Many young footballers have talent, but sometimes talent alone is not enough. What they really need is opportunity. How often do we see gun sportsmen spend years waiting in the wings for established teammates to retire for them to have their chance to shine?
So, while injuries, player movement and retirements are not things we enjoy in sport, they do create such opportunities. An example last season was Sam Pepper-Powell who was used in the midfield in his first season, allowing Robbie Gray to play as a forward after an interrupted preseason.
So who is set to step up in 2018? Who will benefit from the misfortunes of a fellow teammate? Today we look at the first six clubs (in alphabetical order):
Injury: Jaspar Pittard injured his hamstring in JLT2 and now appears to be out for up to 5 weeks!
Beneficiary: He has only played 4 matches in 2 seasons, but Riley Bonner appears to have the elite kicking required to break the lines. As shown last season, Port are happy to stick with players if they play well so Bonner may hold his position when Pittard returns.
Suspension: Robbie Gray is out for Round 1.
Departure: I am not sure he was best 22, but Jarman Impey was traded to the Hawks.
Beneficiary: This may be wishful thinking, but hopefully Dom Barry gets a run. Unfortunately with the arrival of so many good players, Barry may start in the SANFL or get dropped when Gray returns in Round 2.
Injuries: Dion Prestia (hamstring) and Bachar Houli (Achilles/calf) are both out for the early rounds.
Beneficiaries: Across the preseason Josh Caddy and Kane Lambert spent plenty of time in the midfield. Will they remain there for the season or will they be pushed out with the return of Prestia? Across the preseason Caddy averaged a massive 1.30 points per minute so he could be a steal in the forward line.
Injury: Daniel Rioli (foot) is struggling to recover from a broken foot.
Beneficiary: Shai Bolton was super impressive in the preseason but his $242,500 price tag is a little awkward.
Retirements: Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt both finally retired leaving a large leadership gulf at Moorabbin.
Beneficiaries: Shane Savage nailed the back-line general role that Montagna has played in the last few seasons, averaging 1.29 SC points per minute. The Saints have a lot of tall forwards, but initially it appears that Paddy McCartin will play plenty of footy in 2018 (hopefully), although I’m not sure he’s relevant even at his $234,500 price tag.
Retirement: Sean Dempster joined Joey and Roo in retirement.
Beneficiary: It appears that Nick Coffield, pick 8 from last year’s draft is first in line to play a key defensive role.
Injuries: Sam Naismith (knee) and Callum Sinclair (ankle) were both struck down with injury with Naismith out for the season.
Beneficiaries: It seems like Sinclair will be back for Round 1, making him a viable option. Unfortunately, despite big wraps on him when he was drafted, Darcy Cameron doesn’t seem ready for AFL football despite the vacancy.
Injuries: Dan Hannebery, Jarrad McVeigh and Heath Grundy are also struggling with calf injuries.
Beneficiaries: Aliir Aliir seems likely to replace Grundy but he is not SC relevant and has his own injury woes. In the preseason, Robbie Fox seems the most SC relevant player who will benefit particularly from Hannebery’s injury, although Kieren Jack spent plenty of time on-ball in the JLT series as well.
And finally, will Callum Mills step up this season after a preseason where he averaged 1.19ppm in the absence of McVeigh or was this a preseason special?
Injury: Josh Kennedy (ankle) has declared he aims to return in Round 3.
Beneficiary: After spending a year on the Eagles’ list , Jake Waterman looks a ready replacement for Kennedy. It is questionable whether he will hold his position when Kennedy returns and he only averaged 0.63ppm across the preseason, so his value as a rookie is questionable.
Retirements: Inside mids Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell have left a large gulf in the West Coast midfield.
Beneficiary: Jack Redden will probably have the first chance to fill the void and averaged a healthy 1.24ppm across the JLT series. Take that average with a grain of salt as it is mostly based on Redden’s 162 point effort in JLT1. He was poor in JLT2 when Fremantle destroyed the Eagles so even though he is cheap he will struggle to average much above his 104 ppg average from 2014 at Brisbane.
Injuries: You are probably sick of hearing his name but Nic Naitanui may still miss Round 1 and is likely to require a rest match during the season. To make matters worse, Nathan Vardy (groin) is also out for the opening rounds of the season.
Beneficiary: Scott Lycett should play every match until Vardy is fit either as solo ruck or as backup to Naitanui. He averaged 83ppg in this role in 2016 and 0.78ppm across the JLT series so he presents great value if he remains fit.
Retirements: Matthew Boyd and Robert Murphy have taken plenty of games experience from the Dogs’ backline.
Beneficiaries: Hayden Crozier was traded from Fremantle specifically to play the rebounding defender role and should enjoy a spike in his average in 2018. Jason Johannisen and Shane Biggs should also improve their averages from 2017 but JJ in particular is always at risk of taggers and often finds himself moved into the forward line.
Departure: Jake Stringer devastated Bulldogs’ fans with his departure to the Bombers. Or are they still celebrating?
Beneficiary: I know Stringer barely troubled the statisticians in 2017 but his role still needs to be filled. In the JLT Josh Dunkley did a great job with a 93.6 ppg average and could be a smart POD at only $296,900. Perhaps he will receive a few less defensive roles with Stringer gone?
Injuries: Late mail broke on the weekend that Marcus Adams hurt his ankle and will miss half the season. Jordan Roughead is also pushing to be ready for Round 1 with a groin complaint.
Beneficiaries: We are all starting with Aaron Naughton in our SC teams but he is an even bigger lock now. We will also need to consider Jackson Trengove who may ruck for the Doggies and even Kieran Collins who has struggled to break into the AFL side.
This article is based entirely on my biased outlook on the AFL and Supercoach so if you think I am wrong, or if you can think of any players I have missed, please let me know in the comments.
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