Brisbane this season look to be a serious contender for the flag with a plethora of youth, young talent coming into their prime and a bunch of big name stars across all lines I'll be surprised if the Lions don't finish in the top 4 this year. With that being said, unlike a bunch of the top end sides I can see improvement and value among the Lions and there are a couple of players I certainly have a close eye on.
Brissy's Big Boys
After going about his business and flying under the radar consistently Jarryd Lyons ($817 000 MID) managed a career high season in 2020 posting an average of 106. Shorter quarters last year saw Lyons return a career high TOG of 84% which is roughly 5-10% higher than previous years and is most likely the main attribute to his elevated scoring. This is an example of the types of guys I'm looking to avoid this season as with longer quarters again we potentially see a drop in TOG back to normal levels and a reduction in fantasy output. Lyons must be commended for his efforts last season and that's why he's in here but he's not one to start with. Potentially look for him at a discounted price but even then the competition for spots in the middle this year I'm expecting to be greater than last which could further hurt his potential.
Dayne Zorko ($753 000 MID/FWD) has been a fantasy beast his whole career and a slight role change has seen him start 2021 with dual position status. At 32 years of age you can probably assume Zorko's best is behind him and with younger midfielders emerging he does look to spend a healthy amount of time forward this year. Zorko has proven that he can score well enough in a forward role though and therefore I expect him to be around the same mark and a top 6 forward come seasons end. He's expensive but you get what you pay for.
Fuck does this bloke have a head on him. If there was an award for the roughest head in the AFL it would be awfully close between Tom Lynch (Adelaide) and Joe Daniher ($432 000 FWD). Looks aside, Daniher finds his way to the den and after a flawless pre-season he ticks all boxes that indicate he could get back to his best this year. Traditionally it's been a big no no to start with key forwards in fantasy but the bloke is priced at 57 and easily goes 75+ if fit. While the scoring will be up and down with Daniher the value is certainly there and whilst not currently in my side I can see why people would do it. I'll most likely wait for his first big score and ride that cash wave but if he looks good across pre-season matches I could break my own rules and role with him from the start.
Players For The Watch List
With many similarities to to Sam Walsh ie. excellent junior numbers, limited time on ball, elite wingman and high draft pick can 2021 be the year we see Hugh McCluggage ($708 000 MID) reach that elite fantasy level. Many thought this would be the case last year but it never eventuated. I think the key to both Walsh and McCluggage is CBA's and whoever looks to be in there the most could boast a higher average out of the pair come seasons end. Both are elite on the outside and both Carlton and Brisbane have plenty of options to go through the middle so once again we might see both players play predominantly outside. Hugh is certainly one I'll be looking at intently this pre-season as someone who can potentially push the 110 barrier and with all the attention on Walsh, Tarranto, Cripps etc.. in this price range he could be one who slips through the radar.
After going at pick 1 in the 2017 draft Cam Rayner ($515 000 FWD) has copped a lot in the media for not living up to expectations. Whilst he's been influential at times as a forward I feel Rayner would be better utilised in the middle and whilst he did spend 24% at CBA's last season I expect this figure to rise this season. Rayner has proven to be more of an impact player and his numbers at junior level suggest he's never had exceptional fantasy scoring ability. If Rayner can boost his CBA's significantly this season he could be a look in but until I see it I'll be keeping him on the watch list.
Through a series of turns and events Oscar McInernery ($550 000 RUC) managed to snag the number 1 ruck position at the Lions after having played as a tall forward most of his career. As a result McInerney managed to improve his first half average of 62 up 83 in the second half. As he enters his 4th AFL season I think there is further improvement in Big O as he becomes more accustomed to the number 1 ruck role. An average of 83 in the second half is sustainable and with natural improvement could even push that up to the high 80's mark. With Stefan Martin gone and priced at 72 I think Oscar is certainly an option as a mid price ruck this season.
Players to Avoid
Whilst Lachie Neale ($935 000 MID) was superb last year he comes into this season priced at 122. This is one of the easier decisions for mine but there is absolutely no way Neale is backing this up in 2021. Neale attended 90% of CBA's with a TOG% at 92. This is absolutely absurd and will not be happening again. Although Neale did manage 89% TOG in 2019 I think somewhere in the mid-high 80's is expected. With Brisbane looking to rotate McCluggage, Rayner and others through the midfield more often it has to come at someone's expense and outside of Zorko who only managed 48% CBA's Neale is their most capable midfielder to hit the score board. I expect Neale to play more forward in 2021 similar to a Stephen Coniglio role. In my opinion I can't see Neale going over 115 this season and I think an average between 100-110 can be expected. Last years boom season will gather the attention of opposition taggers and as a result I think Neale produces similar numbers to his previous 5 years. It might be harsh and I may be completely wrong but in my opinion Neale is way over priced and someone you should definitely be avoiding starting with this year in fantasy.
Rookies to Look Out For
Having moved clubs and looking good at training Nakia Cockatoo ($243 000 MID/FWD) was shaping up to be a great prospect for fantasy coaches. Previous injury history has meant his loads this pre-season have been monitored and a recent injury setback whilst only minor means we most likely won't see Cockatoo come round 1. Watch out for when he does make an appearance. Devon Robertson ($186 000 MID/FWD) is one who posted phenomenal numbers as a junior but has not really been given a crack yet. I'm not sure he gets a go from Rd 1 but based off his junior numbers he's one to grab when he gets his chance. Ely Smith ($170 000 MID/FWD) is one who seems to be tracking really nicely and out of the lot is most likely to get a go come Rd 1. Great junior numbers, basement price and dual position make him a must if he is selected. Tom Fullarton ($170 000 RUC/FWD) is another who has been making headlines and while he likely takes up a key forward position he could be one to look at all be it limited scoring opportunity.
As always guys thanks for reading. Be sure to let me know in the comments what you think Neale averages in 2021 and if I'm being over the top with my assumptions. Any other questions drop them below and stay tuned for the next article.