After 3 months of limited sleep and thousands of hours pondering making pointless changes to my side, this is what I have come up with. In this article I'll show you my side and go over why I have individually selected each player. I'll go over the starting 22 and why I have those players but I won't be touching on bench rookies as they may be subject to change when teams drop. If you'd like to know my stance on certain rookies you can check out my rookie article I posted the other day.
Tom Stewart: Over the last few years Stewart has stamped himself as a safe reliable scorer who plays that quarter back type role. He's the target for multiple switch kicks and with teams looking to move the ball into the corridor and go up the middle, I think Stewart's game will be suited more than ever. Stewart managed to average 106 in the second half of last year and 116 in his last 5 and that was prior to the new rules. Stewart comes in priced at 97 but I can comfortably see him average over 100, possibly around that 105 mark.
Jayden Short: Looks to be well and truly suited by the new rules. I mentioned in an article at the start of pre-season that I thought Jayden could average 100+ at the start of the year and I stand by that statement. Houli to come back doesn't bother me as Short was able to score comfortably last year when Houli was in the side. It looks like Short is the man the Tigers want the ball in the hands of and with so many injury queries over Houli I don't think he's a super threat. Short will take majority of the kick ins, loves a hand ball receive, runs into open space for a cheap plus 6. He ticks a lot of boxes and while he will be subject to a tag, it will take a few rounds for teams to come up with strategies to shut these guys down so I think he goes big early.
Caleb Daniel: Same comments for Short apply here for Daniel.
Jordan Clark: I mean when a bloke priced at 55 scores 135 off 66% TOG it's hard not to think he doesn't improve 20 points to make him a worthy selection. Jordan played a wing role with some time at half back. This role looks to be super friendly this year and in a great side like Geelong he'll have plenty of opportunity to receive the ball on the outside. There were queries over his job security but in the last minute of the game he speared a 50m ball into the corridor which eventuated into a goal which won his side the game. That sort of thing is sure to guarantee him a spot in the side and I'll be very surprised if he's not named round 1.
Oleg Markov: By now you can probably tell that I'm really big on these aggressive running half back types. Oleg Markov looks to be one of the main distributers for Gold Coast coming out of defence. His speed is going to be an asset which the Suns try and utilise at every opportunity and his movement without the ball showed me that he's willing to put in the work to create space and potential opportunities for plus 6's. Priced at 49 I think Oleg has potential to average70-80 this season and for me looks to be a super pick in 2021.
Hayden Young: This kid has been a lock all pre-season for a lot of sides and he's done nothing to make me think otherwise. Scored 72 in the AAMI and that was with 0 marks as a half back flanker. Luke Ryan to come in may slightly hinder his scoring but Freo want the ball in his hands which is a great sign. He should average 65 at the bare minimum, probably 70. Priced at 44 he's a steal.
Running defenders look to be where the points are at particularly early and therefore I have no problem spending large amounts in this area early.
Zach Merrett: Every side needs a captain option and for me this will be Zach Merrett. With the man on the mark rule looking to have an impact early It's important that midfielders have a balance between outside and inside game. Merrett is an animal at both and looks to be spending more time at CBA's this year, similar to the back end of last year where he averaged 127. Merrett is priced at 116 but I think he still has upside on that and I think he'll be 120-125 in 2021. Merrett in my opinion will be the highest averaging player this year in AFL Fantasy across all lines.
Jack Macrae: Very similar type to Merrett. Great mix of inside and outside game and has an ability to fill all the stat lines consistently. He has proven in the past to not score well when used on the wing but I think this year could be a different story with the game looking to be less contested. Regardless, I don't think the dogs intend to use him there much even with the addition of Treloar. Macrae attended 90% of CBA's in the AAMI which was the most for any dog by a fair margin so I can't see one bloke coming in drastically effecting this. If anything Dunkley and Bont will spend more time forward. I think Macrae will be 115-120 this year and a safe option to use as captain if need be.
Ollie Wines: I stated in an earlier article that Ollie was in my side and that I thought he could average 110. I then corrected that statement as he's only been a 90-100 player for the last 6-7 years but here I am with him in my side again. I have a little bit of a soft spot for Ollie and having traded him in last year for an average of 112 for that stretch of games I know what he's capable of. Pair that with the fact that he'll be the number 1 mid for Port this season with Boak set to spend time forward and Rockliff getting on in age. Port are in for a big season this year and Wines will be the main driving force in the middle. He has had a full pre-season which is rare for him and will no doubt have him in a better spot that previous years. Priced at 96 I think Wines can get closer to that 110 range.
Andrew Brayshaw: A midfield move in 2020 saw Brayshaw boost his average by 26 in his third season. He now comes into his 4th year having been added to the leadership group. Last year Brayshaw averaged 42% CBA's with a TOG of 75%. Brayshaw looks to be the number 1 midfielder at Freo now and his pre-season CBA's reflect that (86% practice match 76% AAMI). Pair this with his TOG bump to 80% it looks like Brayshaw is set to spend more minutes on the field and in the middle. Two ticks that signal improvement in fantasy output and he's one I'm very keen on to have a big year. He has a good balance between inside and outside game and I can see him going somewhere between 105-110.
Tim Taranto: Looked to have a down year last year which saw him average 20 points less than the year prior where he averaged 113. We've seen him do it before and with a full pre-season there aren't many reasons to suggest that he won't be improving in 2021. It does look like he will spend some time forward but even if he doesn't get back to his lofty heights achieved in 2019, a 105 average is certainly manageable and provides enough value to warrant selecting. Taranto is one I am willing to trade earlier for other potential options I like.
Darcy Parish: One that has burnt a lot of coaches in the past and with his forward status being stripped he's one that I feel has been heavily overlooked. With Woosha stepping down as coach it looks like Essendon have made some changes and one of those looks to be Parish used as a full time inside mid. We've seen what Parish can do in this role and being a top 5 pick coming into his 6th season with 93 games under the belt, he should be ready to hit his peak. I'm pretty bullish on Parish this year and Priced at 82 I think he averages around the 100 mark this season.
Dom Tyson: Certainly lots of question marks over Dom. Is he best 22? What happens when Polec, Cunnington, Dumont and Anderson come back? What about his injury history? Look there is a lot of potential flags here but for me he's still hard to pass on. The guy has had a full pre-season which is a super tick. He hasn't played a game yet for his new club so he would be motivated more than ever to prove his value to the club. He's averaged over 90 multiple occasions and at age 27 should be peaking as a footballer. I think Dom has value to provide at North and at his age probably has a bit of footy ahead on him if he stays fit. For this reason I think he'll be in North's calculations moving forward and his pre-season games were enough to suggest he should be in the side come round 1. Priced at 54 for a guy who has averaged 93 before is just something I have to take a risk on.
Tom Powell: I'm not sold on 100% but with news that Downie may be unlikely to play round 1 I have shifted Gulden to the bench and replaced Downie with Powell. He will be in a forward role at a poor side so I'm not expecting his scoring to be as good as what others think. There is no risk here as almost all coaches will likely have him so if he does well or poorly it's not really to relevant if you're an owner.
Ruck this year is a department I am willing to spend little coin on. With the increase speed in the game there looks to be less stoppages and less opportunities for rucks to take marks down the line. Whilst this may not be the case for the whole season I strongly believe this will be the case early and therefore I can see the top guys ie. Gawn and Grundy dropping in value. For this reason I have chosen to go cheap in my rucks and spend my coin elsewhere on players I think can improve this year.
Jarrad Witts: Priced at 81, Jarrad comes in priced 23 points below his career best average of 104. Previous years had seen him be a mid 90's guy. Last year it looked like Witts had been playing injured and his movement around the ground looked compromised. There was no signs of this in the pre-season games so we should see Witts get back to at least a 90 average. He's in the prime years as a ruckman at age 28 and he's also the captain of an improving side. Witts is huge for the side and will need to have a big season for Gold Coast to move up the ladder. Despite the new rules and my theory in rucks ouput being compromised this year there is enough value with Witts that he still should increase his output this year.
Matt Flynn: In previous years this would be a big no but this year is different. Not liking many of the ruck options this year I have opted to play a rookie as at least they are guaranteed to increase in value. Flynn will be the number 1 ruck for GWS so he should be relatively safe and with Hunter to get games early and Meek (who I'm slightly wary of) also due for a game early there is potential cover in the wings if things don't work out. Huge risk but it makes sense to me and allows me to improve the rest of my side dramatically.
Jordan De Goey: AKA Christian Petracca 2.0. I was sceptical on De Goey's midfield move being genuine but I honestly think now that Collingwood intend to use him on ball predominantly this year. There is no doubt he will still spend time forward but the additional midfield time should see a boost in De Goeys average. We saw what Petracca was able to do last year when given this role and while I don't think De Goey will reach those heights a 90+ average is certainly attainable. Due to there being no premium options I value starting with I'm happy to take De Goey at F1.
Tom Phillips: I mean there isn't much to say with Phillips. He sits in 41% of sides and will provide a safe bet to improve on his price. Looks to play a mixture of inside and outside and even with the midfield additions to come into the side his scoring shouldn't be affected. Should average 90+ this year and potentially could end up in your side come years end if he gets back to his best.
Nick Hind: As mentioned in my defender section, I am super big on these running half back types. Nick finding his way to the bombers after playing a small pressure forward role at St Kilda looks set to play this position and should have no worries having played this position at VFL level. Essendon looked to use his run out of defence and he looks to be the perfect replacement for Adam Saad. Priced at 54 I can see 20+ points of upside and therefore I'm picking him. In my opinion looks one of the better mid-price forward options.
Orazio Fantasia: Not one I'm particularly stoked about owning but I'm happy with the rest of my side and he still has plenty of upside. Having averaged 78 before and mid 60's and 70's on many occasions, Orazio now finds himself injury free at a far superior side in the prime of his career. Small forwards are traditionally a no go for me but he's priced 32 under his career peak and being at Port Adelaide he'll get plenty of opportunity forward. Dual position DEF/FWD makes him a handy asset and can be used to cover holes in defence if an unexpected injury was to occur. The fact Port plays North Melbourne round 1 should see Orazio get off to a good start and get the money ball rolling.
Chad Warner: In my opinion the most impressive rookie from the AAMI series. Looked great on the outside and on the inside. Looks to split his time in the middle and forward but mainly on a wing and based off his performance and player traits I can see him being a valuable asset to the Swans as he very much seems a dangerous player for this years mould of footy. I think his Job security would be pretty high and his scoring potential looks there also. I am comfortable having him on my field.
Miles Bergman: 50/50 to whether he gets a game and with Hartlett and McKenzie to potentially come into the side his Job Security is always going to be poor being a Port Player. If he is selected I'll be starting with him and on the field as I think his scoring potential is the next best out of the forward rookies available.
There you have it guys! That's my starting squad for 2021 albeit some minor changes that may occur due to team announcements. Traditionally, it's smarter to go with a side with less unique picks as if they fail it doesn't leave you behind the rest of the pack. I have watched a lot of footy and through my research I think I'm willing to go against this and back my own judgement on some riskier types. This year with the game being played slightly different I see plenty of opportunity for players who weren't suited in the past to suddenly be relevant this year and therefore I've gone for a heavy mid-price approach. Another reason for this is I think the rookie crop this year is weak as most of them didn't play any footy last year and are therefore under developed. I expect rookie job security to be shaky and therefore I want to minimise as many as I have so I can maintain a strong bench throughout the year and in particular the early rounds where cash generation is key. My whole side has been built around value and there is not one player in my starting side who I don't think will improve their output in 2021. This is huge as you need your team generating cash to make the upgrades needed later in the year. This is the main reason why I am against selecting Max Gawn.
I hope this article has been valuable and gives you insight into what a top coach's thought process looks like. This side is based on my opinions which are very subjective and does not mean that my side is the best side. This year particularly, there are a stack of ways you can approach things which makes the game more interesting and exciting than ever before. Back your own judgement and select the players you like and feel confident about. The most important part about playing this game is having fun, I hope all that have read this and have been following me have a successful season as a Fantasy coach. Let me know your thoughts below and if you have any questions about your own side drop them below and I'll be sure to give you my advice.
Cheers for reading legends!