Many young footballers have talent, but sometimes talent 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. Perhaps the best example last season was the trade of Jarrod Witts to Gold Coast after spending years waiting for his chance at Collingwood. With Tom Nicholls struggling to overcome injury, Witts quickly claimed the number 1 ruck mantle and became a steal for those Supercoaches who started the season with him.
So who is set to step up in 2018? Who will benefit from the misfortunes of a fellow teammate? Today we look at the next six clubs (in alphabetical order):
Retirements: Geelong’s defence just lost a lot of experience with Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie retiring after the 2017 season.
Beneficiaries: Surely Harry Taylor returns to the backline to help with the loss of Tom Lonergan but let’s face it: Lonergan was not exactly hogging a lot of SC points, was he? Mackie, on the other hand, had a fantasy friendly role. At this stage it is hard to say who will play his role but Jackson Thurlow has the kicking skills to return to that rebounding defender position after pushing up to a wing in 2017 and Zach Tuohy may improve again on last season in Mackie’s absence.
Injuries: Who is not injured down at Kardinia Park? With Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett both struggling with a hamstring injuries and Scott Selwood (ankle) suffering his annual ankle injury, the Cats need replacement midfielders.
Beneficiaries: Could Tim Kelly and Charlie Constable put their hands up any higher for a Round 1 position? Both have looked right at home in the JLT, with Kelly a strong chance to hold his spot even after the established midfielders return from injury (see below).
The other player who benefits greatly when key midfielders are out for Geelong is Sam Menegola. He pumps out huge scores as a midfielder so he could start the season with a bang.
On a side note, Mitch Duncan and Joel Selwood could score massively in the first few rounds if Dangerfield is out as well!
Injury: For some reason Chris Scott persists with Rhys Stanley as a Ruck-Forward when the guy only plays 2-3 good games per season. Maybe Stanley’s calf injury in the JLT will force some sense into Scott’s mind?
Beneficiaries: The reason Stanley’s selection is so ridiculous is Mark Blicavs. Here we have a perfectly handy Ruck-Forward-Midfielder-Tagger who can back up Zac Smith and still have an impact around the ground. He has proven to be a great scorer when he spends time in the ruck. However, if Scott wants to go all Land of the Giants, he may give Wiley Buzza a run as well. Just don’t expect big scores from him.
Departure: Cats fans would have been devastated (not!) to hear the perennial under-achiever, Stephen Motlop was heading West-ish in the offseason.
Beneficiary: When Dangerfield, Selwood and Ablett all return from injury, Tim Kelly should simply push forward into Motlop’s high forward role. Geelong do have plenty of other options for the role but so far Kelly appears to be the front-runner, especially with Nakia Cockatoo out injured as well. Just be aware the Cockatoo is close to an AFL return – I believe he played VFL on the weekend just past.
Departure: Of course He had to go first: Gary Ablett Junior finally flew the sun-drenched coop. Aaron Hall looked to be a major beneficiary but he injured his finger at training.
Beneficiaries: To date, Stewie Dew seems to prefer the system of running multiple players through the midfield. The most SC relevant players appear to Will Brodie and Nick Holman as rookies but also expect to see Touk Miller, Jarryd Lyons, Brayden Fiorini and Lachie Weller spend plenty of time in the midfield.
Departures: He was no SC beast, but Adam Saad’s trade to the Bombers should free up space for Pearce Hanley… Wait a minute…
Injuries: Seriously Pearce Hanley, don’t dive in the JLT! With his shoulder popping out, perhaps Jack Bowes could be considered for your SC squad, or maybe even Michael Rischitelli could return to his decent SC scoring form of 2015? I know, I know… too risky!
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
Injury: Poor old Zach Williams was a lock for many backlines until he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
Trade: Nathan Wilson also added to the backline gulf with his trade to Freo.
Beneficiaries: Many Supercoaches have predicted Heath Shaw will return to his pre-2017 form but Lachie Whitfield averaged 117 points per 100 minutes across the preseason compared with Heater’s 81 points per 100min. Maybe the Giants just don’t want to reply on an old man?
The extra backline room also means Jeremy Finlayson should play a decent amount of football in 2018.
Retirement: Shane Mumford retired leaving a large round hole in the ruck department but plenty of food in the team fridge.
Beneficiaries: Rory Lobb will be number 1 ruck but with his delayed preseason expect Dawson Simpson to play a few early games. After he dominated the hit-outs against Darcy Cameron for a grand total of 29 SC points, most SuperCoaches lost interest.
Departures: Matthew Kennedy and Devon Smith were only fringe dwellers on the Giants’ list but their game time will mostly be taken by…
Beneficiaries: Stephen Coniglio and any number of GWS rookies may feature in Round 1. Currently Nicholas Shipley and Zac Langdon seem a chance of a debut early in the season.
Retirements: Josh Gibson retired to work on his reality television career and Luke Hodge retired to work on his tan in Queensland. No, I refuse to admit he is still playing for another club.
Beneficiaries: We saw the new structure last season, with James Sicily, Blake Hardwick and Ryan Burton moving to the backline. In the JLT series, Sicily looked the only decent option if you don’t mind the odd 50m penalty.
Injury: Grant Birchall is out for half the season with his recurrent knee problems but his absence won’t change much after only playing a handful of games in 2017.
Departure: Former number 1 draft pick Jack Watts finally escaped the weight of expectation to join Port.
Beneficiary: Our new favourite player, mature age forward rookie Bayley Fritsch has replaced Watts with a brilliant JLT and is now holding up every SC forward line.
Injury: Jack Viney (foot) is not going to make it back for Round 1.
Beneficiaries: Christian Salem, Christian Petracca and Alex Neal-Bullen should play more midfield time in 2018 with Salem receiving the best endorsement from the club. In terms of JLT points Petracca seemed the better option with 0.97 points per minute across two JLT matches.
Retirement: Andrew Swallow’s services were no longer required by anyone, so he retired.
Departures/Delistings: Sam Gibson, Aaron Mullett and Lindsay Thomas were also no longer wanted and delisted.
Beneficiaries: North have cleaned out their list with some weird exceptions (Jarrod Waite???) leaving room for Ben Jacobs and top draft pick Luke Davies-Uniacke to stake their claims for midfield roles. Many other young midfielders like Luke McDonald will spend time in the midfield but none impressed across the preseason except with their beer-pong form.
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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