates to me that he is well and truly trusted and in their midfield mix. While his scoring wasn't crash hot posting 51 from 70% TOG. At this stage with not that many fantastic rookie options I still don't mind paying up for Dow at 323k knowing you're getting someone who will play large minutes on ball. An average of 65-70 is still what I'm imagining for Dow.
Zac Williams: Not to sure what to think of Z Will. For starters his questionable bump early on Hunter Clark may not even have him in contention for round 1 but assuming he plays I think he's an option but he's not a must have. 4th in the centre bounce numbers (Behind Cripps, Walsh and Dow) and looked good while inside. His ability to win clearances was a highlight and in fact won almost as many clearances as the 3 mids mentioned above all put together. When not in the middle Williams played up forward and was brilliant kicking 2 goals from stoppages and looking dangerous on multiple other occasions. Teague (Carlton coach) mentioned in the post game press conference that he loves Williams ability to play both roles so I think we'll see Zac play a decent chunk forward. This may not be an issue with increased game time players will need to be flexible in the roles they play and if it allows him to stay on the park longer it's probably a good thing. I think he averages around 90 so he is value but I don't mind the idea of fading on him and selecting a bigger name premium or someone cheaper.
Will Setterfield: Someone I had my eye intently on early in the pre-season but after the last practice match against Essendon became less hot on. Played a brilliant game in a outside midfield role but looked to drift back and play as a defensive wing man who would mop up and be free in the defensive half. In my opinion was right up there with Carlton's best for the night but the role might not be enough for him to improve to the levels I was seeking. It's a little bit of a long shot but if he gets defender status in round 6 I think he becomes super relevant but not one I can start with at that price.
Marc Murphy: Marc Murphy was probably the best for the Blues. Looks set to get DPP this year as he played exclusively at half forward and looks to provide them with lots of class forward of center. Looks to be a big part of their side once again just in a different role. He's quite fairly priced and for that reason he's not one I would be touching in classic.
Oscar MacDonald: Over from the Dees, Oscar finds himself off the list as I'm writing this but his efforts were super in this game and I think he'll be one that gets offered a spot. Played mainly as a key forward with some time in the ruck. Not a great role so he's probably not relevant but it's hard to make a concise judgement on him as I'm unsure what his price and position in fantasy will be if he is offered a spot on the list.
Zac Fisher and Jack Silvagni: Both played small forward roles and therefore can't be looked at in fantasy classic but just thought I would give them a mention as they look to have taken another step forward and look to be exciting prospects for Carlton this season.
St Kilda Notes
Jack Steele: Was his usual self getting some cheap +6's from the kick ins but also tackling like a beast to produce a well rounded stat line that we've come to expect from Steele. Managed to play 81% TOG which is similar to the 85% he played last year but he did spend a fair chunk of time forward. If his TOG% is roughly the same but he spends time forward which he didn't do last year does he manage the same scoring output this year? I think Steele will be a beast again in 2021 but he's not one I would be looking to start with at that price.
Hunter Clarke: Was crunched early which didn't help his cause from the start but once he game back on and settled into the game he was great. Played a good amount of midfield minutes and dominated the Saints clearance count with 8 for the match. Looks like he'll still play half back at times but he does look to go to another level this season. Managed to score 70 off 68% which is solid enough and he's one that I'm definitely interested in. Just wish he was a tiny bit cheaper but one to consider.
Brad Crouch: Well and truly entrenched in the midfield mix but was quiet for the Brad Crouch I've come to know. Managed the 50 from 61% TOG which is still okay but I wanted to see a bit more. Misses the first 2 rounds with suspension but I think I might wait 1 more just to get another look before jumping straight on him priced at 93.
Jack Sinclair: Looks to have found himself a new home as a rebounding defender which so far looks to be a very important role. Word from team mates is that Jack Sinclair has been super impressive this pre-season and it looks like he's been given a lot of responsibility down back. I can see Sinclair having a big year and will improve off his 71 price point. He's mid only though which is a big con. If he was dual position I would probably go there but I don't think I'll be taking the risk at the start of the year as there are plenty of other value mids that are safer.
Jack Higgins: Interesting prospect and one that was well and truly on my watch list coming into this game. Didn't quite get as much mid clock as I wanted to see but was still in there at times. Predominantly played half forward for the Saints who looked to press quite high up the ground to leave space out the back. So while he was playing forward Higgins was still taking marks at half back and on the wing. Played 87% TOG which is a great sign considering his career high average to date is 82% over a season. Junior numbers suggest he's a pig with untapped potential and I think the Saints who look to be a very good side this year suit up to be a great side for him. I'll have to review his CBA's (which I will publish later for you guys) but I quite like Higgins as an option this year.
Jimmy Webster: Coming into this game there were questions over whether he was best 22 or not. I think after his performance and with Frawley going down he's probably consolidated his spot in the side. Comes in priced at 42 and while I wasn't particularly impressed with his performance he has averaged 67 and 79 in 2017 and 2018 before missing 18 months with injury. There could be too much value here to say no.
Jade Gresham: Looks to be a midfielder now with the surplus of top tier smalls the Saints have. Was used the 4th highest amount at center bounces for the Saints although this is a similar role to what he had last year and wasn't able to really increase his scoring. 59 off 60% TOG is quite good though and with another year of experience and further experience in the role he should be better off. He's mid only at $587k though so it's hard to make a case to start with him.
Seb Ross: Surprised me a fair bit to be honest. With Crouch coming into the side I though we might see Ross out of the midfield rotation completely in 2021. I thought we may see him play half back but this game was a clear indication of where they want to use Ross. Attended the second most CBA's and scored 92 off 81% TOG (5% down on his 2018 and 2019 season). Brad Crouch goes out for the first 2 rounds but it's looking like Zac Jones will come in for round 1 which is pretty much a straight swap. Will be interesting when we get to round 3 and both Crouch and Jones are in the midfield mix. My worry with Ross is that his role will be decent in the first 2 rounds and then he could drop off. You could start with him and move him to crouch round 3 or just roll with him if his first 2 rounds have been super. He's super interesting because he's priced 33 points under his best and theoretically still fits the age bracket to be in his prime.
Brad Hill: Looked back to his best and with the new rule changes looks a player well suited to the games conditions. He's actually priced quite cheap at 73 considering he's averaged 88, 80 and 93 in his 3 years prior to last. He'll be the subject of plenty of opposition attention this year once clubs identify they need to shutdown that outside run but he looks well suited and at 27 should still be at his peak. Could get back to around the 90 mark and while I wouldn't usually recommend players who play on the outside he's shown he can score in that same role in the past. It's a move that carries a bit more risk but I'm not fully against it.
Thomas Highmore: Came on in the second half and was super across half back. Managed to score 37 off 57% TOG and with slim pickings in defence providing he gets named round 1 (fingers crossed otherwise we could be fucked) he should be the pick of the defender cash cows. I still think this year with the lack of options you'd want to structure your side so he's not on your field.
Paul Hunter: Saints gave Ryder a rest and in turn gave Hunter a chance to flourish. He held his own in the ruck against Pittonet and whilst McKernan helped him out here and there he was pretty good around the ground. I don't think he gets a game as McKernan was pretty good up forward and they probably don't roll with all 3 once Ryder comes in. Ryder is getting old though so maybe they plan to use him as more of a Shane Mumford type backup but you'd think he still has some good enough footy in him for a side competing to go deep in finals. The reason I speak of Hunter so much is I'm at this stage planning to potentially play Flynn on field but need some sort of safety and a plan in case things go wrong. Hunter could be good cover if he plays.
Jack Bytel: Came on in the last quarter and after being super in the first game went straight into the midfield and was prominent again. Just looks to be a depth player at this stage given he only got the quarter of game time but he's cheap enough to bring in if he's afforded an opportunity later in the year as someone who should be pretty serviceable and worth the extra coin.
Injuries: Jack Newnes (ankle), Harry McKay (ankle), Jacob Weitering (hip/glute), James Frawley (Hamstring) all of the Carlton boys look to be precautionary although McKay will await results from scans. Frawley looks to be relatively long term at this stage but none of these guys are relevant as fantasy options, more so what they do to the team around them.
If you've made it this far I commend you and you're a true AFL Fantasy Freak. These articles are long but I try and cram as much value and information into them as I can as this part of the season is super crucial to having a successful year. Thank you for your time and in turn I hope you have a bloody good day. There will be one of these for each AAMI series game along with the center bounces and other stats to be uploaded after the conclusion of all games. Any questions leave them below or reach out to me on social media. Cheers legends.