AAMI Series: Essendon V Geelong

You knew this game would be a good one before it started with the abundance of exciting names out there on the park but what I didn't expect was Essendon to play as well as what they did. Their tackling pressure and intent around the contest was super all game and is something really exciting if you're a bombers fan as this is an area in which you're midfield in particular has lacked the last few years. Geelong ended up coming out on top just but the Bombers in all seriousness should have won by a handful of goals.

Essendon Takeaways

Zach Merrett: Will be the number 1 midfielder in 2021. Not only that but I think he'll also be the number 1 player in fantasy this year. Yep, I said it! The way in which the game is being played suits players who are able to get on the outside and receive hand balls and whilst this looks to be an important aspect this year there are still centre bounces and contests around the ground. Zach Merrett is the perfect hybrid player who is elite in both these areas of the game and looks set for a permanent role in the midfield. He's priced at 115 so you pay a premium for him but I think he explodes this year and can push his average as high as 125. I'll be building my side around him as I look to give him the C every week this year.

Darcy Parish: He's burnt some coaches in the past and maybe it's because I haven't been one of them but I'm all in on Parish this year. As of writing this he sits in my side and I don't see how he leaves. With a new coach it looks like Parish is a main stay in the midfield attending the second most CBA's for the Dons. His intent around the ball was best on ground for mine and his tackle numbers at 3 don't reflect this. He looked hungry in the contest all game and when the ball came on the outside his spread from the contest was fantastic. I think this year it's more important as ever for your midfield players to have both inside and outside ability and from what I saw of Parish he certainly looks to have ticked this box. I'm bullish that Parish can average 100+ this year in fantasy.

Jye Caldwell: Attended the 3rd most center bounces for the Bombers (behind Merrett and Parish) and looks to be well and truly in calculations to be a big component of the Essendon midfield. He played his role well and while he looks to be a great addition to their list I'm not sure how great his ceiling will be. He managed to score 80 from 67% TOG which I think is a fair indication of where he will be in 2021. He's priced at 66 so an average in the low 80's is probably good enough to justify picking him from the start and is a safe option to improve and provide a good stepping stone.

Kyle Langford: Played a good game particularly in the second half. Was used exclusively as a wingman which is unfortunate as I wanted to see Kyle get some inside time. I still think he's a great player who probably improves slightly. Not one to start with but deserves more credit than he gets and has the potential to get close to top 6 forward territory.

Jordan Ridley: Looked to pick up where he left off last year. Took the kick ins, used multiple times on a switch, good intercept ability. The guy has all the attributes you could want in a half back and will again be underrated and disrespected in fantasy this year. With the new rules leaning towards a style of play that suits him he could well improve slightly this year and be an option with low ownership.

Andrew McGrath: Having made a move from half back into the midfield last year McGrath exploded and reached the heights we all thought he could (One of my favourite starting picks last year). After an injury late last year McGrath has had a slightly interrupted pre-season. This was the first look we have had at him and I though his output was solid to suggest he'll be good again in 2021. The issue is he spent a lot of time playing as an outside midfielder and looks to be behind Merrett, Parish, Caldwell and Shiel which is concerning and should lead to a slight drop off in average this year.

Nick Hind: Best on ground in my opinion before being subbed out at 3QT. Super impressive off half back and looks to have replaced Adam Saad in the team. The bombers looked for him a lot coming out of defence and he was the target of multiple hand ball receives which look to play a big part in this years season. He's priced at 54 and from what I saw his role could see him average 75 comfortably. Only query is the fact he was subbed out with a shoulder concern at 3QT and whilst I think he will be right to go it is something to keep in mind.

Peter Wright: Put together a solid all round performance splitting his time in the ruck and forward. Managed to score 71 and with Draper set to be managed at times I think we see Wright used in the ruck more this year than in previous years. At the end of the day he is a key forward so his scoring will be volatile but there is certainly upside priced at 48.

Dyson Heppell: The role switch to half back is genuine with Heppell spending the entirety of the match in this position. He looks fit and moving well enough to suggest he can put together a solid season but the fact he's out of the midfield means his scoring probably can't get back to the heights he's achieved in more recent years. He'll get DPP come round 6 so he could be an option then but I wouldn't be using up a midfield spot to start with him.

Sam Draper: Has a stack of ability and will improve this year no doubt was rested not to long after half time but managed 55 from 58% TOG. Priced at 60 I think it's fair to assume Draper can push that 75-80 range which means he provides 15-20 points of value. This is solid enough to certainly warrant selection but the thought that he may get rested or play reduced minutes dampens his value and is cause for slight concern. He should be able to string some solid games together early before this becomes an issue and if you want to take a risk and have a plan for failure I think he's an option.

Ned Cahill: Looks to have made a role switch to half back and based off his performance in the first game I was excited that he could make a decent rookie prospect this year. Unfortunately this doesn't look to be the case and I was bitterly disappointed with Ned's performance as he went missing in large patches and didn't look to do enough to warrant selection in fantasy.

Nik Cox: Looks to be an extremely flexible player who with a few years under his belt can be of super value to the Bombers but he'll need development and I can't see him doing amazing things this year. Not an option at $256k

Harry Jones: Locked and loaded for round 1. Slight frame that will need filling out but he's good enough to play round 1 for the Bombers. Showed terrific signs taking some big contested marks while also presenting well on the lead. Looks a player but you can expect low scoring being a key position player. Max King 2.0 from last season. He'll be worth having on the bench just because of his strong job security.

Geelong Takeaways

Patrick Dangerfield: Looks set to spend more time in the midfield this year and while it's irrelevant to look into pre-season numbers with players like Danger he scored 86 from 78% TOG. He'll spend more time on ground in the real deal and this would have been part of a management plan. Spent a lot of time forward towards the end of the game but I think that was more to give Constable and some other types a go in the middle who clearly look to be fringe players at this stage. I expect big things from Danger this year and while he has had an interrupted pre-season which may lead to some sort of management early he's still the best option for a premium forward.

Tom Stewart: Has been a top pick in defence for the last few years and will be no different this year. His finish to last year suggests he can average more than what he's priced at and with the new rule changes Stewart will be the target of many switch kicks and hand ball receives. Worst case Stewart averages what he's priced at and you get a top 6 defender anyway. I think he's a starting option worth considering for sure.

Jordan Clark: Was firmly on my watch list as someone I was quite interested in but damn boy. You didn't have to do them like that. With job security as issue surely a performance like that see's him cemented in Geelong's round 1 plans. Managed to score 135 while sitting out a whole quarter. Played almost exclusively as a wingman with a little bit of time down back and in a side like Geelong who will produce high fantasy numbers he's in the perfect environment to flourish. Priced at 54, the kid has potential and I think you simply find a way to get him in your side whether that be in the midfield or defence.

Tom Atkins: Much like Nick Hind for the Bombers, Tom Atkins looks to be a small forward reinvented half back flank. This looks to be a move popular over the pre-season and looks to be a good place to look for when searching for value this season as this role seems to be fantasy gold. Atkins comes in at $385k which is certainly cheap enough to select if he racks up 28 disposals every week. Was known to accumulate the pill as a junior so we could see Atkins be of relevancy in this role. I need to see it again but I'm certainly interested to an extent.

Jeremy Cameron: Looked to play the forward role we wanted to see from him and while he did play deep at times for majority of the game he was that hit up lead forward who would push up the wing. Played a solid game without being super special. His early draw is appealing and he could go bang early but I think there are more safe options around the price that have guaranteed midfield time. Not one I'll be starting with but could be a risk that works out.

Brandon Parfitt: Looks to be one of the Cats first choices in the middle now and put together a great game. Thought the 65 he scored wasn't a true reflection of how well he played but having lost his forward status he's not an option priced at 86.

Charlie Constable: Got a crack in 2019 (debut season) where he put up an 83 average over 7 games. The issue with Constable is he plays for the Cats who have an extremely strong list. He has scoring potential to be a beast in fantasy and for his sake is one I think looks to request a trade to get opportunity if he's not given a chance soon. Came on in the last quarter and scored 38 points off 10 touches. Clearly looks depth at this point so he's a mid season option if Geelong have injuries later in the year.

Josh Jenkins: With Darcy Fort injured indefinitely and no sign of Stanley and Ratugolea this one is far fetched but Jenkins could take the number 1 ruck role in the early part of the season. He'll likely split his time with Blicavs and possibly De Koning (if they play the kid) but his increased time up around the ball could be significant. He managed to score 86 from 79% which is pretty solid and priced at 65 he could be someone left field worth looking at until Geelong sort their ruck issues out. Only worth a look if he's rucking.

A bunch of names got game time late which suggests they are in contention but most likely outside the 22. These blokes could provide decent downgrade targets at points this year.

Archie Perkins

Alec Waterman

Nick Bryan

Francis Evans

Sam De Koning

Overall there appears to be plenty of guys from both these sides putting their hand up for fantasy selection in round. There are a few guys who are locked and loaded in my side and lots more I'll be watching closely as the season commences. Let me know in the comments which guys you are looking at and let me know if you agree or disagree with some of my comments. I appreciate you for taking the time to read this stay blessed and good luck this season legend.

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